This time, I have tried dip dyeing the warp with indigo to make ikat denim, fading from blue to white and back to blue again.
Again, I've used a 2/28 mill waste cotton, and a natural indigo vat.
To make my practice as sustainable as possible I use primarily dead stock and mill waste yarn in my work, and non toxic dyeing processes. If I do buy virgin yarn, it will be a plant based or sustainable yarn like hemp, linen, modal or tencel, which return nutrients to the soil and are produced in a closed loop process. When I use silk, it is ‘end stock’, mill waste or saved from landfill.
I source waste yarn from various mills in the UK, and also from Fairfield yarns, an amazing shop that sells surplus yarn and deadstock from mills that have shut down. There is a wide variety or yarn options and it is all still in perfect condition.
This project is born not just out of love for denim but also out of concern for the way in which the denim industry has been shaped in recent years by the fast fashion industry, and how that impacts our planet and our future.
On a side note, the next denim warp I will weaving is in collaboration with Hack Your Jeans, who make new yarn out of recycled old jeans - which is exactly the direction we need to be heading in, to reduce the amount of unnecessary virgin cotton we produce.
So, back to the dip dyed ikat denim warp!
I am using a plant based dye vat, using Tamil indigo from Wild Colours, with henna and slaked lime as the reduction agents both from Handweavers Studio & Gallery, and a simple household cornstarch as the sizing agent (the bit that makes denim stiff!)
This ^ was after just one dip in the vat! The colour will become darker the more times it is dipped and oxidised. I did find that the colour started to look a bit grey after a few dips, so after I had finished dipping, I rinsed the warp in white vinegar, which brings out the blue, with its acidity.
Once the warp has been dipped and oxidised enough times and has reached the desired shade, (bearing in mind it will be lighter once it has been rinsed and dried) it is then given a 'sizing bath' - basically wall paper paste, made using cornstarch and water. This coats the warp yarns to keep them from becoming brittle during the weaving process.
The sizing bath is the reason jeans were traditionally so stiff when they were new. The denim cloth would be cut straight off the loom and be made into jeans without washing or finishing. You'd buy them two sizes too big and shrink them to your size! These days jeans are pre finished to make them soft, and pre shrunk so that they are ready to wear, which is called 'sanforisation'.
This time I've set the warp at 60epi (doubling up at the selvedge).
I've had to make some alterations to the loom so that it can cope with the density and the tightness - by weighing down the shafts with metal rods - it's quite a time consuming process on a completely manual loom but I am enjoying every second!
I still haven't managed to achieve the dark blue hues I'd like to, but I'm learning each time I do this, so hopefully next time we'll get there!
I like the washed out faded look - its almost like cutting out the years it takes to get a natural fade on denim but without having to do all the nasty abrasive finishing processes, so thats something!
Watch out for updates coming soon on how the Hack Your Jeans warp turns out ;-)
The idea of ‘off-loom’ weaving was conceived during lockdown when I didn't have access to my loom or studio - I now have access to both but I can't seem to stop making these, it has become a kind of therapy through these strange days.
These off-loom pieces are painstakingly woven by hand with a needle and thread, using mill waste yarn or plant-based fibres.
Taking the focus away from garment, product or function, the intention is to appreciate woven structure as an art form in its own right.
It feels like a celebration of the craftsmanship of weaving, putting functionality and fashion aside for a moment to appreciate the structures that humans make with our hands - just like how animals create structures, nests, living spaces - without industrial machines.
For more information or sales, please get in touch here.
*Scroll down to see the whole process from dyeing the warp to threading and weaving!*
I've always wanted to try hand weaving selvedge denim - and lockdown has given me the final push.
The pandemic has created a need to diversify, and being forced to stay at home has meant I finally have a moment to try this.
In recent years my eyes have been truly opened wide to the damage that the fast fashion industry is having on the planet and our environment - so I am going to do this in the most natural and non-toxic way possible.
So much of today's denim is mass produced on industrial projectile looms, and dyed with synthetic indigo and toxic chemicals in the dye process. The industrialisation of denim allows manufacturers to achieve a consistency of colour and a flat uniform cloth - something which is impossible to guarantee with natural indigo dyed cotton woven on a handloom - but I believe it is the imperfections and inconsistencies in the yarn, the dye, and the hand-weaving that make the cloth beautiful, with traces and scars leaving a connection to the artisan that made it.
The sheer quantity of new yarn and virgin cotton that is produced to support the fast fashion industry is astonishing- especially as this is an industry in which much of what's made and sold is quickly discarded. The impact on our planet is too great, the waste and throw away culture comes at too high a cost.
So instead of buying new cotton I am using mill waste and dead stock yarn saved from landfill. There is an abundance of perfect condition mill waste yarn if you know where to look - I source a lot of ours from Fairfield Yarns in Manchester.
The warp I am using for this is a dead stock 2/50's cotton.
The ratio that works well is 1 part indigo, 2 parts lime, and 3 parts henna. The lime is alkaline, to get the correct pH level and the henna is the reduction agent, removing the oxygen from the vat. Together they allow the indigo molecule to become soluble in water (which must be hot!).
First we have to hydrate the indigo powder with a little hot water in the mason jar - I've used a 1L jar for this. The henna powder is boiled first, and then added to the jar.
Then the slaked lime goes in, adding water as we go, until there is about 1 inch of space left at the top of the jar.
I left this for about an hour, though next time I might try leaving it for 24 hours. When you see the separation happening, thats the fermentation!
The mixture in the jar will ferment faster if it stays hot. When you start to see the 'indigo flower' appear on top, its ready to be added to the larger vat of hot water.
If you don't see the flower, try adding a little more of the reduction agent - in this case henna - and it should appear quickly after that.
The first dip should stay in the vat for 10-15 minutes. When you pull it out, it is green! As soon as oxygen hits it, it turns blue right before your eyes, like magic.
After the first dip you can then increase the time in the vat to 15-20 mins, repeating this until you achieve the desired shade.
Its important to pull the warp yarns apart a little to allow oxidisation in the middle of the bunch, so that the warp takes the colour evenly - although little colour variation is nice and creates good fades!
The more times you dip, the darker the blue will be - it isn't enough to leave it in the vat for a long time, it needs to oxidise in between dips for the molecule to become fixed to the fibre.
After the warp has been rinsed of all excess dye, it needs to go in a sizing bath. For this cornstarch and water - approx 1.5 table spoons of cornstarch to every 2 cupfuls of warm water.
Dyeing and washing yarn can open the fibres a little, so a sizing bath will coat the yarns and protect them from becoming brittle during the weaving process.
Traditionally, denim would be cut straight from the loom and made into jeans without any washing or finishing processes. This is why new denim was always stiff the first few times it was worn. The sizing starch would still be in the cloth.
It was also necessary to buy jeans two sizes too big - because of the shrinkage the first time the jeans are washed. The jeans would mould to your body over time, and gradually fade from dark, dark blue to that faded blue denim that we all know and love.
These days, most mainstream jeans are sanforized - pre-shrunk - so that you can buy your size. 'Off-the-peg' jeans are generally not stiff, because they are subjected to so many abrasive and toxic finishing processes to achieve that 'faded' and worn look that few have the patience to wait for. In this case the starch is long gone and the jeans are soft before they reach the shop.
I'm using one of my old WeaveMaster looms to weave the denim, so that I can leave the warp on for students to try weaving denim at the next workshop.
These looms were likely made and used by war veterans during and after the war, for work and therapy. Weaving is often recommended for improving wellbeing.
They had been sitting dormant for many years before I got my hands on them, so it feels good to give them purpose again.
Once the warp is dry, it is ready to be wound onto the back beam of the loom. The warp is quite crispy from the sizing bath, so it takes a bit of time to pull all the yarns apart. It feels really strong with this extra coating. I've added a 'redline' selvedge to either side of the warp, a little nod to traditional selvedge denim weaving.
Once the warp is wound on, threading can begin. Each warp yarn is threaded individually through its own heddle.
There are 4 shafts on this loom, so we thread a heddle from shaft 1, then a heddle from shaft 2, then 3, then 4. This is repeated across the full width of the warp, so that we can use 4 shaft weave structures.
Denim is woven with a 3/1 twill - 3 warp yarns up, 1 down, in a diagonal pattern.
Once the threading is done, the warp is then threaded through the reed - the beater at the front of the loom - and then tied on, ready to weave!
Finally, some denim! I've fiddled with the EPI (ends per inch (1 end = 1 warp yarn)), re-threading the reed at different densities until it felt right (until it looked like jeans).
56 EPI seems to be the sweet spot.
Super happy with the results of attempt #1 - now I just need to do all of that again, but with a much wider warp next time, so that I can weave enough to make a pair of jeans!
We are busy in the studio this week preparing for Premiere Vision next week!
This season we have focussed on colour, using the miraculous medium of weave to show off the endless nuances of colour. By mixing layering, blocks, yarns, and structures it is possible to create more in a woven cloth than the sum of its parts.
As Joseph Albers once said, 'Every perception of color is an illusion, we do not see colors as they really are. In our perception they alter one another.'
We have also been developing our shirting range, and have dabbled in kidswear - a first for us - but for that we assign colours based on playfulness, not on gender.
All of the yarns in this seasons collection are either reclaimed, found, discontinued or rescued from landfill, and all offcuts are used to make other things.
If you're visiting the show, please do come by and see us, we'll be in Hall 5, at stand U44, in the DESiGNS area ;-)
Merry Christmas from The Aviary Studio!
We are very excited to announce our second appearance at Heimtextil in January 2020, where we will be exhibiting our new collection of handwoven designs and concepts!
This year we have drawn inspiration from historical French and Japanese textiles, exploring traditional weaving techniques including Ikat, Chiné-à-la-branche and Shibori.
There is a constant cycle of learning and reworking, whilst maintaining the utmost respect for the craft. The result is fresh, inspired and considered fabric ideas.
The collection also includes pattern, texture, colour stories, plaids, stripes, whites and beautiful neutrals.
We are working hard to be as kind to the planet as we can, by upcycling yarns, using plant-based dyes, and utilising fibres such as nettle, seacell, pineapple silk and banana.
If you are visiting Heimtextil and would like to see the collection, we will be in Hall 3.0, at stand E19 ;-)
We hope to see you there!
For more information, please get in touch via the contact page.
So here we are again, returning to Premiere Vision for our third season running, ready to showcase our Autumn/Winter collection of woven delights! (And a little Spring/Summer too, as we know our clients all work to varying timelines and seasons all at once)
The Aviary Studio isn’t one to follow trends - we’re all about running with our inspiration and seeing where that takes us, trusting our own taste levels rather than looking to someone else’s for validation. Often we start by learning and reworking traditional weaving techniques, mixing ideas together and putting a fresh new spin on things.
Colour takes centre stage in our collections, not just for aesthetics, but also as part of a wider narrative around colour as therapy. Like with music, certain colours and combinations, like harmonies, can provoke an emotional response, create a mood, change a mental state.
Then comes the yarn choices, and with them an array of texture, hand-feel, tactility. A treat for the senses!
The weaving process provides endless possibilities in terms of structure, design, composition, pattern, technique.
Once off-loom, the finishing processes of washing, pressing, brushing, heat-setting, knotting, coating, scrunch drying, trimming, and mounting gives the fabrics a whole new lease of life.
Besides one to one meetings with our clients, exhibiting at trade shows provides us with one of our only other means showing our work openly, as we have to be careful how much of our design work we post on online platforms in order to protect the copyright for our clients.
If you’d like to see the collection, come by our stand in Hall 5, stand U53, in the DESIGNS area.
Hope to see you here!
This coming February we will be back in the ‘DESIGNS’ Hall for our second season at Premiere Vision Paris.
Come and see the new Spring Summer collection of woven swatches for some design inspiration - we have delicious new colour studies, inventive combinations of yarns and structures, check and stripe ideas, plus some experimental Ikat and denim innovations. We have also been celebrating the colour white...
We will be located in Hall 5, stand V45, between 12th-14th February.
See you there!
Now in our third year of business, we are very excited to announce our upcoming debut appearance at Heimtextil Frankfurt this January 2019.
We will be showcasing our current collection of handwoven design ideas in Hall 3’s ever inspiring ‘New & Next’ area, which is full of emerging talent in textile design innovation.
Our current collection includes a variety of weights, qualities, textures and patterns, with particular focus on checks, stripes, denim innovation, contemporary ikat, fancy tweeds and colour studies.
Fabric design is often overlooked in favour of the cut and style of a product, wovens often overlooked in favour of print, and with this in mind, it is our aim to put the spotlight back on wovens, celebrate their cultural importance, their versatility and the invaluable talent and craftsmanship of the makers.
In the fashion and home textile industry, design time is often of the essence. The swatches provide clients with ideas that are relevant and ready to use – to have something tactile to work with that has already come into form, based on the very research that brands often don’t have ample time to gather.
Each swatch is produced only once, ensuring that the same design cannot be sold twice, giving the client full exclusivity. We provide full technical information for each swatch, to aid the development process with mills and suppliers.
For more information or to book an appointment at the show, get in touch with us via the contact page, or alternatively come and find us in Hall 3, Stand E19.
See you there!
We are brimming with excitement about our upcoming debut showcase at Premiere Vision, in Paris this September 19th- 21st.
The ‘DESIGNS’ Hall showcases the best in wovens, prints, knit and vintage design, with fashion and homeware brands coming from all over the world looking for inspiration for the new season.
Our current collection of woven swatches is full of new and inspiring design ideas - from colourful pattern to minimalist white studies, from checks and stripes to contemporary ikat, from denim experiments to fancy fringes!
We are firm believers in considered design, as opposed to churning out idea after idea. All of our swatches are the result of on-going research and experimentation both on and off loom, playing with new yarn types and colour combinations, learning and developing both new and old weaving techniques.
It’s always been a dream of ours to exhibit our woven delights in Europe and what a wonderful city to start with….Paris Here We Come!!!
Find us in Hall 5, at stand W46, in the Designs area.