Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kathy Hattori and "sustainable color for artists"

Kathy Hattori at the April 11 CQA meeting
Kathy Hattori, president of Botanical Colors LLC, Seattle, gave CQA members an enlightening--and disturbing--look at the world of color, specifically fabric dyes, at the group's April 11 monthly meeting. A strong proponent of natural, plant-based dyes, Hattori bolstered her thesis with facts and photos of the largely unregulated dye producers that support the global fashion and textile industry.

Around 2000, Hattori was a hobby spinner, weaver and dyer with a tech job in Silicon Valley--"doing okay, not great"--when, in the space of a couple years, she lost her job in the internet bust, sold her house and ended her marriage. Building on her earlier experience with dyes, she started a small, online natural dyes company and was now enjoying what she was doing.

Then she was contacted by Target, a large retailer whose "concept team" wanted to see if natural dyes would be practical and economical for their apparel lines. Several dyed samples later it was clear that the company's clothing lines--comprising a number of synthetic blends rather than pure wool or silk--were not appropriate for natural dyes, nor would the increased costs of using natural vs synthetic dyes work with the retailer's price points.

Growing out of this experience, Hattori learned that "the textile industry is in trouble managing their resources." She pointed out that in the 1980s, 95% of the clothing sold in this country was U.S. made; today, that figure is only 2%.  Unregulated dye manufacturing  and dye houses abound in the developing world, and there is little regulation on dying commercial clothing. "And yet there are no waste-water treatment plants in the developing world," she noted, adding that "Some of the water in these countries is fatally polluted. In 2012, global dye-manufacturing was listed as one of the top 10 industrial polluters." Hattori noted that azo dyes have been banned in the U.S. and Europe, but they are regularly used in China and India. "There are more than 50,000 dye houses in China alone, and more than 40% of the surface water is polluted," she added.
Hattori says the dye industry "would like you to see it like this (above) when it's really like the scene below." China alone has more than 50,000 unregulated dye houses.
In many parts of the developing world, waste-water from the unregulated dye industry ends up polluting surface waters.

Hattori then spoke of a number of "change agents" who were working to reverse this trend. Greenpeace, for one, has done a great deal of work with their "Toxic Threads" initiative in pushing manufacturers to clean up their supply chain. H&M has introduced a line called "Conscious Collection," and she urged that it be supported.  A movement called "Fibershed" was started by a woman in Northern California who set out to recreate her wardrobe from suppliers within 150 miles of her home; the Fibershed idea has now taken off around the country. 
The Greenpeace "Toxic Threads" initiative has been instrumental in helping many manufacturers clean up their supply chains.
One project involving Hattori was an interesting effort started by noted designer and store operator Eileen Fisher, who opened "Green Eileen" stores that specialize in recycled clothing, sales of which provide income to support programs that improve the lives of women and girls as well as help cut back on the vast number of new garments created annually. These stores get a ton of garments each month for recycling. In connection with the 2014 opening of a "Green Eileen" store in Seattle, Hattori was tasked with over-dyeing 100 garments. The collection sold out in three weeks and was considered an excellent launch for the store.
A recycled T-shirt over-dyed for Seattle's "Green Eileen" store

Though she was not "a fit" for Target, that experience encouraged Hattori to approach other apparel manufacturers, and she's now working with several to develop new clothing lines with more "earth-friendly" dyes and natural materials.

Diagram of a traditional multi-step supply chain for a pair of men's trousers
While the commercial garment industry has expanded to nearly countless suppliers along the line from designer to retailer, Hattori and her company developed a supply chain with only four entities: Customer, Fiber/Fabric, Dyes, Dyer.
Garments from Other Brother, Portland Or, a typical customer in Hattori's company's 4-step supply chain
Knit Tees from Cloth Foundry, San Francisco, a fabric supplier in Hattori's supply chain (natural-dye colors)
Hattori uses either large-capacity or specialty dye houses depending on the size of the order.

One customer example is Other Brother of Portland, specializing in men's wear based on natural dyes, sustainable cotton and U.S. manufacture. An example of a fabric supplier is California Cloth Foundry of San Francisco, specialist in knits spun from U.S. sustainable cotton, and U. S. manufactured. Depending on the product quantities involved,  large-capacity dye houses in North Carolina or Maine, or specialty dyers in New York, Los Angeles or Seattle, will be used. The dyes, of course, are all natural and non-toxic.
Hattori holds a "Backyard Hoodie" designed by Cloth Foundry in all natural cotton and natural dyes.
A rich, black color on natural cotton, as in these pants, can take five different dyes.
Hattori explained that the No. 1 issue for natural dyes is that they must meet wash- and light-fast standards to be acceptable for commercial use. As an aside, she noted that to get a rich black color on natural cotton can take five different dyes, and that "Cotton needs a lot of preparation before dyeing: it takes 8 hours to prep and 45 minutes to dye!"

She mentioned several area operations involved in the natural/sustainable movement, including Tolt Yarn & Wool in Carnation, a local grower, and Jubilee Farms, also in Carnation, offering classes and gatherings of dyestuffs in July and August.

At the end of the presentation, attendees gathered around Hattori's samples of organic brown cotton and both yarns and clothing dyed with indigo and other natural dyes in glowing, earthy colors.

Hattori holds a cotton boll with newly developed brown cotton fibers.
Natural dyes create rich colors in yarns.
Warm, earth tones in natural-dyed cotton  Tees invite touch!
Dye from the  indigo plant produces a wide range of blue colors in these natural cotton fabrics.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Art quilter Helen Remick's early work proves fresh as today

CQA member Helen Remick, Seattle, has made yo-yo's and complex spiral piecing hallmarks of her art quilts for a number of years, and recently even some of her earliest pieces have been appearing in current publications and exhibits. "I'm now convinced that my work is 10 to 15 years ahead of its time!" she laughs.

She has four images included in the book 1000 Quilt Inspirations: Colorful and Creative Designs for Traditional, Modern and Art Quilts, Sandra Sider, Editor, Hachette Press, 2015.  These are  “Raining Cats and Dogs” (2010), “Ma, How come she gets all the attention”  (2014), “Tangled Web” (2003), and “Fantastic” (1998).

"Raining Cats and Dogs" (detail)

"Ma, How come she gets all the attention" (Detail)

"Tangled Web" (Detail)

"Fantastic" (Detail)

Two of Helen's early quilts are on tour until 2016 as part of the exhibit associated with the book 500 Traditional Quilts, Karey Patterson Bresenhan, Editor, Lark Books, 2014. "Untitled" (1996) and “Spinning Out Spinning In 4: Rose of Sharon” (2005) will be at the IQA show in Portland and other venues. A third piece,“In Honor of the Wedding of Elizabeth and Yuki,” (2005) was not available for the exhibition.
"In Honor of the Wedding of Elizabeth and Yuki"

“Fantastic” (1998) was included in the SAQA red-quilts show on Facebook and has been picked up by Quilters Newsletter to appear in a near-future Readers Quilt Show feature in the magazine.  Helen recently finished instructions for this quilt in response to requests generated by someone pinning a picture of the quilt on Pinterest.  The pattern is available on Craftsy

"Fantastic" (Full view)
Our heartiest congratulations to this prolific artist!