Posted on 1 Comment

Growing Color: My First Dye Garden

Freshly planted marigolds

With the gardening season coming to a close, I want to take some time to look back on my first attempt at growing my own natural dyes. We have limited space and my thumb is not very green, so when I began thinking about planting a dye garden I knew I needed to keep it simple. I selected a couple dye plants based on the colors that I was hoping to achieve and how hardy they were.  I decided to start with marigolds, dyer’s coreopsis, and hopi black dye sunflowers. I purchased my marigolds at the nursery already started and I bought the dyer’s coreopsis and hopi black dye sunflower seeds from bedheadfiber.com.

Throughout the summer, with the help of my husband and kids, I was able to keep these flowers alive. We also grew some vegetables and the kids love picking fresh carrots and watching the plants grow and develop over the course of the season.

Every other evening we would pop the dyer’s coreopsis flower heads off the plant and strip the petals into a bowl. By the next day there would be a whole new crop of bright, yellow flowers to pick. The petals were left to dry out overnight and now I have a large jar of color just waiting to be used all winter. I also collected seeds from some of the flowers with hopes that next summer they will develop.

I collected the marigolds as they died and let them dry out as well. Next year I would love to make a marigold garland. This seems like a beautiful way to collect and let the flowers dry out. I would also like to try another variety of marigolds, but I’m undecided about which one yet.

As for the hopi black dye sunflowers, they were a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if they were going to produce any flowers. Sure enough they grew and grew and flowers began to emerge. They did not get as tall as I have seen and the heads were only about the size of both of my fist, but they were beautiful. Once the heads died, I cut them off the stalk and let them dry out a bit. Then I harvested the seeds into a bowl to let them further dry out. I haven’t done any experimenting with them yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what colors can be achieved.

Once again, growing a garden has taught me to be more patient; to be mindful and intentional in the hopes of getting something that will serve me well in the future. I am very much looking forward to using all the color that we collected this summer throughout the winter. Next summer, I have hopes to add a couple more dye plants to our garden. I would love to try pin cushions, goldenrod, and indigo. I’m sure come April, when I’m ready to see green again, I will have a long list that I will need to edit back in order to fit it all in.

Posted on Leave a comment

Out and About

Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week with little sleep. I have been doing a lots of knitting (see above walk with kiddos…having knitting will travel, right?) and planning for future dye projects, but don’t have much to share at the moment. Teething baby has left me with lots of nursing time and I have been reading and researching during much of that time. I’ve been coming across and collecting articles and links related to sustainability and the fashion industry. So I thought I would compile a list regularly for you to peruse at your leisure. I don’t want to limit this collection to sustainability and fashion, but also include natural dyeing, small business development, mindfulness, etc. If you find anything around the web that might be of interest please hit me up at emily@goldfinch.limited.

  • Fabric made from wood – This sounds very interesting; especially the potential of a closed loop system. I wonder how it would take natural dyes?
  • Fast fashion = modern-day slavery – It’s so easy to look over and not think about and I know there are many layers and facets, but it’s something that needs to start being talked about more.
  • A sustainable vision for fast-fashion? – This article really breaks down the emergence of fast fashion and it’s environmental and social impacts. It discusses ways some of the fast fashion companies are attempting to reduce and improve these impacts.
  • Way to go Columbia – ReThreads: Clothing Recycling Program
  • EF Renew – A take-back program that uses damaged and unwanted Eileen Fisher and turns them into new garments.
  • More ways to avocado pits – This makes me wonder if you could still use them to dye with after making broth and/or if you will have pink soup.

Enjoy and I hope everyone has a good weekend!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Experiments with Painting Fabric

Lately I’ve been intrigued by the idea of painting with natural dyes. My hope and vision is to use natural color to create unique painted fabric using upcycled cloth. I’ve tried working with iron water as color modifier to paint patterns on naturally dyed fabric, but I have not been very successful. The patterns and colors tend to bleed together too much when washed.

After some initial research in Natural Color by Sasha Duerr, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Promagrenate skin dye was up first. I simmered the skins on and off for a day. After straining the liquid from the pulp, I reduced the liquid dye by simmering it again for about an hour. Then I added guar gum to thicken up the paint. I also wanted to change up the color so I added iron to half of the paint.

My pomegranate paint was much more orangey, coral color then I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be much more yellow. Once I started painting, I was pleasantly surprised by how the paint turned bright yellow on the fabric. The fabric was mordanted in aluminum acetate. Watching the color change as a reaction to the mordanted fabric gave me a first hand look at how the mordant effects the dye.

Once washed, the iron paint bleed slightly into the original yellow paint, but the integrity of the design stayed. I also splattered lemon juice on some the fabric. The lemon juice acted as bleach on the natural dye so I was left with an interesting effect on the fabric.

To continue with my experiments, I made paint with avocado pits and tea bags. I used the same technique to make the paint as I did with the pomegranate paint. The avocado dye turned out a very pale coral, pink. In the past I have gotten much deeper pinks from avocado pits so I was surprised by the lack of depth to this dye.

Once washed, the color was altered by the iron. I was pleased by the outcome because it darkened the avocado paint.

As I continue to explore this type of textile art, I have been thinking about other effects the dye could have on the fabric. I wonder if different watercolor techniques that work on paper would work on fabric? What about color mixing? Or combining different dying techniques like shibori and painting? Using different color modifiers besides iron? The possibilities do seem endless as there are lots of questions and ways to play with natural color.

Posted on Leave a comment

Textile Abundance

It has been said that the textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry. Fast fashion and the desire for “on trend” clothing has doubled the production of clothing over that last 20 years. Many times an article of clothing is worn only 3 or 4 times before it is discarded. The average American consumes 82 pounds of textiles per year and the EPA estimates that textile waste takes up approximately 5% of landfill space. This is discouraging when 95% of textiles can be recycled for other uses; either through second-hand stores or in some new form (pillow stuffing, rags, carpet padding, etc)

There is a huge environmental impact for a single t-shirt. The amount of water used to produce one t-shirt is equivalent to filling 22 bathtubs. That’s a whole lot of water when you realize how much clothing goes unused. Above, you can see just a few of the statistics associated with textile waste. This is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at the problems with the fashion and textile industry.

img_7457-4.jpg
Thrifted shirts, cut into pieces to be used for future projects

I have thought a lot about this over the last few months as I have begun trying to create a small business of handmade goods. My focus is to be very intentional about the materials that I use and the products that I make. Through the use of reclaimed materials, I am able to focus on the handmade craft and not the fact that I’m adding one more thing to the over-saturated textile market. With a little bit of creativity and time so much can be found at the thrift store. My goal is to create things that don’t look as if they have been made out of used clothes; transforming the materials into something new and different. My hope is that the end product will be used more and have a longer life than the original piece.

Zippers from thrifted pants

I will not be able to source everything I want to make with materials from the thrift store. When I buy something new I want to try and be responsible about knowing as much as I can about the materials I am purchasing. Is it a 100% natural fiber? Where was it produced and/or grown? How do they treat/pay their employees? I won’t be able to answer all of those questions every time, but making informed choices is a step in the right direction. There are many small companies with a mission to provide quality materials that need support. Through the use of reclaimed materials and responsible brands, I hope to have a small, positive impact on the textile industry and the environment.

Zipper pouches made from upcycled cotton shirts and zippers

Posted on Leave a comment

Focus 2018

With the New Year fast approaching, I have been thinking about all the endless possibilities 2018 has to offer. 2017 has been both very joyful and very difficult. Looking back of course the joy totally overrode the difficult, but I’m very much looking forward to new beginnings.

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do like the idea of a word to help guide your intentions for the year. My word for 2018 is focus. I feel like I have a million ideas and goals in my brain, but sometimes that just leads to an overwhelming feeling. I want to focus more directly on how to achieve my goals and not let the extra stuff get in the way. Focus on my direction and my family’s and no one else’s.

Some of this means trying out new tools, like a bullet journal to help record and plan my thoughts. I’m just starting this and I already feel like it could be very helpful to my sometimes scattered mom brain. Although I have to be careful not to fall down the hole of feeling like the journal needs to be something fancy. It’s a tool to help make my work fancy.

I also want to put myself and my work out in the world more. I would like to be able to participate is a few local artist/craft fairs. Many of them are juried and the thought of being judged has me a little nervous. Putting yourself out there is hard, but I’m looking forward to focusing on my goals and not my nervousness to achieve those goals.

Sometimes the day to day of trying to get everyone feed and clothes clean, etc makes it hard to focus on the extras. I need to remember the little pockets of time that add up. Knit a few rows here, sew a few seams there. It all adds up. By having a more focused list I can get more done in the little pockets of time because (hopefully anyway) I’m not flitting around trying to figure out what to do with my little bit of time.

With that thought, I can hear my kids starting to wake up. Time to get focused!

Do you have choose a word to help guide your intentions? What are you looking forward to most about the New Year?

Happy New Year!

Posted on Leave a comment

DIY Backpack: A Lesson in Upcycled and Reclaimed Materials

I decided I “needed” a retro style, drawstring backpack. I’m 38 weeks pregnant and I felt that it was the only kind of bag that was going to be useful for quick trips out and about. I love my over the should bags and larger totes, but the straps tend to get in the way when you are babywearing.

I have seen more and more of the retro style backpack bags with modern updates lately. Some are beautifully crafted from leather and others from fabric. I thought I could scour the thrift shops to see what I could find, but that was quickly ruled out when I realized how much walking could be involved (although I will still keep my eyes open for one every time I go to the thrift store).

 

I began to research what I knew I could do…sew.  I searched for different DIY backpack sewing patterns to see if there was anything that would work. I came across many different patterns (I really liked this one  and this one) and I decided I could use the concepts from a variety of styles to come up with a simple pattern for myself.

The next part was more exciting and eye opening. Materials! What did I have on hand to make this bag. Could I make it completely from materials I had in my stash? I’m not talking about pretty fabric I have collected over the years with the intent of someday making something out of it; I’m talking about scraps that I have laying around from previous projects. I also have a stash of old clothes that could have gone to the thrift store, but I kept because I either liked the fabric or some component of the item seemed like it could be useful in the future.  These reclaimed materials would be the base of my DIY backpack.

 

I know this sounds like I’ve got this huge hoarding problem, but really all this fits in one big plastic tub so its not that bad! I love that I can go to this stash and find bits and pieces that can be used to create something new, useful and beautiful.

With my backpack ideas swirling through my head, I went to my stash to see what I had. I knew I had some thicker fabric that I could use for the outer shell and I had a lots of pretty bits that I could create a lining. I was surprised when I found a pair of my husband’s cargo shorts. One of the pockets had a zipper pouch and a snapped pocket. Perfect for the front pocket of the backpack. (Although, now I owe my husband another pair of cargo shorts because apparently they were only in my stash pile because they needed a new button…oops!!)

Once I sorted out which materials could be used, I began to take measurements and think about construction. Once I figured out what needed to be sewn together when, the process went pretty quickly. The one thing that I still need to figure out is how to make the straps adjustable. I could buy a backpack hardware kit or the likes or I could see what I have laying around that might work. Currently a safety pin is doing the job.

What really inspires me about this project are the endless possibilities of upcycled and reclaimed materials. Giving new life to something that people don’t want anymore. Going to the thrift store and looking at clothes, not just for what they are, but what they can become is a very exciting. It really keeps your creative juices flowing.

Posted on Leave a comment

Time and Comparison

Time is an interesting thing when you are working in a product based business. People want things now. Instant gratification! I understand; you see something beautiful and the desire to hold it, touch it, use it is immediate. But, how does it look from the makers perspective? Coming up with original, creative ideas takes time. Making the first, second and maybe third prototype takes time. Once you are happy with the final product you need to photograph it and market it…more time.

It’s hard to be on the maker end. The one man factory as such.  People are starting to see the value of handmade goods, but you can still feel like you need to be working faster to keep up with all the beautiful things you see on Instagram or Etsy. How is it that everyone else’s hands seem to work so much faster than yours?

(The start of a little something using upcycled cotton yarn that will be naturally dyed once finished)

How do you keep your focus and not compare yourself to others? This is not a new dilemma. It’s something that others have talked about at length. It comes back to the idea that I want to look at others work and feel inspired, not the overwhelmed. The maker community is so supportive, but sometimes the first thought is to compare yourself. It’s hard to remember that through the lens of a camera people can make their lives seem completely different.  You don’t know what’s going on in the background, just as they don’t know what’s going on in the background of yours.

As more and more people begin to talk about this balance of work and home life, it becomes a little easier to give yourself the time and space to figure out how it works in your own individual life. Giving yourself grace. What gets done, gets done. Being able to focus on the “why” and not the “should” or the “have to”. So, I’m going to make myself some more tea and a few lists of all the ideas in my brain and attempt to give myself some space to focus. And remember, one step at a time!

How do you manage balancing work, time and comparison?

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Shop Update

I’m slowly, but surely getting around to updating my shop with new things that I have been working on over the last couple of months. It’s taken me longer then I had wanted it to, but sometimes that’s how things go. I’ve been working on a couple different things, including upcycled wool diaper cover/soakers and hand knit baby bonnets, along with hand dyed pot holders.

Check it out www.goldfinchlimited.etsy.com

Posted on 1 Comment

Finished Quilt

Over the weekend, I finished up a naturally dyed and hand stitched baby quilt. Some projects seem to drag at the end and you just want to finish the piece, but it’s hard to get there. I have had a few of those projects lately, so it was a pleasure to work on something that I was not only excited to see completed, but that I really wanted to do the work to get there.


I don’t feel the photos that I have taken thus far do the quilt justice. I want to take it around to everyone and show them so they can see it with their own eyes. I guess you could say that I’m just little proud of my work. Granted, it is not perfect by any means and I wish some of the mistakes were not there, but proud none the less because my two hands made it and it will bring comfort and joy to someone.


Next up, I have plans for a whole cloth quilt, using the fabric that I dyed with black beans and some thrifted wool. I’m currently working on a few sketches to plan out how I would like to do the hand stitching. I’m also considering adding a simple crocheted edge instead of the typical bias binding. These projects are ever evolving and it’s always fun to see where they end up.

Posted on Leave a comment

Monday Mornings

We had a beautiful Sunday, filled with knitting, napping, BBQing, fishing, bike riding, and lots and lots of family time. I woke up this morning ready to work on all my current works-in-progress. Trying to decide where to start can always be a little bit of a challenge for me when I’m really enjoying working on each of them.


I am currently working on a few prototypes for hand dyed baby knits and hand dyed/stitched quilts. I’m very excited about the direction these projects are going, but one can only work so fast. I only have two hands. The slow and meditative work allows for love and intention to be worked into each item. It makes me think about my children and how they will use a particular piece. I also think about how other people will care for the pieces that I make and how they will contribute to their family; keeping a little ones head and back warm or creating a comfy nest in the grass on a warm quilt.

I hoping to have a few new pieces done shortly to add to my shop. I’m also looking into other outlets to share my work besides my Etsy shop. We’ll see where that takes me. I’ll keep everyone updated. Enjoy your Monday!!