Stitch Exchange: Boro Inspired Stowe Bag

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 17, 2016 0 Comments

In 2001, I worked for the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. and was exposed to some of the most beautiful textiles in the world. It was a never-ending journey of discovering new textiles, the techniques used to make them, and about the people who made the textiles and the places around the world where they were made. My world grew exponentially.

One day, I came to work and a new exhibition had opened: Japanese Fisherman's Coats of the Awaji Island. Along the gallery walls, twenty-two indigo-dyed coats hung. Along the surface of the coats were intricate patterns of geometric designs hand-stitched with white cotton thread. They were absolutely gorgeous. As with most textiles, there are three concepts working as one: form, function, and beauty. The coats were made of multiple layers of fabric, to keep the fisherman warm and dry. They were held together with the stitching. And the patterns stitched upon the cloth added beauty and elegance to the jacket. These intricately stitched patterns are known as sashiko. I immediately wanted to know more about sashiko and as I began my research I ran into another amazing Japanese textile tradition called boro.

Before getting into Boro, we have to go backwards before we can forwards, and we must look at indigo. At the root of both the sashiko and boro traditions lies indigo dyed cloth. Indigo is a blue dye derived from an indigo-bearing plant. There are hundreds of varieties of plants which create indigo pigment, though there are only a handful of plants which create enough indigo pigment to warrant the labor and time intensive process of extracting the pigment from the plant. Indigo is planted in March, harvested multiple times throughout the Summer, amassing, to begin the composting process through the Fall and Winter, and can finally be used the following Spring to dye through a fermentation process. 

Indigo is believed to have come to Japan sometime in the 5th century from China. At first, indigo was only used by royalty. As advancements in agricultural production occurred and the indigo dyeing process became more streamlined, indigo dyed fabric became available to the masses and was revered. Before farming and manufacturing was mechanized, as it currently is, cloth and clothing was highly revered. It was common to own only a few pieces of clothing and for this clothing to be patched as needed. For those who were very poor, it was common to take indigo-dyed fabric scraps and rags and to use them to patch their clothing. Sometimes the clothing had so many patches, the clothing began to look like patchwork. This raw style became its own genre of textiles called boro which means ragged in Japanese. Today, these textiles in their immediacy are thought of as poetic and are highly sought after.

From the moment we, at Verb, laid eyes upon the Stowe Bag sewing pattern (by Grainline Studio and Fringe Association) - we've been smitten. We always love a good project bag - and this is certainly one of the best around. Hint: It has internal pockets.

The pattern has two sizes, and here we've sewn the small version.

Taking inspiration from the Japanese traditions of sashiko and boro, we created our rendition of the Stowe Bag - and have made a kit for you to create your very own interpretation.

Before you start your kit, you may want to peruse two Pinterest pages I created to get your creative juices flowing: sashiko and boro.  

The Boro Inspired Stowe Bag Kit includes one of our very favorite lines of fabric we carry at Verb: cloth created with organic US cotton - from cotton breeder Sally Fox (from who we also source the wool used in our Horizon yarn line). We adore this fabric because of the cotton it is made from, because it is organic, and because it has a beautiful hand. For the main fabric we chose cloth which the weft is natural brown cotton (yes, it grows in that color on the plant) and the warp is white in the case of the sand kit, and dyed blue in the cases of the blue kits. Then, in order to create the patchwork style for the Boro-esque design, I indigo dyed fabric in our Oakland studio. Each kit includes two pieces of indigo dyed cloth. The kit also includes white sashiko thread and sashiko needles so you can create your own sashiko-inspired patterns.


Tasa, our sewing teacher at Verb, sewed the blue sample shown in these photos. I asked Tasa a few questions about her process, here are her responses:

1. Do you have tips or tricks you would like to share with readers who are interested in making this project?

Tasa: Read through the pattern before starting. Be precise when cutting.

2. I noticed the Stowe Bag is unfinished inside, though yours is finished. How did you finish the inside of your bag?

Tasa: For the side of the bag that is 2 fabrics, I sewed them together using a flat fell seam before I cut out that panel. If you cut out each side of the panel and then sew it together remember to add seam allowance.

I sewed the side seams with a flat fell seam and I applied a leftover scrap of bias to the bottom seam when I sewed it.

For the bias, I cut strips @1.5", sewed them at 3/8", folded them to the inside of the bag, and slip-stitched by hand to finish.

3. How did you decide on the placement of your fabrics?

Tasa: I looked at the pieces I had and thought about how I wanted the finished bag to look. I also wanted some of the lighter color on the inside of the bag because it is MUCH easier to see what is inside your bag if the inside isn't all black!

4. If you were to do it over again, what changes might you make? (I am thinking primarily of alterations in stitch pattern or placement of fabric).

Tasa: I really like how the fabric placement turned out. I like the stitching, it might be the kind of thing where I would add more as time goes by. 

5. When did you add your sashiko stitches?

Tasa: The very last thing I did was the stitching.


Tasa is teaching a Stowe Bag class in December, sign-up here

To purchase a kit, click here

This kit is a limited edition due to the fact that we are almost out of this beautiful fabric and we are unsure if we will be able to create more.

We want to see your version! Please tag your Instagram photos #stowebag and #stowemeetsboro, and mention @avfkw @fringesupplyco @grainlinestudio so we'll all be sure to see!


Read More

Stitch Exchange: Dye-It-Yourself Eco-Printed Table Linens

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 10, 2016 0 Comments

Announcing our newest natural dyeing kit: Dye-It-Yourself Eco-Printed Table Linens

Dye your very own set of table linens using California botanicals - like eucalyptus leaves and marigolds. These table linens will add a special handmade touch to your holiday table. And are also very easy and fun to make!

In this kit, you receive:
+ 4 Fog Linen placemats (100% linen)
+ 4 Fog Linen napkins (100% linen)
1 spool of button and craft thread
+ Mordant
+ Eucalyptus leaves and marigolds

To complete this kit, you will need:
+ Scissors
+ Bucket
+ 1 stainless steel pot (approximately 5 quart)
+ Spoon


Before we begin to eco-print and dye, it is important to take the first two steps to take to ensure good results: Step 1 washing and Step 2 mordanting.

1. Wash the table linens using laundry soap (without bleach) and hot water in your washing machine. You do not need to dry them.

2. Fill a bucket with water. Add pre-measured mordant to the bucket. And stir. Add the table linens. Stir. Let rest for 6 hours. Rinse.

3. Place one of the washed and mordanted napkins (or placemats) on a clean, flat surface. Place leaves and flowers on the napkin in a design of your choice. Fold to envelope the leaves and flowers.

4. Roll as tightly as possible into a bundle.

5. Wrap the bundle tightly with button and craft thread.

6. Fill a pot with water. Place the bundles into the water. Heat to 180-200 degrees for at least one hour. Marigolds impart color upon the cloth faster than eucalyptus leaves. If your design includes the leaves, for the best color, heat for at least 2-3 hours. There are times I have left my dyepot for 8 hours in order to draw out as much color as possible. If I do this, I make sure to check on the pot every so often and add more water.

7. Allow the bundles to cool. Once cool, remove the thread, unwrap the bundle, remove the plant materials, and admire your results!

8. Rinse with cool water and dry.

Now these are ready for your next Fall dinner party! Need ideas for what to cook? Here is one of my favorite cooking blogs

If you would like to learn about more plants which have great dyeing potential, and have access to a plethora of natural dyeing recipes, pick up a copy of my book, The Modern Natural Dyer.

-- Kristine



Read More

The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: The Field and Forest Dress

Posted by Kristine Vejar on July 10, 2016 0 Comments

For the month of July, the focus of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along is The Field and Forest Dress. This is one of my favorite projects in the book! I always enjoy sewing a new dress, and this pattern is particularly easy to make and fun to wear. Plus, it is zero-waste, which means you use every scrap of fabric, so nothing goes to waste!

I love creating patterns which are basic and create a canvas to modify, so you can really make it your own through choice of fabric, dye, length, and other modifications, like adding pockets! The dress would be beautiful made from a variety of fabrics. Everything from a cotton lawn (imagine this in Liberty), to linen, to even light-weight wool blends. Also, it can be shortened, to make a shirt, or lengthened, for a floor length dress. 

The first step in making this project is to sew the dress. Then, comes the dyeing process: scouring, mordanting, dyeing, and washing.

One of my favorite collections we've made in the studio is the one featured in the photo on p.89 - which features a row of Field and Forest Dresses all dyed with materials fairly easy to find across North America; walnut, yarrow, osage, eucalyptus, and oak galls. This project discusses the amounts of these materials you will need to make a variety of shades. I love seeing the range of color which can be made from the local forest. A great companion book to The Modern Natural Dyer, which features many plants foraged from across the United States, is Harvesting Color, by friend and local dyer Rebecca Burgess. 

Have you made the Field and Forest dress? If so, ping me on Instagram and make sure to hashtag your photo with #themodernnaturaldyerworkalong - so we can keep up with your progress!

Thanks for reading!

-- Kristine

Read More

The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Indigo Reveal

Posted by AVFKW Staff on June 15, 2016 3 Comments

The most-anticipated moment with shibori and indigo dyeing is the moment you remove the object creating your resist (binding, stitching, clamps, etc), and reveal the design underneath! With indigo dyeing this is especially fun, with the strong contrast between your dark blue and white underneath.

On Tuesday, Lis and I dipped our pieces in the indigo vat. The night before, I finished stitching the fishbone pattern onto my completed Tendril Tank (above), and Lis's fabric was stitched and pulled tight. We soaked our pieces in hot water to thoroughly wet them, so that the indigo could easily permeate the fabric. Then we re-calibrated the AVFKW indigo vat and started dyeing!

I dipped my piece a total of 5 times; Lis dipped her fabric 3 times. It was a beautiful day in Oakland, with a bright, warm sun. We alternated dips between our two pieces to allow them to fully oxidize.

After our dipping was completed, we gave each piece a quick rinse, then carefully began cutting our knots and removing each thread. 

Lis's fabric turned out beautiful! Since part of it is solid blue, this means only part of her tank will have her stitch pattern, the rest will be solid blue. And since the Tendril is cut on the bias, her stitching pattern will also be on the bias. 

My Tendril Tank is complete, and I love it! Since I used a cotton fabric that is a little heavier than the linen in the Fishbone Dress project, the gathering of the fabric between the stitching lines created an additional resist. I did my best to allow as much dye as possible into this area, but I love the additional patterning that it created.

I'm looking forward to seeing what YOU create with indigo this month! Please feel free to leave us a comment with a link to photos of your work, or use the hashtag #themodernnaturaldyerworkalong on Instagram.

Indigo tips:

+ Make sure the dye reaches all parts of your fabric - i.e. in between the rows of stitching on your Fishbone Dress. 
+ Make sure to allow the indigo on your fabric to fully oxidize in between dips. It can be helpful to dye multiple pieces, one after another, to space out the dips. Grab a friend to join you!
+ Just like with other dyes, your fabric will be several shades lighter after drying, so be sure to keep that in mind as you dip your fabric.
+ Watch Kristine's Creativebug video on dyeing with indigo to learn more.
+ Embrace the variation and natural beauty of your dyed piece!

-- Sarah

Read More

The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Pathways to the Fishbone Tank

Posted by AVFKW Staff on June 08, 2016 1 Comment

Happy summer everyone!

As you may know, Kristine and Adrienne recently visited New Hampshire and are currently exploring the beautiful country of Iceland, experiencing the deep-rooted wool culture there, as well as the gorgeous natural landscape. You can follow along on Instagram!

Meanwhile at Verb we are continuing on with The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, and June brings us to the first indigo project of the year! 

Indigo dyeing is one of those processes that gets your attention. As you remove your piece from the indigo vat, a shimmering transformation takes place, from bright green to blue. This transformation grabs ahold of people and never lets go. There are natural dyers around the world that have devoted their entire life to working with indigo. Whole books have been written on the color blue and its history. It is an endeavor that easily encompasses a lifetime, as there are endless nuances, techniques, recipes, styles, and applications of indigo dyeing.

In The Modern Natural Dyer, Kristine has presented several projects to introduce you to indigo dyeing. The Blue Skies Tote and Indigo Wedge Cardigan teach you how to indigo dye on cellulose fibers and protein fibers, respectively. Further projects explore overdyeing with indigo, after dyeing with other natural dyes, as well as a variety of surface design techniques that work very well with indigo. June's project, the Fishbone Dress, is one of these - it explores indigo dyeing on a linen tunic that has been stitched to create a resist pattern.

You can use our sewing pattern, The Tendril Dress, to make your linen tunic for the Fishbone Dress. (If you have purchased a Phase 2 Kit, you have a copy of the pattern and enough linen to sew one for yourself!) We love the Tendril pattern - it's a simple dress cut on the bias which makes it easy to sew and wear. After sewing, follow Kristine's directions to stitch and gather the fabric in your dress. Once you learn the motions of this variation on a whipstitch, your gathering will go quickly. Then it's on to the best part - creating your indigo vat and dyeing your dress! 

For the Work-Along, Lis and I will both be working on shortened versions of the Tendril Dress - we're calling them Tendril Tanks. We're each following a different pathway with our project and are excited to see the similarities and differences. I will be following the procedure laid out in the The Modern Natural Dyer: first I will sew my Tendril Tank, then I will stitch, gather, and indigo dye it. Lis will reverse this process: she will stitch, gather, and indigo dye her fabric, then lay out her pattern and sew her tunic.

Lis has been practicing her stitch techniques all week and has settled on a unique grid pattern covering the middle of her fabric, which is a medium-weight white linen. Her stitching lines follow the weft and warp of the fabric, which means when she cuts out her pattern on the bias, these lines will be on the diagonal.

I am sewing my Tendril Tank out of our white, light-weight organic cotton chambray, grown in the Capay Valley (where the sheep that grow wool for our yarn Horizon live) by Sally Fox. I am so excited to be working with this fabric for the first time and I can't wait to wear my top with my Horizon sweaters. I will be using the same stitch pattern as in the book - but I will make sure to end my stitching early enough to leave a solid band of blue around the bottom of my tank.

We have many resources for you this week!

Sewing classes & tips:

+ To modify your Tendril Dress into a tank, Tasa recommends shortening the pattern by measuring 12" up (or more or less as you prefer) from the hemline, then drawing your new hem in the same curve as the original.
+ Our new class, The Tendril Tank, is full - but email us to be put on the notification list for the next time we offer it!

Indigo dyeing classes & tips:

+ Kristine is teaching Indigo + Shibori I at Verb on June 19th! There are a few spots left - grab one while it's available. Students will learn a variety of bound and stitch resist patterns and spend the afternoon dipping their pieces into the indigo vat.
+ We're excited to announce that today Creativebug is releasing a brand new video, Natural Indigo Dyeing. In it, Kristine teaches you how to create an indigo vat and several resist design techniques. This is great if you aren't local - or if you want to be able to refer back to her techniques at a later date.
+ Want to try indigo dyeing on your own? Pick up all the supplies you need from the shop or order them online.
+ Make sure to review all steps in the indigo dyeing process. Remember, you don't need to mordant - but you definitely want to scour! In The Modern Natural Dyer, see pages 131-137 for information on making and dyeing with your indigo vat, including tips on recalibration and avoiding crocking. The Fishbone Dress project starts on page 177.

We'll be back again next week with the results of our indigo dyeing. In the meantime, we'd love to see your progress! Use the hashtag #themodernnaturaldyerworkalong so we can follow your work!

 -- Sarah

Read More