“When I started researching cotton, I learned that it’s the most heavily sprayed agricultural crop,” says textile artist Leah Weinstein, who had already been using recycled materials for her quilted art. As demand for her handcrafted quilts grew, the search for fairly traded, certified organic cotton took Weinstein to India in 2004, where she now sources her eco-friendly fabrics.
In India, Weinstein also delved into the art of natural dyeing. “I was really interested in collecting the plants and doing the dying myself,” says Weinstein. “I discovered that India is where abundant colour in natural dyes can come from.”
The soothing blue hues derived from indigo are Weinstein’s favourites. But vibrant colours can be derived from natural sources, too. Madder root yields burnt orange-red tones, and pomegranate rind and turmeric roots turn fabric a golden yellow.
Home sewers and crafty types can purchase Tenfold’s natural textiles for creating their own eco-friendly items. And Weinstein, along with her brother Paul, have also launched Truly Organic Apparel (www.truly-organic.com), a line of organic clothing for men and women.
Weinstein still continues to practice the “slow craft” of quilt-making in her Nelson studio. Though the work is labour-intensive, the rare and unique quilts and cushion covers are made to last. The natural designs that decorate the quilts are mostly inspired by trees, an homage to Weinstein’s days spent working as a tree planter. Birds and feathers also figure prominently in her work, but the designs and colours are kept simple.
“I really love minimalist and modern design,” says Weinstein. “I go for that with my quilts. I like to make it about the fabric.”