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.

“A livable bento box” vs. “Accumulation and its discontents”

This post is not about knitting.

This post is about living according to our means and economizing space.

I came across this article in the NYT and was fascinated by the notion of transforming a New York City apartment into something you would find in Tokyo (“only bigger”), partly because I spent my year abroad during college in Japan, and partly because I have always liked a clean, minimalist aesthetic despite not being able to achieve it.

This apartment is 1300 square feet, larger than an entire house I recently imagined buying, but still – how to fit a family of four in, plus all their stuff? The slide show illustrates some ingenious uses of space, and although I can’t post any of the photos here, it is worth clicking over because the written description in the main article doesn’t do it justice.

Although I often ruminate about what it means to live within a given space, and live sustainably, I haven’t quite reached the point of acting on it. I know that this family put away all their worldly goods and clutter for the sake of the photo shoot, but there is still something in me that kind of believes they live like this all the time.

Mainly I appreciate the idea of economizing on whatever it is that’s there for us – space, food, clothing, necessities that are consumable or not consumable.

This idea is attractive to me, in this day and age, because in the US, it’s anathema to the currently promoted way of life: we do not have limits the way previous generations have. We can buy clothes every day and then throw them away (or send them to Africa, which has ruined the textile industry there, but that’s a different post). We don’t have to save tinfoil and turn it in to that formerly-ubiquitous junk guy for a dime to go to the theater, once a week, because there weren’t 17,000 showings each day. We don’t have rations.

I’m not trying to glamourize events or times that have meant hardship for many. I’m just saying, there is value in many of the approaches that have been taken out of necessity, which most of us don’t practice anymore. For instance, who can relate to rationing of clothing and materials that were instituted during WWII, and what that meant for clothing design? Cargo Cult Craft explores just this question and put herself on a fashion ration for a year.

The other article that I wanted to capture here is called Documenting Accumulation and Its Discontents and discusses an artist that has made a commitment to minimalism in her home with her partner, but has solicited stuff from people – and not just any stuff, but things that have incredible meaning and therefore could not be gotten rid of. Corinne May Botz, the artist featured, has convinced people to send her these items and promised them a photo in return. The only problem is, she’s not sure where to put the stuff.

I love this idea of sending away Things That Cannot Be Gotten Rid Of, but preserving them with a photo. I do suffer from clutterism and packrattism, but maybe this is a way to relieve the symptoms: Take a Photo, Send Away.

The quote I will preserve from this article was made by Catherine Roster, research director for the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization:

“Getting rid of a possession means abdicating all the pleasures and rights of that possession. And that freaks people out. It goes like this: ‘I got this from Aunt Maria; I can’t get rid of it. I spent a lot of money on this; I can’t get rid of it. I wore this a year ago, I might wear it again; I can’t get rid of it. If I get rid of it, I’ve lost all these opportunities.’ That’s a kind of death.”

Because indeed, is this not exactly the challenge of trying to become minimalist? For me it is, anyway. So many opportunities can turn into paralysis. The attraction of the bento house is also potential and opportunity, but devoid of accumulations.

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”