My latest dye yardage – draped. Peaking out from below (detailed in another post) is silk satin… then metal-shot silk that crinkles up for a wonderful texture because the metal thread shrinks and pulls the silk into a shibori-like texture in the heated dye pot… then a light wool jersey. All the dye combinations from this year’s garden… iris blossoms, japanese indigo, woad, onion skins, carrot tops, eucalyptus leaves – bundled and bound – some with metal rebar and rusted resist.

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2015-10-03 11.30.29 copy

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2015-10-03 11.31.15 copy

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2015-10-03 11.32.55 copy

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Japanese Indigo I tried this year, such a long hot summer but didn’t grow very well producing very small plants. I used some of the leaves in the metal shot silk which made a lovely blue/green colour but can’t attribute it to the indigo directly as I used lots of iris in that combo which may have given the colour. Completely random with no recorded recipe – lovely! I do enjoy that.

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This is what I think is a perfectly beautiful video on the eco printing techniques that I use for my fabrics – locally sourced vegetation and found rusty objects! Nicola Brown lives in a wonderful part of Ireland and I was lucky enough to take a workshop with her in Vancouver…where she taught a very unique nuno-felting method. We dyed the nuno-felted fabric using the natural eco printing techniques highlighted in this wonderful video.

It’s a gorgeous little film for the backdrop of that part of Ireland and how Nicola describes her feelings as she unwraps her bundles – it’s exactly the feeling! No two are the same… addictive. Not to mention keeping an eagle eye out for bits of rust on walks to add to the collection.

On New Year’s day 2015 I was inspired by my lovebug Biscuit and my stash of his hair, from keeping his continuous mohawk in shape.

Biscuit Hair Beads

Biscuit Hair Beads

From each hair cut I give him (which is frequent to keep him handsome) I quickly form his hair that ends up on the couch into soft felted beads and keep them in a silver bowl. From my local bead shop on 4th avenue in Kits, I had some silver findings of posts, jump rings, caps and some chain in my stash, as my intention a while back was to make Biscuit a necklace out of his hair beads. So… I spent a lovely New Year’s Day afternoon watching a movie and making him his new bling. I had enough B-beads left over to make myself a necklace too – and incorporate some vintage silk thread from my Grandma’s sewing box.

B-Beads, silver findings/chain, vintage silk thread

B-Beads, silver findings/chain, vintage silk thread

I am new to jewellery making so it took me a while to put it together – the process was lovely and meditative because I had to finesse the beads with some more felting to make them denser…and it took me a while to get the hang of piercing the beads with the post and bending the posts to make the little loop at the end. I used a thick darning needle to worry the way through the B-Bead for the silver post – probably would have been faster to use an awl but I couldn’t find it! I decided to make my necklace design a bit more sparkly by embroidering crystals from my endless stash onto one of the B-beads. (see detail shot below)


Fierce huh?

Felted Biscuit Beads, silver, vintage silk thread

Felted Biscuit Beads, silver, vintage silk thread

When I wore my necklace for the first time I found that the slippery silk thread would not stay knotted and secure on the jump rings, so I purchased more silver chain and replaced the silk thread… I think the necklace looks much more polished now. I love wearing it. It’s pretty interesting too to hear people’s reaction when they find out the felted beads are made from my dog’s hair. I really don’t think it’s that odd but maybe that’s just me and I’m sure every other dog lover out there! I can touch the beads and think of my little love bug.

Modified original design using more silver chain instead of silk thread

Modified original design using more silver chain instead of silk thread

Detail - I embroidered swaroski crystals to one of the beads

Detail – I embroidered swaroski crystals to one of the beads

I wear it single strand and doubled up

I wear it single strand and doubled up

Lovebug Biscuit

Lovebug Biscuit

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Dawson Street bespoke Jacket – and it has a matching skirt!

Inspired by two recent thrifting vintage finds – both of them tweed. The first is a bespoke (made from scratch) lady’s tweed suit maybe from the 50’s or 60’s made in Ireland by a shop on Dawson street which is no longer in existence. Some lovely West Van matron surely must have had it custom made for her on a visit to the ‘auld country.

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Detail – Irish Cottage Industries, 18, Dawson Street Ltd. Notice the flecks of red and green in this stunning twill tweed.

The second is a man’s British Austin Reed ‘Cue’ tailored jacket made with the classic Scottish Outer Hebrides Harris Tweed fabric.  I think this jacket is also from the 70’s or thereabouts although it’s not bespoke. The man’s jacket is very heavy weight fabric with pretty square shoulders – I imagine a rugged young man sporting it as he climbed up a mountain in a sturdy pair of shoes! No MEC gortex or fleece to be found. The jacket is mine now and with some strategic re-seaming and additional darts – I turned it into a lady’s beach walking jacket.

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket ...Reconstructed into a lady's beach walking Jacket

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket …reconstructed into a lady’s beach walking Jacket. I’m the lady. Oops, forgot to take a ‘before’ shot – suffix to say I removed almost a 2-inch width of fabric from the shoulders (and removed the shoulder pads).

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Detail – Pristine leather button – no signs of wear at all. See the gorgeous colours involved with the tweed?

The fabric (100% wool woven in a ’twill’ diagonal weave) and design is completely classic although I couldn’t find exact design references that matched them online. The Harris Tweed Authority doesn’t actually publish the trade mark numbers online… mine is No. 319214 which I think is one of their more popular twills.

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Harris Tweed ‘Orb’ label. Check out the Harris Tweed Authority – so so interesting http://www.harristweed.org/harris-tweed/love-harris-tweed.php

It would be hard to place both jacket’s exact provenance without time consuming research – suffice to say I was thrilled to find them as both garments are in pristine condition. The top button on the man’s jacket was actually hard to insert into the button hole which indicates it was rarely worn. A wonderful feature of tweed – is that both fabrics come across as neutral at first glance but the closer you look reveals the myriad of colours that are incorporated into the fabric, blues, greens, yellows, grays, etc. So subtle and elegant.


Sheep Shearing for Harris Tweed

The fabric in the man’s jacket is made up of wool that is firstly dyed and spun in a island mill and every yard is handwoven in the home of a Harris Tweed weaver. I would expect the Irish tweed has a similar pedigree. The lady’s jacket has beautiful tortoiseshell buttons and the Harris Tweed man’s jacket has leather woven buttons.

2013-12-04 18.05.04It’s so appropriate that I happened upon both these treasures at the thrift store just as I’m reading an interesting book “The Coat Route’ (Meg Lukens Noonan) which is about bespoke tailoring and ‘slow’ clothing. I had to deconstruct both of my finds and tailor them to my measurements. I used tools originally from my mother’s stash… the Savile Row measuring tape, and her tailor’s chalk.

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Wow, the inside of the lady’s jacket and skirt showed the incredible workmanship that goes into bespoke construction. All the classic techniques were in evidence… wide generous seaming (for potential alterations if ‘yer measurements expanded), beautiful interfacing and underlining and hand sewing on some of the seaming. The man’s jacket even had horsehair interfacing! I managed to get away with only partial deconstruction by undoing the lining only at the bottom of the jackets and at the shoulder seams. Still, it was a lot of work as I had to recut the shoulders and reset the sleeves on both jackets to make them much smaller – but because the fabric is of such high quality the alterations worked out beautifully. I also narrowed the sleeves on both jackets to give proportion and balance.

2013-12-05 17.41.03Wearing the tweed is fabulous – especially in this December cold weather. I feel like I’m right out of Downton Abbey. I definitely prefer the style and function of tweed over our West Coast gortex and fleece.  The design will never go out of style… gets better with age… is ecologically sound because it’s biodegradable, VOC absorbent, non-allergenic, energy efficient manufactured…in other words it’s a fabric for the 21st century.  There is nothing like wearing a garment of this quality – I feel like a million bucks in both of them! My dear mother would be proud of my finds and my commitment to bespoke alterations.

Results of the walnut dye from my 100-mile sourced (Kelowna Lake) walnut husks. This first dye bath was the walnut husks boiled up right away for a few hours and then the fabric bundles, some with rose and eucalyptus leaf additions – simmered for a few hours. Silk and wool fabrics used in this dye bath.

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Over-dyed silk dupioni – stripe down the middle exposed fabric walnut dye. Fabric had been previously dyed with other natural plant dyes.

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Silk organza fabric (undyed) with shibori resist (folded fabric and clamped rectangle) in walnut dye bath.

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Previously plant dyed silk sateen fabric – shibori folded fabric to create resist – added rose and eucalyptus leaves – in walnut dye bath.

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Silk Sateen – Detail. Rose leave imprint.

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Silk and Metal fabric over dyed in walnut dye bath (fabric was previously dyed in other plant dyes which left a subtle colour). Applied random shibori resist ties with yarn leaving lighter coloured circles. The metal in the fabric creates a heavily textured surface after emerging from hot dye bath.

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Wool jersey fabric, shibori folded, bundled with eucalyptus and rose leaves with rusted rebar before partially emerging in walnut dye bath. The 100% wool imparts a mahogany rich brown.

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Well protected hands… mushing up the walnut husks before boiling. One whole in tact walnut trapped inside the mush.

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Bounty. Roasted walnuts (best tasting walnuts I have ever tasted), walnut tree leaves, walnut husks.

Luckily the fall weather here has been wonderful – so on a sunny day I was hoping to collect some walnut husks to use for dyeing some lengths of silk. I had previously tried a walnut dye on one of my shibori  sleeve designs and loved the rich brown colour that the walnut dye gave on the silk and linen fabric:

Silk and Linen shibori (hand stitched resist technique) sleeve design - black walnut dye -

Silk and Linen shibori (hand stitched resist technique) sleeve design 2012 – black walnut dye.

I wasn’t sure where our urban walnut trees were so I did a google search and came across a local blog called the ‘Urban Huntress’ http://www.urbanhuntress.com/resources/foraging/ which is about foraging for food in Vancouver. There was a reference to an international ‘falling fruit’ map ( http://fallingfruit.org ) which showed me the location of a variety of trees including 2 Black Walnut trees just down the road from me.  I was so excited…unfortunately, the map is not completely accurate as it turned out that the said trees were Chestnut trees. Wah.

However, the notion that if you put an idea out there in the world and it will happen for you came true, lo and behold a client of my partner David happened to mention her black walnut tree in Kelowna! He alerted her to my wish and she just happened to be coming down to Vancouver and today I received my black walnut husks along with a bag of delicious roasted walnuts. Now that’s serendipity.

Walnut Tree

My walnut tree source – near a lake in Kelowna

Walnut pic

Detail of my source – walnuts enclosed in their green husks – popping out all over

Ok, must get to work processing my found walnut bounty some of which I will air dry for future use over the dark days of winter. My plan is to immediately dye linen, cotton and silk fabric that has been prepared both with and without a mordant. The advantage of walnut dye is that it is known for being colour and lightfast with or without a mordant – but typically using a mordant (like alum) will make the colour richer and more saturated. In my case I will be using the HUSKS only that were collected a few days ago which are already oozing and gooey so it will be interesting to see the results which I will publish in a separate post. M.U.S.T. remember to wear gloves!

I was privileged to experience the slow art of tapestry with a wonderful instructor (Anthea Mallison) when I studied textile art at Capilano University. Although I was never really any good at it in the short span of time we had with our projects – it was a great experience to understand the art of hand weaving. I feel like if I wove using this technique for years and years (which is how long it takes to complete a large hand woven tapestry) perhaps I would improve my skills – not that I’m going to do that!. I believe I will stick to my somewhat automated Louet floor loom.

The Unicorn - detail - like a painting

Detail – The Unicorn’s hoof

On a recent trip to New York City I was privileged to see the beautiful Unicorn tapestries that are hanging in the The Cloisters in New York City – part of The Met museum. It was quite something to see this series of 7 hangings showing the plight of the Unicorn in this incredible medieval setting.

The Unicorn tapestries - wee rabbit detail

Detail – this little guy is an iconic motif used on the Met’s marketing materials for The Cloisters! No wonder – he is wonderful.

The Unicorn - silver wrapped yarn in collar - to see is to appreciate

Detail – the collar features the silver and gilt wrapped yarn and is so lovely and sparkly.

the Unicorn Taps - Gorgeous sleeve

Detail – gorgeous sleeve showing the visual folds made possible by the skill of the weaver

I just learned that the Unicorn tapestries are being re-created and starting in October are on show at Stirling Castle in the U.K. This link gives all the details and has some great information about the beauty and techniques involved with the slow art of tapestry:

The Slow slow art of Tapestries – check out the wonderful video at the bottom of the link where one of the tapestry weavers is interviewed. The weaver talks about her experience and some of the techniques used to create this art. Hope to be able to see these modern interpretations of The Unicorn one day.