July 22, 2009
The future of textiles, like all the world at this juncture, is in flux, in need of change, and on its way to revolutionizing itself.
This is a picture of a stagnant pond outside of a textile factory in Bangladesh, where dye runoff filled with a panoply of heavy metals and petroleum by-products sit, untreated. This picture was taken by Ecofriend. This is a scene familiar to me, from my travels in South East Asia. This visual moves away from my regular tone in this blog, which is to report on the local, clean, organic, and healthy textile production that I both take part in, and teach to others. However, the reality is that the world’s clothing is still predominantly made in this fashion. What better way to appreciate the local, organic, slow clothes movement, but to see the stark contrast of its opposite.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia- one of the most environmentally conscious clothing companies in the world, is now also consulting Walmart. In an interview in fast magazine, Chouinard states ‘We have to stop the idea of consuming-discarding.’ He believes even if Walmart alone were to move to organic cotton, there would never be enough organic cotton in the world to support their consumption. For full article see- fast company. As a practitioner of the dyeing process, it is also clear, that a move to organic cotton alone, without a full scale re-design of the dye process, would leave the textile industry far from meeting the triple bottom line. Dye houses, and dye workers pictured above would not see a change with simply a move to organic fiber production. The future of textiles is an emerging story we are all apart of- to move towards greater sustainability will require more than simply consuming a healthier product, but to slow down the consumption itself. Taking inspiration from these pictures and articles, I went on a reclamation mission with some garage sale finds from the neighbors yard. It is time to make do with what we have, I believe. So how can we re-fashion, and re-enliven the cast-offs?
A fifty cent, 100% cotton children’s T-shirt was the starting point. I filled a jar with rusty nails, and a bit of water, and some vinegar. I then let it sit in my sun-oven for a day. I took scavenged Japanese Maple leaves from the front yard and folded them into shirt and sleeves, very tightly. I then wrapped it all up in rubber bands, and entered the shirt into the jar with the rusty objects. It cooked in the solar oven in the yard for two days. This was a carbon neutral re-fashioning- and no extra inputs were required, as I had plenty of rusty things, and my solar oven standing by.
The pattern that came from this process was stunning. The dyes are semi-permanent, and if they fade a bit, I’ll just do it again, and maybe add some layers of other leaves as well. I highly recommend these techniques, and the work of India Flint. She has a book out, called Eco Colour, that outlines many techniques like this. In the process of reclaiming the cast-offs, and garage sale items, we have an opportunity to create in ways we haven’t been asked to, or thought of before. I made use of the abundant leaf litter in the street, the rusty items in the garage, and enjoyed waiting patiently as the shirt sat in the solar oven for several days. Slow Clothes give me time to garden, blog, clean, and work, and the longer I wait, the better they seem to look.
If you have a re-fashioning story, or technique, I’d love to hear about it. If you’d like to learn some of these techniques and other dye processes that I’ve outlined in this blog, you’re invited on August 1st to the Sustainable Fairfax Benefit Dye Day. Check the ‘Dye Workshops’ category for all the details. Hope to see you there.