It’s funny how when you begin to look at something, all of a sudden everyone seems to be looking at it! Only 2 weeks ago S4S prepared a PowerPoint presentation to launch the Second-hand and Ethical workshop series happening at Krowji in Cornwall. One of the slides showed a photograph of the devastating environmental impact of over farmed land for cotton, namely the Aral Sea Basin.
The Aral Sea is the world’s largest endorheic lake which sits between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and has been intensively farmed for cotton for the fast fashion industry. Poor irrigation and land management has tragically caused the lake to dry up almost completely leaving a desert where there was once rich shipping waters
Following the television show, sustainable fashion champions, Fashion Revolution amongst other campaigners for change within the industry have applauded Stacey publicly on Twitter for taking the issue up and going mainstream, allowing exposure of the critical nature of the continued corporate fast fashion consumption agenda and it’s devastating consequences.
Good old spinning… So relaxing for some people and so important in the times before industrialisation. Sometimes I wonder the imagination it took for people to find out what was possible to do with sheep hair.
First to cut it, then wash it, then comb them and draw it out in a nice, smooth way to get a yarn. Then finally learn out how to make a spinning wheel so to make the best yarn… We humans are definitely geniuses.
Once they created all these great tools and prepared sheep’s fleece, they needed a lot of of time. It all takes ages, but they knew how to do it, they were able make beautiful, smooth yarn. I couldn’t, so I really admire the spinners of the past.. I know I didn’t have enough time and I would have probably got the hang of it after a while. But when I first tried I was more nervous than meditative. So I can only imagine how those ancient spinners would have been meditating while at work, though I can’t say I experienced anything similar.
I’ve mostly seen spinning wheels in movies, like Sleeping beauty and Once upon the time. My mum told me recently that my grandmother had one, but I never saw it. I haven’t see one anywhere else. So, to be honest, I was surprised that anyone still has one and is actually using it. That is great.
But I really don’t see how it can become once again an everyday method of making clothes, maybe if the technological systems collapse and we all need to revert to the old ways… until then we have high-tech machines so I don’t see hand-spinning returning. People nowadays wouldn’t really know how to really appreciate the amount of work put in just to make one single sweater. We are accustomed to having many clothes these days and we change them so often that I think we become in a way spoiled and therefore it is hard for us to imagine exactly what it would have been like in the past. Back then I suppose people were lucky to have spinning wheels and enough time to be able to sit in peace and spin. The world must have been circling slower then and people must have had different values. Higher perhaps. Everything was much more meaningful.
I hope we will find value again, in these times when it seems that we are taking everything for granted.
I am grateful to have opportunity to try spinning on the beautiful wheel. It has definitely changed my perspective on clothing and value of every single thread.
Going into the introduction to weave workshops I was excited, but if I’m being honest, having focused on weave during my textiles degree, I wasn’t really expecting to learn anything new. I just wanted to get back on a loom again.
However, I could not have been more wrong, I learned a bunch of new techniques like how to limit your wasted yarn, and how to cut your prep time down to a minimum with the use of a “waste warp.” I also found that being taught by new people with a new perspective incredibly inspiring.
My passion for this craft however, was nothing compared to that of our teachers, who also taught us for the intro to spinning workshop, something that, lets just say, didn’t come quite as naturally to me. These wonderful people have dedicated there time to the “slow fashion” and their love for the craft is clear.
To me weaving is wonderful. There is something incredibly satisfying about watching your cloth build pick by pick before your very eyes. It’s a slow process but the end product is unbelievably gratifying and the possibilities of that product are, at least for me, exciting.
For the second week of the Intro To Weave Workshops, we collectively produced a sample using the yarns dyed in the Intro To Natural Dyes Workshop using a simple 2-2 Twill structure. Twill variations where the focus of the workshops and I seeing how the same basic structure can be transformed into multiple different designs is something that I love about weaving. By simply changing colours, the number/order of lifts, or the thread plan you can create something entirely new. Seeing all of our collective work come together to produce the final sample was amazing. The wide range of colours that were produced with natural dyes, the techniques we had learned during the weave workshops, all of this, working together in one piece really proves that “slow fashion” doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. But instead it can produce something beautiful, with much more value. Watching everyone rush around the finished piece at the end of the workshop it was evident that was just as thrilled as me to see what we had achieved.
The sample we produced together will be sent to the group in Wolverhampton and they will in turn be sending a woven sample back too us, and I for one cant wait to see what they have created.
Personally, I have been lucky enough to have had some experience of natural dyeing before, however the two S4S workshops on the subject felt particularly inspiring. We used a regular kitchen hob to boil/soak the fabric in water. The only specialist resources needed were the dyestuffs themselves as well as their mordants and assisters – but you can buy these all online. As Irene told us, ‘mordants’ is the collective term used to describe naturally occurring metal salts mined from the earth which are used in combination with the dyes. They help prolong the longevity of colour by creating strong molecular bonds between the pigment and the fibre – ‘mordre’ in French means ‘to bite’.
As a group, I think we found the process a lot simpler than we thought it to be beforehand – we compared the making up of dye baths to following a recipe for baking. Perhaps (in the future) it will be a common Sunday afternoon activity for households everywhere! The beautiful results of our workshop were so vibrant and varied that it was quite magical for everyone involved…
Each time a new fabric or yarn was pulled out of a dye pot we gathered around in curious suspense. This reaction was quite different to what I imagine would occur had we been dyeing with synthetic/man made dyes. There is something more flat and altogether less appealing about something that comes out of a packet that shows the exact shade that you will end up with – not to mention the expense of these.
What left me feeling so inspired about the possibilities of natural dyeing was that our wonderful tutor, Irene, brought a wealth of knowledge and a myriad of different dyes to choose from. She showed us how each different fibre reacts to each dye – ending up with a wickedly wide spectrum all spread out on the table at the end! Natural dyeing, for me, provided the opportunity to slow down and take time to consider what colour to create. I feel, if adopted more universally, it would encourage a connection between not only wearer and cloth but also between people and planet. As recently published by Fashion Revolution, 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. Imagine if everybody dyed their own textiles at home with much smaller quantities of water whilst filling it with only natural ingredients?