Dyeing a little inside

The other day I attended a workshop at The Scrap Exchange, with artist Katherine Soucie, who specializes in (among other things) acid dyeing pre-consumer industrial waste.  I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but essentially we ended up with a giant pile of white nylon hosiery in various manifestations that we tied, scrunched, clamped, and otherwise threw into dye pots of all colors of the rainbow.

We learned how to mix up our dye solutions from powder and water and a little bit of Synthrapol (industrial soap), heat up our dye pots, and watch the magic happen in a no-waste method including re-using dye pots multiple times for different colors.

Fortunately other workshop attendees were experienced creative types that pulled out PVC piping and tie-dyeing techniques to produce some really interesting results!


The artist dyed a wall full of industrial waste fabric in the week leading up to the workshop and used it to create an exhibit in the Scrap Exchange’s Cameron Gallery.

I’ve been intrigued by her use of this material as fabric from which she has created amazing patchwork fabrics that have been sewn into wearable fashion.  Check out some of her fashion portfolio here.

“Handcrafted to Delight the Toes” – NYT article

Before I went to Italy, I heard people mention Italian leather, and even though I had a vague idea that I should look for good deals while I was there, I came away with only a small change purse that was stamped with gold scroll work and some flowers. I went to Venice, but didn’t take note of any hand crafted shoe stores.

After reading this article, I would approach my visit differently! It talks about three hand crafters, all women, that currently operate in slow-paced Venice, which is, of course, also a great place for walking, since there are no vehicles to speak of. And, it notes an intriguing historical trend of platform shoes taking off amongst the general population after being prescribed for courtesans in the 16th century to discourage “street walking.”

The comment I most appreciate comes from Gabriele Gmeiner, who says:

The fact that there are no cars slows down the pace of life, so that it fits in with the tempi of traditional crafts.

The article also mentions the average price range of these handcrafted shoes, which is anywhere from 700-1500 euros. To me, this says that although handcrafting shoes (or other) won’t make one rich, there is a clientele out there that appreciates the artisanry and is willing to pay for it.

Only one link mentioned in the article gives an idea of the shoes these women create, that of Gabriele Gmeiner, who has several other interesting projects described in photos on her site, including children’s boots made by Venetian prisoners.

You’ll have to follow the link to see these delightful creations.

Here’s an example on Flickr of Giovanna Zanella’s shoes, and a blog link with more info on this artisan.

These Days It’s Wise to Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

Published: October 25, 2010

LONDON — The sheep grazing the newly laid pasture in London’s Savile Row, home to gentlemanly tailoring, looked, well, sheepish.

But how could this flock — or the egg-yolk yellow sheep outside Selfridges, their wool color-branded with the store — know that they were there by royal appointment?

Prince Charles, whose once-ridiculed ecological ideas now look visionary, is behind a campaign to educate people about the joys and benefits of wool. Hence the event in London this month when shepherds were dressed up for the occasion in handmade-to-measure suits from the illustrious tailors Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes.

Like the campaigning “real food” supporters who want consumers to be able to trace the hens that laid their eggs, the cloth for those elegant suits came from wool from Exmoor Horn sheep, in the west of England, and was produced by the appropriately named Fox Brothers, historic wool manufacturers in Somerset.

This initiative from the Prince of Wales, to act as patron to a coalition of British industry groups, is not such woolly thinking. The world has changed since the Australian Wool Corp., 40 years ago, adopted the British slogan: “There is no substitute for wool.”

Today, an entire generation, grown up with padded nylon jackets and high-tech fabric sportswear, no longer has a closet filled with woolly sweaters and traditional winter coats. Ironically, the word “fleece,” used to describe ultralight, snugly zippered tops, often has nothing to do with sheep, but is made from 100 percent polyester — though fleeces made from recycled coffee grounds and soda bottles are also on offer.

“Wool Week,” with events involving 80 brands and 400 stores across Britain, was aimed at raising the profile of wool as part of a continuing five-year effort with a dedicated Web site: campaignforwool.org.

The fact that demand for wool is in decline was the spur to Prince Charles and caught the attention of wool suppliers in Australia and New Zealand.

The good news for the Prince of Wales is that fashion is on the same track. Stylish London retailers who supported the initiative with woolly window displays included Burberry, Pringle, Paul Smith, Jigsaw and Jaeger. Although the focus of the London event was men’s wear, for designers across the world, knits have taken pride of place from dedicated knitwear brands like Pringle of Scotland to the rarefied couture house of Chanel.

Far from spurning the natural and sustainable material in favor of space-age, man-made fabrics, a current urge for authenticity has brought wool back to the heartland of winter wear.

The autumn collections were filled with chunky sweaters and cardigans, thick knitted coats and even socks. Once a kiss of death to any fashionable outfit, ankle-high socks were hot at Prada, with knee-high knits shown in Top Shop’s Unique collection.

The “glamorization” of knitwear is only half the story.

It has been decades since wool came up from the country and into the city on fashionable backs. Elsa Schiaparelli’s trompe l’oeil sweaters, with knitted-in bows, collars and scarves, conquered Paris high society back in the 1920s.

Since then, knitwear has been in and out of fashion — reaching one of its peaks in the 1970s, when the hippie-deluxe style of Bill Gibb and Missoni conquered the world, and when arts and crafts in California offered artistry in wool.

It may be significant that this new millennium is another period when support for craftsmanship and natural materials has grown from a philosophy that is against global overreach and fast fashion.

The ever-increasing green spirit has made fashionable the essence of wool: that the fibre has beneficial qualities; that the material is biodegradable and sustainable. Wool has therefore become a “good thing” — as well as a pleasure to wear and a perennial challenge for the inventors of style.

Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design

Interesting article from the NYT:

August 13, 2010
Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design
YOU wear organic T-shirts. You hang your clothes to dry. You recycle your unloved suits and dresses.

But frankly, that’s just the tip of the green iceberg.

Today’s truly fashion-forward have a more radical ambition: zero waste.

That may sound more like an indie band than an environmental aspiration, but it’s a new focus of top fashion schools.

Zero-waste design strives to create clothing patterns that leave not so much as a scrap of fabric on the cutting room floor. This is not some wacky avant-garde exercise; it’s a way to eliminate millions of tons of garbage a year. Apparel industry professionals say that about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in the nation’s landfills because it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them.

A small but impassioned coterie of designers has spent the last few years quietly experimenting with innovative design techniques, and some of their ideas are starting to penetrate the mainstream.

Continue reading “Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design”

Pringle and Ori Ami Knits

I do not have nearly enough exposure to animation about knitting. Here is a very funny bit that I found via Olga coming from Pringle fashion. I think they missed the part in between washing the sheep and magically having colored yarn cones on trees (hi, spinning?), but they got the ticks part right. And they take it all the way to the cat walk.

[And since we’re talking about Olga, if you’re madly clicking links or skipping the video, make sure to go check out her new book, Ori Ami Knits, which I’ve been watching unfold on Ravelry – there is still enough time to order and get two additional patterns. A preview of some of the items is here.]