The Jacket Project: Local Meets Fair Trade

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles is collaborating on a very special project that transforms fair trade, artisanal fabric from Thailand into one-of-a-kind jackets designed and sewn in Canada.

The Jacket Project brings together TAMMACHAT co-founders Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase with Nova Scotian dressmaker Theresa Eagles to create unique jackets, each a work of art that connects women across the world. Two designs will be available at TAMMACHAT's November 2012 shows in Nova Scotia.

See photos of the first jackets in our blog post here.

Ellen loves her new indigo jacket!

This is the first organic silk jacket created as part of The Jacket Project.
It combines a silk dyed with stick lac with a beautiful,
ikat (mudmee) fabric, traditionally woven
to be worn as a wrap skirt.

Another organic silk jacket features fancy buttons
and will look great with a silk scarf.

Theresa and Alleson enjoy a break on
a beautiful Nova Scotian fall day.

The Jacket Project's goals are:
  • to bring together the artistry of handwoven cloth created by talented Thai artisans with the creative design and sewing skills of our Canadian team
  • to enjoy the collaboration, the design process and the excitement of transforming the cloth into wearable art
  • to support rural craftswomen -- both in Thailand and Canada

Woven in Thailand, designed and handcrafted in Canada

Theresa's skilled hands guide the fabric.
Made from organic silk or cotton fabric handwoven by women artisans in Thailand, the jackets are designed and handcrafted in Canada. Details from Chinese coin layered buttons to intricately patterned ikat panels, along with the subtle variations in handwoven cloth, make each jacket unique. French seams are used in the silk jackets.

The textured, organic cottons are spun by hand, then dyed with authentic indigo. The highly skilled silk artisans raise heritage varieties of silkworms and create the hand-reeled yarns in their villages, not in factories. Each piece of fabric is woven by hand, using these artisanal yarns, and transformed into a jacket that displays its artistry. See how the cloth is made in the photos below.

Our first jackets -- a collection of handspun, indigo organic cotton and organic silks -- will debut in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Nov. 10 at TAMMACHAT's Ethical Gift Show - Halifax. They will also be available in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia on Nov. 24 at TAMMACHAT's Ethical Gift Show - Mahone Bay.  This small collection of unique jackets will be available only at TAMMACHAT shows.

Theresa loves working with the ikats (known as mudmee in Thailand).
Each piece of ikat fabric is a work of art in itself.

Theresa lays out each piece carefully to use
the cloth most effectively.

TAMMACHAT works with a dozen women’s weaving groups in Thailand and Laos, visiting them each year to discover new textiles and design new products. These artisan groups continue to practice traditions passed from mother to daughter for generations. The Jacket Project uses fabric from 3 of these artisan groups.

Theresa Eagles, who worked for Suttles and Seawinds in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia for 20 years and sews with well-known artist Kate Church, brings years of experience to the project.

The indigo and ikat artisans
Ellen enjoys the ikat artisans
who create designs large and small.

This artisan skillfully ties the yarns
into an ikat pattern before dyeing.

The dye maker stirs the pot of locally grown
indigo leaves.

Tied yarns are dyed with indigo,
then the strings are removed.

The intricate pattern emerges as the cloth is woven.

Aew, who helps these weavers market
their handwoven products, takes a break with Alleson.

Alleson and Aew discuss designs with the artisans.

This piece of ikat fabric is used in our cotton jackets.

The silk artisans and their organic silk cloth

Mulberry trees and bushes are grown organically.
Leaves are fed to heritage varieties of silkworms
who eat voraciously for a month and must be tended carefully
until they are ready to spin their cocoons.

This artisan reels (unravels) the cocoons by hand,
creating fine silk yarns that are
then twisted to strengthen them.

Local dye materials colour the silk yarns:
young coconut, jackfruit wood, butterfly pea flowers.

Award-winning yarns show hues only nature can offer.

Artisans use traditional floor looms,
made locally from tropical hardwood
and sustainably harvested bamboo.
Both cotton and silk are woven on these looms.

Cerise organic silk, coloured with stick lac, an insect resin,
is used in several of our silk jackets.

This golden silk is shot -- the weft yarns are
coloured with coconut husks and
the warp remains an undyed cream colour --
giving depth to the cloth.

Our thanks to:
  • Pattanarak Foundation (through whom we first met Aew) and Napafai, Aew's social enterprise that works with the indigo ikat weavers
  • Panmai Group and Prae Pan Group, the Thai women's weaving co-operatives that create the handloomed organic silk and cotton fabrics
  • Theresa Eagles -- for the pleasure of working together
  • Wayne Eagles -- for the photos of Theresa's working hands
  • Kate Church -- for introducing us to Theresa
You can learn more about these and our other artisan partners in our Blurb books, free to preview and available in hardcover, softcover and as ebooks.