Travel Inspiration: My Crazy Life In Textiles

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7 years ago I graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a four year Degree in Journalism. But something I don’t talk about very much is that my initial major was actually Apparel Design (it then became my minor). Clothing and textiles have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been sewing them together into my own designs since I was 5 years old. The daughter of a seamstress, it’s not shocking that I would have an interest in sewing or design. But as I’ve grown older I’ve become more and more interested in the cultures behind the textiles I’m drawn to.

I have a pretty broad ethnic heritage, so there’s a lot to draw off within my own family history. But more than anything, I love seeing the history and stories of textiles when I’m traveling. When I was in Scotland, a couple months ago, I was mesmerized by the National Museum‘s textile exhibits in Edinburgh. If you haven’t been, I would highly suggest visiting, especially if you have an interest in fashion, textiles or the history of women’s clothing.

This week I thought it would be fun to do a bit more research into some of my favorite textile trends. All of these textiles are from cultures that I’m descended from, and they’re each very important to me. The beauty of being tri-racial (it’s a word, just go with it) is that I get to enjoy all of these beautiful cultures, simultaneously. Luckiest girl? I like to think so.

 

Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway) 
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If you know me you know that I love floral patterns more than life. Maybe it has to do with my hippy 4-H childhood, or maybe just my love for nature and the beauty of plant life, but I have too many floral dresses in my closet to count. I’ll attribute some of this, from the artistic point of view, to the Scandinavian side of my family.

My mom’s side of the family is very proud (like seriously, they never stop talking about it) Norwegian and Dane. I haven’t been to Norway before, but I did go to Denmark about a month ago and I guess I kind of understand the hype, now. After all, it’s literally one of the happiest places on earth. Another great way of experiencing a “next best thing to authentic” Scandinavian experience, for those of you in the PNW, is for your to visit the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. Like seriously, it’s amazing and definitely worth carving our a few hours to walk through.

Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations

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It’s probably not shocking to you that Native American textiles are something that can (and probably will) take your breath away. They’re some of the oldest and most brilliant designs we know of, and I’m proud that this is a part of my heritage. Native American textiles have always been something I’ve been in love with, and it’s a large part of my personal style, as well as the aesthetic I bring to my art. I love bold colors, and I love intricate details that take hours and hours and hours to complete.

Although I’m quite a bit Native American, these are the cultures I talk about the least. There’s a reason for that. Since I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, with my mom’s family, I haven’t had as much exposure to a lot of my southern roots. Ethnically, however, I have DNA ties back to both Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) tribes.

 

African American 

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African American heritage, of course, is a mixture of African culture and the resources that were available in the land slaves were brought to. While it’s harder to pinpoint specific designs as being part of my family’s history, there has always been a part of me in love with the intricate simplicity behind designs I do have access to. African designs, as well, are something I love, especially the boldness of of the textiles. As a seamstress is the culture of quilts and quilting and storytelling has also captivated me from childhood. Although I am definitely “beginner status” I love quilting, and if I had more time it would definitely make into my life, more.

I may not be able to trace my roots back to exact spots in Africa (yet), but I am able to love and reflect on the culture that arose from the ashes of slavery.

 

Have a favorite textile, pattern or period of clothing? Comment in the section below and let me know! 

My Not So Guilty Pleasure: Ireland

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You all may have noticed that I have a tiny obsession (okay, maybe not so tiny) with the little island of Ireland. Why, you might ask, have I imprinted so deeply on a country where the sheep population is about par with the human? The answer? I like sheep. Also, because so many of the “selling points” of Ireland, aren’t that at all – they’re just simply truths. No sales, no manipulation needed to get you there. It’s one of the rare things in life that really is as good (if not better) than people say.  Not convinced? Here’s a taste

First off, the people in Ireland really are as nice and welcoming as you hear. I’ve never known someone to travel to Ireland and to not have a welcoming experience. I remember hearing  a story in the hostel I was staying in, a while back, about a girl who had asked an elderly lady for some travel/map help in Dublin and the woman had hopped on the tram with her and took her all the way to her destination. Having lived in Paris, a city founded on briskness, and Seattle, which is known for its “freeze” – it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the welcoming arms of the Irish.

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One of my favorite things is that, in Ireland, the scenery really is as beautiful as it looks, and what’s better, you can travel across the country and back in a day to see it.  I’ve taken so many tour bus trips while in Ireland (and plan on taking more), just because one of the best things in the world is sitting on a bus hearing stories about Ireland from Irish natives. Not only do you learn things you might not otherwise learn, while your my face is pushed up against the window, but you also get a great way to meet other travelers and become acquainted with the country (which is especially perfect if you’re running short on time).

The food in Ireland is another thing I’m in love with. Fun fact: they don’t only eat potatoes, so get that garbage idea out of your head. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was while I was in Galway and Dublin. To be fair, I do have an overwhelming love of hearty food that fills you up, makes you want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep with a tranquilly sublime smile on your face – which might not be your thing. I don’t know? Who am I to judge? Also, not just a stereotype, grab some seafood while you’re in Ireland. Such prime dishes.

If you know me well, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, as a rule. There are several reasons for this, but the long and short of it is that I’m probably allergic, and I have no desire to pass out in random places after having half a glass. The exception to my rule of drinking is in Ireland, where I absolutely allow myself to indulge in a half pint (which normally I can’t even finish – don’t judge me) of Guinness. I’ve tried it outside of Dublin and it just IS NOT the same. You really have to go straight to the source to fill up on the silky smooth goodness that is Dublin Guinness. Take it from me – if you’re gonna drink: do it in Ireland.

And while you’re drinking, you should probably/most definitely plan on enjoying some amazing music. As a former Irish step dancer, and a Irish music addict, I can promise you that going to the source, once again, really as rewarding as you might think. Whether it’s some more traditional music, or some more contemporary, the Irish know music (and don’t even get me started on storytelling) as well as they know beer. Although you probably would have trouble escaping it, make sure to enjoy some great live music while you’re visiting – and don’t be afraid to sing along.

Lastly, I’ll wrap up the same way I began this loving tale. Have I mentioned sheep, before? Okay, so I love sheep – yes yes, we all know. But mainly the reason I love sheep is because I LOVE wool, and I love all the beautiful things that happen with wool when you knit, weave, crochet and worship it (is that just me? Oh…). Irish wool really can only be matched (perhaps) by the fibers of Scotland (but they actually do have more sheep than people, so really you can’t blame them) and I love every bit I’ve ever bought. If you happen to land on the Emerald Isle, I would highly suggest that you grab some gloves, hats, scarves – or all of the above. Especially if your body tends to keep you in a state of perpetual cold, like me, the items that you get are sure to (like the whole damn country – do you get the point, yet!?) warm your heart.

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