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Tag Archives: denim

A year ago, during my teacher orientation at Pratt I met Rachel Miller in the basement of Engineering. As we learned to navigate Pratt’s system for uploading class assignments and grades, we connected right away in our desire for sustainability in our own lives, and in how to educate others on the subject.  While I was hired to teach Foundation 3D (ways of seeing is a good way to describe it), Rachel was there to teach sustainability practices in the Fashion Department. We both only taught one day a week at Pratt at that time, but lucky for us, it was the same day, and over the semester formed a friendship that comes from these type of meetings, and stayed in touch via Facebook, where we quickly realized we had many friends in common.

Last week, she posted about an Indigo Dyeing and Ikat Weaving class she was teaching at Weaving Hand.  I didn’t think there was a class to be offered that sounded more up my alley than that! The techniques taught in this class are a perfect topic for this blog and I’ll be sharing the progress over the next three weeks as I weave by hand for the first time, stretchy pot-holders not included, also for the first time dying with Indigo. I’ve noticed, if one goes into classes like these with no expectations (as expectations are resentments waiting to happen) it’s amazing how much you can actually learn.  In one class I’ve already found much more than I could have ever imagined.  I always tried to bring more to the class than just the curriculum when teaching at Pratt (my best teacher’s always did), and so I, as a student tried to as well, which in many cases means, just sitting back, observing, listening, doing.

“Lend me your eyes I can change what you see

But your soul you must keep, totally free”

-Mumford & Sons, Awake my Soul

Dying is a little bit like baking, and Rachel took us through the below process.  Above is the Indigo we used. While Wikipedia states that India is the oldest supplier of Indigo in yesterday’s class we discussed this briefly. I can not say from any point of authority, as this is not my area of expertise, but it seems that indigo was found indigenous in North America too.  Cultures from Asia, Africa and the Americas came to dye indigo more or less all in the same way on their own.  I found this great video on how the indigo plant is transformed into dye traditionally in Africa.

This is what happened to the Indigo when placed in water.  It was a bit alive, similar to Kombucha.

After is was fully dissolved in the cup, it was added to the larger mixture.

We could start to see the color transforming right away, when the stick was in the water it was green, and within a few seconds out of the water, oxidation took place and was already turning blue.

The blue fabric in the photo above is an example of an Ikat fabric, likely from Indonesia.  And Rachel showed us how to count off how many yarns per inch we were to make our fabric.

Then we warped, essentially we organized our thread for the next step.

We tied off each inch of yarn as we went along to help keep it all straight and organized.

Then we had to get the yarn off the warping board, and it was done with these sticks, again to keep it straight and organized.  At this point we started to wonder how people have done this for so long.  This process is amazingly laborious.  I think once one has the full understanding of it; it could become meditative.  Of course there were a lot less distractions back when this technique started, why not spend weeks making fabric for your dress?  I think it’s important to learn about these ancient techniques, and the amount of work that goes in to what we have consumed; ancient or modern.  Today we don’t have time for techniques such as this – or so we say – and then I see studies of how much time teenagers spend in front of TV and on social media, and I have to ask myself, if we are to parish will aliens come down and look at our civilization will they think of us as advanced or not?  I digress…

We taped the yarns down to the table in preparation to make the resist.

Rachel showed us how to attach the Ikat tape to the yarn to make our designs. The tape covering the yarns are intended to resist the dye.

This is what I’m calling my Hopeful Hexagon.  I’ve no idea really how it will turn out- we will know better next week.

As we got in to the groove of wrapping our yarns we started to share and laugh. We were a small group of women who may have never crossed paths, except we all decided on one of the coldest mornings 2012 has offered thus far that we might enjoying hanging out in the basement of what used to be a pre-school and started to learn an ancient technique of weaving and dying.  So we did what women do when women come together like this, drink tea, eat cake, and talk about the opposite sex.  If we’d been kitting this would also be known as Stitch and Bitch, but really we were not bitching.  All of us seemed realitivaly happy with our situations in life, not to bitter, and Susan, the elder of us shared how she met her husband in a personal ad- nineteen years ago, a.k.a. from a magazine, in physical paper.  Since she’s retired now and seems to have traveled the world in search of every remote dying and weaving technique she had much to share, and she was great to listen to.

Then there was Mia, who is a harpist who wears black cat-eye vintage rhinestones glasses and lives in Greenpoint. She shared, that she has played with her fair share of musicians, and most have been a bunch of guys sharing way too much information on their thoughts of women. And went on to educate all of us what a Tramp Stamp is. Now, I thought I knew, but clearly there is more than one definition, and it seems to be growing.  She educated us that it’s also there for target practice. I’d not heard of this, so of course, I have to look it up, and there it is, #7. Well my Tebow ears!  Tebow was also mentioned in passing conversation, and I didn’t know who he was either, but I let that go, for the moment. [incase anyone cares, I have one tattoo.  It is not a tramp stamp, and I think it’s as old as most hipsters out there today decorating themselves.  For sure it is older than their ability to have comprehend what one was when I got mine.]

Before drowning the yarns in indigo, we had to fully saturate them in water.

While in the bath of indigo, the yarn is green, and when it hits the air the oxidizing process turns the yarn what we have come to all indigo blue.  A little easier to see here.

The yarn changed in front of our eyes from green to Indigo.

Here our yarns hang to dry for the week.  Next Saturday we will start threading them on a loom, I will update on Sunday.

Weaving Hand is a beautiful studio filled with many fun things too look at…I highly recommend it for anyone curious about weaving or fibers or textiles.

After class I headed to my friend’s couch and gained further knowledge of who Tebow is and Mr. Brady too, and watched the game.  Couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  And I even got around the whole way on my bike!

Not really sure how I even stumbled on this site, but sure glad a did.  Out of all, I chose these to re-post as I loved the red nails on the women who were hard at work at this time.  They are strong and beautiful, and not just because of the red nail polish, but because they took pride in their work and themselves.

Please take the time to check out all of the amazing photographs.

“The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.”

This is a photo of me in 2006.  I was in Amsterdam.  Unknown to me at the time, I was sitting on a Frank Willems Rubens Stool – of Droog Design.  It was work like this that I experienced that week that made me realize that I wanted and could do more.  A year later I was in the Master’s of Industrial Design Program at Pratt – from which I will present my thesis on Saturday, and graduate on May 17th.

I was wearing the same pair of jeans in this photo and today when Tejo Remy – also of Droog Design, came to visit at Pratt for a lecture, as part of the IDSA chapter.  I do wish he used less glue in his work, that got a bit tiring, but all in all I think he meant well.

A few and many moons ago I met Maria Flores,  free-spirited adventurer, writer, artist, and photographer.  When I saw some of her photos from a recent trip to India, I asked her to write something for this blog.  Above her lovely photographs, and below her story.  She is available via e-mail at: manninoflores (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thank you Maria for your contribution!


India: A Color-Loving Traveler’s Love

Sometime during the economic downturn, I was fortunate enough to lose my job at a well-known art museum in the City. This led to another even more fortunate opportunity for me to do the unthinkable and travel to India just like I’d always wanted. My long-awaited destination isn’t the kind you should visit on a two-week paid vacation. It is one you slowly relish for months (or even better, years) at a time. So, naturally, I took my pittance of a savings account, exchanged it all for rupees, and got on a one-way flight to New Delhi.

Landing in that mad yet mesmerizing place was just the start of them, my sweet little love affairs. As the months passed, I officially consummated my loves with: all nationalities of fellow male travelers (yes, way, but I don’t kiss and tell!); an ancient culture that thrives in every recess of the crusty, shit-smelling streets; and, above all, the COLOR that permeates the entire subcontinent.

Arrival was just the beginning. At first, the onslaught of vividness was too much for this Midwestern girl, accustomed to the grays and beiges of corn fields and sprawling highways. After the first frightened week, a wicked bout with Delhi Belly, and the realization that one must give oneself over to the madness and beauty of it all, I noticed that the tropical and musty light isn’t like it is in the States. Sure, the air is thickly polluted, the Taj Mahal just a Moghul skewer stuck in gelatin-thick smog. The pavement is strewn with inconceivable amounts of droppings and dregs, cracked and straddling the open sewer below. The beds may already or soon will have bedbugs. But there is no millimeter of that country that isn’t celebrated, made sacred, or hand-painted with color.

One can travel 200km by railway and de-board in a new state with an entirely different language, alphabet, and cuisine.  Aside from being mad little nuances to keep long-term travelers on their toes, these worlds apart are stunning marinades of over 9,000 years of fast-paced cultural ups and downs, political invasions, and cluster fucks of Reality. I’d go as far as to say that the only commonality between the widely varied chaos that is Hindustan is its revered appreciation and skilled harnessing of color. A large part of the Indian consciousness, color not only marks daily life, but it influences it too. Goods carriers, rickshaws, chai stalls, dhabas, saris, temples, matchboxes — you name it — everything is colorful. Each suggests a unique sensuousness and intimacy between the people and their objects. Demanding attention from the countless Hindu gods and goddesses, and the color-loving traveler alike.

So, gather one billion people with their own love affairs with color, pack them into overcrowded litter-laden streets, pummel them with harsh monsoons for six months of the year, and then put purely toxic and brightly colored powders and dyes in their impassioned hands. The result: Holi, arguably the coolest, most raucous celebration ever sanctioned by a culture in human history, and is perhaps the only festival of its kind to utilize the power of color.

A rowdy annual hue-and-cry parade of vivid earth tones, classic pastels, and clamorous neons, this phenomenon is a springtime festival celebrated mostly by Hindu and Sikh practitioners, but can be enjoyed by anyone with a love for the coming of spring and, of course, color. Fresh of the plane and hating the fact that my visa expired just before the actual Holi day, I celebrated in Richmond Hill, Queens. See you there next year.

Above is a little colorful DYI detail I saw in the subway recently.  American, French, or British?  All of the above?  I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of where U.S.A. flag colors come from.  I’ve heard French even though it would seem that it was British.  But there in lies the historical trivia.  The French got the colors from the British, their founding fathers in an ironic twist took their colors from the French as a way to separate themselves from the British they were gaining their independence from.

My resources or from an online PDF book report, of a book I clearly need to read, but haven’t yet,  that is clearly written and one of my favorite books to date, Blue The History of a Color, by Michel Pastoureau.

If you are reading this and have more information, please feel free to comment!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am in the mood for Spring cleaning!  This time of year is refreshing and offers up new opportunities.  This year, Cole Haan, is offering 20% off any purchase in exchange for a slightly worn pair of shoes to be donated to Soles 4 Soules.  There is no better incentive for new a colorful pair of shoes.  I have at least one, slightly used pair that could find more appreciating feet than mine.

Think of all the color combination options that are available with open toed shoes.  Remember, the Essie line now as a matte top coat, so with all the shiny patent leather out there, it’s easy to play up on color and texture!

If there aren’t enough reasons to curb our spending these days, I just found more.  3,615 more reasons.  Three-thousand-six-hundred-fifteen  pounds is the amount of textile waste created by New Yorker’s every 5 minutes, according to Derick Melander. His work most definitely creates an emotional reaction with the viewer.  All the stuff that we consume.  I am almost speechless.  His work is important so that we are visually stimulated at the three-dimensional graphic representation as a sign of our times.  On the other hand, I want to know if his works are temporary and that once an exhibition is over are the clothes donated to a shelter- or now Haiti?  Where does all of our stuff go?

I lived in Florence, Italy my sophomore year of college.  It was a dream year.  I lived with a bunch of Italians, about 7 total, over the nine and a half months in a large apartment right in the center of the city.  My roommates were so different, not only for the obvious reasons, but for their sense of value and respect for their purchases.  I will never forget when one of the girls spent the equal to 100 US dollars on a pair of Levi’s (this was back in the mid 90’s- that was a lot!).  My mother was coming the next month, and I asked why she didn’t wait, she could have had them for $40!  She didn’t care.  She said that she would have that one pair for the next five years anyway, so it didn’t matter.  After I graduated from college I went back to Florence and visited the friends I had made three years earlier.  My roommate still had her jeans, and they still looked great.

In contrast to the Italian aesthetic, according to, the average American own 8.3 pairs of jeans.  Treehugger states it takes 1800 gallons of water, just to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans!   This is over 10,000 gallons of water, just for the jeans we have in our closet.  This is more water  than is needed to fill up an average pool. I’m not standing on a soap box as I write this.  I’m sitting at a desk, a few feet away my closet door which holds four pairs of jeans that I wear regularly (all but one pair are more than 3 years old).  I have four more pair that I don’t wear too often for various reasons.  It is now time to give them away.

As an American it’s hard to think of what to wear if we didn’t wear blue denim at least 3 days a week: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  For many it has become a daily item.  Designers too, with the various cuts and washes available today, one can look dressed up or down.  And denim blue goes with everything.  Today’s jeans are not your grandfather’s.

The price of denim is high and has skyrocketed over the past decade with the onset of designer jeans.  A lot of the cost goes into the finishing of the denim for various color and texture washes. The images below are from The distressed denim factory. Here we see an inside look into the finishing process.  Seeing the factory images below, having worked in the rag trade myself for a few years and having read recent articles in the New York Times about the clothing waste I’m going guess that for every garment that is in our closet, there is another garment lost in the world to a slash, or sample stamp.  It is hard not to think about these things when the weather is cold and I walk around I feel like I could hardly survive on hour waiting in line to see Kandinsky, such a luxury really, when some have no inside to wait for.  There are so many discarded clothes that can be used as extra layers in this cold- if only they could get them.

My challenge to myself and others is to choose wisely.  Have an absolute love affair with every purchase, love freely, like a child, and be colorful, but have discerning taste.  By second-hand or vintage when possible.  In the end, give it away to someone in need.