The Anatolian mountains of Armenia are vast repositories for alum, a resource that is valuable as a binding agent, or mordant, holding colors fast to fabric. Plant dyers, such as Jane’s Porter’s maternal ancestors, understand its properties well, as do weavers, such as those in her father’s line who produced woven brocades in their silk mill, located in what is now central Turkey. “Textiles are in my DNA,” Jane says.
Her grandmother initiated her education in textiles by taking her to fabric shops in New York City, where the 4-year-old Jane experienced a brilliant world of textures and colors that instilled in her an appreciation of well-made fabrics and clothing, and over time, helped her to develop an eye for beautifully crafted pieces. “Together,” she says of she and her grandmother, “we designed and sewed all of my dance and prom dresses.”
In what seems a natural progression, her inaugural line of dresses made their debut in the boutiques of Philadelphia in 1968. Jane credits the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers for contributing to her mastery of weaving, spinning, and dyeing. Inspired by this knowledge, she opened a fiber arts school in Chadds Ford. When she added screen-printing to her cache of abilities in textiles, using natural dyes, of course, the result was a clothing line with nationwide distribution—hand-screened and made with custom-woven wool, cotton, and silk—designed for professional urban women. (Read more.)