Stories

Laundering Linen

By Justine Tabak

Laundering Linen

After talking so much about my love of linen in recent weeks and having included so many linen pieces in this season, I wanted to talk a little about caring for it so that it lasts a lifetime. Linen is such a versatile and low-maintenance fabric, being both beautiful in its irregularity and hardy enough to keep up with the wonderful messiness of busy lives. Whether covered in flour from baking, paint splattered in the studio or speckled with dirt from picnics in the park, linen washes quickly and easily and if anything gets better with age. Here are a few of my top tips for looking after your linen:

 

Washing

  • Linen fibres are actually most strong when wet, so can easily hold up in the washing machine.
  • Cool wash your linen - I recommend 30 degrees. Whilst all my linen has been preshrunk and treated, it's both better for the linen fibres and the environment. Because linen fibres are so smooth stains are easily removed, so high temperatures aren't necessary. 
  • Linen is highly absorbent; perfect for summer dresses, but needs to be considered when washing as it can soak up twice its weight before dripping. Make sure there is plenty of room in the drum.
  • Use fabric softener if preferred ( but not necessary)

 

Drying

  • I find my dresses age best when I tumble dry them as it keeps the dresses soft and floppy and creases just hang out. Use a warm setting, not too cold and not too hot.

  • In the summer, I like to hang my dresses outside on the line. This lets the creases fall out (although a few creases in the right places help to give linen that body and effortless charm - see below), and also gives them that summer fresh smell and looks lovely hanging in the garden.

 

 

Creasing, not Ironing 

  • Sometimes before I wear my dresses I 'twist' my linen to give it the right sort of creases. A strategic twist removes any harsh creases whilst giving a gently wave to the fabric that gives it more movement and body when on. See the photo below for the two different 'twist knots' that I use.
  • If you like a crisper dress you can iron it, just make sure you do so on the reverse first to remove the creases whilst damp, then on the front.
  • Linen softens with age, so the longer you wear it, wash it and love it the floppier and comfier it gets. Gathers ripple smoothly, the fabric relaxes into the curves of your body. Linen is truly meant to be worn over a lifetime, improving in beauty with age just as the women who wear it.

 

 

I hope this has been helpful and encourages you to wear your linen pieces again and again.

Justine x

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Fashioned from Nature

By Justine Tabak

Fashioned from Nature

Last Monday, lovers of linen industry-wide gathered at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to celebrate the launch of the wonderful 'I Love Linen' campaign. With the support of major brands such as John Lewis, Designers Guild, Toast and Jigsaw, and planting a field of flax in the grounds of Chelsea School of Art, the campaign is sponsoring the new exhibition, 'Fashioned from Nature' at the V&A.  And so, on a sunny spring evening, I was lucky enough to attend the private view of the exhibition as well as enjoying an evening with friends of flax.

I'd thoroughly recommend the exhibition, a showcase of designs from history to now using yarns, fabrics and prints inspired and created from natural materials alongside a modern statement of where we need to respect our natural environment through sustainable choices and longevity in our clothes. There are some truly beautiful pieces both from the archives and from cutting edge crafters. On show were delicate laces, hand hewn embroideries, block printing and incredible couture cutting through to modern technical innovation, deconstructed design and recycled clothes.
On a more personal note, for the private view, we were honoured that the girls from team 'I Love Linen' all wore dresses from my new spring collection, an amazing compliment when they had a whole raft of other prestigious brands they could have worn, being chuffed would have been an understatement!


Here are some of my highlights from the exhibition. The movement towards sustainability and ethical practice has come to the fore in recent years, and although there is still far to go, an exhibition like this which focuses on using natural resources, charting our history with nature as an industry and highlighting the pioneers who are trying to push fashion forward in a sustainable way is a huge statement of positive movement and a testament to the power we have to make change. I'm so proud to be even a tiny part of this wave of change, aiming to make clothes in a simple, local way with beautiful natural fabrics, particularly linen that only needs water and sunshine to grow with no nasties.
I hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you can make it, do visit the exhibition which is on now until 29th January 2019.


Justine x  

 
 

Made in Lancashire 

In Britain, cotton manufacturing was based in Lancashire. By the 1780s, the inventions that enabled cotton threads to be spun mechanically had been discovered. The tall mills which housed the machines transformed the landscape in the North. Early spinning mills, like Richard Arkwright's mill at Cromford in Derbyshire, were powered by water.

Remodelled and Re-used

The British cotton from which this dress is made is block-printed with trails of flowers. The dress was later altered to give it a more fashionable appearance. Garments from this period often show signs of updating and repair. Clothing was valued and not disposed of so readily as today. The original 'slow fashion.'

The Human Cost of Progress

In 1858 William Henry Perkin opened a chemical factory in northwest London. There he manufactured aniline purple, later called mauveine. Silk absorbed the dye well, but dyeing cotton could not be done without mordants (fixing agents). 

Synthetic azo dyes (derived from the chemical compound benzidine) did not need mordants to fix them to cotton. However, benzidine was toxic, causing dermatitis and an increased risk of bladder cancer.

 

 

Buy Less, Care and Repair

'Jumpers provide me with a site for direct actions,' says artist and maker Bridget Harvey. 'Their body-like forms [can be] recast as messengers to communicate discourses of repair, protest and activism. MEND MORE Jumper was initially made as a placard for the Climate March in 2015, and has since been an aid for dialogue and social engagement.'

Changing Seas

Environmental impact is challenging to measure. The first two satellite images from 2000 and 2014 show the Aral Sea in central Asia. It began to shrink after two rivers - the Amu Darya and Syr Darya - were diverted to irrigate cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In 2005 Kazakhstan built a dam to protect the North Aral Sea. 

The loss of the South Aral Sea has had devistating social and environmental impacts. Yet the third photograph from 2017 shows signs of the eastern lobe of the South Aral Sea returning because of higher than average rainfall and snowmelt. Whether that renewal will continue, or the lake will entirely disappear, remains to be seen.

Many thanks and congratulations to the I Love Linen campaign! A gentle reminder - I'm continuing my special promotion to celebrate the campaign, so please do use the following code up until the 14th May for 10% off all linen pieces:

ILOVELINEN10

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I Love Linen

By Justine Tabak

I Love Linen

What beautiful weather we are having this week! I hope you are managing to enjoy the sunshine, we certainly deserve it after the awful March we had. 

You may have noticed how much of this season's collection is linen. I absolutely love linen; it's timeless, natural and I love the texture with its uneven slubs and grain, taking colour so well from natural dyes to bright colour pops. Moreover, it's a really sustainable fabric, growing quickly with just water so no nasty pollutants and zero waste. Not only does it's quality lend itself perfectly for my designs, creating easy effortless shapes for everyday dressing, but it's sustainable nature fits perfectly with my ethos of trying to create a brand with a conscience. Having used linen for recent seasons, I was thrilled to be contacted by the I Love Linen campaign to work together to promote and celebrate linen within the UK. 

The I Love Linen campaign launched on 13th April to celebrate Europe's most sustainable, innovative and local fabric and has an exciting month ahead of them. The jewel in the crown is their sponsorship of the V&A's new exhibition 'Fashioned by Nature', collaborating with brands up and down the country who love linen, from John Lewis to Brora, Jaeger and Designers Guild, they'll be working hard to spread the love. I'm proud to be accompanying some of these world famous brands.

As part of this celebration I'll be sharing with you my journey with I Love Linen, starting next week with a guide on how to best care for your linen products and a sneak peak behind the private view of the V&A's 'Fashioned from Nature' exhibition. For now, please do follow the I Love Linen instagram account @wearelinen, and sign up to their wonderful blog called the Sunday Linen which is a treat to read on a Sunday morning. 

For this special period of 'linen love' I'd like to offer you a special 10% discount on all things linen from the new collection whilst the campaign is running. Please use the following code at the checkout until 13th May:

ILOVELINEN10

I'll be giving out linen seeds with every order too so you can grow some flax in your garden at home! Alternatively, if you find yourself around Chelsea please feel free to come visit my pop up on the Kings Road, open till Sunday 29th April, and pick up some seeds in person.

Enjoy the sunshine!
Justine x

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Spring in Bloom

By Justine Tabak

Spring in Bloom

Can you believe this weather for an Easter weekend! 

This charming book was found at Barter Books in Alnwick, one of the most glorious book shops to whittle away a couple hours on a rainy day. This season's collection feels very fresh and floral, being inspired by the hopes of long, hazy summery days spent in my local Clissold Park, but also practical for our slightly nippy British weather that we'll most likely get! Whether your long Easter weekend is spent in the garden or by the fire, take a look inside at these beautiful botanical illustrations in 'Flowers of the Woods' and dream of summer dresses, flowers and sunshine.

My Covent Garden Dress, just arrived, is made in bright and bold printed linen with a beautiful vintage Bloomsbury floral print. The style is very similar to my popular three tiered Petticoat Lane dress, but with a flattering V neck. This light and summery dress is cool enough to wear in the height of summer but warm and long enough to both keep off the spring chills and brighten your mood. Weather rain or shine, have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Justine x

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A feast for February

By Justine Tabak

A feast for February

Last weekend, the gorgeous Rosie Birkett, food writer and stylist extraordinaire, wrote a lovely piece on the best seasonal recipes to enjoy in February for her feature in The Telegraph magazine. "Folding linen, wearing linen", she looked beautiful in my signature Petticoat Lane dress in one of my upcoming new colours, an airy duck egg blue. I'm currently working on final tweaks for my spring collection launching in March, but it's no surprise that I've used lots of linen in the collection with it's fresh, natural charm. I love Irish linen; the texture and drape is divine. I work with two small mills, one in the Republic and one in Northern Ireland, who create, dye and wash bespoke colours and weave tailor made checks. Irish linen doesn't come cheap but really is the crown of linens with its rich weightiness and drape, a luxurious fabric to wear yet tough enough to be washed and worn everyday. Perfect for cooking up a storm in the kitchen! 

So here is one of Rosie's delicious recipes. As a lover of baking, I've chosen to feature her rhubarb and white chocolate blondies - I love the combination of the sharp twang of rhubarb with gooey sweet white chocolate! 

Rhubarb and white chocolate blondies 

MAKES 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g rhubarb, chopped into 4cm lengths
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • juice and zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 120g plain flour
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 60g flaked almonds

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the rhubarb on the tray in a single layer and scatter over the caster sugar. Scrape out the vanilla seeds over the rhubarb and throw on the pod along with the lemon juice, zest and ground ginger (if using). Cover tightly with tinfoil. Bake for 30 minutes, until the rhubarb is just soft. Set aside to cool. Once cool, drain the rhubarb from its syrup, reserving the syrup for another dish
  3. Grease and line a rectangular baking tin, approximately 21cm x 18cm.
  4. Mix the flour with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt in a bowl.
  5. Place the muscovado sugar in a different bowl and stir in the butter until well combined and not lumpy. Add the egg and stir vigorously, until smooth. Add the flour and fold in lightly, until no streaks remain. Add the chocolate and half the almonds and stir to combine.
  6. Spoon three quarters of the batter into your tin, smooth it out using the back of a spoon, then top with the rhubarb. Spoon the remaining batter over so it’s part-covering the rhubarb 
and scatter on the rest of 
the almonds.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out with some crumbs that are a little moist, but not raw. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

To read the full article, including recipes for roast rolled pork belly stuffed with leeks, sourdough and preserved lemon, and blood-orange-baked hake with caramelised chicory and paprika potatoes, please follow the link below to the telegraph's website:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/recipes/feast-february-starring-best-rhubarb-white-chocolate-blondies/

Rosie has written two recipe books which I'd thoroughly recommend, East London Food and A Lot on her Plate, both widely available online and here at https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/collections/books/products/east-london-food

You can follow Rosie Birkett on social media to keep up with her at @rosiefoodie on instagram.

Happy baking! 

Justine xx

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My dear the Heart which you behold...

By Justine Tabak

My dear the Heart which you behold...

This charming 1790s Valentine is a handmade puzzle which unfolds to reveal poetic messages. Currently housed at the British Postal Museum and Archive, the inscription on the outside of the card reads:

"My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain."

 

There are many variations of where the exact origins of Valentines day began; one popular tale is that of the Patron Saint Valentine. According to legend, Roman Emperor Claudius II banned marriage ceremonies during the war in an effort to keep soldiers focused and less concerned with lovers waiting for them back home. However, Priest Valentine didn't believe in keeping this sacred tradition on hold, and so wedded many couples in secret. He paid the ultimate price for his romantic gestures, and was martyred on February 14th in 496AD by Claudius II. His sacrifice for lovers to symbolise their true love was celebrated after his death and he was eventually named a saint. Before he died, St Valentine sent a letter to the woman he loved, signed "from your Valentine", leading the way to the tradition of sending Valentines day cards today. Here are a few lovely eclectic Valentines cards, ranging from the 18th Century to the more modern but equally adorable Mickey Mouse from 1934!

 

Congratulations to Anna!
Just as I was writing this, we had the pleasure of receiving these fabulous photos of Anna who got married a couple of weeks ago. How beautiful does she look and for us, really special to be part of her big day. Congratulations to Anna and we couldn't resist sharing these with you. 
Sending the warmest wishes to you all on Valentine's, I hope you spend the day with those you love the most xxx

 

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Taking a trip down Columbia Road with Diana Moon

By Justine Tabak

Taking a trip down Columbia Road with Diana Moon

On a blistery cold winter day in late November, when the first snowfall of the season fell, we met the lovely Diana Moon in her local neighbourhood around Columbia Road, London. Diana is a customer and works at Labour and Wait, a fantastic modern homeware store in Redchurch Street. With her forever smile and warm spirit in the biting cold, she agreed to wearing a few of her favourite pieces from my current collection.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.....

I’m Diana, I live in London Fields and I’m studying furniture and product design alongside my job at Labour and Wait. I love collecting books, old and new, that I may or may not get around to reading! I'm also plotting another trip to Japan.

What do you love about your job?

I love working as part of a small, friendly team in an independent shop. At Christmas we spend a lot of the time wrapping presents, surprisingly therapeutic at this time of the year!

Where would you recommend to go on Columbia Road?

Choosing Keeping is a great shop for curated stationery and writing products, I never leave empty handed! There's Jones Dairy on a Sunday that has fabulous bagels and the best hot chocolate. And of course Columbia Road is famous for its incredible flower market every Sunday, whole trays of plants for under a fiver!

Do you have any favourite flowers to buy at Columbia Road market?

I like to get something that will last a little longer than fresh flowers - for winter I love cotton stems, they have a rustic elegance about them and lovely and 'snowy' for Christmas.

What do you like about living near here?

I can walk almost everywhere I need to get to on a day-to-day basis. Spending my commute on foot rather than on a packed tube means I get a little time to myself and I get a real sense on the changing seasons.

What was your favourite look from the shoot?

I liked lots of the clothes! My favourite look from the shoot was the Scarlet Signature jumper and Bobbie skirt - this is definitely something I would wear often in the winter months because it would be a really effortless way to dress up but also keep warm at the same time. 

I love the two reds together! 

I'd also wear the Scarlet jumper over the Columbia Road Dress, good one for Christmas Day.

 

This tartan linen Redchurch dress ( that's the road where I work!) is a great staple, perfect for a day out with friends, dinners with family, and work too. Love the all year round fabric to dress up or down.

Needlecord is a favourite of mine, especially in the colder months, and adds warmth to this elegant dress. Another look for every day.

And good with a chunky fishermans Gansey worn over the top! 

A little bit of the East End where I live. The decadent Pearly Top I can wear day and night! 

Flirty at this length - one for the Christmas parties!

A special thanks to Diana for braving the cold xxx

 

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A very British Christmas to you all

By Justine Tabak

A very British Christmas to you all
With just a few days till Christmas, I wanted to shine a light on a few favourites with Brit spirit for the Christmas season. My silk prints are inspired by East End Pearly Queens, cotton lace is intricately woven by the 'magic' of a Nottingham maker and the charm of a vintage shamrock print in festive pine green is used for a graceful tea dress, perfect for Christmas day. I don't profess to sourcing absolutely everything from these Isles (we don't produce silk or grow cotton) but I do endeavour to use as much local sourcing as possible and all my collection is made in a friendly family run workshop in London.

Kate Hills from 'Make it British' recently quoted "If everyone bought just one £20 British-made gift this year it would raise £1 Billion for the UK economy" 


To  all those who have supported me this year, a huge thank you and know that you have supported not just a new brand but also the talent and the small manufacturers that have helped towards it.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Justine xxx
In lustrous satin silk,  the Pearly Queen print literally glows with shimmer and shine. In a top, dress, scarf and even a reversible jacket.
Wear your Pearly Queen top tucked in to a raw red silk Bobbie skirt for a full-on party look!
A perfect look for New Years Eve, my Portobello Nottingham lace top and skirt comes both in black and ivory. Looks lovely worn together for evening or layered up with knits or jeans for a touch of laid back glamour. 
For the luck of the Irish! A beautiful washed silk in a vintage shamrock print Chloe dress.
Rosie Birkett, seasonal chef and writer of the wonderful 'East London Food' book at Hoxton Press recently bought one of the Chloe dresses and has worn it on Saturday kitchen and at many a festive occasion! See her instagram posts and buy her book here: 
https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/products/east-london-food 
And for me, I'll be wearing the Redchurch dress on Christmas day. Rich red and practical. Here I am at a Christmas market at Shoreditch House with one of my stockists The Acey, a sustainable online fashion platform pioneering style with purpose, ethically and sustainably.
The last regular postage date is 19th, and 21st by 12PM for next day, so place your orders now to get your presents both for friends and family and your festive outfits now!
Use code COSY 10 for 10% off up until New Years Day.
xxx

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