To provide a little more background to my handmade zippered pouches in the Den & Delve Shop, I wanted to share some of the main types of fabrics that I consistently use and am always inspired by. Let’s be honest, the Den & Delve color palette is pretty specific: primarily shades of blue, green and neutrals. To many, these fabrics may all look the same – but to me, the variance of tones, textures, patterns or patina make all the difference, and provide endless options for unique fabric combinations. Over the course of the next couple weeks, we will take a look into several material “categories” that make up the core attributes of my accessories.
First up – obviously one of my favorites… DENIM & INDIGO dyed fabrics play a major part in my creations. For as long as I can remember, blue has been my favorite color. From my (basically entire) wardrobe, to color pops within my neutral grounded home decor, blue is constant and consistent in my life (and what many people identify me with). While its form may change, denim is a timeless fabric, and that is something most people won’t argue. Everyone owns a pair of jeans and probably identifies with denim (or even a specific pair in their life) in one way or another. Meanwhile, indigo dyed fabrics have been prevalent in many cultures for centuries, and their recent popularity is both a blessing and a curse. Still, this doesn’t stop my love of Indigo & Denim and there are always new (old) fabric forms they can be found in.
Vintage Japanese Boro Fabrics are at the top of my list. Literally translated as rags or scraps of cloth, the term boro is also used to describe clothes and household items which have been patched-up and repaired many times. Once something was made, it would be maintained throughout the owner’s lifetime, or perhaps even longer (something we all could learn from in these days of excessive, disposable waste). BORO in general, and this Eastern philosophy of mottainai (too good to waste) is something that actually inspires all of the pouches I make for the Den & Delve Shop. All fabrics I use are vintage or repurposed (with the exception of most linings, although much of this is also dead stock selvedge denim). Every time I purchase vintage boro fabric, there are so many details to discover. Many of these original little artful moments of stitches and patches become the key feature of a pouch, making it truly one of a kind and never to be duplicated in the same way.
A heavily patched and mended boro farmers jacket, or noragi (via ORIME textiles)
Another type of textile that has become increasingly popular are those from (predominantly) West Africa. Countries like Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso have been creating these pieces for centuries with cotton dyed from the indigofera plant. Whether woven into striped patterns or dyed using Shibori-type techniques to produce more intricate designs, these fabrics are rich with color and cultural history. Usually representative of wealth, abundance, and fertility, these cloth panels are used for ritual purposes, to express tribal identity and to show status. And because of the oxidation process involved with indigo dyeing, even solid color textiles produce endless, beautiful shades of blue. Through wear, washing and even repair, these textiles can develop wonderful variances in color and become extremely soft (although often delicate). I’ll never forget the first piece of African Indigo that I purchased (and still have, of course)… Many years ago, while exploring a flea market in London, a friend and I spotted some amazing “denim-looking” fabrics hanging from the edge of a charming, older Frenchman’s stall. Although they honestly smelled a bit like gasoline, they had incredible patterns, authentic wear and tattered edges, and were so, SO soft. Once the Frenchman had it stylishly tossed around my neck as a scarf (in a way I’ll never be able to reproduce) and told me a bit about its origin, we couldn’t resist. (After several laundry cycles later), that “scarf” has been a staple favorite in my wardrobe ever since.
Pictured above is my first (and favorite) piece of African Indigo that I use as a scarf… I love how it continues to age and soften through wear and washing. I’ve also even experimented with some leather trimming at one point.
Some of the “supporting role” fabrics I use (but no less important) are sourced from repurposed garments or found still in their original form, but now considered dead stock (resurfacing many years later after being removed from a place of sale). Flea markets are often my main source for finding ideal types of fabrics of this nature. Vintage ticking stripes in denim or canvas make great lining material and many of my pin-striped indigo fabrics are even cut from old engineer’s overalls or jackets. Repurposed denim comes from vintage workwear clothing, chambray shirting and of course – old Levi’s. Thicker denims are ideal for the contrasting bottom half of pouches, while aged chambray, linen, and men’s vintage cotton shirting fabrics make great pieces for patchwork scarves with their lighter weight and soft textures.
Collecting Denim & Indigo fabrics can get a bit addicting, especially with the appeal of variety – from various degrees of destroyed denim to the endless patterns and prints of the West African cottons. Luckily, the beauty of blue is that they all look fantastic together. Even after completing that perfect pairing with other fabrics to create a pouch, the scraps and remnants are ideal for patchwork, quilting and my own modern-day take on boro techniques. Mottainai! – let none go wasted!