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From Soil to Cloth

Southsea Green is working with a local artist, Alice from Vanderhume, to create a growing space for artistic materials. Alice feels her artwork is an extension of herself and her connection to the Earth. Her work is a proposition for environmental advocation and consumer consciousness; a complete expression of how people must connect back to the meticulous process and inherent meaning behind their clothing and other textiles. 

The textile industry is now one of the major contributors to pollution and waste in the world: From toxic chemicals and harmful byproducts, overconsumption of temporary clothing or fast fashion, overuse of sources of electricity and water, discarded clothing in landfills, the list is seemingly endless. The industries’ processes are filled with these layers of ambiguity, which lead to a lack of public awareness and chronic negligence. 


The project is called From Soil to Cloth. In this growing space, Southsea Green is growing flax plants. Once grown, these flax plants will provide natural linen for Alice’s bespoke artwork. Alice grows her creative materials from soil to reform our modern perspectives on the textiles sphere. She reconnects us to the process behind the piece of art, and the potential meaning one piece of textile can express through its creation. 




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Natural linen is a timeless material, which can maintain its structural integrity for hundreds of years. The linen material often has a creaseless, authentic finish. Moths and insects are less likely to eat plant-based fabrics. This organic form of maintenance means the linen requires little or no use of chemical interventions such as anti-creasing agents or other chemicals such as biocides or preservatives. Flax fibres are therefore a sustainable and long-lasting choice of material. 

About our Project

Alice’s creations are organic and meaningful. Her artwork connects people back to ancient traditions. The land where her flax is grown to extract plant-based fibres is respected. Each creative stage has a special purpose and conscious intention. The textiles themselves are reattached to beliefs and values. For instance, an individual could grow natural linen on land close to their marriage ceremony to create a dress. The way tribes use their textile patterns to have a symbolic presence is not lost in this technical process. These creative means are a literal portrayal of the myriad of questions being put forward to or addressed by the textile industry around the world. Alice’s art enlightens the personal attributes of textiles that have become a lost language to us all. 


Short Story in Garden Newsletter

For the people who traverse the garden’s path, each step becomes as vast and far reaching as the trails and crevices within their curious minds. The visitor stories inevitably embed themselves within this historic soil. An environmental advocate and bespoke artist, Alice Hume, recently shared her exhibition ‘From Soil to Cloth’ at the historic Round Tower. She emphasised the hidden meanings that seep into the soil by planting seeds inside the community garden. The plant fibres would provide a natural linen that would weave patterns into unravelling wall art. Symbolic cloth is a transcribed imagery which emerges throughout the evolution of language. The marks upon textiles hold the essence of an original alphabet, which would communicate and express the sacred meaning of ancient pastimes when communication was still evolving. Examples of this connection can be seen in sentimental pieces belonging to ancient tribes, and the pivotal expression of hieroglyphic alphabets. The art draws the mind towards the lost language and symbolism which surrounds textiles. Textiles is a form of art that can evoke different types of imagery. The patterns and symbols engage the sight; the textures woven into the piece engage the touch; the plant fibre's environmental influence engage the smell; the way the cloth falls engage the organic movement; all of these factors create a sensory experience that bears the meaning of an evolving expression in visual form. The art holds an impression on each of the senses, similar to an experience within the garden in person. The art becomes parallel with nature and the innate meaning of expression. Being part of the exhibition has created another story within the ever-unravelling narrative of the community garden.

Here is an overview of this growing space.


How Southsea Green grows the plant-based linen:

The planting beds are sown with flax seeds. The inner core of this stem contains flax fibres, which can then be spun into natural linen. The flax is planted in March or April and then takes 100 days to grow. During this time, the flax is subject to the natural elements and will evolve differently depending on its environment. For instance, the shade of the flax can vary from a dark brown to a light golden colour. The main stem of the flax plant grows to a height of three or four feet. Once the plant has grown, the plant is laid on the soil and left to ferment for three weeks. This process is called retting: The flax plant soaks in the damp soil and its outer layer becomes porous. The local bacteria then break down the outer layer of the plant and make the inner core of the stem accessible to extract flax fibre. After three weeks, what is left of the main stem is then dried out. The dried flax stem is then exfoliated until the outer layer breaks away completely. This process is called scutching. The inner core flax fibres are extracted from the main stem of the plant. These flax fibres are then combed to separate any further residue from the raw material.  


Alice treats the loom as an extension of herself (or as she would another limb) while she is creating each piece. A personal process of creation. Alice uses a wooden loom she found in a university storage room and then restored to its original state. She weaves her work through the historic loom. While weaving through the loom, she alternates between a set of patterns until the piece is 1-2 metres in length. The patterns provide different shapes and contrasts to the finished appearance depending on what Alice means to express. Patterns are a lost language from ancient times; language originated through the depiction of shapes, for instance, in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The loom has its own alphabet from which Alice writes her story.  Alice also spins her flax fibres through a traditional spinning wheel; she chooses the amount of ply (1, 2, 3, 4) for each piece of yarn. The ply changes the thickness and structure of these patterns, which makes a significant difference to the overall appearance of them. Alice can create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. 


Our team of passionate volunteers are here to help you get involved with gardening and learn more about sustainable methods. We invite you to join us and volunteer to participate in these different gardening activities.

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