By now I think my love affair with visible mending and Sashiko is public knowledge. I have confessed my love several times and will do it here once again: I love this stitch for visible mending. I can't get enough of it truly. The more I research Sashiko, Boro, and visible mending the more I fall deeply and madly and also head over heels. In love.
I can't ignore the influence of Natalie Chanin's careful stitch work, her beginnings using secondhand t-shirts, and the amazing advocacy work she continues for the slow fashion movement. I also see the quilting movement and more particularly the Quilts of Gees Bend exhibition all influencing my interest in visible mending and using patches, stitches, and an imperfect aesthetic to promote the life of our beloved blue jeans. Also, I must add the Japanese concept of wabi sabi to this mix. (That's a link to a lovely, succinct article about wabi sabi if you're new to the term.)
I think that's my visible mending lineage: Sashiko, Boro, Natalie Chanin, the Quilts of Gees Bend, and wabi sabi. Add this to my background in environmental studies, poetry, book arts, and textiles and you somehow arrive to where I'm at today with visible mending and slow fashion. Oh, the journey of our creations and interests and how they twist and morph until they arrive exactly where we are at this exact moment in time. The journey.
I just finished this visible mending project on my husband's work pants. There was a small tear in the right knee and I wanted to fix the hole before it became a gash. In abstaining from new clothing for one year for the Make Thrift Mend project, one of the things we noticed quickly was that our favorite pants grew holes in the knees almost predictably. And much too quickly for our liking. So my mending pile is not at any risk of being depleted: the tears in our knees are keeping me busy. It's another reason to consider raw denim, I suppose.
So as his third pair of pants was added to my mending pile I decided to tackle this tiny hole first. I darned it with matching thread and then used the Sashiko stitch to reinforce a denim patch from behind. (I'll talk more about the details and options for visible mending techniques in my upcoming class Slow Fashion Style.)
He went to work wearing these mended pants this morning so I think that's a good sign. I am definitely learning that it makes more sense to invest in higher quality clothing upfront so that the garment will wear longer, we'll care for it more attentively, and when it comes time for mending it is definitely worth the investment of time and handwork. I'm also learning when it might be best to use a visible patch and when it might be better to use subtle stitches. It's all part of the journey.
Mostly, I love the idea of tending to our clothing as it ages, protecting it against damage, and following its natural aging process as an opportunity for expression and preservation. Let the stitches be the wrinkles, the patches be the age marks, and the darned holes be the persistent smile lines we all deserve. If our characters are defined as we age, perhaps our wardrobes can be too.
This issue is brimming with gorgeous photographs, thoughtful essays, inspired craft tutorials, and delicious recipes that explore numerous angles of "mend". Yes, even recipes and photographs that are inspired by concepts of mend or mending. I posted about the word, mendfulness, a few months ago and I'm still so grateful to one of you dear readers for lending me this word. It manages to summarize my intentions and motivations with the Make Thrift Mend project and also with visible mending. This powerful word even became the title of my Taproot article. (Thank you, Jo.)
Some of you might already receive subscriptions of Taproot but if not you can purchase a subscription or an individual issue from their website. The magazine is totally independent and advertisement free and relies 100% on the support of subscribers. Just another reason to love their philosophy, dedication, and generosity in publishing such thoughtful and inspiring work. Did I mention I'm excited to have this article included in their magazine? Okay, thrilled might be better suited.
Thank you, Taproot! I hope readers will enjoy my contribution.
The registration platform is now available right here just be certain to leave your email address as that's how you'll gain access to the private class blog. While the class is free to participants anywhere the blog will be limited to registered students only and the only way I will be able to invite you to the private blog is if you include your email address when you register. So please leave your email address when you register. (Did I mention that I'm so excited I could squeal?)
Slow Fashion Style will operate through a private class blog that shares original daily content to subscribed readers only. This workshop will share project tutorials, exclusive artist interviews, project possibilities, studio tips, and multiple resources for sustainable fashion. Topics will include visible mending, natural dyes, simple sewing techniques, and various ways to reduce your fashion footprint while increasing your fashion resourcefulness. This workshop is FREE but participants must preregister and be available for the duration of the two-week class. Of course, you can work at your own pace and engage with the class community as you wish.
Please help me spread the word to your community as I'd love for this workshop to reach as many participants as possible. It's not everyday I can offer an entire class for FREE so I really hope to spread the word. (And please only register for one "ticket" as you can only register one email address per sign-up.) Whether you've been sewing for decades or you just picked up a needle in the last few weeks, this workshop is being created to meet varying skill levels and varying levels of expertise. I feel so passionate about sustainable fashion that I want everyone to have access to this information. Yes, including you.
For those of you who might be new to my work, please take a look through my Make Thrift Mend project website to get a better understanding of my slow fashion and sustainable fashion journey. I'd love to share this adventure with you, your friends, your coworkers and your families too. If you have any questions or experience any glitches in registering for the workshop, please leave a comment here and I'll respond as soon as possible.
Hooray! I can't wait to get started. This class is pretty much my dream class and being able to offer it for free feels like a double dream. Friends, I hope you'll join me.
I missed you on Monday. It was Labor Day here in the States and I hope many of you were lounging in a park or backyard somewhere, sipping cold beverages, and grilling veggies for what just might be the last time this season. Or more likely, many of you used this day to catch up on housework, random errands, or maybe to make a dent into a creative project that was waiting for just a few more hours. Maybe you just did the laundry and watched a movie--that counts too.
Because I missed my weekly post on Monday's holiday I wanted to add an extra post here before the week is officially done. Instead of sharing a project or inspiration I wanted to write about perfectionism and also about surrender. That's right, surrender. And about the many moments in our big, beautiful lives when we must place our carefully designed plans to the side and simply give in. Just stay afloat drifting downstream instead of sharpening our muscles with quickened swimming.
Now that it's freshly September I think I can declare August as one of my most exhausting mothering months yet. Not exhausting in the sense that he wasn't yet sleeping through the night (I'm still not sure how I survived the first 15 months of his life) or exhausting in the sense that he was very ill and I was worried about his safety (Thankfully, that's only happened twice, knock on wood) but hardest in the sense of my own expectations and unforeseen limitations. Yes, that kind of exhaustion.
As you know, we spent four weeks with family in NY this summer and when we returned in late July I had this very good set of plans for work in my studio. You know, a few weeks without a dozen deadlines when I could really "get ahead" and make "steady" progress. But then August came with her own plans and ideas. My husband opened five shows in four weeks which roughly translates to 12-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week; my 19 hour/ week nanny went on vacation for two entire weeks; and my sweet and very active toddler was sick no less than three times. Yes, three. Sleep escaped us. Work escaped me. Any sense of order escaped our entire household. I had to give in.
And so you can imagine what happened with my carefully constructed work-from-home plans, right? Right. They pretty much crawled under my desk amidst the suitcases of fabric and boxes of fiberfill and crossed their arms and closed their eyes and hid. Yes, they hid.
Somewhere in my grief about what I had planned and what I was actually able to accomplish I came to the realization that I just had to get by. I just had to keep myself and my son fed, and clothed, and in good communication with his doctors, and try to get us to sleep when we could, and keep food in our refrigerator, and completely revise my work plans to simply respond to my emails and little else. In short, I had to accept my limitations and keep perfectionism at bay.
So it's September. And I've magically enrolled him in preschool on less than a month's notice. This feels like a huge success in the Bay Area! I found two adorable schools with openings, I made appointments to visit both, and then I just picked one. I desperately needed to know that I'll have more reliable daycare and be able to meet deadlines this fall so this was my solution. Is it perfect? No it isn't. But is it good enough? Yes, it absolutely is. Actually, it has chickens in the yard and an art room and a garden ripe with tomatoes and so far we're smitten. Phew.
Now I'm preparing for a new workshop on Saturday. A new Sashiko workshop at Britex Fabrics. We'll be discussing Sashiko, quilting, Boro, and visible mending and how all these things influence the project we'll make together. It's a simple potholder with Sashiko stitching but it's quickly become a favorite item on my own work desk. I keep reviewing my Sashiko books and feeling my anxiety levels rise with each precise stitch, knot, and pattern. I marvel at the intricate beauty and perfection of each design so articulately executed in the projects in the book.
But you know what? If I'd held myself to those perfect, traditional Sashiko standards I never would have used that stitch to mend my beloved denim. And yet mending denim was my gateway into the amazing world of visible mending. I wouldn't have made this potholder let alone be teaching it to a sold-out workshop at an iconic fabric store in San Francisco.
But guess what? I love the Sashiko stitch. And I love how it's finding its way into my current work. In a way that isn't perfect, isn't precise, but fits exactly where I need it to fit. Guess what? Keep perfectionism at bay and finish prepping for tomorrow's workshop? I'm on it.
That's my mindset lately. No space for perfectionism but more space for acceptance. More space for flexibility. More space for surrender. More space for good enough. Have a great weekend, my friends! I'm thrilled some of you will be joining me for this very exciting (and totally imperfect but I promise very inspired) workshop. See you Monday, as usual.
My most recent dye experiment is now complete. The indigo garments and fabrics have been dried, rinsed, washed, and dried again. You can see the results in these photographs. The shirt and child's vintage dress were dyed by full immersion while the little leggings (my son's pajamas, I couldn't resist) and the scarf were dyed with a shibori folding technique resulting in the pattern. I also saved several strips of cotton thread that were used to tie and bind the fabrics--they were just too pretty and potentially useful to throw away.
The women's top is a silk and cotton blend, the scarf is linen, and the leggings, thread, and presumably vintage baby gown are all cotton. You'll notice that while the top and baby dress were fully immersed into the dye vat without any twisting, tying, or pattern-making techniques they still resulted in mottled color. I'm guessing this is because the dye vat was very full with garments and this didn't allow the fabrics to move freely in the dye. So some parts of the fabric might have been twisted, held air pockets, or even stayed above the dye creating this marbled or mottled look.
I'm still deciding how I'll use the linen scarf. Should I keep it as a scarf? Stitch it into a infinity scarf? Or cut the fabric into a top or tunic? Decisions, decisions. I already have a bag full of fennel waiting on my back steps for a dye vat so I'll have to move to the next project quickly. I'm also wrapping up the creations from my Make Thrift Mend project and will share the findings with you here soon. So much in-progress in the studio this month.
Hope you are having a wonderful week. And to my friends in the Sonoma and Napa areas most severely hit by the recent 6.1 earthquake in the Bay Area--my heart is with you. We woke to the shaking at 3:20am but we suffered little more than insomnia, anxiety, and a good sobering dose of reality that we do live in earthquake country. Please send an extra good wish to my neighbors just a short drive away in the North Bay.
Take one gigantic vat of indigo dye, one beautiful Sonoma backyard, and a handful of textile lovers and you get one very beautiful Sunday afternoon. That's the formula. My dear friend, Kathryn Clark, hosted her second annual indigo soiree this past weekend and it was something of a natural dyers retreat.
We each pitched in a potluck dish to pass, Kathryn outdid herself with gorgeous main dishes and desserts to die for, and we brought our light-colored cotton, linen, wool, and silk goods to her backyard for an afternoon of dyeing.
I love the community building nature of many textile gatherings. A clothing swap, a mending circle, a dye party, or the classic quilting circle--it creates such a beautiful space for community, conversation, and getting the job done. There's something inherently political in these humble and heartfelt circles.
Like our simple gathering is an act of resistance against a much bigger consumer industry that would much prefer we just go to the store and buy whatever it is we are making, mending, or designing. It makes me breathe a little easier when these gatherings occur. I do believe it matters when we take the time and attention to make things with our own two hands. Even more satisfying when we can share this making with friends and colleagues.
I'm convinced that indigo wants to be shared. Unlike some other simpler, smaller dye vats (a small pot of onion skins, a pile of wild fennel, or a few cups of coffee grounds) the indigo vat requires more in-depth preparation, calculation, and tending. There are several different types of indigo dyeing techniques--stemming from different cultures, different customs, and different times in the history of industrialization. But regardless of the method used, it seems to me indigo wants to be shared.
It wants conversation, connection, and communion. And what better way to share shibori techniques or compare folding, twisting, and tying experiments than with a group of friends? It reminds of me graduate school, or an artists residency, or more simply summer camp for adults. There is a great pleasure in learning from somebody else's experiments and also sharing what you've learned with the kind and receptive women around you. I concur.
By tomorrow they should be ready for another washing to avoid too much crocking--that's when the blue of the indigo rubs off on your skin, your light-colored furniture, or anything else it touches. It's also why our blue jeans fade with time. I'm researching techniques to reduce crocking. Thinking, a few cold rinses and line-drying should be enough.
I dyed two of my own tops, one pair of my son's pajama bottoms, a vintage baby gown, and two pieces of fabric. The dye vat was much stronger when we started than when we finished as you can see in the range of blues from very dark indigo to a pale sky blue.
You can see hints of the shibori techniques on the pajamas and fabric while the tops and dress received a full, untied dunk. (You can see the damp vintage baby gown here below, I couldn't resist.) With such a crowded vat each garment received a mottled color as there wasn't enough room for it to move freely and receive equal parts dye. I like this variation though. I'm okay with mottled.
I can't wait to add these garments and fabrics to my wardrobe and studio but I also admit that it raises my spirits each time I walk into our tiny back porch and see the indigo dyed goods strung from my tiny back steps. Like my own urban homestead is very much alive and well.
I have exciting news. Last week my husband premiered our tiny art studio at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts BAN7 exhibition as part of the performing arts program. This week, we are eager to announce the launch of our new artist residency program, Range Studio.
Range Studio will be a collaborative husband and wife team effort to offer short-term creative artist residencies to artists from various disciplines; collaborate with institutions to create adaptable, site-specific art programming; and act as a platform for social action, community engagement, and creative social practice.
For those of you who've known me for a long time, you know this dream has been in the making for the better part of the last decade. My husband and I have dreamed of starting an artist residency center and we've gone through great pains to research, visit, and evaluate old farm houses, abandoned urban spaces, and sprawling acres of undeveloped land as potential residency sites.
At some point in the next decade I hope this big beautiful vision takes center stage in our work and home. But in the meantime, Range Studio feels like the "tiny house" seed to a roving residency center for artists, environmentalists, and creatives. It's the version of our residency center we can start from our small apartment in Oakland, CA.
My husband secured funding from the Center for Cultural Innovation to design and build this first tiny art studio, Studio 1. Studio 1 is a portable studio on wheels inspired by the Tiny House movement. It's built of sustainable and reclaimed materials, operates on solar power, and is clad in reclaimed redwood fencing. It's something of a modern maker's tiny house meets small urban art studio.
It was designed to sit on a flatbed trailer and park in the small driveway at our Oakland apartment. It's made quite a splash in the neighborhood since arriving from the warehouse where it was being built. A few days after arriving it was carted off to its first public exhibition at YBCA complete with micro residencies with four performing artists. It's been a very exciting week.
But our love for the studio propels us to share it with our beloved Bay Area arts community. And with the community at-large. We imagine this studio is the first step towards creating an adaptable, agile artist residency center from the comforts and confines of our small urban apartment.
We also imagine it might serve as a model to other artists and institutions looking to resolve the ever pressing issue of affordable arts space in urban centers. We also just hope it might inspire a handful of DIY art studios in its midst. (It is totally possible to build your own, for the record.)
We were fortunate to receive a feature article in the SF Bay Guardian last week sharing some insight about Studio 1 and the launching of Range Studio, you can read more here: Sm/Art Car. We've also just completed our new Range Studio website and we're eager to share it with you.
In the coming months we'll be focusing on sharing the news, solidifying partnerships, and writing grants to support residencies in the short-term. At present, we are each balancing a handful of individual art projects and see Range Studio as another collaborative art project that will orbit in our midst.
There are still 1000 details to configure but it feels like a big beautiful beginning. I keep looking out my studio window at the tiny art studio parked on our street below. Part of me still can't believe it's actually real.
As any dream starts to take shape and come into physicality after so many months or years of imagining, we can only guide the dream into place and let it be as willful and wonderful as it must. Launching Range Studio and seeing Studio 1 below our apartment feels like the beginning of a much bigger dream. One that I am eager to guide and steer in the many months and years to come.
Welcome to the world, Range Studio, and dear world, welcome to Range Studio and Studio 1.