Saturday, March 28, 2020

FIBR300 - Love Letter to a Textile

One assignment that could be turned into a take home assignment was Love Letter to a Textile. We often have intimate relationships with our clothing whether we realize it or not. This is all wrapped up in the concept of material culture--how humans consume, use, develop and dispose of objects. Material culture was one of my favourite classes at ACAD/AUArts. It was endlessly fascinating! Once you know about it, you see it in action everywhere.

We see this affection at work when we can't get rid of a child's clothing, hang on to a favourite stuffed animal or wear an article until it can't be mended. We form relationships about how we look, how objects make us feel, reliability and more with clothing (and other objects too!). We would bring in the article, read the letter and have both on display for this assignment.

It was difficult to pick a garment. This assignment would have been a piece of cake at other points in my life. For example, I had a nightshirt that I loved loved as a child because it had a raccoon with glow in the dark eyes on it. When I was a teenager, I loved loved a pair of embroidered jeans. When I was a young adult, I loved loved my flannel sweaters. When I was in my 30s, I loved loved a plaid purple top with big buttons. When I was in my early 40s, I loved loved a smoky purple Coach scarf.

There aren't any garments today where I could say I love love them. I don't know if it's because every day is casual day at my workplace or a matter of middle-age, but all my clothing seems simply functional now.

I decided to go with my oldest piece of clothing that I own--my denim capris. However, I still found it difficult to hit the 500 word mark. Ah we go...

Worn denim capris

Dear denim capris,

I can't believe we’ve been together longer than I have been married. I remember the first time I saw you at Tabi—it must have been at least twenty years ago—and I was thrilled to find petite denim capris. Petite and plus size? Oh yeah, we were going home together right then and there. It's true you broke the rule of having no pockets on the butt, but that didn't matter. You were perfect enough. In fact, you were absolutely perfect! Nowadays you’re a little faded, but I’m pretty sure you were a robust dark blue. I always preferred dark blue denim.

We have had so many great adventures over the years. We road tripped to Las Vegas twice, flew to Seattle and cruised to Bermuda just to name a few places. Whenever the occasion called for comfortable and casual, you were always there. That is why I loved shopping at Tabi. I knew I could find reliable clothes that looked good, fit well and had a great price. I miss Tabi a lot. I miss shopping there with Mom on weekends, buying fun socks or assembling a look. You remind me of those every day, small moments that were good times too. Maybe you were mass made in a Singapore garment factory, but you are still a unique individual to me!

Denim capris, I thought we would have to part after I lost 40 lbs. You were practically falling off my hips and not very fashionable anymore. You were too worn to thrift yet still too good to throw out. But, then I discovered that you were still functional! You are a perfect fit for winter birdwatching. None of my other jeans will fit over leggings and sweats.

Maybe we don't go out together as much anymore, but you're still perfect to wear around the house. Your colour may be a little faded and your style out of date, but I can still count on you for comfort and covering. And, somehow you don't have any holes anywhere after twenty years of washing and drying. You're a good friend, denim capris! Here’s to another five, ten, maybe twenty years?


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

FIBR300 - We interrupt this course...

Life is what happens when you're making other plans. Like so many other students, young and old, my course went online as AU Arts worked in a hurry to ensure continuity for the duration of COVID-19. The university is locked down and I can't access my two large projects.

The last large project was cancelled and I'm kind of grateful for that. I do, however, have one on-going assignment that probably won't go online as it would be difficult. It's the one I'm finishing up now, the cloth journal. I chose a brand new watercolour sketchbook that I had on hand so I didn't have to buy a new one and started dutifully recording mismatched socks, daily clothes habits, laundry schedules, sketches and more.

At the beginning of the semester, I assumed it would become a catalogue of hopes and dreams and new learnings. However, that didn't quite happen. I'm not sure what to learn from this journal. Maybe the time hasn't come to learn from it yet--journals are one of those things that you can look back on and nod sagely.

We still have to submit it by scanning the pages. I photographed the pages and put them in order according to project. My intrinsic sense of order won't quit ;-D

Page from cloth journal

Thursday, March 5, 2020

FIBR300: The Upcycling Project - Part 2

There are a lot of considerations when upcycling old textiles. I sketched out a few ideas but I didn't know how feasible it would be. I really liked the look of a t-shirt dress on Pinterest, but I'm not a dress wearing gal. I settled on a shawl.

The next step was to draft a pattern with newsprint. Since my idea was symmetrical, it was super easy to do. I measured out a piece of newsprint the size of half my blanket, drew some feathers, refined the pattern, traced a copy and cut out the pieces after labelling them.

Pattern drafting

Did you know that t-shirts and polos are not symmetrical, though? The front of the shirt will have slightly less fabric than the back, so you need to consider all the options before you start cutting away. Originally the blue feathers were going to be on the top, but the floral trim on the purple shirt meant that I couldn't get enough fabric for the middle layer. Generally men's clothing will give you more fabric than women's clothing, but I had to find a fourth t-shirt to fill out the design. Before cutting up the shirts, I also had to run the pill shaver over them and clean them up.

Choices choices choices

To be honest, I wasn't quite sure where I was going. I only had a ~~ vision ~~ of the end product.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

FIBR300: The Upcycling Project - Part 1

I have a lot of catching up to do! My class is moving faster than I can document it :-D

Our first homework project was to gather a few pieces of old clothing from our closets or a favourite thrift store. "Upcycling" has been a trend for some time. Old clothing is a fabulous source of fabric or yarn that can be had for free or cheap. It doesn't require new material to be used or purchased. It can be very eco-conscious!

However, there are some caveats. Fast fashion clothing can be so cheaply made that it's not a good candidate for upcycling. High quality clothing usually has a generous seam. Fast fashion items barely have one. Then, thrift shopping has it's own problems with some stores being for-profit and actually expensive. Some chains may actually be a little dodgy--for example, Goodwill was caught underpaying disabled workers in 2013. Lastly, while dropping off old clothes may make someone feel good, there is a chance that they will end up in the rag trade or landfilled (nearshore or offshore). Stores won't take what they can't sell and a lot of clothing just ends up overseas where it can harm local textile economies.

What's a consumer to do? There isn't a perfect answer, but caring for clothing, mending and buying high quality, classic styles when possible might be one solution.

Anyway, from my old closet I found a pink wool blanket that belonged to my mother, an old long-sleeved shirt from hubs and three purple t-shirts of my own. I knew this class was going to involve cast offs, so I hoarded old t-shirts and bubble wrap just in case. I'm glad I did!

What am I making? Stay tuned to find out!

Old clothing for upcycling