Without a doubt, the heartbeat of our brand continues to be our indelible desire to celebrate riotous colour, pattern + texture.
Bringing that desire to life has only been made possible through our ongoing relationship with our skilled + talented network of artisans in India....
Image: Spruce Crafts
India has always been the place we’ve produced. I love travelling there for work; it’s a place full of opportunity and flexibility. No matter how crazy our designs are, there are always artisans ready to accept the challenge and will spend months working through how to do it.
I thought it was about time we gave our artisans a big ol' virtual round of applause and showcase a few of the (completely) hand-made techniques they continue to utilise across our collections.
Our brand might've grown from its humble beginnings, but we will never outgrow our obsession for using the perfectly-imperfect processes + techniques of India's craftspeople.
I've also asked SxC's designer extraordinaire (oh, and my twin sister!), Jemma to give us her insight into the challenges, benefits and beauty behind each technique. The things sisters do......
PERSONALITY OVER PERFECTION | Hand screen-printing
We shun the ol' digital print here at SxC: all of our printed linen is hand screen-printed. You'd be hard-pressed ;-) to find a technique as satisfying, unique and frustrating (!), as the hand screen-printing process.
When we first begun producing our small runs of linen in India, our artisans used the block printing technique as seen in images above.
The end result of block printing is nothing short of stunning, however, it's an arduous process that wasn't conducive to scaling our business; hand screen-printing was the next logical + creative solution for our biz.
Having learnt a heck of a lot about the technique, we thought we'd share what we know so when you look at your SxC linen you may appreciate it on a new + different level, just knowing the work that has gone into producing what is now on your bed/couch/chair!
Before our artisans can even begin their process, Phoebe and Jemma need to finalise their designs to enable our artisans to set up the screens for printing.
Did you know that every colour you see on a print needs to have its own printing screen made? For example, in this 'Loveat' print, 6 colours have been used. That's 6 separate designs and 6 individual screens which need to be created before the printing process can even begin!
To begin with, our European flax linen is rolled out on long tables. A large screen and squeegee, operated by two people, is used to transfer the dye across the screen onto the fabric.
This method of table or flatbed printing uses hand pressure as opposed to machine pressure which results in slight variations throughout the fabrics.
The artisans print every other repeat down the long table to allow for drying time, then they’ll go back and print again in between the repeat. Phew, I'm puffed already.....
The technique of hand screen printing, while being less prone to human error, requires a high level of competence: our artisans who make the press must be familiar with the pigments used and the fabric, to be sure of creating the linen look y'all have come to know + love us for. No pressure guys.
Typically, in India, the art of screen printing is passed down from one generation to the next. It's a respected and noble occupation and perhaps interestingly, most of the artisans are male.
'Carmen' hand screen-printed linen pillowcase in Saltbush
'Loveat' hand screen-printed linen print in flat sheet, fitted sheet + pillowcase
Although the set-up, printing + drying process is time-consuming and has more room for error than digital printing, we wouldn't have it any other way; the depth of print and personality the hand screen printing process brings is truly exceptional.
And to us, products with personalities trump 'perfection' every.single.day.
Jemma Bell, SxC designer/wizard:
"We always incorporate hand screen printed designs into our collections every season.
The pattern is made and then each colour is “separated” out which becomes a screen - one screen for every colour, so some designs have up to 10 screens!
The screens, which are fine mesh with a wooden frame, are exposed, much like developing a photo, and then used to push ink or dye through the mesh and onto the surface of the fabric. This is done by hand and requires a high level of skill…!
Every screen needs to be lined up and registered to match the previous colour… A small knock of the screen and it could print in the wrong place, so patience and an eye for detail is key when screen printing.
Every single quilt cover, pillowcase, flat and fitted sheet we produce are all printed by hand in this way!"
PARTY AT THE BACK, BUSINESS AT THE FRONT | Punch needle
Y'all probably know we love ourselves a whole lotta' texture here at SxC and the punch needle technique ticks aaaallllll the texture boxes plus some!
An intricate process that mimics the look of a looped rug, punch needle gives a piece character + tactility, and let's face it: it's just plain fun to touch and oh-so cosy during these chilly winter months.
For all those (like me!) who get bamboozled at even the *thought* of threading a needle, let me (try!) break down the process of the punch for you.
Image: Ohay Studio
This is a 'punch needle'. It has a metal tip with a hole through it, much like a regular needle. But the needle has a channel through it which the thread or yarn runs through and 'punches' the wool through the fabric, while keeping the needle on the surface.
Got NFI still (yep! me too!)? Then check out this YouTube clip to watch the punch in action.
Punching above her weight: 'Marlow'
No skimping on the textural touch here with our Edna cushion
Punch needling is predominantly used to create artworks, but we just love the way it translates onto our Marlow + Edna cushions.
Aren't you *itching* to run your hands over it?! So plush!
Unlike standard embroidery processes, the punch needle patterns go on the back of the fabric meaning the design will always be in reverse on the front.
Thank goodness we have skilled Artisans taking care of this process, me + my non-crafty hands wouldn't stand a chance.
Oh, and side note: we hand-dye all the wool that is used in these cushions to ensure we can remain true to a collections aesthetic. And you call us perfectionists like it's a bad thing....?
Pinch + a punch for the best cushions of the month!
"Punch Needle embroidery is also now a firm fave of mine and SxC lovers! Small loops of woollen yarn are hooked on to the fabric; the hand-done nature of this technique gives a result which I find truly special.
Each collection we typically release a cushion the size of the Marlow and they always sell like hotcakes.
All of our punch needle products are truly special and I know a lot of people collect them not only because they're 'just' a really comfy cushion, but also because they appreciate them like the work of art they actually are"
WE'RE HOOKED! | Crochet
Attention all NANNA-style lovers — this one's for you!
Crochet is back baby (did it ever leave? Not for us!) and we're *so proud* we can showcase this technique synonymous with the Southern region of India.
Image: The Spruce Crafts
Our hand-dyed cotton is hand-delivered to women in small farming communities who hand-crochet cushions, small motifs + bags for our collections.
Their exceptional talent + skill in this area delivers *the* most impressive outcome....even your forever-crocheting-baby-booties Great Auntie Shirl would be proud!
One of our very own 'Golden Girl', Betty
Add a touch of 'modern-nanna' to your outfit with the 'Gracie' crochet tote bag
Our 'Nancy' cushion features hand-crocheted floral motifs. So fancy!
There is no machine work-around for the art of crocheting, and even if there were we would *hands-down* always choose handmade, there's something indescribably charming about the end result of a product which is crafted predominantly by hand.
As India's population ages many of these skills, like crochet, risk not being passed down through generations as more young people leave to find opportunities away from their villages.
Clearly, we don't know what the future holds for these hand-crafted techniques, but we're *oh-so* humbled we get to celebrate the workmanship from this area + era with you today.
"Another technique that we’ve loved in our latest Tigre collection is hand crochet.
With a serious 70's vibe, the Tigre collection seemed like the right time to get crochet in the mix; we referenced some old-school hand-crocheted blankets (thanks Nanna) and our artisans have done an amazing job in bringing this technique to life.
Crochet is a little like knitting, but you use a crochet hook to interlock the yarns… Works best on patterns with a tiled feel to them, so the Betty Crochet Cushion was the perfect cushion to don this technique!"
NOPE, WE DIDN'T MIS-PRONOUNCE MOUSTACHE ok!? | Soutache
Pronounced Soo-TASH (so you at least *sound* like you know what you're taking about...!).
Image: Blog for Better Sewing
This funny-sounding name for a fabric trim can best be described as a 'narrow, flat decorative' braid.
Historically, its primary use was to conceal seams on clothing, particularly military apparel or used as decorative elements on haute couture garments.
The curved floral motifs on the 'Myrtle' cushion complement the Soutache technique marvellously!
Errghmmm clearly we're not in the military or high-end designer clothing game here at SxC, but we're not ones to play by the rules either: we love using Soutache for decorative purposes, as seen on our marvellous Myrtle cushion.
This little-known technique gives, in this cushion example, an interesting and highly textured visual impact.
The hand-made element in this technique is the application of the braid itself: a pattern is used to layout the design on the cushion which allows our skilled artisans to hand-sew the soutache braid onto the cushion.
We hope they didn't get *too* dizzy applying the braid around 'dem retro-influenced curvy floral motifs!
"As a designer, it's essential to keep challenging yourself and push boundaries by trying some new techniques now and then.
The Soutache embroidery technique was introduced in our Terra collection and we love it: it’s simple, but gives a textural element to the design.
Soutache is done by tacking on hand-coiled “rope” to the surface of the cushion and a great option to create more graphic elements on a design"
WE'RE SEW INTO YOU | Hand embroidery
Appreciation post for the hours of needle + thread used across many of our products. Whether it's beading or needle embroidery we're total suckers for the sensory overload this technique brings to the table.
Bead-utiful! 'Florence' beaded clutch
Q: When does a cushion go from 'just a cushion' to a 'work of art'?
A: When you invest in a craft and want to show it off for the world to see. Just because it's not framed and hung on the wall, doesn't mean it's not a work of art in its own right, right?
There's nothing plain about our finely detailed 'Sally'
Without her hand-embroidered floral motifs, our Sally cushion might've looked a little flat and character-less, don't you think? The devil is in the detail, and we choose the devil every.single.time.
But we don't stop at the ol' needle + thread. Nah-uh: give us all the beads too! Chunky, miniature, colourful, wonky - we love 'em all and will try incorporate them when + where we can, like in our 'Rosie' embellished cushion. If you haven't already guessed it, we're suckers for how needlework and beads bring the texture to the table plus some!
"Throughout the design process, we're always on the lookout for beautiful, hand techniques which will suit the SxC aesthetic…
Often, we can use our own past products as a “technique library” but Pinterest also gets a good work out!
When designing the product, sometimes a certain technique will jump out at you and it seems to fit the design perfectly, other times a product design could be rendered in many ways, so it’s just up to choice.
We try to look at the collection as a whole and make sure we have various ways to create texture and interest, but there are a few favourites we do every season: We always have our beloved Shag cushions with handwoven woollen shag pile; we always love to incorporate a lot of hand embroidery - think the 'Sally' or 'Georgie' embroidered cushions. This hand embroidery technique works really nicely on designs that are a bit more organic - often florals!"
Other Journal posts you may be interested in: