Tag Archives: ecoprinting

Slow Fashion-Creating Artisanal Designs with Silk

I did not initially make the  decision to create and sew my own garments with my hand dyed or ecoprinted silk.  The creation of the fabric designs alone is labor intensive  but I enjoy the process and it is no problem to roll up my shirtsleeves and hand paint,  dye, collect leaves and botanically print them onto my fabrics. But how many scarves do you need at a show? You have to offer more than one thing and clothing was perfect!  My skills were adequate-I had sewn clothing off and on for years. But hiring sewers to do the construction work seemed to make sense while I concentrated on creating the fabric designs. What I had not considered was my deadlines. No one will ever work as hard as yourself and eventually I knew that in order to compete and have clothing ready for my shows, it was time for me to bite the bullet!

Thus was born my own clothing lines. No matter what it is called, my own Slow Fashion, Artisanal Clothing, Hand crafted….it fits with what I do now and what I create! Low impact dyes (both natural and synthetic)sustainable and organic designs and clothing created entirely by hand and by me 🙂

So what IS “the “Slow Fashion” movement?” In a nutshell:

“Slow Fashion (Clothing) is the antithesis of fast fashion. It considers the ethics and sustainability of garments, values provenance and artisan skills while focusing on timeless style, comfort and connection. It is about thoughtful, ethical, creative and sustainable ways to enjoy the garments we wear every day while minimizing our material footprint on the world”-from Textile Beat

My collection of artisanal designs in silk and leather

 

 

 

 

 

It does not get much slower than how I do it!   I choose certain days to collect my leaves and ecoprint my fabric. (Weather plays a part in this)  I choose other days to hand paint my fabric or create designs on the silk. Then I will choose  yet another day to sew. In that way I slowly but steadily work on creating my fashions for the shows I attend or for the  custom orders I receive.

So the logistics of sewing with silk are simple. It’s hard, it’s slippery and I discovered that no amount of YouTube videos was going to teach me like just doing it! I dusted off my Brother CS6000i. I should add that as a self employed artist I am rich in art and poor in cash. So this very cost effective sewing machine is under $200. For most of us, whether your machine has 16 or 600 stitches starts to become irrelevant in basic, good construction.  Re-homing my old skills meant a lot of practice and learning new things in new machines.

Brother CS6000i with attached LED lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But perhaps the best bang for my buck was the Brother 1034D serger I purchased a few years ago!  I was determined to master it (my earlier sewing skills never included a serger!) and how quickly you learn anything depends on how badly you want to learn it!  This Brother Serger was another “under $200” super investment and I have been able to double my output with some of my garments in the time it saves!  I will add that there are some great YouTube videos on using both of these machines from threading to cleaning them. The best ones I found came from Sewing Mastery. (that tip will save you getting lost for 8 hours on YouTube!)

 

Handcrafted, Hand dyed Silk Ruanas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

silk habotai and silk noil garments

Serging is no longer the “to do before hemming” part of sewing.  (ie: serge, fold up hem, sew again) A good tight, serged edge IS the hem!

But there are a few other workhorses now in my arsenal of machines. Nothing beats an older machine-all metal and sturdiness for additional, harder sewing.  For instance, the Brother CS6999i cannot handle my leather. No problem.

Singer Featherweight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bring our my 1954 Singer featherweight. These little workhorses have become expensive and the darling of the Quilting world :-). But you can find them reasonably priced if you look hard enough. With a leather needle, mine can handle basic leather trim and embellishment on my clothing.  But when I move into heavier leather and my ecoprinted hides, I pull out the super workhorse! My 1908 Singer 29-4! These were built to last! A table makes it easier to work flat but with only foot power to run it, well, it can be used anywhere! This is for my heavier leather such as my shoes and handbags.

Singer Leather 29-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found that with patience and practice, the silk I most worked with could be easily managed. From 8mm Habotai to 12mm charmeuse to the much heavier silk noil, all require some machine adjustments and tweaking.

But the end results are beautiful garments designed to showcase not just talent but determination, perseverance and pure hard work in an ethical, slow clothing movement. And nothing feels better than to have accomplished it all by yourself!

Hand crafted artisanal clothing

 

Holiday Open House at our STUDIOS!

2 Artists Studios!
Our chickens sometimes claim the studio front porch!
Silk work by Theresa

Saturday Dec 16 from 11-3! Come see the art studios of 2 long time working artists and see the variety of, dare we say, amazing art! A perfect place to pick up those last minute hand crafted gifts 🙂

Meet our ponies, Helen and Shadow, feed a peppermint to Bella, our alpaca…yep-the chickens will visit you as well as our dogs!

Enjoy some light refreshments in the large studio (our painting one) and do some shopping!

Kids are fine, leave your pets at home though please..rain or shine.

Located at 2109 Old Mill Farm RD., Franklinton, NC 27525. Email Theresa@thesilkthread.com with questions.

 

Plenty of portraits to see by Theresa
Steve’s watercolor table

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hand lettering on Glass
Working at the easel

 

Harvesting and Ecoprinting by Moon Cycles

(Note-see 2018 update at end)

When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden.  She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm.  They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon.  I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.

Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21,  I found my mind turning  back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.

Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.

Theresa Collecting plants

Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm.  But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?

I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.

But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.

 

 

What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study?  Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”

Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.

So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere.  The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)

 

I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.

In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience.  My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful.  I  enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment.  I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?

Sept 3 2018 UPDATE!

I never got around to posting results from the days of the eclipse. But this year, while ecoprinting the same leaves from the same plants (pecan, maple, rose, etc.) exactly one year later, there WAS a difference! Prints in 2017 were crsiper and clearer and expecially so with the pecan leaves. As soon as I find those photos (sorry in a rush here, I will share those. Below are a few as from that period as well! But I DO have better graphics-be patient 🙂

Eco-print Workshops!

Eco-print Workshops with The Silk Thread

I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of  leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones,  is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing  that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk.  For many,  it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form.  But universally, it is the image of collecting  leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!

Theresa Collecting plants
Collecting leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting.   I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that  has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!

 

Ecoprinting workshop

Everyone is Equal!

What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity  and artistic ability!   With painting workshops, even for beginners,  there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on.  In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!

I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios!  Although I work at my

The Silk Studio viewed from the garden

smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).

All  my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens  and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.

working in the Art studio

There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!

opening bundles

As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!

Until next time!-Theresa

Posing with their creations!
Happy with their results!
A delighted participant

 

close up results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First batch drying on the line
First time results!
First time results!
First time results!
Laying out the plants

Beautiful Art from Rescued Roses

Seven SIsters old roses
Seven Sisters old roses

Beautiful Art from rescued Roses

Roses in history, in quotes, in art and poetry. Perhaps no other flower has been written, photographed, cultured and painted in all of history.

“What a lovely thing a rose is!” -Arthur Conan Doyle (The Naval Treaty)

“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” -L.M. Montgomery (Anne of the Island)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

 As artists, my husband and I regroup by exploring back roads, both paved and unpaved. In our many travels we began to bring not just camera and sketchpads, but shovels, buckets, water and pruning shears. And we began rescuing flowers and taking cuttings from abandoned homesteads.

This was once someone's home
This was once someone’s home
A road less traveled
A road less traveled

Sometimes we only discovered totally overgrown homes hidden off dirt roads by noticing a burst of pink, red or white flowers through the growth. On closer inspection we would discover huge rose bushes, or old varieties of Sweet William or daffodils, continuing to grow and bloom with happy abandon, unaware that no one was on the crumbling front porches enjoying their beauty and fragrance any longer.  So we began to take cuttings, dig a few bulbs or flowers in hopes of transplanting them to our mini-farm for them to be seen and enjoyed.

Before long we had our own bushes of Seven Sisters, Old Dawn (climbing) Red Blaze, wild white roses, Lady Banks, Old Glory, tiny leaved Scottish Roses…..and some nameless ones.  My heirloom rose garden includes a red variety of Seven Sisters that my mother collected from her old family homestead (long abandoned) in Mississippi while researching her roots.

 

Seven SIsters old roses
Seven Sisters old roses-pink
Another view of Seven Sisters roses on garden fence
Another view of Seven Sisters roses on garden fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collected from our own family homestead in Mississippi
Climbing Old Dawn
Climbing Old Dawn

As a painting artist, I have painted and photographed my share of beautiful roses over the years. But no art form has excited my creativity as much as collecting and imprinting designs and colors from those roses I have rescued!

In the world of Eco or Botanical printing on fiber, more often than not it is the leaves that leave the best impression, not the actual rose. And it seems fitting as no one immortalizes the rose leaf in poetry and quotes. Even the thorn has numerous symbolic mentions…but the leaves?  Yet without the leaves there would be no rose! I don’t think botanists will ever cultivate a bronze, green  or copper colored rose. But in my work with the rose leaves on Silk, I regularly re-create these colors!

So much, I have learned, depends on what  day, what month and what rose leaves I use…from the tiniest to the largest.  The colors vary, the shapes vary…but the sentiment stays the same for the leaves as it does the beautiful petals. A wondrous surprise every time I work with my rose leaves and silk.

I like to think that the women or men who once planted and loved these roses, would be pleased to see their simple pleasures re-created as beautiful imprints on silk. And that someone cared enough to stop by their once active homes, lost to time and encroaching developments and rescued their roses and flowers to treasure as much as they once did.

Rose leaves on silk
Rose leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
Natural leaf colors of roses enhanced by indigo
Natural leaf colors of roses enhanced by indigo

When I discovered  that Floridian Kathy Hays, an expert  in all things related to contact (or eco) printing,  was going to be in my NC area, I jumped on the chance to have a one-on-one workshop with her. I could not make her 3 day workshop in Florida so she put together a jam packed session!  We started early at my studio stirring the vat like a witches brew!

The day was perfect for working outdoors! I had previously washed all the silk to be used as that was my main focus. But indigo works beautifully on all fabrics.     The photos below will take you through the basics of our process 🙂

Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat

Perhaps the most amazing thing to observe is the Green of the initial Indigo turn to blue as it is exposed to the air-oxygen. I think that if we find it magical today, think how the ancients must have felt watching it turn from green to blue in front of their eyes!

Indigo exposed to Oxygen
Indigo exposed to Oxygen

There is no doubt we were having fun!

Checking the results
Checking the results

During and after the workshop I continued to work with my silk, enjoying that feel of working outdoors, creating something beautiful and improving my skills in yet another area of my new favorite medium! Seems my printmaking skills from college have come in handy after all!

Enjoy the collage of a few of the results!   Up close and personal:  see my site!

Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.
Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.