When were you were nurtured by nature?
Has the snow brought those familiar feelings of comfort and joy to you?
Does the sunshine bring warmth and energy on its beams?
When you dress in your Sanctuary Innerwear each morning or evening, are you reminded of your positive intentions?
Our clothes do so much for us, in addition to warming and covering us.
Well made clothes in sustainable fabrics without chemical dyes and surfectants allow our skin to breathe and move freely. They allow us to discover and express our true nature, and to immediately associate with others of like mind. They comfort us and pamper us tenderly.
Please enjoy this very long (45 min) interview I recently did with Chelsea from @AnimaAnimus (podcasts) (website) where I talk about the dying process, fabric selection, mordants, and all things of importance.
I'm very glad to have had this online experience with you, my readers, over these last 12 months. I've enjoyed exploring Kate Fletcher's "Wild Dress" with you, thinking together about how nature and garment ought to interlace.
I've enjoyed bringing clarity about the process of making all parts of Sanctuary Innerwear to you, and I hope to do more of this next year through video, a new media for me.
In this, my final blog post, I wish you purity, trust, virtue, zest, love, peace, sanctuary, joy, truth, glow, balance and tenderness. Much tenderness.
I intend to GLOW in the darkness.
I write this on Hallowe'en night.
A stranger one than usual.
We found other ways to trick and treat.
Working with teens, I demonstrated the magic of dyeing.
Sharing making, hoping they will take a little mystery away.
The tangible results:
"Who made your clothes?"
A growing chant from the slow fashion movement.
Who made the things that made your clothes? My question.
Lately, I have been making clothes out of other clothes. Remaking.
I would like something new to wear, but don't want to go to stores and don't wish to shop online. We have enough in this household to clothe us.
The clothes that deserve to be remade is now my study of interest. Fibres from nature: strong, durable, warm, full of life and energy. There's a part of me in them. Clothes handmade, natural colours, comfortable, classic, but not necessarily fashion. They have their origins in ecclectic and sometimes unlikely places: Eaton's, the Byward Market, Germany, a hardware store in US. Not online, from Toronto, from shows. Not from a shopping trip with friends. Not recent.
What natural part of me is present in these clothes? Skill, pride, creativity, practicality, truthfulness, introspection, ok, a little exhibitionism. Good memories, cost forgotten. Things to look for in future purchases.
Below, a collage of the labels in my most-loved clothes. Cotton, Ramie, Linen, made in Canada.
GLOW Cami and Demi-brief, one of my Sanctuary Innerwear offerings. This dainty little thing is named GLOW because of the infusion: coffee, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Warming herbs, almost as good as the beverage (better if you're trying to quit the habit). My Tencel is dyed with walnut shells and pomegranate rinds for a deeper shade, often a bit mottled as well, but without the post mordants (see above). This Hallowe'en I gathered my own treats from the lawns with brown-stained sidewalks, beating the squirrels somehow.
I invite you to find ways to glow in the darkness this month, to find that which helps you be your most natural you and to share that mystery in your own way.
I intend to balance needs and wants this month.
My habits are changing.
As I head back to work and reconnect with the wider world, I notice that the things I value have silently undergone change.
Covid has had an impact on my dressing and shopping habits.
I still enjoy fashion and can't help but notice and assess new styles: elements of art recombined, repositioned.
Suddenly, however, I'm not being swept into the rushing stream.
Suddenly, I'm holding on to something bigger, stronger. My coverings are more me.
I've put together a collage of pieces of my wardrobe worn this past month, Kate Fletcher's words milling around in my brain. Thinking that if I'm ever done with these clothes, I'll make a quilt out of them. Each square a life lived, and still covering.
In making this assemblage, I notice my preferences for covering: wool, linen, Tencel, leather, textured, plain, handworked, old. All part of my ecosystem, and the earth's.
Still playing: instead of taking a box to Salvation Army, I decide to cut and sew together the pieces of clothes that no longer serve me. A long vest, 2 lined jackets, jeans, 2 tops. Six garments. This quilt measures 8' x 8'. I've got an idea for this: I'm going to cover the ground with it. Polyester and rayon may serve me yet as weed eradicators.
The earth breathes too.
We must not cover it so much that it can't.
It too wants to wear its natural garments: flower, field, forest, sand and rock.
The many stages between fabric and garment of Sanctuary Innerwear involve me in nature. I'm at my best when I can reconnect, "get muddy", and "interlace" again.
Today, the last of the woad leaves came in, and I will attempt to persuade it to wait for me until spring. I fill bottles with the emerald green water with turquoise foam. I will let it settle and dry the pigment.
Somehow, having this connection with the earth allows me to view the rest differently.
Notice, assess, but not get swept away.
Grounding yet ascending, Balance's infusion is just that.
I intend to live (and dress!) my truth.
My covid clothes will soon no longer be needed.
For one half year (!) my life happened in these clothes.
As the time unfolded, my clothes gave, asking nothing in return, not even to be folded.
I've been reading Kate Fletcher's "Wild Dress: Clothing the Natural World" (Uniformbooks, 2019), the first autobiographical writing from this Professor of Sustainability, Design and Fashion (University of the Arts, London, England). Her words have deepened my understanding of the relationship between our clothes and the natural world, and have enriched my holidays. In my remaining writing of 2020, I will do my best to interpret her words and apply the concepts to my Sanctuary Innerwear blog for you.
Outside and directly overhead, a storm is crashing; inside I'm warm and dry. My oil-based tent and camping gear is a godsend tonight, but last night it didn't know I preferred to be cool. I've made a decision to invest in a wool blanket and make myself a silk liner before next summer. I'm one of those who enjoys outdoor experiences in any weather. I "dwell well" outside. I wear layers: the ones closest to me are natural and those on the exterior are often different forms of nylon, according to conditions (although I do have a waxed jacket, such as would evidently be found in Walton's of Hawes, London). I try to keep my layering simple and understand what I a surrounding myself in. Sanctuary Innerwear is always on me. I keep it close. It works well for me in all conditions.
But soon, summer will be over and I will need to "dress up and show up" again.
Person + place + time will shift and I will be in a new "NOW".
My intention is to live and dress true to myself. To turn up in my new place and time as I did in the old (but wearing clothes that have been folded!).
Have you had your colours done? This is a method to indicate, by virtue of your skin tone, eye and hair colour etc. the palette which emphasizes your natural strengths. One colour in my palette is woad blue (second from the top on the left in this picture of this summer's dyed fabric).
Woad and I have had a love/hate relationship. This was the first dye I actively sought to acquire while travelling in its native growing region of Erfuhrt, Germany 6 years ago. I've now decided that it's much too expensive to import and have been growing it instead. Last week I had my very first woad vat which gave blue solely from the leaves of my garden!
The dyed fabric product was not to my standards yet, but it was certainly a milestone nonetheless! You can read some of my other escapades with woad here. This will give you a feel for the art and science (or more closely, mystery and magic) that woad (and its cousin indigo) are.
This month, as I head back to work, I will audition each piece of clothing I have. The question I will ask myself is, "Is this me?" I will also try to show up more truthfully as me. I'm older now; I've earned the right. I'm going to slow down, rely on my principles and ethics to continue to guide me, trust the learnings of experience. Worry less.
And I will also stay with my covid clothes as long as I can, returning to them to remember how different this "now" has been.
I wish you truth now and always.
I intend to invite JOY into each day.
Here we are at the height of summer. The sun has been with us for most of June and July, offering light and warmth to lift us up, and possibly a defense against our current illness. My gardens are full and green, and it's a JOY to gather the leaves and flowers to make Sanctuary Innerwear each morning. Today I foraged this year's first armful of goldenrod and smelled its pungent, fresh aroma in the early morning dew. It brings me JOY to show you the process of dyeing in this blog, so please read on...
I noticed a more prominent visit from mullein this summer and wondered about it. Last summer St. John's Wort graced the field in abundance, and it occurred to me as I picked it and made a salve for my husband's nerve troubles, how lucky we were that it was there. Now I'm suspicious about the mullein. Do we need it right now? Sure enough, mullein is known to open airways, a "go-to herb for respiratory ailments and lung issues" (Body Into Balance, Groves, 2016). Wow.
I am preparing to go back to work, like many others. I have been thinking it's a good time to set some personal and professional goals so that I can make the most of my remaining formal employment. I'm reading "The 12 Week Year" and love how it calls me each day to act on what I want for the future. I've set some goals for my next 12 weeks, and the first one is "To do something that makes someone appreciative....x 12". I aim to do this by listening to my clients (and my Sanctuary Innerwear customers) to find what they want and after weighing the pros and cons, work hard to give them that. Another is to "have 12 a-ha moments". I will do this by taking a mental break from Sanctuary Innerwear and doing some summer reading (for fun!) and keeping a diary. Achieving my goals has significant intrinsic benefits to me. If you're interested in helping me achieve them, you can Sign up for my newsletter and respond to some questions I have there.
I believe JOY comes to those who accomplish things that are
challenging, interesting and helpful.
To prepare a natural cellulosic fabric for dyeing, scour the fabric (wash thoroughly to remove all manufacturing residues) and heat it gradually in a pot of water with pickling alum. Let the water nearly boil while moving the fabric around and then turn off the heat and leave the fabric overnight in the alum. This will bind the alum to the fabric, opening the fibres and intensifying (and brightening) the colour. You will see the white alum settled on the fabric. Remove the fabric from the alum and wash it thoroughly.
To dye with goldenrod, pick flowers when they are just opening for the best colour. Cut the flowers from the stem, and don't worry about some remaining leaves. Put them in a pot of water and heat it until lightly boiling. Simmer for 15 minutes to extract the colour from the flowers.
Remove and strain the water to get your dyebath. It should be a yellow-y orange colour. You can dye with the dye bath cold or warm, depending on the intensity of yellow you are looking for. A cold bath will give you a lighter colour. If you are heating the dyebath, put the fabric in first, then heat gradually and stir regularly so as to allow the colour to adhere to the fabric evenly.
Once the fabric is a little darker than the colour you want, remove it from the pot and wash it (I use Dawn dishwashing soap for this step). Rinsing should be done in hot water at first, then changing to cool, taking 3-5 rinses. Once the water runs clear, the colour is set. Dry the fabric.
Use the dye bath to water your garden. It is acidic and acrid, making it good for pest control.
Also, get more goldenrod (remember, pick no more than 10% of the growth in any wild location) and dry it for next year! Making this big beautiful yellow in the middle of winter will do wonders for your JOY! (See?! I gathered some mullein for later too .....
And so as I allow my mind and my days to take on new obligations, schedules, worries and plans, I reflect on the JOY I've had living for today, being in the present, connecting with now, dancing with the earth.
Perhaps down the road, my goal will be to try to come back here.
Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine,
I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine.
A million tomorrows shall all pass away,
ere I forget all the JOY that we've had....
I intend to conserve my Sanctuary this month.
haven, a place of safety, shelter from danger or hardship"
any space set aside for private use in which others are not supposed to intrude "
similar idea: "frith" (old English) and "frid" or "fredent" (Swedish), denoting "animals not to be hunted, flowers not to be picked", a "peaced" place
In my WOSEN course, I learned about the Adaptive Cycle, which attempts to map the stages we go through when faced with changing circumstances. The stages are: conserve, destroy, plant and grow.
Covid and Black Lives Matter have given us much to think about this past month and in those to come.
What about that which I'm currently doing will I continue to do?
What would it be best to discontinue doing?
What new thoughts, deeds or interactions can I start?
What of that which I'm doing might I strengthen and grow?
This reminds me of the departing questions I ask my Gr 10 Careers students: "What should I stop? start? continue? in next year's classes?"
Recently, I viewed a TED talk called "Start with Why", which says that we all know what we do, and can explain how we do it, but do we know why? This is, of course, values: significant drivers in my life.
The process of making SANCTUARY Bodice and Brief Set consists of the following steps:
* premordant Lenzing Tencel fabric with alum (2 days)
* premordant fabric in rhubarb leaf dyebath (1 day)
* dye fabric in madder root dyebath (1 day, may be done on same day as rhubarb dyebath)
* dry fabric (20 min)
* cut Bodice and Brief pattern (20 min)
* infuse pieces in echinacea flower, bay leaf and rosemary (3 days, once infusions have been made)
* air dry pieces (1 day)
* sew Bodice and Brief (2 hours)
* iron and label set (30 min)
* bottle infusion as Reinfusing Spray and make Whipped Soap (1/2 day)
TOTAL time taken: 8 days, minimum
Materia Medica: The known therapeutic properties of echinacea, rosemary and bay are given in the Materia medica linked here:
I value feeling safe, and can understand that others do, too. I long for a "peaced" self, community, humanity and planet.
As we ease back into our pre-covid routines, let's consciously and with intention conserve, destroy, plant and grow.
I will conserve my sanctuary.
I will destroy hatred and chaos.
I will plant kindness and understanding.
I will grow peace and love.
I intend to invite PEACE into my thoughts and interactions.
I'm grateful for a warm fire, a busy and contented husband, and the ability to continue creating in these times. It seems to me that if I can continue to use natural ingredients to create, I will be able to keep clear of some of the world's current difficulties. I wish for you a measure of this freedom of self-sufficiency, a space in your heart for gratitude, and PEACE.
It's planting season! I was pleased with germination rates of most of my dye plant and herb seeds, and my back has held out long enough to plant them out into the garden. Now the wonder of nature continues, and I anticipate good crops, happy dye days, and aromatic evenings making hydrosols long into the coming winter months.
I'v been experimenting with logwood as a new purple dye. I've not been successful growing alkanet, my prior purple source. The plants are loved by the bees and monarchs, but the roots did not yield the required colour (actually, no colour at all....a sad dye day.....and no pics ;/ )
Logwood produced an amazingly intense purple colour with a low dye stuff to fabric ratio. Here you can see what just a few chips of this wood can do, and you'll likely agree that more experimentation is needed to achieve a 'peaceful' tone. The plant grows in tropical climates, but is another that has the ability to naturalize and take over a garden.
Just briefly, woad is another example of a plant which risks overpopulation. Here are my efforts to control its growth prior to flowering and seeding. The leaves of the first year plant are used for dyeing. I also currently have yarrow taking over my lawn, but I digress....
This past month in isolation has been productive. I've tried to listen to my body and mind to discern that which they need, thinking that others may be feeling similarly. A new design and 3 prototypes for an at-home bra are among the results. I wanted a garment which offered a soft hold and lift, with some cover and discretion. In an old world Greek style, my Bra-na offers the above, with options to add a cup, and/or to nurse easily. I enjoyed doing this, and am now offering this breathable embrace at an introductory price in a pop up on my website.
I've also developed some Wish Packages for people who would like to send an intentioned thought in the form of a hand-made (my hands only!) gift. See my website for more information and to purchase.
This month, I'm proud to have contributed to a magazine called Blank Spaces with an article about my clothing. It's a local venture, beautifully presented and full of examples of artistic talent. That makes me even more proud!
I'll leave you with this slide show of some of the fabulous pictures taken by my very special model, Amanda. I feel very special to have these isolation pics....
I intend to show LOVE this month
I intend to show LOVE this month.
Social media. If you've read my previous blog posts, you'll know I’ve been trying to find the good in it. Important revelations, tips for a better life, improved relationships....truly, I know I won't find them there. I've come to the conclusion that the reason I'm doing it is only that I don’t want to be left behind.
The world has stopped. The wheel of life has nearly come to a standstill. The rat race has all but halted.
Isn’t it nice?
I’m enjoying focusing on things I enjoy doing. Still trying to stay connected, but enjoying reaching out further to those whose existence I have accepted but not investigated. Relatives I’ve never met. Strangers who need help. Organizations doing good. Those closest to me or to my heart.
Indigo has worked well this month. I’ve been successfully trying to move further into “all natural” territory with this, my final frontier (see last month’s blog post for more info). Woad is still a mystery, but indigo has become more of a friend. My last vat only used 5 g thiox, with the rest natural ingredients: natural indigo, dried leaves from my indigo crop, indigo balls made last year (both for their indigotin or colour), calx (lime to raise the pH), fructose (to reduce the amount of oxygen in the water), and water. The blue was magnificent, and now, 1 week later, I write with blue-tipped fingers, a natural indigo dyer’s badge of honour. I have been making LOVE with it all week!
JOY has also been a pleasant surprise, with last year’s weld crop awarding patience and effort many times over.
My response to our current situation has come in the form of masks for the staff at Bowmanville Creek Retirement Residence and ribbon flowers for the residents there, and gowns for Marnwood Long Term Care Facility.
and now I'm making robes. These are special order and are meant to help people feel beautiful at home.
I wish you LOVE this month. Use the time to reconnect to what’s important, and as we move toward “relaunch”, let LOVE guide our choices of where we put our time, energy and money.
If we could build a new world, what would it be like? Now’s the time to make it that way!
And how about considering this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do things or say things or show people LOVE.
I intend to bring ZEST to my activities each day.
Last month, I set out to open up on social media in order to find the good it might do for me as a person.
I can honestly say that I've tried, but have come hopelessly short of my goal. Learning has never been this difficult.
I have dedicated every morning to it. looking outside on my sunny greening lawn and warming gardens, while not getting anywhere. And then the rest of the languishing country wakes up and my rural internet connection fades.
That's when I take a deep breath and head outside....
....the squirrels have left me some acorns and they're exactly what I need right now!
My friend Nancy at Oasis Boutique returned some unsold Sanctuary Innerwear sets. Among these were two in which the colour had faded: indigo and woad.
If the garment that you have bought from me has faded significantly, please let me know."
So now I'm back to the drawing board (or dye pot, whatever the case may be...).
Woad and indigo colour as a result of the constituent "indigotin" in their leaves. Both have a very rich history and are quite magical to work with. My dye vats are 2 and 3 years old, with fermented leaves from my garden added each time I dye and refresh the vat.
The vats are also quite temperamental. Here's the poor dye result I got on a day I was arguing with my husband!
The forces of nature in the plants make the ultimate decision as to whether or not to divest colour. I've achieved wonderful results and been disappointed as many times. For this fabric, I will overdye with goldenrod to attempt to achieve the green of ZEST and try again for TRUTH. Perhaps you've been with me during one of my dye workshops at Abbey Gardens. Were the indigo gods smiling on us that day?
Although technically they are both a pigment and not a dye, woad and indigo are typically very colourfast and don't require a mordant (preparation to open the fibres to accept the dye). But mordanting serves two purposes: to connect the dye to the fibres ("mordant" means to "bite") and, logically following, to make the colour stay in the fibres.
Enter: the acorns. Acorns contain tannins, natural chemicals secreted by woody plants in order to deter insects looking to use them as hosts. We know tannins from two common things: red wine (developed in oak barrels) and tanning leather. Other tannin mordanting which I do involves rhubarb leaves, sumac leaves, and pomegranate rinds. Here I am cooking year-old rhubarb leaves to make a concentrated tannin mordant.
These latter give a more yellow colour, so i'm trying acorns. Here's the result after soaking acorns, cooking them, drawing off the water, soaking fabric in it, then collking the fabric in alum and leaving it overnight:
During this time of social distancing and worry about my mom and running out of food, at least my dye supplies are available. I just need to wait until it's time to pick. That seems manageable. And predicatable.
Being resourceful is my forte.
And still I'm scared.
Each morning I wake up and it's still here....
...and I'm still here. I'm still making, still using the bounty that is thankfully still being provided for our use.
I can't offer any deals or give-aways this month.
But I am still here, and still discovering, and will do what I can to make your wearing experience what you need it to be.
I intend to bring more ZEST to everything I do.
I have a hard time trusting people I don't know.
and that includes everyone on social media.
...Everyone except people I know or who I've met.
Is this a problem?
...Except that I expect everyone on social media to trust me.
Here I'm making a hydrosol. I'm cooking herbs in water and gathering the condensation. the ice on the pot lid cools it, so that steam becomes water. This water is full of the goodness from the plants which gave up their water-soluble constituents through the simmering process.
I love making hydrosols.
The hum of my cooker and the aroma of the herbs just fills my sanctuary and I sew.
I am at peace.
In their book, "Trust Agents | Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust" (2010), authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith try very hard to get me to break down the wall between my sanctuary and all those not known people beyond.
They speak to me about establishing my authority. I discovered how to infuse fabric with herbs. I've learned a lot in my explorations that I could share. They talk about being helpful and reliable, about committing to regular speaking and listening, about maintaining my audience. I'm a doer, not a talker. But I am reliable. They mention community. I would like that, I think.
"It's a slow roast, not a TV dinner.", they say. (pg 212)
Why hydrosols? What are they and can they be helpful?
In her book "Hydrosols | The Next Aromatherapy" (2001), Canadian Suzanne Catty outlines what is and what isn't aromatherapy. "Aromatherapy products are not made in a plant (factory), but in a plant (living, growing, green thing)" (pg 2). I love this. Aromatherapy and essential oils are big business. Is what we are giving our nose to smell good for us? This is yet another trust topic. Catty claims that most products marketed as aromatherapy are merely perfumes, and have never even seen a plant (living, growing green thing). Smells can be produced synthetically, and at present there are not many controls over what synthetics are used, and if any natural ingredients are included at all.
I bottle the hydrosol I make, after blending it with other hydrosols to achieve something healthy and intended to affect the body according to the name of the garment. There is nothing else in the bottle except for hydrosols. Again, trust.
You can use the spray on anything, but its main purpose is to re-infuse the clothing with the herbs. Catty suggests that hydrosols are as therapeutic as essential oils (the oil constituents of the plant). Like the seed, hydrosols are holograms of the plant, where "every tiny part contains all the information of the whole". What I draw out of the plant is what was in the cells of the plant itself. Many people who visit my booth tell me that they can feel the energy of the clothing. It is almost alive. When this water essence is put next to our skin, and absorbed or breathed in, it just may blend with the natural chaos of our bodies. Who knows?
"In the use of plant essences we evoke the earth's healing forces." (Catty, pg 22)
I have survived social media evils already, and am a little less scared of them.
Can I improve myself by using social media?
Is that really a possibility?
It will help be become even more knowledgeable about my subject matter.
It may empower me to think of myself as "with it" ;)
It may keep me organized. And give me patience.
It may help me learn to be more social …. and human.
I intend to be more trusting of everyone.
I'm the designer and creator of
a line of hand made clothing worn next to the skin which imparts goodness from plants through the hand-dyed and infused fabric.