Archives for posts with tag: wool

I am using part of my time while a resident artist at TAC this spring to explore the multitude of ways in which artists/designers/crafters use our processes of making textiles to engage in social change (part of my masters thesis at NYU). As I do so, I’ll also share some of what I am thinking about here on the TAC blog, discussing artists, events, projects, books, social movements, and resources.

Textiles and garments—through their production, circulation, consumption, and use— have played a central role in social change for centuries. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you reading this that not unlike food, textiles are a consistent part of our lives: a fundamental human need and an important marker and driver of culture. The farms on which fibers are grown and the factories in which textiles and garments are produced have been sites of terrible abuses but also sites for important moments in the history of labor activism. This makes it a particularly rich place from which to ask questions about what is happening in the world today. If you have suggestions for anyone or anything you think I should look into, by all means send them my way! I value all of your comments and contributions.

Movie Nights:

While helping out at TAC’s mending circle this past Sunday, Owyn, Isa and I were contemplating organizing movie nights at TAC. So I thought for this first post I would share some of my favorite textile-related films that also offer a precursor to themes for future posts. Please do add your movie recommendations in the comments.

Daughters of the Dust, 1991

film still from Daughters of the Dust

A powerful film about the women of a family descended from slaves who worked on the plantations that grew indigo, cotton and rice. It takes place on the Sea Islands, where ships first dropped off slaves for quarantine before they were sold on the main land. In addition to a different view on an important part of textile history, the costumes themselves—the white dresses of the younger women and the deep indigo of the matriarch—are a striking part of the story telling.

Gabbeh, 1996

film still from "Gabbeh"

A Gabbeh is one kind of handwoven Persian rug, and in the film, Gabbeh is also the name of a young woman who mysteriously appears and becomes the protagonist in the film. The entire film is filled with images of the process of rug making, often used to tell part of the story of the human characters: collecting plants for dyeing, shearing goats, dyeing and spinning yarn, and weaving.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, 2009

film still

A documentary on the history of the New York garment industry with a focus on its decline over the last 30 years in the context of global trade, the move of manufacturing overseas, and the continual search for cheaper labor.

Wool 100%, 1996

film still

A dream-like Japanese film of two junk-collecting women whose latest find are several balls of bright red wool. This acquisition also attracts a girl who spends the movie obsessively knitting a long sweater, then unraveling and re-knitting it again and again.

Gandhi, 1982

film still

Cloth played an integral role in India’s struggle for independence from Britain, something captured in great detail in this epic film, from the Indigo farmers who first tell Gandhi of their poverty to his promotion of Khadi cloth for both symbolic and economic reasons.

Norma Rae, 1979

film still

One of my favorite films about organizing, based on a true story, a single young mother and textile worker organizes a garment factory in Alabama.

Made in Dagenham. 2010

film still

I haven’t seen this yet but its getting great reviews and looks like an important comment on the classification of garment work as supposedly “unskilled.” Also based on a true story, this is about the 1968 strike of 187 sewing machinists that eventually led to the Equal Pay Act.

Craft in America, 2009

film still: Lucy Morgan at Penland School of Craft

Craft in America is a PBS series that covers much more than textile crafts and their first season is available to watch online. For those interested in fiber, I particularly love the first part of the third episode on quilting and community and about the creation of the Penland School in North Carolina.

* The title of this column is a play on “Bread and Roses,” a phrase taken from a poem and used to refer to the 1912 textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The call of women marchers, “We want bread, but we want roses too,” is said to be a call for dignity as well as fair wages, that life should be beautiful as well as just.

It’s a quiet day here, getting things ready for the 3rd Ward Holiday Fair and finishing up stuff before Isa and I go to Peru (!)

So, some quiet inspiration:

Courtesy Benoit Millot and Fonda Lashay for the link

Thanksgiving.. Being a foreigner, I don’t have much to say about it, besides that I do like the turkey. So I decided to take this post into a different direction. Let’s talk about fashion…

If I would ask you to explain me the Pilgrims outfit, your answer would come up as something like this right?

Pilgrim’s costumes are generally associated with dark and somber clothes, large white collars and cuffs, and bucket shoes and hats. But that wasn’t true. Pilgrims costumes actually followed fashion in vogue in Europe during the 17th century (or to the biggest extent, a simplified version of it). Something like this..

(Courtesy of

Let’s start from the bottom – shoes! I was asked a question last year on a Thanksgiving trivia game, regarding pilgrims shoes. I don’t remember the exact q&a but, in any case, pilgrims shoes didn’t have buckles. Neither did their hats! Buckles weren’t fashionable in the beginning of the 17th century in Europe. And later on, when they started to be, only the wealthiest of the pilgrims would probably be able to afford them. However, most of the paintings depicting the Pilgrims arrival to North America were done later in the century, so they would just show the costumes as it was fashionable by then.

So leave your buckle heels at home this year!

Pilgrim Shoe, by Roger Vivier, 1950s

Also, the pilgrims didn’t wear only black and white. In fact, pure black textiles in the 17th century was very difficult to achieve, since synthetic dyes weren’t even a dream yet. So, actually, pilgrims clothes, as the north american indians’ ones, would have had natural wool and cotton colors or been dyed with natural dyes. Think browns, golden yellows, blues, reds and beiges.. The dark or black garments would be reserved for special occasions and worship on Sundays.

Something like this 19th century painting..

“Pilgrims going to church”, (1867) by George Henry Boughton, New York Public Library

Also, amongst the passengers of the Mayflower there were wool carders, tailors and seamstress, and shoe and hat makers. With all these resources, one can think that even if simple, the North American Pilgrim’s clothing could be at least creative.

Amongst the Wampanoag there’s probably even more wrong preconceived ideas. For instance, no long feathered headdresses or living in teepees.

The basic Wampanoag clothing for men, women and children was the breechcloth. Breechcloths were made from soft deerskin and worn between the legs with each end tucked under a belt, hanging down as flaps in the front and back. Women would also wear skirts. The deerskin mantle was another garment worn by both men and women. It fastened at one shoulder and was wrapped about the body in various ways, often tied at the waist with a woven belt. The women were the responsible for tanning the skin and sewing it into a garment. (

“The First Thanksgiving” (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (American painter, 1863-1930)

Although they would normally walk barefoot, they would also wear Moccasinash made of deer, elk and moose skin on the feet in cold weather or rough terrain. The word moccasin is a Wampanoag word for a single shoe. The correct word for a pair is moccasinash.  (

In the absence of good photo or illustration of the moccasins, I leave you with a lovely Wampanoag  twined, braided and hand-dyed bag:

Bag, 1980-1984

(Courtesy of the National Museum of American Indian)

Textile Arts Center will be off until Sunday, enjoying the deserved holiday. We wish to you all a very fashionable Thanksgiving, spent amongst loved ones.

See you next Monday!

This post is especially brought to you over the sea from Clara.

The Campaign for Wool is a cross-industry initiative convened by HRH The Prince of Wales in January 2010. As a serious environmentalist, the Prince believes the natural, sustainable origin and highly technical structure of wool can offer fashion, interiors and the built environment many superior benefits. Choosing real wool – as the Prince understands – will also help to care for our planet.

The combined efforts of the leading wool organizations, industry associations and the textile industry across the world has created a campaign to promote the wonderful properties that wool offers to textiles and in doing so, help to support sheep farming as an industry and the textile community internationally.

There are a number of ways to get involved with the campaign including:

-Sign a Letter of Agreement and return to show your support of the campaign.

-Use the campaign logo’s on your website to link through to We can provide you the logo file and some accompanying text to explain the campaign to your online customers.

-Encourage your retail customers to contact us and become involved.

-Host educational seminars for your customers to update them on the eco-benefits of wool and the campaign. We can provide the presentations you will need.

-Build unique showroom displays to promote the campaign and your use of wool. We can provide you artwork to utilize.


Jrumchai Singalavanij’s new technique transforms waste from the textile industry into a usable material and addresses a very real problem.  More than one million tons of textiles are thrown away in the UK every year, and only a small proportion is recycled – the rest makes up a large proportion of current landfill sites.

“His project started from a commitment to peaceful happiness which led him to a belief that a non-violent attitude to the entire ecosystem is fundamental to life and design. I chose to recycle scrap from the textile industry. Jrumchai worked with the ragged selvedge of woven woollen cloth, which is cut off at the loom and generally discarded. He then developed a unique process to transform the waste into new kind of material, then let the unusual quality of the new material inspire suitable woven structures.”

“The methodology used in the practice was based on the principle of sustainability. For instance, with an awareness of energy and water consumption, He chose to use the original colours of the waste instead of  changing their colours by dyeing or printing on top. In recognition of waste management, natural and synthetic materials were not mixed together. The process is environmentally friendly: only bio-degradable substances, like starch, were used.

Jrumchai seriously thought about how my design can convey the notion of long-term contentment in a simple life. I decided to avoid unnecessary decoration and chose designs that show the intrinsic characteristics of the materials. Therapeutic quality was another important value added through my work, which invites one to touch and feel, and brings a smile to one’s face.”