Tag Archives: m Theresa brown

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

 

How to Understand Ecoprinting and using mordants

A Walk in the Woods-understanding Ecoprinting

Exploring Titanium Oxalate-the new kid on the block

If you enjoy the idea or art of ecoprinting, my first suggestion for a true understanding and appreciation of this art form is to take a Walk. There is simply no other way to embrace Ecoprinting without exploring the world of the plants you use, up close and personal. The outdoor world you thought you knew unveils little secrets that lead to a better understanding of the “hows and whys” of ecoprinting.  I’m not talking about being knowledgeable in  “name those plants”. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with the moods of your favorite trees and plants. It’s a world of getting to know the growth cycles from early spring to fall. The imprints that plants share with the artist vary from day to day, week to week..even the time of day! get to know your walking trail.

Carry something like your camera phone and notebook and if you select leaves, photograph them and note the date and time. Become your own eco scientist!  I can pretty much guarantee that you will not remember the details unless you record them 🙂

It is probably the artist in me that looks for visual harmony, details and patterns in even the smallest of plants. Look up, look down. There is something of note in your eco journal in both locations!

The additional benefits of your walk are numerous! Beyond the obvious exercise benefit, the subtle influence it has on your soul, your psyche and your mind offers a major calming influence in our lives. In a world of daily electronic bombardment embrace your time without it. I have several blog posts that spend time with traveling these roads. Take a look at them on my website and enjoy that journey with me!

What’s Happening and working with a mordant!

For centuries, dyers have known that natural dye colors are elusive on fabric unless the colors are “set” with a mordant. A “new kid on the block” is a mordant called Titanium Oxalate. And I’ll share my  experiments with you!
But first, let me share what is happening! Click on the highlighted links for images and details!

  • May 12– My solo  “Pop Up Shop” at Westside GIfts in Wake Forest.  Come see and shop with me from 10:00-3:00!
  • May 13–  Ecoprinting on Silk workshop at my Studio. 10:00-3:00. Understand the ecoprint experience with me!
  • May 19Pop up Shop Raleigh. Join me and other artists for this 12-5 event in Raleigh!
  • June 2Easy Dye Silk Scarves workshop at Westside Gifts in Wake Forest! 10-12. Leave with 2 scarves that YOU created in just 2 hours!

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Exploring Titanium Oxalate
It’s a big word huh? Well for those who may not know,  the word mordant is derived from Latin and means “to bite.” It is what “fixes” dye colors to whatever fabric you are using and its uses have been recorded back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian times! The two most popular mordants in ecoprinting have been alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and iron. Titanium Oxalate has become the new star among dyers, yet it too has been around while. Doing some basic research, I found repetitive descriptions such as “These double salts may be applied to textiles and other substances without injury to the texture or material.” and “Titanium salts are now employed in both Europe and America as mordant and dye in the manufacture of leather goods, having proved of especial value for use on chrome tanned leathers” and “Titanium salts are currently extensively developed in replacement of chromium salts for environmentally friendly titanium-tanning techniques used as an alternative mordant for use with natural dyes.” That’s a lot of information (and only the start of it!)

To further confuse things, natural dye and ecoprint Facebook groups are full of conflicting information. Through my own experiments, what I know for sure is that when combined with the tannin in leaves when ecoprinting, titanium oxalate will produce a distinct range of oranges!


So in this photo, on the left is silk with an indigo and iron water blanket applied. On the right is a titanium oxalate and indigo blanket applied. The silk on the right is actually a bit greener than shown in this image. As an artist, it makes sense for yellow and blue to mix and create green., thus the abundance of green in the silk on right.

In the image below, I simply alternated dipping maple leaves and maple seed pods into an iron or Titanium Oxalate solution. Can you see the difference?


For me,  this “new kid on the block” is better in small doses. I love the control of dipping leaves where I can stagger the bold oranges in any manner that I like! That is what I did on the two examples below. For me, less is truly more 🙂

Be sure and follow me on Facebook I am most up to date there!

You can also find more information (and shop!) of course on my website and my blog for images and articles on what I am creating and how I do it!

Until next time!
Theresa

Hand painting silk techniques

As a long time painting artist, I know of hundreds of ways to create art on canvas and paper. I think nothing of switching from pastels to oils to alcohol inks without too much thought. Without realizing it over the course of years, I had  developed an expertise in many mediums simply by using them over and over 🙂

Portrait Painting Demo with pastels

So as I began to expand my silk painting it did not take me long to realize that there were as many methods to add color to silk as there was to  canvas!  I remember my early confusion at reading about dyes and paints in the big catalogues and trying to make sense out of conflicting information!

hand painting at a show

And of course I wanted to skip the learning curve and get right into the silk art! Think about it: All those methods such as steaming, not steaming, heat setting, instant set, dye paints, dyes, fabrics, types of silk……the list of what to know seemed dauntless at first!

In college I studied printmaking, so carving my own blocks to print on silk was not a problem.  I mean there is a huge industry in the arts devoted to stamping but I wanted mine to be unique!

 

My horse blocks

Carving 5 or 6 blocks of just horses has given me so many options for variety and I know that no one else has those images!

And then of course there was the method I use most often, drawing with resist!  I love the water based resists. I am not into suffering for my art 🙂 and melting wax, using the equivalent of oils in resists just wasn’t for me.

Stamping on silk

So making stretcher bars (from canvas stretchers!) has been a solution to drawing out my designs then adding the dyes. There is something zen-like in hand painting anything and watching silk dyes flow up to the resist lines is very much like painting in watercolors…except the resist acts as a “dam” to control the flow of dye.

Applying the resist
Hand painted Poppies
Hand painted (and Ecoprinted) silk wraps

And then there are the dyes that required steaming and I found rice steamers at the Goodwill that worked! I went from scarves to clothes and love to work my large pieces into garments!

So in my hand painted silk, I love to experiment. I love the colors, the designs and often incorpoarte both into my ecoprinted! There is nothing more beautiful than silk drying on the clothesline!

Hand painted silk drying on the line!

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

 

Whimsical Women and Holiday shows!

It’s that very busy Holiday time of the year with all of us realizing that the months of October-December seem to fly!
I popped from the NC State Fair where we braved 14 hour days for 11 days to the SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) where we went from 75 degrees one day to 38 and raining over the course of a 3 day weekend!

NCSF booth
Theresa painting on silk at NCSF
Steve manning the SAFF booth

Now here we are into November and I have a one day show Saturday Nov  18 . Hoping we don’t need the rain date!  Coming up after that is a packed weekend with 2 shows! Dec 2 and Dec 3!

The Wake Forest Holiday Artisans Market and the Boylan Heights Artwalk!


Saturday, December 2 at 9 AM – 3 PM
Renaissance Centre
405 S Brooks St, Wake Forest, N C 27587
ArtWalk 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That moves us into Dec!

A Crafty Christmas!
December 8 – December 9
Dec 8 at 12 PM to Dec 9 at 6 PM
 
Hickory Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau
1960 13th Ave Dr SE, Hickory, North Carolina 28602
A Crafty Christmas Dec 8 & 9 in Hickory NC

 

 

 

 

 

And finally on Saturday Dec 16 we have our annual HOLIDAY OPEN STUDIO! Both  studios open from 11-3 or by appointment!

Inside silk studio
The painting studio

So come see us at any of the next 5 locations!-Theresa

Visit me at The Village of Yesteryear!

For over half of the 150 years that the North Carolina State Fair has been  in existence, the “Village of Yesteryear” has been one of the most popular exhibits to visit during the 11 day stretch! In short, “The Mission:  “To encourage the development and perpetuation of heritage crafts by the display of our products and the demonstration of the skills required for their production. To share what we have learned and developed with all who may be interested.”

 

Booth at the Village

There are over 100 craftsmen and women displaying their goods and methods for creating what they sell and I will be there with plenty of silk and silk methods! Ecoprinted, hand painted and handmade!  I will have a display board of the various silks available as well as my usual silk cocoons. I thought about live silkworms but that seemed problematic!

Setting up the booths!

And here is artist hubby Stephen Filarsky with part of the set up going up from last year. The 11 days are long and tiring so being next to each other (He is the Sign Painter!) is great!

A State Fair is a Time honored tradition.  To say there is something for everyone is an understatement. From  4-H displays and competitions to the midway rides to farm animals, carnival games,  fair food,  you name it; there is something for everyone to enjoy at their own level. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells but be sure and come by the Village!

The Village of Yesteryear is a “working artists” village that features traditional heritage hand crafts. Demonstrations are performed using skills that, for many, have been passed down for generations. Our goal is to encourage the development and perpetuation of these skills.

The craftspeople do their best to create an exciting learning experience for the visiting public. They wear period costumes and continuously talk about and demonstrate their craft.

See you at the Fair! Oct 12-22, 2017!

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

The “No Serial Number” magazine story

It’s always fun to find yourself in an International magazine! And especially so when that magazine is the up and coming “Green” magazine, “No Serial Number” an “an eclectic lifestyle magazine about Eco-conscious and Heritage Craft, Design and Fashion.”    The purpose of the publication aligns itself beautifully with my ecoprinted collections and it is a joy to see this publication embrace all that is sustainable, renewable and beautiful!

Cover Photo No Serial Number

 

So what about my article? Well, I had the best time writing it and pulling together my images. 6 whole pages! But for a sneak preview  you can see a bit of it here!

Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical or ecoprinting appeals to the simpler side of people-the surround sound of being in the woods, gathering plant matter and watching it come to as an art form is my passion. But many collectors simply enjoy the finished pieces. Whether for home or office, there is something peaceful and beautiful in knowing the ecoprinted art has given us a lasting piece of Nature’s designs and colors!

It was my pleasure to have “No Serial Number” echo my thoughts and feelings by publishing my work and photos!

page 4

Magical world of Faeries on ecoprint

Who is not entranced by the mystical world of faeries? Whether your first introduction was Tinkerbell or you’re  intrigued with the myriad of myths, legends and sightings of such fleeting “little people”, it is a fun world to enter!

Faeries ( or Fairies)were a favorite theme of my twin sister.  As children, we imagined them in the ancient maples that populated our farm in upstate New York. We would take what figurines we had and play among the stone walls and foundations of the huge barns. We invented names, places, personalities, and made “faerie houses” from all manner of rocks and twigs.

 

Detail of a woodland faerie

So I have enjoyed re-inventing our world of not just faeries but the birds that also populated our country playground. Chickadees, sparrows, finches and tiny house wrens all flocked to our suet feeders in the winter when the snows made life challenging for all!

bird on rose branch

My eco printed silk seemed to call to me to peek closer into the world of nature. As a painter, it was just an additional step to begin creating my hand painted designs among the imprinted silk. The challenge was to keep a soft hand to the silk and yet have control over the silk dyes-not always an easy thing to do! So laying out my plant matter to create designs with open spaces for my birds and faeries, I began to paint. And I am still creating versions of them both.  The possibilities are endless. Yes I could simply paint an entire Faerie world on a single canvas, populated with tiny birds, magical creatures and such. But the challenges of working with silk intrigued me. My hand painted figures dance with the movement of the silk-something that cannot be achieved on canvas.

Four Faeries in the roses

The birds continue to flock to my feeders even in the more temperate climate of North Carolina. And while I paint and design, I see tiny faeries everywhere-dancing on the dust motes, peeking out from behind the roses leaves and perhaps playing tricks on the free range chickens. Join me in this magical world of no worries, playful fun and enjoy the art!

 

Faeries and their little bird friend on Cotton dipped in indigo!