Monday, 30 April 2012

Tea to dye for

Just before starting this project I was reading a book about gardening called the Morville Year by katherine Swift. (Which I would highly recommend if you are interested in gardening, nature and the history of both. Her first book is the Morville Hours, but personally I found that a little too heavy on history and religion.)

In the book one interesting fact she highlighted was that during WWII damsons were harvested and used to dye the soldiers uniforms khaki colour. So of course I thought it would be a really good to have a go at this, only at the time of doing this project, it is spring, and damson season isn't till late summer.

So I had to think of another way that I could achieve a similar khaki colour with a natural dye that would have been available to households in WWII. Although tea was rationed like many foods, it is well known that 1940s women used cold tea to dye their legs and kohl to draw fake seams to look like silk stockings, of which there was a shortage of.

I decided to try out tea dyeing some calico and cotton voile to see whether it might be a process I could use in my final outcome.

I boiled two teabags in a medium saucepan of water and then simmered two samples for 10 mins and another two for 20 mins.

As you can see from the picture above, the two on the right that were in for the longest are slightly darker in colour. My plan is to either keep the base of the apron dress undyed or to dye the whole thing in tea to give it a khaki colour.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Photosensitive images

I have had a pack of photosensitive paper sitting in my stash of craft supplies for years now, unopened. I think my mum gave it to me when she was having a clear out at home. You can buy some here.

So I thought I could see if it might be the sort of thing that I could include in this project, as Charlie had said to me that you can get photosensitive fabric dye that works in a similar way. You can find a good How To here if you are interested. Again, as with the flower bashing, it works best with sturdy flat leaves and flowers. The image above turned out the best, I used baby salad leaves and daisies.

These are vine leaves and geranium flowers that I had in the garden. Unfortunately the geranium petals were too delicate and shrivelled up in the sun before the paper had time to expose, so they didn't give quite the results I was expecting.

I'm not sure if the paper I was using had deteriorated due to age, but the results were not as clear and crisp as I was expecting. I thought the background would be darker like the images I had seen from Anna Atkins. She was the first recognised female photographer and she produced the first photographically illustrated book called 'British Algae: Cyantope Impressions'. This is one of her images of a poppy, just a little bit better than mine I think!

I don't think I will be using this process in my final garment, so I've decided not to shell out for the photosensitive fabric dye. Although I think with time and practise you could create some beautifully ethereal images, I think they look very scientific and wouldn't quite fit in with this project.

Pocket placement

I've decided that since my apron dress is supposed to be a practical garment, it's important for it to have pockets, and decent sized ones at that to fit all the garden paraphernalia you need to carry around with you.

Fiona suggested that I cut out some different shapes and pin them on to my garment so I can visualise the correct height to place them, so they are comfortable and practical to use, and also what they might look like aesthetically. The pocket above would be hidden and sewn into the side seams of the dress. It is deep so things will not fall out when you are working.

The design above is a large patch pocket that would be on either side of the dress. I would need to take it into consideration when finalising the placement of my print and embroidery on the dress.

In the end I have decided to go for one hidden pocket that runs under the front of the dress like a muff or hand warmer. It is joined to the side seams on each side and is accessible from either opening so you don't have to remember which side you put your plant labels of string in! The pocket will be hidden under the pleating in the front of the dress.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Taking Shape

With the help of Fiona, our tutor who specialises in garment construction, my apron dress is starting to take shape. My toile (dressmakers test garment) is cut and this is what it looks like pinned to the mannequin.

It needs to be overlocked and sewn together, but I am really happy with the outcome. I have researched other apron dresses and utility style garments that are currently available to order on the internet. So my aim was to incorporate some the details that I seen and liked, whilst still creating my own original design.

Some of the designers that particularly influenced me were Old Town Clothing and Pip-Squeak Chapeau. I wanted the front of the dress to look like a traditional apron, but the wrap around back will enable to wear the dress on its own as well as over the top of there own clothes as an overall.

I have made the ties long so the wearer has a choice of tying in a long bow at the front for a traditional look, or wrapping around them twice and tying a knot for a modern practical look.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Floral image transfer

During my initial research I came across a method used to transfer the natural colour in flowers and leaves onto fabric. You can find a tutorial here if you are interested on trying out the process yourself.

In the tutorial they used violas which gave quite an effective result, so since I have them growing on my allotment I thought that I would try with them to start with.

As you can see, the results can be a bit hit and miss, if you'll excuse the pun.

This is with verbena and forget-me-not flowers. I was expecting the forget-me-nots to come out really bright blue, but they came out a bit smudgy, the verbena came out well though.

These are rocket leaves and flowers. The leaves came out well because they are an interesting shape but the flowers just turned out like yellow blobs. I think it was because they are quite delicate.

My top tips for using this process is to choose flowers that are quite flat in shape and that are not too delicate to handle. The flowers turn out best if they are placed face down on the fabric. It is important to use a light coloured natural fabric and flowers with strong colours to get a clear crisp effect.

Although I would use this process again, I don't think I will be using this process on my final outcome as the results are varied. I think it would work best to try lots of flowers and then cut them out and appliqué them onto your finished textile work. That way you can be more selective and only use the best results.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

More Sketch-booking

As I have mentioned before, I have been really inspired to use my great grandmother's embroidery transfers in some way. I think it makes sense, as she would have been using these transfers herself during World War II, so they are of the same period of the Land Girls. The girls would have been spending some of their free time in the evenings to make these pretty embroideries, in a bid to brighten up their rooms in this time of austerity.

Traditionally, the lines of the transfers would have been hidden by the finished embroidery, but I think that they are rather lovely in their own right and have been visualising them as a screen print in a dark brown outline. You can see a dark outline being used in these original 1940s printed fabrics from Donna Flower below.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Embroidery inspiration

I have really been inspired by the textile art of Viv of Hens Teeth. I love her modern approach of combining free machine embroidery, hand embroidery and appliqué with found objects. I think it

The simplicity of these french knots on stalks is so effective

and I love the rough sketchy quality of the hand embroidery on this postcard

this is such a lovely combination of appliqué, machine embroidery and hand embroidery.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Design Ideas

I have come up with some garment design ideas for my final outcome. Like I outlined in my statement at the beginning of this project, I am keen to create a utility style, overall type garment made from a practical fabric (like a cotton drill or calico) which I want to screen print and embroider to with pretty florals.

I keep coming back to the idea of an apron dress and have been looking a different styles of apron dress that are already on the market. I have been particularly inspired by the British made to order company Old Town and their Bungalow dress, and this apron dress by an American company called Pip-squeak Chapeau. Anthropologie have an amazing selection of aprons too. You can also see other styles that have been inspiring me on my Pinterest board Cinderellas of the Soil.

The final drawing just above here is the design that I think I want to make. I wanted to make the front look like a traditional apron with the straps and buttons, but I think the pleating/gather in the front makes it look bit more interesting. The back is similar to the front of the Old Town Bungalow dress but I have incorporated a sweeping curved hem line like the Pip-squeak Chapeau apron dress. I think that this hem line keeps it looking more like an apron in style, but the wrap over back means that this can be worn on it's own, as well as over jeans or leggings and a top or shirt.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Starting in the sketch book

I always find it quite daunting starting a new sketch book.

At the beginning of a new project, although my head is always fizzing with ideas and inspiration, they are generally all ideas of how I can do stuff with fabric rather than paper. It's like I miss a step in the way that my ideas are supposed to progress, and then it's almost like I have to start working backwards. I do like to draw and paint, but it's not something that I am very confident in doing, so I end up taking a long time over it and then feel frustrated at the small amount of work I have produced. I suppose that as time goes on throughout my degree I will become more confident in my abilities and things will get easier.

So, using pictures that I took up at the allotments last week I have been doing some painting.

I really love this photo I took of a bumble bee on a dandelion. I used acrylics to paint this and although I am really happy with the finished painting, I can't see me using this sort of realistic style in my garment in this project as we are not at the stage of using digital printing yet mostly due to expense.

I would however like to include maybe some bee or butterfly motifs in my garment, as pollination is an integral part of plants growing, both naturally in the hedgerows and in cultivation on farms and allotments. The work of the bees and butterflies was just as important to growing Britain's produce in wartime, as was the work of the land girls.

In my photos you can see a strong theme of grids. I found them in netting, fencing and chicken wire; plastic, metal and wood. I like the juxtaposition of the rigidity of this black chain-link fence with the yellow blooms of forsythia haphazardly weaving it's way through. After painting the top half of the page with a paint brush. I used the edge of piece of cardboard dipped in black paint to recreate the grid in a printed form.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Inspired by the past

I have been a collector of vintage hand embroidered linens for at least 4 years now. It all started when I found a large embroidered table cloth at the bottom of a box in a charity shop. I was in awe of the beautiful florals hand embroidered around the edges - it must have taken hours to stitch, but was horribly stained in the middle. For only £2 I couldn't leave it languishing at the bottom of that old cardboard box, so I decided I would make it into cushions. As cushions they could be admired everyday without the risk from a drippy teapot! You can see the results on my old blog here.

The hand embroideries I collect would have been stitched by ordinary women between around the 1940-60s. They where the sort of thing that women did in the evenings as a hobby to make pretty things for their homes. Today we are used to mass produce products that are cheaper to buy than make ourselves but back then, making your own clothes and things to decorate your home made financial sense. This would have been a craft that the war time land girls would be doing in their free time and so I really want to include hand embroidery in my final outcome.

A few years ago, after my mum had been having a sort out at home she handed me this box along with some other bits and pieces. Inside, to my delight, were hundreds of old embroidery transfers that had belonged to my great grandmother. Embroidery transfers are ironed onto the fabric you wish to embroider to provide a guide for stitching onto. Traditionally, the picture that is left by the transfer will be completely covered by the embroidery when it is finished, but I think it would be interesting to create a outline style print using the florals.

Whilst look through my collection of embroideries I discovered a few vintage pinnys I've picked up from various car boots. They remind me how, in the 40s and 50s, women liked to combine the pretty with the practical.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Allotment Photos

Yesterday, whilst the sun came out for the briefest of moments I took the opportunity to take some snaps of my allotment and the rest of the sight. As well as vegetables, I was looking for some interesting textures and some of the flowers growing in and around the plots. Click on the link below to view the complete set on flickr.

allotment photos, a set on Flickr.