Weaving for Zoo-Islander 2020

My second year of contributing to the Zoo-Islander Fashion show was inspired by the four elements- earth, fire, air, and water. I was drawn to create dresses, but I also ended up making shawls, capes, pants, a halter top, skirt, jacket, and a tunic style top- most of which were modified designs as I went along. My formula for designing the outfits was to start with a basic sense of the element, and gradually shift into a mixing up of elements into a more choatic creation, representing an evolution of the elements as they mix and mingle. The last outfit of each element is a transition into the next element.

Earth- starting with the simplest of design in earth tones, I felt these pants and shawl had a very hobbit-ish style. “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.

Earth Goddess Cloak~ “Nature lives within her, entwined in divine beauty with all of nature. She is the seed that can grow into a beautiful forest, and every breath she takes is a new season of wonder.” – Lourdes Alexander

Rooted Dress~ “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Starlight Tunic~ “Thus, when the lamp that lighted the traveller at first goes out, He feels awhile benighted, And looks around in fear and doubt. But soon, the prospect clearing, By cloudless starlight on he treads, And thinks no lamp so cheering As that light which heaven sheds.” – Charles Lamb

Fire- The first two shawls I regret that I didn’t capture the actual model in them! I began with the Candlelight Shawl~ the basic beginnings of fire captured as candles provide a light of sacred vigilance, of wakefulness in difficult times, drawing us closer to the divine balance of light and dark, drawing protection and courage while sitting in peace and commemoration.

Hearth fire~ Traditionally, the hearth was the heart of the home, where, in the time before electricity, winter was kept at bay and families gathered in the early darkening of the days to share stories and food. The Hearth was the center of the winter dormancy, blazing with hope for the returning of spring.

Embers~ “The burning embers within me burst into flame / My body becomes a fire lit torch. / Ho someone! Send for the mid-wife.” -Amrita Pritam

Fire Dance Dress~ “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” – Martha Graham

I was not able to find the appropriate quote for the transition fire/air outfit. For the Zoo-Islander fashion show, it had the lengthy title of “Quickly Melting Orange and Raspberry Gelato on a Hot Summer Day at the Beach”. It was in the fire portion of the collection, representing the heat and energy of the sun. Yesterday in my garden, I was so in love with the ripening peaches next to the towering pink tones of the hollyhocks, and I thought the title could also be “Peaches and Hollyhocks Ripening in the Garden Under a Bright Sun on a Beautiful Summer Day”. Celebrating the energy of the sun as it pumps life into our plants and bodies- fruit, food, and flowers… and yes gelato.

Beginning with the Breath Dress~ “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wind Shawl~ “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.” -Khalil Gibran

Moth Wings~

There is a kind of white moth, I don’t know
what kind, that glimmers
by mid-May
in the forest, just
as the pink moccasin flowers
are rising.

If you notice anything,
it leads you to notice
more
and more.

From The Moths, by Mary Oliver

Waterfall Tunic (just as much air as water)~ “To trace the history of a river or a raindrop is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both, we constantly seek and stumble upon divinity, which like feeding the lake, and the spring becoming the waterfall, feeds, spills, falls, and feeds itself all over again.” – Gretel Ehrlich

River Dress~ “Across the wall of the world, /A river sings a beautiful song, /Come rest here by my side.”
-Maya Angelou , from On The Pulse Of Morning

Ocean Horizon Jacket~ “The deep roar of the ocean. The break of waves on farther shores that thought can find. The silent thunders of the deep. And among it, voices calling, and yet not voices, humming trillings, wordlings, and half articulated songs of thought.” -Douglas Adams

Sea Sparkle Dress~ “I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the Earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colourful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.” -Sally Andrew

Zoo-Islander 2020 took place Feb 29th, and I think it was our last major community event that took place before Covid came into our world. I am so grateful for these kinds of celebrations that we have created as a community, that have become precious memories of collective creative efforts that shape and define our lives… now that I have lived a whole year without these events, I am even more deeply moved by the priviledge of involvement. Zoo-Islander 2021 will be an online event happening at Easter. I am looking forwards to the next amazing gathering in the name of island fashion!

Zoo-Islander Fashion Show 2019

Generally speaking, the Southern Gulf Islands are full of enterprising creative people, who are always keen to have an excuse to get together and stage uniquely islandish events thought up from quirky impulses that often spin into tradition. (Disclaimer for the other half of the Islanders who live here to hide away in introverted solitude and bliss!)

One such event birthed in 2017- Penders’ Zoo-Islander Fashion show. The original concept was inspired by the treasures of our small isle’s thrift store, the Nu-Tu-Yu, and the notion of abundant creative local fashion that need not come through the chains of factories and pollutant textile industry practices, but by that which exists already within reach of our rural setting. The idea was to invite members of the community to participate either by presenting a whole runway collection of outfits, volunteering to model for a designer, or merely to put together a single outfit and join in with a collective runway. Age, size, shape, material, theme, music, and application was not confined in anyway- and what we witnessed and created was a uproarous fury of chaos, surprise, and wonder, as familiar faces paraded by clothed in plastic bags, braziers, foam sculpture, space suits, leather warrior vests, garlands of salal, glow in the dark boots and gloves, wetsuits, and a wild carousel of wigged cabaret corsets.

The second year I found myself a model on 6 runways, stripping between them from steam punk to fortune teller, bio-luminescence to golden street attitude. The third year I hesitantly decided to attempt to weave a “few” outfits for a runway collection of my own. I ended up fitting 16 of my friends and family into variously constructed experiments of woven creative impulses and choreographing their display to 12 minutes of music scoured over for the perfect thematic fit.

The theme I was working with was Dusk to Dawn. The outfits followed the nightly timeline starting with the sunset, through era, style, and concept, right into the rise of the next morning.

  1. Sunset Gaze… inspired by the colours of sunset and the intention of heading out to watch the shifting play between the sky elements. Along the way this dress took on a bit of a 60’s mod feel.
  2. Boho Poetry- a vest I made a few years ago, but it didn’t fit me very well so I put it aside and didn’t know if it was wearable. I added beads to the long fringe and it turned into a bohemian outfit perfect for your Soho evening cafe poetry reading.
  3. Night Lights On Water… you can interpret that as a harbour in the city or a lake or ocean under the moon… we decided that she was on her way to a jazz club.
  4. Victorian Business- Stepping out of his carriage in his wool overcoat, he tips his hat to his driver as he heads across the cobblestone road to the dimly lit restaurant where he hopes his business partner has secured a table.
  5. Rave. I was interested in bringing in a sense of the big city and all the neon lights and reflective windows, and I ended up with this capelet and leg warmers. Worked fantastically with the black light, too!
  6. Moving from the world of human activity up into the night heavens with this Moon Goddess. Lots of raw silk and shifting hues. She also has a small satellite of her own, so it was a kind of planetary representation as well.
  7. Planetary Satellite, like if the moon had a moon, and maybe somewhere in the galaxy there is a moon with a moon, because really the possibilities are endless.
  8. Staying with the night sky, we had the Aurora Borealis float by in shimmering purples and greens. I made this last year with the aurora in mind, so it was an easy pick for the fashion show!
  9. Naturally at night we go to bed, so I made an outfit that represented a Pillow & Blanket. Often in the winter I will wrap a small wool blanket around myself in the evening, and so I made a small blanket in which to use for this outfit, and I made a little shrug with angora, linen and cotton, attempting to make it a little pillow like.
  10. Cosmic Cloak- I am always inspired by stars, galaxies, nebulas, black holes, and all that beautiful chaos that makes up our universe. Hidden by day, yet always present.
  11. Shifting into the dream realm, we have Rainbow Warrior… basically I wanted to make a kind of dress with rainbow yarn and white yarn meeting in the middle, but it reminded me of a knight’s tunic when I put it together, but it was for Geneva so I thought of Joan of Arc, and then I made rainbow gauntlets to go with it. Classic example of the weaving finding it’s own way with my ideas.
  12. Midnight Mantle- originally inspired by folklore images of a woman pulling a blanket of night across the sky, tucking us in for the night, this cloak took on a mystical and timeless realm. Made from recycled silk and cotton dresses ripped into strips.
  13. Hunter- what can I say, he wanted to wear a cloak and carry a bow. I am grateful that my 13 year old son was so keen on being in my runway. This cloak was the perfect use for a whole bunch of hand spun wool that I made and then tucked away a few years ago.
  14. Early Morning Traveller Walking Through A Misty Birch Forest. I was glad to have some more male representation. Variety is everything.
  15. Early dawn begins with the songs of all the Morning Songbirds… and so I represented chickadees, wrens, towhees, robins, and juncos in a jumble of multi-songbird colours.
  16. New Day ☀️ Because each night finally ends… and sometimes when I wake up there is a moment when the details of the day have not yet come to me, and I grasp the last threads of sleep with an awareness of the new days’ clear beginning. An uncluttered presence. This dress was woven using a white cotton fitted bedsheet torn into strips, with the elastic cut from the edge creating the wrapped belt.

Many of these pieces have been sold, deconstructed and reconstructed, or remain as strange concoctions packed down in the depths of storage. I am super grateful for the Zoo-Islander team who put all the details together so I could, along with a line-up of designers, let my imagination loose upon the residents of Pender Island.

Here is a video clip of my runway from Zoo-Islander 2019.

Winter Collection~ Blending Angora

drum carderIn the past few months, I have been blending my collected angora fibre with a variety of other fibres.  After changing out the cloth on my old drum carder to one that has a higher tpi (tooth per inch), which is better for finer fibres such as angora, I started with alpaca roving, which is very soft and also white, the same as my angora.  It carded and spun up beautifully!  I moved on to using a heavier merino wool that was hand painted in shades of light blue and purple, which became more diffused when I added the angora, but which held a lovely softness.  I also tried out some long staple llama locks in auburn, which produced a heavier weighted blend.  Lastly, I have blended the angora with a black merino wool, which gave a very tweed-ish grey, and was still very soft.  Here are some photos of replacing the carding cloth on my drum carder.  I took the whole thing apart, and pried off the old cloth.  The new cloth was cut to the correct length and stapled back onto the large drum, as well as the small one.  It was important to notice the tooth direction when putting the cloth on!  (Teeth at the top of the drum need to bend away from the loading tray).  Everything got a good cleaning before putting it all back together.

Making a blend on the drum carder-  I didn’t do any specific ratio measurements, as I am still getting a feel for how much angora I need to include at a minimum to still have a predominant angora feel.  I have been estimating a half and half ratio to start.

Generally, I loaded the tray and carded it through, doing about three loads before I pulled the batt off the large drum.  Then I carded the whole batt through once again very slowly, letting it spread out while it was pulled in to get a smooth, overall mix of the two fibres.  I didn’t take any photos while I was spinning it!  Here are some scarves I wove with the yarn from that combination, and a skein of angora/alpaca in which I spun little coloured bits.

I am very excited about exploring more options with the angora I am getting from my rabbits.  The neutral colours of the angora are flexible with colour combinations, and the added softness and warmth are simply divine!  These and other creations are for sale on my etsy store~ Silver Circle Weaving.  I also look forward to having all my weaving for sale at the Christmas Craft Fair at the community hall on Pender Island this weekend!

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