Archives for posts with tag: Textile

scarf with rescued materials in it

Go to any craft fair, fashion expo, or design show these days and you will undoubtedly find upcycled clothing. Old garments, say for example a beautiful coat or sweater that developed wear and tear over the years, could be combined with another garment to be new, fresh, and exciting.

In Montreal, there is a hip shop in the St Henri neighbourhood that caters to this idea. La Gaillarde features finished clothing by Montreal designers, as well as sewing/alteration classes in their sewing room. They also sell fabric remnants and used garments that are ready to be worn as-is, or upcycled into something more enticing.

At the Biodome in Montreal, every winter there is a craft fair that features crafts and clothing and all sorts of exciting things made out of over 75% post-consumer waste. Many of the offerings I saw last year were of better quality, more stylish, and clearly more functional than their brand new counterparts.

This article in the Guardian newspaper outlines some of the challenges that manufacturers and retail stores face in regards to textile waste. The manufacturers must be more responsible, and we as the purchasers of garments must be more accountable for what we do with them as we finish. It does take an effort. As the article says;

“…the various fibres that comprise clothing make reprocessing and recycling a challenge. Some materials such as cotton and linen can be composted, but petroleum-based fibres such as polyester have little chance for reuse. Few municipalities accept textiles into their recycling programmes… the result is a resource that is not as easily recyclable as aluminum cans, glass, or even plastic.”

scarf with unrecyclables

The ability to truly recycle textiles is rare. We will donate unwanted (but still wearable) clothing to charity, but what do we do when there are too many holes or stains? We usually throw them into the landfill… Though I am not anywhere near perfect in this regard, I have tried to save fabrics from this fate.

I make felt wool scarves, and have been incorporating bits of used fabrics into them. Also I like to take unrecyclable (yet durable) materials, such as plastic/foil catfood bags, and use them within the scarves, too. This is more fun than anything, but I hope that my efforts have diverted yet more toxic landfill from accumulating!

Check out some of the DIY ideas we posted over the last while on Fleurbain… you can use old garments for these things, too!

*Coasters

*Braided Rug

*Mittens, Cushions…

*Scented Sachets

And have some fun while you’re at it!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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some of my earlier experiments

One of the benefits of teaching to fully engaged students is the challenges that they present to you. I am teaching a weekly course on felt-making; the first class for this new group was last week. All of the students were keen to learn, to do, to make. Outside of the enthusiasm that they brought to the class, they had all done research beforehand on the craft of wet-felt-making.

When we started the class, I gave them a brief run-down on how felting works, what the science is behind it, the basic stuff. Then we talked a little about what we would do over the next twelve weeks. Some of the students were very keen to try out some specific techniques; techniques that I’d seen others do but, admittedly, haven’t done myself. When the internet offers such a wide array of videos, blogs, and instruction manuals, it was a pre-educated group of crafting students who entered my classroom the other day!

a student in the beginning stages of making a hat

This presented a challenge and an opportunity for me to grow. While the class is on, I am “on”. I am engaged fully with the students, I guide and help and demonstrate. Sometimes I must step back and allow them to discover things on their own. During this work-time, they are concentrating and I am quietly watching what they do, or I am preparing for the next step. While this is happening, I think about what we will do in the future, what would serve my clients/students best.

Much of art-making and maintaining a practice in it is about editing. Editing specific works, editing time so that the media of choice fit into one’s life, and editing things that might not seem to fit together until they do. I have, classically, fancied myself to be a bit of a trail-blazer type whenever I’ve started something new. I would quickly learn all I could about it, see what appealed to me, then go off on my tangent to experiment with what I chose. This is normal, I think. However, when I have students who want to try out all the different things that one can do in a chosen medium, I need to be ready to teach them these things I’d seen, not tried, and had previously discarded from my own milieu of work. Because of this, over this weekend I performed some experiments with feltmaking.

there are many ways to make felt, and many potential things to teach

There is a funny thing about this situation. By prescribing myself time to experiment in things that I’d not really been personally interested in before, I have been actively pushed to make use of my new knowledge. An example: felted soap. I make and sell felted soap, now, because I needed a little something to fill in about an hour’s worth of class. Felted soap seemed interesting, sort of cool, and something easily portable for students to make and take home in one day. Now I sell my little bubbly creations in many shops around town, and on my Etsy page. Benefit!

fabric-enriched scarf - the successful experiment

A second example of a recent experiment is building fabric into the layers of wool. A student last week was keen to try this, so I agreed to teach it. I took some time to try it out, and last night I made a very beautiful scarf using this technique. A little back-story is due; as I’ve mentioned before, I once had a job in the fashion industry. While working in a sample-making room I saved scrap pieces of fabric. I prevented good, small bits of fabric from stuffing the landfill. I have many little squares of printed cotton, and I’d been trying to force myself to sew out patchwork bags and skirts out of them. I like sewing from time to time, but not sewing boring things like grid squares. Last night I took two of these squares, and ripped them into strips. I added the fabric into the scarf, and presto! It was a success. I will be making more of them, and adding another aspect to my scarf-making business!

I am looking forward to the next couple of experiments I’m planning… a large vase, and sushi jewelry in felt. Who knows what will be after that! I’ll certainly keep the dialogue open with my students, that’s for sure.

Natasha Henderson is a painter and fibre artist based in Montreal. She teaches art and felt to adults and kids. You can check out her Etsy page and personal website if you’d like to see some of her work.

Iggy, my cat who likes to stare at things.

I have a cat whose name is Iggy. He likes to stare at the wall. I can relate to this; whenever I need to step away from the distractions of my life, I will stare at something. This can prove to be a little awkward when I’m out in public. In that case it is good to find somewhere to sit, then close my eyes for a minute. Iggy doesn’t have this problem, because he is an “inside-cat”.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this right now. My rationale is that I am in a Post-Yoga-Class state. This morning I had my first yoga class of 2011, after a month’s break. My mind is clear, my breath is easy and focussed, my spine and arms and legs and fingers and feet and… everything that makes up “me”… feels good. I had intended to write about the braided rug that I am slowly working on (it’s quite a long process, being the sole crafty or creative thing in my life that I would define as a “hobby”), and as my eyes were looking up from this computer screen towards that rug, I saw Iggy. Staring at the wall. This reminded me of the state of my mind during yoga class this morning and that’s that.

braided up and ready to go...

So, this rug is composed of pieces of unused, discarded t-shirt material that I rescued from the landfill during my employment in “the fashion industry”. I worked as a sample-cutter in the sewing room of a large corporation for about a year and a half. Each garment that was designed for this company required several pre-production samples in order to pass muster, before being manufactured in China. Hence there was a lot of waste, and this sewing-room went through a lot of fabric.

At one point I decided to tuck away scrap pieces of fabrics to take home, rather than throw into the trash. The company had a lip-service “Green” policy, in that they put up dozens of posters encouraging staff to use only one paper-towel when drying their hands in the washroom. I reasoned with myself that if I should get in trouble for taking trash away from the company, that I could plead “Logic” and win. I could point out the blatant irony of all those posters, asking that people save little pieces of paper, while in the meantime we tossed out what amounted to sheets of fabric every day. As it turned out, I didn’t need to plead anything because shortly thereafter I quit.

it began... and one day it shall end.

It didn’t take long for me to amass a big sack of scrap t-shirt material at home, and I began braiding pieces together. I would just cut about an inch-wide strip, tie similar-toned pieces together, and then braid. I made several meters of braided t-shirt material. This was the easy, fun, simple, relaxing part of the craft. The more difficult task was in sewing it all together. I basically just began to wind the braid around itself on a table, stitching as I went, on one (the ugly) side. I would tuck the tied ends to the ugly side, to make sure it looked good on the top side. Of course when I began, it grew very quickly so I felt motivated and satisfied. As the circumference of the circle expanded, though, it was slower work. This is why the project remains unfinished. At the moment it exists as a sort of “decoration” in my home rather than an actual rug.

branching out... something other than a circle to stave off boredom

I do like the idea of making something out of nothing, though, and I consider this rug to be a potential Family Heirloom. In a while perhaps I’ll share with you a photograph or two of myself doing yoga on this rug, or of my cat sitting on it and staring at the wall…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

You need: -Paper  -Good solid cardboard  -Scissors or cutting edge  -Gluestick  -White glue or rubber cement  -Cheesecloth or similar fabric  -Pretty paper or fabric for covering  -More pretty paper for inside of covers -Thread and needle

As I mentioned once before, I managed to take a book-making course during my final year of art-school. We learned various techniques to make books, and some of the simpler ones I’ve outlined here. I did promise to go over the method of making a “real bound book”, though, and now it’s time to deliver on that promise! Happy New Year… let’s make us some books!

A classically bound book has a few elements. There is a cover, there are the pages, and there are the things that hold them all together.

The little parcels of paper pages that are sewn together to make the body of the book are called signatures. When I make a book, I make my signatures first. I decide on how many sheets will be in a signature, and then I decide on how many signatures will make up the book. In some situations, you might only have so much paper available, so this guides the size and number of pages in the book. A single piece of paper that is in a signature is actually four pages, if they were numbered within the finished book. A paper-piece in the signature is the height, and then twice the width, of the finished page, folded in half. You can layer two pieces of paper, or three, or four… or many. It depends on how thick your paper is. Normally, for “art-grade” paper (thicker) I would layer about two or three pieces of paper in a signature. An older book in my collection has about ten very thin, but strong, layers of paper in each signature.

In the inside of a signature, you will see the stitching. This is an old book, finely crafted.

Once you have decided on your layered papers for a signature, you fold the pages in half, re-layer them, and sew a little stitch or two down the centre. I recommend knotting at each stitch on the outside, binding edge of the work. This will add strength and stability to the binding, and to the signature. Use about three or four strands of thread to add even more durability. Make your stitches on the “inside” of the signatures about a half-centimeter, and make the stitches on the “outside” about two centimetres. Don’t worry about the outside, binding edge of the signature, it can be messy. You won’t see it later! If you were to rip the outer binding off of a finished book, though, you would see a mix of knots, threads, glue, and something similar to cheese-cloth covering the whole mess.

When you have a number of signatures ready to be bound, the next step is in to bring them together. I can’t show you this in person, unfortunately. But simply put, just weave a threaded needle between the threads that are on the “outside” of the signatures. Knot. Tie. Weave. Make it sewn together… keeping the thread OUTSIDE. Don’t puncture the papers again. This will all be hidden, so don’t worry if it looks bad. Just try to keep the inside of the pages neat-looking!

As soon as the signatures are bound together, you have the basics for a book. The next step is to make the cover. Cut two pieces of good cardboard to a little bit larger that the size of the inside pages. Good, solid cardboard is normally found in craft stores. If you don’t have any, use your imagination. You’ll want a material that is pretty tough, that you can cut, and that won’t roll up with a bit of moisture from something like glue. An old piece of rubber or plastic could be interesting…

Once you’ve cut the outer covers, you can cut a binding-cover, too. This is big enough to cover the ugly, outside edge of the bound-together signatures. It’s ok if it is a little thinner than the depth of the book. This piece just basically provides a little structure and protection to the sewn-together signatures. In some books this piece is rolled back and forth to form a rounded-binding, in others it is straight and flat. For your first book, though, perhaps just leave this piece flat.

One of my early books: Signatures, Three cardboard pieces to make the cover, Decorative covering. Note I also sewed some pretty gold thread along the edge of the bound signatures.

You need an outside surface for the covers… a piece of fabric, a piece of decorative paper… and old fancy pillowslip, a shiny satin skirt, anything that is pretty will do. You just need enough of this to cover the outside edge of the entire book. If your decorative paper or fabric is thin (like satin or fine paper) you should glue it to another piece of good, strong and flexible paper (such as rice-paper) first. Lay this piece out on your table, pretty-side down. Lay the two covers and the little binding-cover next to one another on this piece. Keep a small distance of about 1/8″ between the covers and the binding-cover. This space is important so that the covers can open and close… this is a hinge. Make sure that this pretty covering extends at least an inch past the edges of the cardboard covers. Rub a bit of glue-stick on the surface of the cardboard covers, then place them again on this pretty covering. Press flat with your hands, just making sure there are no “bubbles” or lumpy bits of glue. Fold the edges in, glue down to the inside of the book-cover with white glue or rubber cement. What you are doing is sort of like wrapping a present, and you are doing the outside first.

Next, take your bound signature-pages. Using a bit of cheese-cloth (or similar fabric… I’ve used a number of woven, light-weight fabrics at hand for this task), cover the ugly outside edge of the bound-together signatures. Make sure there is about two inches extending past the edge, as though the cheese-cloth wants to grow into a book cover. Rub white glue or rubber cement glue over the cheese-cloth, so that it is truly adhered to the outside edge of the binding. Let this set. Good time for a coffee or tea. Cake. A film. Really let THIS glue set.

Here you can see the "decorative inside page" that is glued to the front cover, and slightly glued to the front page of all those signatures.

FINAL ASSEMBLY: Once this signature-set is dry, take the cover that you’ve previously prepared, place the signature-set in place, and glue the cheese-cloth to the inside of the covers. It helps to know that there will be a final, decorative piece of paper attached to cover all the mess. I recommend using a bit of glue-stick, then closing the book to set for a few minutes. Open the book, and rub in some white glue. Close it again, and leave it at least half an hour to really set. You can check it a couple of times to make sure it hasn’t shifted, but be careful.

Once it is dry, the very last thing is to add a thicker, decorative paper to the inside of the covers. This paper is cut to just a little shorter that the original “double-page” size, and you need one for each inside cover. The function of this decorative paper is to cover the inside of the cover (remember the “wrapped present”?), and also to be a decorative front and back page. Glue (with white glue or rubber cement) one side to cover all the uncovered-part of the inside covers. Glue a little bit on the first page of the signature-bundle, so that it is stuck to this decorative paper… about 1/4″. This way the book is solidly made, and is held together by the cheese-cloth as well as the decorative paper. Set it aside… let it dry thoroughly. Press it between some heavy books, leave it overnight. It’s all in the layering…

This old book is made with a gently rounded binding-cover. You can see the importance of leaving space between the three pieces of cardboard, so that the covers can hinge.

When you examine an old book from your shelf, or look at my photos here, you will see the basic elements to a bound book. Don’t be afraid… my first bound book was a gluey mess. The binding-cover was cut too big. I used an ugly fabric to cover it. However, by making my own book, I was then inspired to work out a fun comic to live inside the book. This developed into the first storyline for my “Cluck and Lurt” comic series! Drawing in my own book was inspiring for me. I hope that you are inspired to try some book-making yourself.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Hand-puppets… they are fun, functional, and CUTE. Capital “c” cute. Cute! They are easy to make, and you can combine your imagination with whatever materials that are available to make something pretty cool.

My first puppet. He likes the piano.

To start, find some fabric that is big enough to fit your hand with fingers spread widely, twice. When I made my puppets, I used hand-made felt. You can use any type of fabric if you have access to a sewing machine… otherwise (for hand-sewing) I recommend a non-fray fabric such as felt.

roughly what a template would look like

The first thing to make is a template. The template is your pattern. If you are happy with your puppet, you can re-use your template for future puppets. If you are unhappy with an aspect of your puppet, the template can be adjusted.

Extend your hand so that your thumb is sticking out, then trace on paper. Fold the paper so that the “thumb-side” is mirrored. Add a seam allowance onto this, about an inch all around. It’s a good idea to give a little extra room, too. Check that the top is rounded, not weirdly shaped (unless you want to make a weird puppet, which is always a fun option!)

When you have a general shape for the template, cut it out. You can then use this to cut out two pieces of your fabric. Simply sew them together and decorate. Puppet. Keep in mind before you sew the pieces together, however, that this is a good time to add things such as ears! Some would prefer, also, to add a face or other features before sewing it together. I prefer to see what my final shape is before doing that. Have fun with your new pal! 

After I had adjusted my template, I made some more puppets.

 

After a short time I got more ambitious with puppets. See what YOU can come up with!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Memoir by Natasha Henderson

Felt is non-woven, non-knit fabric that is made of bits of wool or other fur. Felt-making has been around for a very long time… we’re talking about five thousand years. The contemporary method for making felt is similar in science to the ancient method: a combination of pressure, heat, water, and friction make individual fibres cling together into this versatile fabric. Soap doesn’t hurt the process, either.

Fluffy wool is layered onto bubble-wrap, sprinkled with soap and boiling water, then rolled up and agitated 'til it is done.

I came to start to make my own felt because of three major influences. One, I had always liked felt (and felted) objects. Two, I have a friend who offered to teach another friend and I how to make felt one rainy evening… an evening that also featured soup and beer. The third influence was my own desire to learn another craft that I could possibly make products to sell in my freelance artistic lifestyle.

The main reason I keep making felt is that I find it to be a relaxing and enjoyable activity, and I am proud of my creations!

Felt wool scarf with unrecyclable trash built into it and decorative stitching.

I also find that the process of laying out thin layers of loose wool in a multitude of available colours to be similar, in an odd way, to painting. My background is as a painter; I’ve painted and exhibited my works for years. So when I found a means to make wearable-art out of an incredibly practical material, I was very, very happy!

This craft has opened up new opportunities for me to teach workshops in felt-making, too. There are several people who are curious about this medium, and who want to try things out. I am glad to offer courses in my own studio, and I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to classes to teach kids “how to make felt”. One such event concluded with the kids making their own felt into little puppets. The kids had a satisfying time making their own piece of fabric, and then had a creative time crafting this fabric into their unique creatures.

The latest thing I’ve discovered is felted soap. When I first saw felted soap, I thought it would be itchy, that the felt would fall off the soap and you’d find little fibres all throughout the bath… nope. Thankfully wrong on all accounts! The soap inside makes a good lather that keeps the wool at a gentle level of exfoliation. It’s cool, too, that as the soap insides slowly shrinks (these soaps last longer than naked soaps do) so does the felt.

Felted Soap I made.

Thanks for letting me talk to you about this thing I do. It’s a lot of fun.

Natasha sells her felt wool scarves and soaps at craft fairs, as well as through her Etsy site, HendersonArt.

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