Friday, 17 February 2017

tiptoe



happy end of the week to you! it's been quite the week in my world, but overwhelmingly a good one. i released tart on tuesday, which marks the start of a new collection that i'll be releasing over 2017. tiptoe will be a collection of 7 sock patterns, all using woolen boon's classic boon sock base. i'm totally in love with sonya's speckles, and can't wait to share these patterns with you over the course of the year!


here's the breakdown for the pattern releases:

  • february - tart, a cute lacy darling in the thistle colourway
  • april - a textured sock in the  commando colourway
  • june - cables! in the peach perfect colourway
  • august - simple texture in my favourite truffle shuffle
  • october - the best kind of texture in the appropriate fall-ish dirty chai
  • december - two different simple basics in buffy and lovey

you'll be able to get the patterns individually or as a set at a reduced rate soon. in the meantime, i'm running a buy-one-get-one sale through the long weekend! use the code LOVELOVELOVE to grab any of my patterns and e-books until 11:59pm cst on february 20th. 

xo ash

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

fibre festival schemes


it's been a while since i last wrote a blog post. i can't guarantee that i'll get back to them at any regular basis (most of my online focus these days are on instagram, facebook, and my weekly newsletter), but i wanted to share a bit more about my schemes for manitoba fibre festival 2017!

i'm coordinating a group collection for this year's festival, which included last month's shawl design 101 and includes master classes this month in pattern writing, publication, social media, and photography at wolseley wool (if you're unable to attend these classes in-person, my online course will launch in the spring). i've been so busy planning the overall collection that i totally forgot to figure out my own contribution to the collection! my partner got me back to my spinning wheel last week though, and that got the wheels in my head turning (terrible pun, yes, i know).



over a couple of days, i got my art batt from fellow manitoba fibre artist tog & thel spun into 661 yards of fingering-ish weight single ply. it's a beautiful batt of cormo, lopi, merino, tencel, mohair, polworth, and angelina, and the resulting yarn is beautifully tweedy and fun in all its neutral glory. i'm pairing it with some other icelandic single ply that i also got from tog & thel that was dyed with logwood, and i'll be making a (what else) big shawl.

i can't wait to see what other folks are going to contribute! a rough timeline of the collection is:

  • february - master classes
  • march - submissions from designers and pairing with yarn dyers and spinners
  • march-may - knitting designs
  • late may - collection photo shoot
  • june - tech editing
  • july - test knitting
  • early august - ravelry release of full collection
  • august-september 15 - collection kal!
if you're interested in being involved in any aspect(s) of the collection, please let me know! we're soliciting folks primarily from manitoba, but also saskatchewan, western ontario, and alberta (basically, if you have come or will be coming to fibre fest, please give us a shout). all enquiries and submissions can be sent to me at ash.sunflowerknit@gmail.com. hope you can join us!

Friday, 16 December 2016

newsletter sign-up

it's been a while since i've posted a proper blog entry (sorry!). i'm a busy bee and will eventually have something for you. but i have returned to writing regular weekly newsletters, so if you don't want to miss anything, PLUS you want access to bonus perks like free patterns and tutorials and recipes PLUS you want to take advantage of a 20% off coupon right now for new subscribers, sign up for my newsletter here!


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p.s. check out my moon femme collection! i'm totally in love with it (black and white forever) and there are only two patterns left to debut...so fun!

the most recent moon femme pattern, luminous

Saturday, 5 November 2016

slow fashion october: recap

well, another slow fashion october has come and gone. i hope you've been following along in your own way. if you'd like to re-read any of my blog posts for this year, you can check them out here:
i also wanted to take the opportunity to show all the things i've made this month! for myself as much as for you, actually. i often find myself tunneling in with my vision and awareness and feel like i'm not getting as much accomplished as i actually do, and i think it's important to acknowledge the fact that, damn it, i got a lot of shit done last month. go me! so here's what i made:


in this massive pile, you can see/kind of see the following:
  • knits: two cowls, mittens, shawl, socks
  • sewing: two dresses, cape, stowe bag the second, punk vest
i also made a ridiculous amount of stitch markers (which you can purchase at wolseley wool, or if you want my special edition moon femme markers, check out my website), dyed some yarn and heirloom altar cloths, made a weaving and i even made a batch of black walnut ink (which will be available at my next studio sale and also online). it's really lovely to look at my life and see how much of it is made by hand these days, and also exciting is seeing the growth of my wardrobe from last year to this year and recognizing how so much more of it is slowly shifting to handmade/slow fashion (by me and by others) from fast fashion. i love having slow fashion october as a way to check in with myself and compare (not in a judging way, just in an acknowledging way) how much my life shifts from year to year. i can't wait for next year!

Monday, 31 October 2016

slow fashion october: known origins

this final week's topic for slow fashion october is known origins. this one is, i think potentially, the most mired in privilege, at least in western society. having a really solid local fibreshed in the states or canada is, quite honestly, really hard work. it seems like from what i've read, the southern states does ok (they have such long growing seasons), but in canada, there are a lot of barriers that get in the way of knowing the true origins of your fibres. here are a few:
  • our growing seasons are really short, and the further north you go, the harder it gets.
  • the fibre community at the really base level of growing and cultivating fibre crops (animal or plant) and then processing them into yarn or thread (so the mills) is very scattered and hard to track down. if you don't have a solid local fibre festival, you might actually never find out about what's going on in your local region, because the vast majority of these operations aren't online or don't have a particularly strong online presence. try checking the phone book for sheep farms and tell me how far you get.
  • our country is fucking huge. second largest in the world, and we're very spread out. so even if you have a decent local fibreshed, chances are you have to drive really far to get everything you need. which means you need access to a car, and time to drive around, and clear knowledge of where everything is.
  • shipping is super expensive. it's actually often much cheaper to order fabrics from overseas than to order within canada. and of course, the production costs in canada are probably more expensive (labour laws, strength of the dollar compared to other countries, etc.). 
basically, if you want to source ethical and local in canada, you need a lot of cash and a lot of spare time. 

that being said, there are some really incredible initiatives underway, and i'd like to highlight a few of my favourites:
  • long way homestead: this one is easy. my dear friend anna and her family moved to a homestead just outside the city i live in, are working on getting the fibre farm side of the production underway, and hopefully by next year i will have super local yarn that i'll be naturally dyeing using the local plants i forage and maybe also using the dyes i source from maiwa, a vancouver-based company that ethically sources all of their incredible textile supplies. 
  • taproot fibre lab: also close to my heart, this nova scotia-based farm grows flax and has built their own mill equipment to process that flax into fibre and yarn. it's incredible, and i had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners at this past year's manitoba fibre festival. i am so excited to see where they go with this, and in the meantime, i have some fantastic canadian linen yarn that i'm going to be designing with in the upcoming months.
  • manitoba fibre festival: another easy one. this festival is my favourite point of the year, fosters incredible relationships between fibre folks of all sorts, and is becoming a destination point in the national fibre scene. i'm especially excited about a large project i'll be coordinating with them and my lys, wolseley wool, in the months leading up to the 2017 festival. more on that to come!
  • manitobah mukluks: these folks are so amazing! something that gets regularly overlooked in the mainstream fashion world, as far as i can tell, is the amazing fashion scene coming from our indigenous artisans. why would you not want a pair of mukluks that will actually keep your feet warm in minus 40 degree weather? they figured this shit out centuries before the european settlers showed up and started messing with things. trust that knowledge, and support the incredible entrepreneurs who are keeping their traditions alive and growing and innovating. 
  • kelly ruth: i am 100% biased here, but my dearest kelly embodies all that is slow fashion. she's a clothing designer, natural dyer, and all-around brilliant lady. she's also one of my closest friends and my mentor and colleague. kelly is working on sourcing fabrics for her naturally dyed clothing line that are local to us, but in the meantime she has found some overseas providers who are good to their workers, ethical in all accounts, and super eco-conscious. as far as reasonable clothing manufacturing goes, kelly is making all the right moves, and her clothing lasts for years, suiting that "daily uniform" that allows a person to wear an item of clothing for as long as possible, because it never really goes out of style (something which fast fashion hinges itself on desperately).
also, as a knitwear designer, i would be remiss to not mention my favourite yarn providers. my own yarns have been reduced to two bases from handmaiden fine yarns in halifax (both are silk bases, and they work with a 7th-generation silk farming family in switzerland to source these), and once anna has the fibre farm up and running, i'll add pure wools back into the line. other folks whose yarn i love are:
  • julie asselin's nurtured: this is my favourite yarn of all time, hands down. i've used it in so many designs at this point (several are upcoming), and someday when i have time to knit for myself again, i'll knit some really simple sweaters for myself from it. julie gets the us-based fibres spun by green mountain spinnery in the states, and then she and her partner jean-francoise dye it in their quebec studio. julie is such a sweet friend, and i love that my favourite yarn happens to come from her.
  • hinterland textiles: this relatively new bc-based company uses all canadian fibres for their incredible yarns - canadian rambouillet (a kind of merino) and their own alpaca. they blew up in a big way at this year's knit social in vancouver, and i'm very excited to have a sweater's worth of their range yarn to design something with in the coming year.
  • yoth: literally all of their yarns are just so great. veronika is one of my favourite folks in the dyeing world, and their non-superwash yarns in particular (mother and father) take up the dyes so perfectly (i'm also totally obsessed with their big sister and little brother bases, so don't discount them!). i've published two designs with them so far, and we have a full collection scheduled for release in 2017. book number two, here we come!
  • sweet fiber's canadian: i'm waiting on my first batch of bc-based dyer sweet fiber's canadian yarn, which is, you guessed it, all canadian fibre! pure wools are my jam these days, and my dear friend sylvia got me onto sweet fiber. i plan on designing something super cozy once it arrives, hopefully in time for cold winter months here in the prairies!
there are other great folks out there too, both indie dyers and yarn suppliers. the states is really moving things forward in this regard: brooklyn tweed, o-wool, quince & co., a verb for keeping warm...it's exciting to see so many players on the slow fashion scene, and to see so many suppliers paying attention to the social, ethical, and environmental impact of their production processes. i hope that as we move forward, this becomes the norm rather than the exception. and i'm super excited to be a part of the growing local fibreshed movement here in southern manitoba. we'll see how far we get by next year's slow fashion october!

Monday, 24 October 2016

slow fashion october: handmade



whew, so this past week's topic for slow fashion october is really hitting me in the heart muscle - handmade. why do i feel this one so much? well, just have a read through of the topic breakdown:

How do you understand your style, choose projects well, advance your skills, get the right fit, and keep things interesting and long-lasting at the same time. What are your go-to patterns and most successful garments. How do you avoid mindless acquisition of yarn and fabric, or making “too much.” How do you make time and space for making — and why?


lately, i've been analyzing these questions at a very deep level. i'm doing chelsea fitch's fibreboss college course, and it's been forcing me to really look at my practice and why i do what i do. i'm also scared that i'm stagnating right now - there's not enough time to do everything i want to do, so instead i just get stuck and only do parts of things, or nothing at all (which i know isn't accurate, because i'm constantly making and churning out new designs, but i still feel stuck lately). and sales are, well, slow. slow for what i want them to be. for what i know they could be. for what i need them to be to make this a successful business venture that will eventually actually pay my bills and maybe even a living wage someday. i feel like i'm not connecting with as wide of an audience as i could be, in as significant a way as i hope to. so, it comes down to why. why am i doing this? why do i make? why do i design? is it really only for me? how do i make a business that connects with a lot of people in a deep and meaningful way, while still staying true to myself and who i am as a person (re: queer, witch, practical femme, awkward, anxious, feminist, activist...so many things that don't fit the comfortable status quo, and i'm not particularly quiet about any of them)? 



i haven't figured out the answer for those questions yet. but what i have started to figure out, in tiny baby steps, is how to keep myself in my brand. my photoshoots are primarily selfie-style these days, in my studio, which allows me to control the whole look of everything. i have bones and tarot decks and driftwood for props, and bold lipstick, and tattoos out on display, and often an outfit i've made specifically to fit the style i have in my head for that particular shoot. i'm hoping that i'll get a bit more time soon to start taking shots of friends again too, because there are a couple of folks who are a dream to photograph and who really show off my style on different faces and bodies. i'm choosing to not hide the messy parts of myself (the emotional part, the anxious part, the part that's terrified of failure even if i view "failure" as opportunities for learning and growth), and i'm learning how to craft those parts of me into the story of my brand. 




and here's the biggest part - i'm learning that even if my sales are slow and a big instagram success for me is 100 likes on a post instead of 1000 and i feel like so many people are jumping ahead of me by leaps and bounds...it doesn't matter, as long as the things i make and the designs i release are things that i care about. like i said at the beginning, there's not enough time to do everything i want to do. so if i'm going to spend hours on a project, it should be something i like and am proud of. whether i'm the one who ends up wearing it after the photos are done or it flies across hundreds of miles to a new home with a dear one, it needs to be something that will be loved and cherished and appreciated. because that's why we make, or at least why i make. the whole point of slow fashion (beyond the politics, and the environmental and social impact, and the layers of privilege stacked on top of being able to make your own clothes from sources that are as ethical as possible) is to make things with love, that will be used year in and year out, and maybe even passed down through generations. kind of like the story about the blanket, that became a coat, that became a hanky, that became a patch. items that are worn so hard with use that they literally melt into us. and with the melting, comes the loving. because we put ourselves into each stitch we make, our hopes and dreams and intentions and emotions and fears and hearts. and those stitches make up a thing, and that thing gets used, and the user gets infected, just a little bit maybe, with all of those stitches and what they hold. it's why i love to make things for people i love, and why these days i only make for the people i love who also understand how precious my time is and how the thing that they receive is a labour of that love. a darling, wonderful, cherished labour for me. 



so, i make things that i want to wear, and that the people i'm making for will also want to wear. there's  only so much element of surprise in my making these days. i work with preferred colours (which in my case these days, is falling more and more into the neutrals and fall tones, resulting in some serious destashing needing to happen for those brighter colours still kicking around), and with items that will receive good wear. and high quality fibres, which in my own wardrobe is becoming more and more frequently pure wools, or silks or linens. my book collection has grown extensively in the past year, with new stitchionaries joining the library, books with new natural dyeing techniques, garment construction, sewing patterns that teach me new skills...and i take workshops where i can. i don't ever want to stop learning. there is always something incredible that can be picked up, and new depths to push our practices to, and new skills to push us out of our comfort zones. i want to still be trying new things when i'm in my nineties. which means i can't stop now. so that i guess, my friends, is my why. or at least part of it. 

what's yours? 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

slow fashion october: well worn

last week's topic for slow fashion october was well worn, those items we use that have passed through generations and been put through the ringer and maybe have been mended a hundred times and still get used. both sides of my family have a history of working with textiles, which is an incredible source of inspiration for me, so there are quite a few items in my possession that have made their way through multiple pairs of hands before getting to mine. i'm going to focus on some items i've recently inherited - the linens from my nanny and poppy's home.



a lot of families probably have doilies and old linen table runners in their lives. they've fallen out of fashion, but the amount of work that went into them is incredible (especially when you think about all the ones selling for 25 cents in secondhand shops). in my nanny's house, we actually know who made the majority of them - auntie mac (she even embroidered an m on the doily above!). i'm going to be making a lot of different projects with the textiles, but to start with, i've got these couple of linen table runners and one linen and crochet doily. i dyed one of the runners with black walnuts, and the other has been ecoprinted with lichen that grace foraged in nunavut and gifted to me. i ecoprinted the doily with lichen as well, and dyed it in the black walnut bath. the runners will be part of my altars at home, and the doily will be going to a dear one.

i dyed up some yarn with the black walnut baths too. silks take on natural dyes in the most beautiful muted way.


other items that i love and cherish are my nanny's silver thimble (which i've actually used for leather work recently) and my mum's thigh-high legwarmers (i need to mend them again, but they're from the 70's and literally the best winter layer that i own). i also have inherited or been gifted yarn, notions, and fabric from various family and friends in the last few years, most of which hasn't been used yet. i always feel like if i'm making an item from materials with a story, the finished item should be able to have stories to match. which inevitably means something that is beautiful and can also be used or enjoyed on a regular (daily) basis, and that i will either use or that will be given to someone else who appreciates it the way that i would. i suppose this just kind of supports my stash/hoarding habits...