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A Crafty Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Gathering Dye Plants

As part of #naturallydyedwardrobe, I’ve been thinking about the plants I can gather to create natural dyes.

It’s obviously important when gathering plants that you aren’t having a detrimental effect on the environment you are harvesting in. Many dyers work with a 10 – 20% rule, only taking a maximum of 10 – 20% of the plant they are harvesting, and leaving 80 – 90% behind. It’s also important not to harvest in environments with a no-harvest rule.

I’m sticking to plants that are abundant, and so not problematic in terms of gathering.

Currently I’m thinking about…

Acorns

cupful of acorns

This Autumn, I really want to try dyeing with acorns. They produce lovely light browns, similar to dyeing with nuts. To produce a dye from acorns you need to first smash the acorns and soak them overnight. If iron is used as a post-mordant fibres dyed with acorns become grey-black.

Check out this post from Thicket and Thistle for acorn-dyeing inspiration.

Bramble / Blackberry

second handspun
Photo Source

Both the leaves and fruit of blackberry plants can be used for dyeing. The berries produce a purple, while the leaves and shoots produce a yellow – brown. The fruit can be used from frozen as well as fresh, but like most dyes produced from berries has a tendency to fade. Alternative wild berries are Elderberries (pinks/browns with wool and silk; silver-grey with cottons), Damson (pinks), Blueberries (red-greys).

Nettles

nettle
Photo Source

I certainly won’t have any trouble gathering some nettles, which produce yellow-green colours.

Dandelions

I must know fifty ways to make yarn yellow.
Photo Source

Likewise with dandelions, whose flowers produce golds and khakis.

Mushrooms

I don’t know enough about wild mushrooms to feel comfortable gathering them, but great effects can be achieved, as seen in this inspiring post by Folk Fibers.

Any other suggestions? Have you done any foraging for dye plants?


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Screenprinted Morrissey Tonic Tee

Screenprinted Morrissey SBCC Tonic Tee

This evening, I’m going to a Morrissey gig in Birmingham, and I made a new tee to wear.

Years ago, I used to regularly customise RTW t-shirts, by appliqueing designs on the front. I made an appliqued Morrissey t-shirt using this exact design about ten years ago (also to wear to a gig). I still had my original sketch of Morrissey’s silhouette stashed away under my bed, which I used to make an acetate stencil. I then used the acetate stencil to screen print the design onto my cut out t-shirt front. Phil occassionally moans about all the old rubbish I keep hidden under our bed; this is proof that very occasionally it turns out to be useful!

Screenprinted Morrissey SBCC Tonic Tee

The pattern used is the Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Tonic Tee, which is a free pattern. I cut a straight size small and it fits perfectly. The wrinkles you can see in these photos are due to the fabric I used being a VERY drapey and clingy grey t-shirt fabric, purchased from Abakhan in Liverpool. I used a black jersey from my stash to create the contrast neck binding, and the sleeve binding. The sleeve binding was the only alteration I made to the pattern (which suggests turning and top-stitching).

Screenprinted Morrissey SBCC Tonic Tee

I’m posing here with a 12″ single, What Difference does it Make? by The Smiths. The single was originally released featuring a picture of Terrence Stamp, he objected (although he later relented) and this alternative version, featuring a picture of Morrissey, was issued. I’ve wanted a copy of the Morrissey cover version for years and finally treated myself last year.

Screenprinted Morrissey SBCC Tonic Tee

I’m a born and bred Morrissey fan. Growing up, my Dad’s favourite band was the Smiths, and we always listened to them, especially The Queen is Dead as we had a cassette of the album that was kept in the car. The Smiths/Morrissey will always be my favourite band, but my favourite song does change from time to time; currently, I especially love Stretch Out and Wait (the Smiths), and Break Up the Family (Morrissey).

I’ll leave you with Moz, he says it best (at least, when he’s not talking absolute bollocks):

A sad fact widely known, the most impassionate song to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown. But don’t forget the songs that made you smile, and the songs that made you cry. – Rubber Ring

Screenprinted Morrissey SBCC Tonic Tee


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Sewists, Show Your #SewSolidarity with Garment Workers Worldwide

#sewsolidarity logo

I’m teaming up with UK fashion reuse charity TRAID today to promote their #SewSolidarity challenge, and I really hope you’ll get involved.

On April 24th it will be two years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh.

At least 1,133 garment workers were killed, and over 2,500 injured in the collapse. Many of the brands linked to Rana Plaza have failed to contribute at all / sufficiently to the compensation fund set up to support victims and their families, meaning the fund is still $9 million short of the amount required to provide adequate compensation.

TRAID are asking sewists to show their solidarity with garment workers, and keep attention on Rana Plaza and the ongoing fight for adequate compensation, by refashioning a garment, giving it longer life, and showing solidarity with the garment workers who created it.

How to Take Part

  • Source a piece of clothing (from your wardrobe, a charity shop, or a friend) that was made in Bangladesh, or by a brand who was having clothing manufactured at Rana Plaza, or by a brand which manufactures in Bangladesh. The Clean Clothes Campaign has detailed information on the brands who were involved with Rana Plaza, including those who have failed to make adequate (or any) contribution to the compensation fund (and so are most in need of a kick in the arse).
  • Refashion the clothing, and post your progress and the finished refashion online using the tag #SewSolidarity on, or in the lead up to, the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24 2015.

You may also want to challenge the brand who produced the original clothing item to pay into the Rana Plaza compensation fund / ask them about working conditions and safety in their factories (particularly, if using a clothing item by one of the companies who has, so far, failed to pay adequate compensation).

TRAID’s blog post about the challenge includes a great list of further resources about the progress made to secure compensation for victims of Rana Plaza, and about work being done to improve social and environmental conditions across the textile supply and production chain.

I’m planning to visit my local charity shops this week and get refashioning, how about you?

P.S. Fashion Revolution are also asking people to raise their voice on April 24 and ask #whomademyclothes? I’m planning to take part in both events. Clothing companies sometimes use the claim that consumers don’t care how clothing is produced as an excuse not to improve, so the more we can do to prove they are wrong the better. (Plus TRAID sit on the Fashion Revolution Board, so it’s all interconnected!)

TRAID

If you’re not familiar with TRAID, the charity setting the challenge, their work is very pertinent to sewists, and is focused on reducing the negative impacts of textiles and the fashion industry on the environment and people’s lives.

TRAID do this by selling donated clothing, and garments produced from damaged textiles, and investing the funds in global projects designed ‘to free the textile supply and production chain from the exploitation of people and the environment’, by improving conditions and working practices in the textile industry.

Zoe from ‘So, Zo…’ previously worked for TRAID. This post by Zoe & this interview with Tilly explain more about how TRAID re-use textiles.

TRAID charity shops are currently located only in London, but they have recycling bins across the UK. Check out the locations of these here.

Button

Grab a button to show your support:

TRAID #SewSolidarity Badge

<a href=” http://www.traid.org.uk/sewsolidarity-24-april-2015/&#8221; title=”TRAID #SewSolidarity Badge”><img src=”https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7604/16316489194_cdf30436fd_o.png&#8221; width=”200″ height=”200″ alt=”TRAID #SewSolidarity Badge”></a>


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Goldstream Peacoat

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

So, after 9 (I think…) years dating, I finally sewed something for Phil;) To make up for lost time, I started with a fairly substantial make, a coat.

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

This is Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat. I know Lauren has written about this before, but coat making isn’t necessarily that hard, it’s just looooong. The construction of this Peacoat is relatively straightforward, it’s just more time consuming than your standard sewing project. Even the cutting out takes ages. I normally always trace my paper patterns in case I want to use a different size in future, but I couldn’t face tracing all of these pattern pieces so I just cut out the tissue pattern.

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

Cutting out took even longer in my case, as I actually did it twice…

I originally purchased fabric from Coupons de Saint Pierre for this coat during Carmen’s Paris meet-up (In fact it was the second time I bought fabric for the coat during the meet-up, as Phil rejected the first fabric I bought, so I used it to make this Oslo cardigan for myself instead). Coupons de Saint Pierre sells pre-cut fabric lengths, but I did measure the fabric before buying. However, when I started cutting out the fabric I didn’t have nearly enough to make the coat, so I obviously didn’t measure well enough… I tried to match the fabric locally but couldn’t find an exact match in my local fabric shops. So, I did what I normally do and went to Barry’s and bought new fabric, the lovely soft wool pictured here, and started my cutting out again. I lined the coat with a printed cotton, also from Barry’s, and finished it with buttons from Birmingham Rag Market. Before cutting my fabric, I pre-treated the wool by putting it in the tumble dryer on a wool setting with some damp towels to remove shrinkage.

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

This is version 1 of the Goldstream, made in size XL. The only change I made during construction was to attach horse hair canvas to almost every pattern piece, as the wool I used was quite soft and drapey so needed the canvas for structure.

I actually made this coat over Christmas – I like to have a ‘big’ project for the Christmas holiday, and this was mine last year – and these photos were taken just after I completed it, on a shopping and sightseeing trip to London. After wearing the coat for a couple of days, Phil submitted some alteration requests! A couple of requests were fairly minor; I re-sewed the hem (which was riding up), and interfaced the pocket flaps (which were about the only pattern piece not previously interfaced). Phil was also finding the sleeves slightly tight around the armholes. The sleeves were slightly gathered, so I let them out to their full size and added a small triangle to the body of the coat at the seam line to accommodate the extra width. Obviously I would ideally have picked up this issue earlier. I did do a very basic toile for this coat and it appeared to fit ok, but I was a single layer toile in a cotton so didn’t replicate the thickness of the full coat and pick up the issue.

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

Goldstream Peacoat - Thread Theory

The first time Phil wore this coat he found a pin or two still attached, which made me think of this post by Rachel. I’m not planning to wait another 9 years to make something else for Phil (honest); I fancy trying the Newcastle Cardigan next.


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Red Quilted Linden

Linden Sweatshirt

It’s been a really busy week, so this is just a quick post with another Linden Sweatshirt.

This quilted Linden was started with the leftover fabric from this quilted jacket, however I didn’t have quite enough so ended up going back to Barry’s for an extra 1/2 metre! Not such successful stash busting… The ribbing WAS from my stash, and is from Minerva.

Linden Sweatshirt

I sized down to size 0 for this version, and did my usual trick of cutting the neckline band approximately one size shorter.

Linden Sweatshirt

These photos were taken in my favourite local park, Cannon Hill. The red grasses growing by the water there happen to match my sweatshirt pretty well;)

Linden Sweatshirt

I’m wearing one of my favourite necklaces in these pics. This Snoopy necklace was my mom’s; when I was a kid, our house was burgled and my mom’s jewellery taken, but this Snoppy necklace wasn’t stolen as my mom had given it to me and it was around the neck of one of my soft toys:) This is Snoopy in his pilot gear, although for many years I thought he was wearing a nice headscarf. See what I mean?

Linden Sweatshirt

We took these photos a few weeks ago – it was bright but still pretty cold; here is how I was dressed as soon as we finished taking photos!

Cannon Hill Park


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Growing Dye Plants

As part of #naturallydyedwardrobe, I’ve been busy buying seeds.

Marigold Seeds
Marigold Seeds

We’re lucky to have a small garden where I can plant dye plants, but many would be suitable to grow in a pot on a balcony, or indoors.

I’ve ordered six different types of seed, I had to stop myself from buying any more at that point by reminding myself that I need to find room for all of these in the garden, and time to care for them…

Most leaves and flower heads will produce a dye, in a yellow, olive or brown. However, I’ve stuck to plants that are popular amongst dyers for (hopefully) more reliable results.

Ivy / Bracken (yellow-green)

In addition to the new plants I’m adding, I might also take advantage of two plants already growing in my garden.

Ivy is one of the plants whose leaves can produce green dye, although they also produce yellow-golds, and, with the addition of iron as an after-mordant, the dye can be closer to grey/black. My garden is full of ivy so I might as well put some to a good use.

We have tons of Bracken in our garden. It’s fronds produce a green dye, and I’ve read that they produce the best dye in the Spring, when the new fronds are unfolding.

Bidens (orange)
Bidens Seeds

I’ve picked Biden as it produces a strong orange, and can do so with a low plant-to-fiber ratio (1:1; 2:1 being more typical). It’s also quite a hardy little plant and easy to grow in the garden or a pot (the seeds I bought recommend it for hanging baskets).

Marigold (yellow – brown)
Step 6 - Finished Product
Photo source

All varieties of marigold produce dyes in shades of yellows and browns. They are another plant that is ideal for pots, and are also a good pollinator. Personally I try to stick to insect-friendly plants when adding to my garden, so that was also an important factor for me when I was selecting what to grow.

Yarrow (yellow – green)
Yarrow Seeds

Yarrow produces yellows and greens on wool, although it typically dyes a pale yellow on cellulose fibres (plant-based, e.g. cotton, linen, hemp). Yarrow is a perennial wildflower and attractive to insects, including butterflies.

Teasel (blue / yellow)
Teasel Seeds

My local garden centre had Teasel seeds so I decided to include it. Teasel is a thistle-like plant so a nice contrast from the other plants I’ve included. It’s also attractive to insects as a source of nectar and to seed-eating birds.  I’ve read online that dried teasel heads produce a blue dye, or yellow if used with alum as a mordant. I’ve also read that dried teasel heads were used for centuries as carding combs for wool.

Bee Balm (pink)

This blog post encouraged me to include Bee Balm in my dye garden. As a great lover of pink, I couldn’t resist a plant that produces a gorgeous pink dye. Bee balm also has the added benefit of attracting insects. It is a member of the mint family, and the wild variant (native to the US) has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes and as a seasoning.

Woad (blue)
Woad dyed, fine lace-weight yarn
Photo source

I couldn’t resist trying to grow woad as it is one of the important traditional dyes, and was the only source of blue dye for textiles in Medieval Europe. The leaves of woad contain the same dye as Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), although in a weaker concentration which results in a powder blue dye. Woad has an important place in English history, Julius Caesar referred to Britons staining themselves with woad for battle, and Glastonbury’s name is said to derive from glastum or blue. Woad is a vat dye, which needs to be prepared in a different way to all the others I am planning to try; I couldn’t resist giving vat dyeing a try:)

In addition to growing my own little dye garden, I’m planning to take advantage of my mom’s well stocked garden. She has lots of plants suitable for dyeing, including Dahlias, Zinnia, and Raspberry and Tayberry fruit.

Do you have any other recommendations for good dye plants to grow, or plants you’ve had success with in the past?

This interview, with Katelyn Toth-Fejel from Permacouture, lists the following plants as a good starting point for developing a dye garden, and achieving a mixture of colours:

Woad for true blues
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Rhubarb for its fixative qualities
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loosestrife for gold, brown and black
Weld for strong clear yellow
Dyer’s coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Also, check out this great blog post describing the seeds planted in a Brooklyn dye garden.

I bought most of my seeds from my local garden centre. I ordered woad and bee balm seeds from this Etsy shop, but haven’t yet received them so can’t yet comment on the quality.


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Bertie Wooster PJs: Marbled Carolyn Pajamas

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

These ain’t your beginners’ pjs! I’m happy to say that I finished my Carolyn Pajamas in time for Monday’s pajama party deadline. I’m in the office on Monday, but I’ll be wearing them in spirit and putting them on for some luxurious lounging in the evening.

Unlike a lot of pyjama patterns, these aren’t a beginner project / quick make. They’re not difficult, but they are composed of quite a lot of pattern pieces. They took me about a day and a half (of admittedly relaxed sewing) to make up, plus half a day to dye the fabric prior to sewing. They’re sooo much more luxurious than most pyjamas though, that it’s definitely worth the extra effort. I’ve long had an obsession with pink pyjamas due to a pair worn by Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves & Wooster tv series. Bertie’s would definitely be silk though; I’ll have to make a silk pair next time.

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

The fabric is a dark pink 100% cotton, purchased from Barry’s, which I marbled. I was inspired by an article on marbling in the February issue of Seamwork, and Amy pointed me to this HonestlyWTF tutorial on marbling using shaving foam. The original tutorial uses food colouring, but I substituted for the Jacquard dye in this kit which I knew was suitable for fabric.

Marbling with shaving foam

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

I cut my pattern pieces out before dyeing and did my dyeing in a large cardboard box (which was good for tidying up as I threw it in the paper recycling afterwards). I dyed a couple of pieces of card at the same time and achieved a better effect on the card than the fabric. If using this method again I’d use more dye and make more effort to create patterns in the shaving foam before placing my fabric down.

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

I cut a size 2 in the top and 6 in the shorts (which makes me sound very bottom heavy…) and the fit is perfect. I didn’t make any intentional changes to the pattern, although I did accidentally attach the collar upside down… By the time I noticed, I’d already attached piping, sewn the two sides of the collar together and partially attached it to the neckline, so I decided to just go with it, and luckily it works:)!

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

I abandoned my normal location of my garden for these photos as it seemed inconspicuous for pyjamas. These are taken in our bedroom, and in honour of this blog post I ironed the bed linen for the first time ever! This bed linen is worthy of ironing – it’s Designers Guild’s Ramblas, which is my all time favourite Designers Guild pattern (purchased cheaply from TK Maxx).

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

The piping was pre-made, from my stash and I had exactly the right amount for these pyjamas; so satisfying. I used boxer shorts elastic, from Guthrie & Ghani, in the waistband of my shorts, and the buttons are Cath Kidson, also from my stash.

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

Marbled Pink Carolyn Pajamas

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