dyeing with woad

Woad (isatis tinctoria) blooms early, tall stalks with lots of tiny yellow flowers.

woad flowers

It’s a biennial plant. The best colour comes from first year leaves.

woad leaves 2018

Woad was used for centuries in Europe and the Middle East to get a light-fast blue. The introduction of more efficient indigo plants from Eastern Asia spurred bans in 16th century France and Germany, to protect the lucrative woad industry.

woad water

The leaves are soaked and strained, the water made alkaline and aerated.

vat foam

The pigment is reduced, giving a bath with hints of blue in the foam.

woad vat oct 2018

The blue magically appears after the cotton is taken out of the vat and exposed to the air.

woad in air

woad scarves oct 2018



canary clothes care

All Canary clothes can be machine washed and dried, in any temperature.

Fabrics are always pre-washed, ensuring no surprise shrinkage.

Nothing requires dry-cleaning. Just water and the most eco-friendly soap you can find.

canary bath

Because the fabrics are organic, and Canary-tested, they do not contain formaldehyde or other harsh chemicals and permanent resins typically used on non-organic clothing.

Star shirt

Dundas/Hamilton band The Dirty Nil’s Luke Bentham got in touch a few weeks ago about making a shirt. Here’s the results!!

Luke wins the Juno!!!

Using dyed fabric was the one down side but anyways….we started on a design and ordered some nice Japanese cotton.

star 1

Luke talked about a lightning bolt and I got out my Manuel Cuevas book to check out this suit, made for REM’s Mike Mills. He told me about going to Manuel’s shop in Nashville, meeting the Master himself, and trying on some of the State Jackets that are in the book too.



We also looked at the skull on an early Manuel, and the pinnacle, Gram Parsons’ poppy suit, made by Manuel while he was still working at Nudie’s in Hollywood.



Manuel, still working at 83, has done so many iconic looks, from The Man in Black, to Dwight Yoakum’s piped boleros and ripped skinny jeans, and years of collaborations with his friend, westernwear and old time country music champion Marty Stuart.


20170403_184604  20170403_184444

Somehow (LOL) The MC5 came up and the white panther, symbol of the alt-left movement in the late 60s.

MC5 posterJC_sinclair


This is the Cornely A5 chainstitch embroidery machine that I got in Detroit, which is of course the MC5’s home town.

cornely star

Most of the embroidery is done with natural organic cotton thread.


After a few late nights, Luke and Parkside came to pick it up. Next thing, he’s winning awards and hanging out with Kiefer Sutherland.


Kiefer’s father Donald grew up in the town I’m from, Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. Not far from where Nudie suit pioneer Hank Snow was from.

Luke Star  Luke Bolt

Kick out the jams!

the virtues of organic cotton


Organic designation carries a lot of significance. It promises virtues that are tangible and desirable but generally invisible. Labelling claims range from legitimate to unregulated, creating a consumer landscape filled with a mix of reality, good intentions and greenwashing.

gotslogo          OEKO-TEX

Certifications like GOTS and Oeko-Tex apply to textiles. They are helpful for many reasons. Their guidelines are vast and continue to evolve. Consumers are responsible for knowing what they mean, including, for instance, that products can be certified which are not 100% organic, or even 100% natural fibres.

USDA_organic small        label_soil_association

To further complicate matters, some textiles also use food-oriented certification logos like USDA or OSA.

organic          organic-cotton-certified-

It’s also important to know that nothing prevents garment manufacturers from using generic logos like these, which can mean anything from “legitimately organic” to “buyer beware”.

organic_cotton_infographic - Copy

“The organic cotton difference”  post also shows some of the ways organic cotton differs from ‘conventional”. Because of various information campaigns, consumer interest, and adverse health effects, awareness of things like formaldehyde being routinely coated onto non-organic fabric is increasing.


It is rather incredible but hardly unbelievable to see labels like this:

wrinkle free organic

It’s not just the wrinkle-free fabrics that are saturated with toxins designed to never wash out. A 2015 Swedish study found that even organic cottons can contain problematic dyes and finishes, practices that pretty much negate the whole purpose of organic. This is not surprising, as many organic clothes are dyed, printed, and made in unregulated facilities that also produce non-organic goods.

In theory, “organic” is supposed to indicate less toxic processes from seed to fabric, and then, from fabric to finished garment.


The two main advantages of organics are the same for both food and textiles: environmental impacts of production (including the health and well-being of workers), and health benefits for consumers who use the products. The Textile Exchange’s 2014 “Life Cycle Assessment of Organic Cotton Fibre” shows substantial differences in carbon footprint and water use in organic production.

LCA study

The health benefits of organic diet and farming were the focus of a 2017 Harvard School of Public Health report. Similar principles apply to textiles and clothing. While most textile research and initiatives focus on environmental concerns, like Greenpeace’s Toxic Threads campaign, others, like the Stockholm study, are about human health problems directly caused by toxins in clothes.


Given the large number of substances and variables involved, it’s practically impossible to quantify the total health effects of clothing. The most measurable are different kinds of contact allergy reactions to textiles, found mostly in occupational statistics and journal articles like this one from 2015.


Anecdotally, textile dermatitis is on the rise, and often misdiagnosed or dismissed. My own dye allergy was incorrectly assessed at first, and eventually diagnosed as one of the worst ever seen by a dermatologist who also works at a prominent occupational health clinic. One upside of this debilitating condition was having the ability to make my own clothes, which I combined with a longtime interest in organic fibres and environmental impacts of textile production to make the Canary brand.



canary branch