Stop Telling Us What to Wear: Mini Rant

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Yesterday, while I was at the library, I picked up a copy of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers Schemes by Sharon Lamb, Ed.D and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D. I’m only about 40 pages in so far, but it’s already been something of an eye opener. I’ve been aware of rampant consumerism and the way the clothing industry tries to push people (not just girls and women) into the little categories it wants us to be in (male/female, preppy/rebel/geek, “urban”/”rural”, etc) for awhile and I’ve been aware of the brand-worshiping aspect of consumer culture for as long as I’ve been scratching my head over the importance of wearing clothes just because there was a certain word or logo on it (that happened around age 9, when I moved to a new school and everyone seemed to have to wear stuff from The Limited or Limited Too and if you weren’t wearing those clothes then ohmygodwhatiswrongwithyou?). However, it turns out that there’s a little more than I ever wanted to admit going on.

What I have gotten out of this book, thus far:

  • There is always this push to make girls want to be older, faster. This is nothing new to me, but, they’re marketing “bras” and pretty underwear and bikinis to 4 year olds now. *4*!!
  • Girls are being pushed into camps from a early age
    1. Camp 1: pink, the classically feminine color is soft and sweet (which there is now a bit of a split in the pink camp, with the pastel hues reflecting innocence and bolder hues (or pared with black) reflecting a bit of a sexier edge.
    2. Camp 2: red, a bold and assertive color.
    3. From the book, “The red girl is the girl who is not like the other girls can develop into not liking what makes those other girls who they are, putting them down for being too girly and weak. The girl wars mentality we see in the media is often between girly girls and tomboys, between what we fear starts out as the pink girl and the red girl.”
  • The same items are marketed to 6 year olds and 13 year olds.
  • The hetero-normative push into what is supposed to be the most important thing on a girl’s mind: Boys! (which, even I fell victim to with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync when I was 12-15) Stores are happy to sell all manner of trinkets and shirts that espouse love for whatever male teen star is hot at the time… and this is marketed to 8 and 9 year old girls as well as teens. Why would 8 and 9 year olds be concerned with the cuteness of boys? When I was 8, I was still listening to what my parents listened to (and Michael Jackson).

Like I said, I’m only about 40 pages in. However, while I was scrolling through teh internets, I came upon one of those stupid “what you should/shouldn’t wear” lists. From LifeScript: Healthy Living for Women (I’m already laughing, folks), is an article telling me the “Top 10 items [I will soon be] Too Old to Wear” Here are some of my favorites:

  •  I can only wear my beloved Tshirts that say stuff for another year and a month. According to this article, I have to retire my tshirts at 30 because, “the freedom to express yourself via your wardrobe is part of the teen and 20-something years… but beyond that?… ‘The message tee boom was fueled by Young Hollywood… it’s mostly a way for people to express frustration.'”  So, I guess I’m only allowed to express myself for another year, then I need to shut up and hand it all over to people younger than me.
  • Not that I like to expose my cleavage, but I am now aware that after 50, it’s no longer an option for me. That’s because, according to the article, “‘An older woman shouldn’t feel she needs to show it all off. Anything below the middle of your [bustline] has got to go,’ DeMartino says. ‘A little goes a long way,’ writes Krupp, who in her book bans excessive ‘boobage’ past the age of 40 and warns readers not to display too much sagging skin.”  That’s right, women who are 50+ need to cover up because they have “too much sagging skin” [read: not attractive anymore; gross – read: younger *should* show cleavage – read: women are to constantly be aware of, and compliant to, the male gaze]
  • Now, I don’t do much with my hair beyond a simple pony tail, because I don;t like it down and I’m too lazy to do anything else with it. BUT. If I feel like putting something cute in my hair (it happens), like my tshirts, I’m only allowed to don these items until I’m 30. Because, “whether it’s flowery scrunchies, banana clips or your daughter’s plastic kiddie barrettes, whimsical hair accessories are not fitting for a fully grown woman.”  For the record, my grandmother, a woman in her 60’s, wore a pretty red hair gizmo over the holidays -the first time I’ve seen her wear anything in her hair in my life – and I thought she looked fabulous.

Dear Internet, Marketers – Kindly stop telling us what to wear or not wear and stop pushing us into boxes. I’ll wear what I want, how I want, for as long as I want.

 

 

 

My Fangirl Crush on Hank Green and a New Tshirt!

The last time I posted, I was making pants. Those pants are not done. I got frustrated with the stupid zipper and banished them to the finish-some-random-months-later-because-you-angered-me pile. I keep that pile in the corner next to the couch. That will give that zipper time to think about what it’s done.

In other news, I discovered Hank and John Green. I know, I know.. oh so many people out there that were years ahead of me on this, but I’m apparently the first one in my circle of friends and family to have come upon them on the internets… and I’ve developed a huge fangirl crush on Hank. Yes. Hank Green is now officially in my guilt-free three (which goes 1. CM Punk 2. David Tennant 3. Hank Green if anyone is curious). I’m subscribed to Sci Show and Crash Course and am going through and watching every Vlogbrothers video in chronological order. Because when I get interested in something, I dive all the way in and no one recognizes me for several weeks until it’s leveled out. And now I have to share that wonder of discovery. So, here is a song that Hank sings about tshirts and jeans (Hey, look at that, I just made a random new obsession relate-able to the topic of this blog. I should get bonus points for that.)
However, as awesome as this song is and as awesome as Hank is, we here at A’Cloth the World know that even a tshirt and jeans carry meaning.

I kind of what this Nerdfighteria shirt. Because I want to communicate my nerdfighter status and my love of the entire concept when people stare at my boobs.

Don’t we? Yes we do. I like to wear my personality on my clothes. A lot of us do. I always see all these tshirts that I want but I never buy. I look at shirt woot and tshirt hell and ban tshirts regularly, and I see all these designs that I like and all these shirts that I’d like to have, but I seldom buy anything. Because I’m frugal and it’s hard to justify new clothes to me. My boyfriend has gazillions of tshirts and no qualms about spending money to buy more tshirts. Thankfully, he has good taste and we wear the same size. So, I raid his tshirts when I want to change up what I’m wearing.

Some months back, I purchased some Crayola fabric crayons, because I thought it would be fun and easy to decorate clothes that way. I mean, I love the look of embroidery, but, sometimes I want a faster turnaround, ya know? So, like a lot of my ideas for projects, the crayons sat in the bottom of a box of stuff for months before I reminded myself that I had them in the first place. I decided to try them out tonight. I saw a couple of disappointing reviews (here and here), but I wanted to try this out for myself.

I started with a plain tshirt and decided to draw and color directly on the shirt itself with the crayons. The instructions say to draw on paper and then transfer, but, that didn’t bode well for others, so, I just drew directly on the shirt.

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And then I used an iron to heat set the designs. You can actually see a difference.
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Here I am rocking my new shirt!
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Yeah, I'm now a nerdfighter.

Yeah, I’m now a nerdfighter.

 

 

They’re Almost Pants!

This past week I have been working on making myself some cargo pants (See posts 1 and 2). While I had intended to have these pants completed by now, as always, life has had other plans for me. However, in contrast to the way the story normally works on this blog — I get busy, I don’t make time to update, 2 or 3 months later I write another post apologizing (like here.. or here), long time readers know the drill by now — I’m going to update with what I *have* managed to get done since last time (and force myself to accept the fact that I’m neither perfect nor able to juggle everything the way I’d like to).

Inside out, pinned together.

Inside out, pinned together.

Right side out, front side

Right side out, front side

Right side out, front side, pockets close up.

Right side out, front side, pockets close up.

Right side out, back side

Right side out, back side

As you can see, they are definately starting to look more like actual pants, and the pockets have turned out fairly well. However, between getting hung up on the zipper (this pattern has some oddly written instructions), work, surrendering the table to roommates for their gaming purposes, and spending time with my boyfriend (obligatory plug – check out his podcast sometime), I haven’t gotten further than this. Let us see what this next week brings.

 

 

 

Power to the Pockets!

Yesterday, I started sewing myself a pair of cargo pants, following a McCall’s pattern I’d had laying around. This evening, I have continued my work.

What you see here is an actual college photo. That's me, in Japanese class, rocking the cargo pants, sitting next to my friend, Ryan, with an amusing look on my face.  Honestly, I don't remember what we were talking about before the camera went off.

What you see here is an actual college photo. That’s me, in Japanese class, rocking the cargo pants, sitting next to my friend, Ryan, with an amusing look on my face.
Honestly, I don’t remember what we were talking about before the camera went off.

Cargo pants are a wonderful thing. They have a great many pockets in which one can carry items. When I was in college, I used to rock men’s cargo jeans almost exclusively. Something about women’s pants just doesn’t allow for ease of storage. Probably because designers assume all women carry purses. Pfft. The purses came to me as a result of needing to carry yarn. The basics – wallet, phone, and keys – ought to fit easily into one’s pants.

That said, I was shocked when I started reading further along in the pattern instructions and saw this:

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“…through all thicknesses.” Basically, the pattern instructions would have you go through the hassle of creating these pockets and pocket flaps so that they can, ultimately, serve no other purpose than decoration. F**K THAT!! That’s defeating the entire *point* of having all those pockets! Fortunately for me (and for you), I know what the hell I’m doing and was able to alter the original pattern so that all the pockets are fully functional. Here’s how:

First, prep your pockets the same way you would in the pattern. That is, fold each of the edges inside about half an inch and top-stitch around. Then, sew the pocket onto the pants as directed, but do not yet attach any of the flaps.

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Here is one of the back pockets I did yesterday, now affixed to the butt of the pants.

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For the big cargo pockets that go on the sides, you want to create a pleat in the middle. The pleat should be about 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Stitch the top and bottom to hold the pleat in place.
What you are looking at here is the front view.

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And now the rear view.

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The prep on this cargo pocket (front view) is complete. If you notice, I’ve folded in the edges and created a decorative fold at the top.

Prep the flaps as well.

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Prepping the flaps: Inside out at the bottom and right side out at top.

Flap prep complete.

Flap prep complete.

Now, this is where it starts to differ from the original pattern.  I made a mark on either side of the pant pieces, 1/2 inch directly above the corners of the pockets.

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Do this for each corner, on all pockets.

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Before stitching the flap on, I noticed that the dots lined up with the stitch lines on the flap. So, I basted each corner of the flap – right in the crosshair of the horizontal and vertical stitches – to each dot..

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I then sewed the flap down. Once along the original top-stitch line, and then once 1/4 inch below that.

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As you can see, the flap opens and the pocket is functional. Huzzah. Rinse and repeat for each pocket.

The beauty of making your own clothes is that you have the power to do with the design what you want. Don’t ever feel that you have to follow every step of a set of instructions to the letter. Play around. Experiment. Learn by doing. One of the easiest ways to start designing your own clothes is to start making little changes here and there to existing patterns and seeing how what you’ve done affects the end result.

Check back this weekend to see how these cargo capris turned out!

 

Sewing Up Some Capris

Nothing elaborate going on right now, just decided I’d like a couple pair of cargo capris. I had a couple of large sections of black and red cotton bedsheets left over from the rag rug that I thought might work well for fabric. I also had this McCall’s pattern lying around. I had the day off and nothing else going on, so, why not get my sew on?

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Any time I use a pattern for the first time, I use some cheap-o interfacing – I think I picked this stuff up at a yard sale some years back – and trace the pieces in the sizes I need. I like to keep the original pattern intact so that other sizes can be made later if needed. I also label each piece in detail so I know what it is later.

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Tracing, labeling and cutting is always the bigger pain and more time consuming that the sewing (at least, it seems that way).

GESo far, I’ve sewn the front,  pocket, and side front  pieces together, and I’ve gotten the 2 back pockets basted and ready to be attached to the butt of the back pieces.

Front view on right, Inside view on the left.

Front view on left, Inside view on the right.

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Front view on the left, Inside view on the right.

Check for part 2 tomorrow to see my progress.

There I was, in an Epic Battle Against a Legion of Alien Zombie Chickens…

… armed with nothing but a seam ripper and a giant basket of corn grenades when their egg ship beamed me aboard and they held me prisoner for almost 3 months.

Ok. Maybe that didn’t happen. But, I *have* been away for almost 3 months. A lot has been going on with me personally that I haven’t really gotten around to posting until now. Since last I wrote I

  • Spent a month on unemployment
  • Started a new job
  • Moved
  • Have been working lots and lots of overtime at the new job

So, there you have it. I’ve been a busy busy woman. For your enjoyment, here are some photos that I’ve been meaning to post. Also, I’d like to note that I do still have laptop bags for sale in my Etsy Shop.

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My friend Julia helping to set up the booth we shared at the Race Street Bash back in May.

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Doctor Who and Star Trek pillow plushies that my friend, Julia, makes. At the Race Street Bash back in May.

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A 2 headed rat I crocheted some time ago (the pattern came from The Anticraft) and a little chicken my friend Julia made. At the Race Street Bash back in May.

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Various barrettes I’d made from recycled denim. And yes, some of those are the Starfleet insignia. At the Race Street Bash back in May.

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Beautiful cards that my friend Julia makes. Each one is hand drawn and colored. At the Race Street Bash back in May.

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Laptop bags and purses I had made. At the Race Street Bash back in May.

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A close-up of one of my laptop bags.

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A skirt I recently altered. At the start, this was a plain khaki skirt. I embroidered the lower skirt and dyed the upper skirt.

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A close-up of the embroidery on a skirt I recently altered. At the start, this was a plain khaki skirt. I embroidered the lower skirt and dyed the upper skirt.

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The backside of a skirt I recently altered. At the start, this was a plain khaki skirt. I embroidered the lower skirt and dyed the upper skirt.

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Playing around with denim and bleach this afternoon.

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Playing around with denim and bleach this afternoon.

Things That Frustrate Me: Sewing Machine Help?

I’ve been working pretty steadily, sewing most of the day. Then, as I’m feeling a good rhythm, and nearing completion of some of the laptop bags I’ve been making, my sewing machine decides it wants to be a jerkface and throw a fit.

GEDoes ANYONE know what the heck this is? What causes it? How to fix it???

I’m at a complete and total loss. The machine will work perfectly fine, with no problems and then suddenly, BAM! It does this crap to me. What you’re seeing is the thread coming from the bobbin all jacked up. And it bunches and jams up the needle and I have to do battle with the machine to get my fabric back. It starts doing this out of nowhere and, if I’m lucky it’s a once or twice deal, but sometimes it will keep it up for hours before it manages to straighten itself out somehow. It makes me want to throw my machine out a window. These hissy fits that my machine throws waste a butt-load of thread. I often get upset and say, “Screw this” and go back to sewing by hand (which takes eons by comparison).

GEThis was taken the other week when it was doing the same thing.

Do any of you, my readers, have any experience with this? Can any of you offer me any help? I’ve had this machine for 11 years. My mother bought it for me. It’s a White 935.

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I actually meant to take pictures and post this a few hours ago, but then I had to hunt for my camera (it is a rather crappy camera, I know), which frustrated me even more.

Laptop Bag: Making a Pocket

A couple months ago, while I was working on some other artwork, I took apart an old dress I’d picked up from FreeCycle eons ago and had been hoarding because I loved the pattern. I’ve decided I want to make a laptop bag with it. However, there are some modifications I had to make to the original Instructables pattern.

See, isn't that a gorgeous pattern?

See, isn’t that a gorgeous pattern?

First off, the material isn’t as heavy as that of a suit jacket. So, I needed to add some moderately thick interfacing to give it some extra stability. I only have 2 kinds of interfacing on hand – very thin fusible web and some generic sew-in interfacing that I picked up from somewhere ages ago (probably from my paternal grandmother) and I don’t even think the company that made it is around anymore. I don’t want to make a trip to the store, so I went with the 20+ year old sew-in stuff. It’s awesome how well this stuff kept. The point is, if your outer material is on the thin side, just about anything will do to stabilize it. If I didn’t have any interfacing, I could have used a layer of some slightly thicker fabric to add more durability.

The other thing I have to do is to create my own pockets. See, the beauty of using a suit jacket is that it already has pockets, so you don’t have to make them yourself. It’s a time saver, it really is. It can be a bit of a pain to draft and construct a pocket where none previously existed, but it can be done. Here’s how:

GE1) Measure out on the back where you need the hole for the pocket mouth to be. I do this my marking the center line. Then, you’ll want the mouth to be about 2.5 – 3 inches from the top. I decided I want my pocket to be about 5 inches wide, so, I made sure to put that 2.5 inch mark on that center line. You can use a rotory cutter or good scissors to carefully cut along that line.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn't been trimmed yet.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn’t been trimmed yet.

2) For each pocket I made, I cut out a rectangle of lining fabric about 5.5 -6 inches wide (wider than the mouth hole) by anywhere from 12-14 inches. It all depends on how deep you want your pocket. Say you want your pockets 6 inches deep. Since you’ll be folding the piece of lining in half, multiply the number of inches (in this case 6) by 2. Then, use some scrap piece of the outer material to line the top edge of each pocket piece. You will need this piece of outer material to blend in when pushing back the edges of the opening creates an open space. You’ll see what I mean later.

3) Starting with the bottom edge, face the right (face) side of the pocket to the right (face) side of the bag face, lining the edge of the pocket along the edge of the mouth hole. Pin into place and then sew. Go ahead and sew along the entire length of the pocket piece, even if it’s wider than the mouth hole. You can always use a seam ripper to pull out a stitch or two if you need to later.

GE4) Now you’re going to do the same thing with the top edge. Kind of loop the pocket lining over so that the edge of the right (face) side of the pocket runs along the top line of the mouth hole.  Sewing this one with a machine can be a little tricky, but it can be done.

GE5) Push the pocket into the mouth hole. Very carefully, work the edges of the mouth hole , pinching the edge from the pocket and the face, creating a smooth seam edge. Pin as you go. Pay particular attention to the two sides of the pocket slot. This is where you may need to take out a stitch or two – but just enough that you can push the pocket edges all the way in and create a smooth edge all the way around. Now, stitch around the pocket slot, making sure you don’t sew the pocket shut.

6) Sew the sides of the pocket shut.GE

Tada! You have created a pocket! I told you it was a pain in the ass, didn’t I? Now do you see why you needed that matching fabric at the top of the pocket piece?GE

Revisiting An Old Project: Laptop Bag

A couple years ago, my boyfriend emailed me a link he’d seen on making laptop bags out of men’s suit jackets (and strongly hinted that he wanted one). The pattern and instructions are over at Instructables. If you’re interested in making one, I suggest clicking that link, as I’m not going to be redundant here. 🙂

One of the things I would recommend if you’re going to make one would be to use some upholstery grade thread and denim or leather needles, as you’ll eventually end up pushing very thick layers of material through your machine. My poor little machine was crying for mercy when I made one of these bags for Neil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      O

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that I’m gearing up for this weekend’s Race Street Bash, I’ve decided to create more of these laptop bags, using the original Instructables pattern as a basis from which I will variate. Come back tomorrow evening for the first of these variations!

What I Get For Thinking

From this point forward, no more promises… I promise.

So, I’m still not quite ready to show you all the completed jacket. After I finished installing the back panel and tacked on the new cuffs, I noticed something…

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… The outer edge of the cuffs, and on the wrist along the bottom of the cuff, are more spots that are fraying too badly for me to just ignore. The entire reason I am doing this creative upcycle is prolong the life of this jacket for my friend. If I don’t do anything with these worn spots, they will eventually get worse. Well, even without those spots, the jacket will still eventually wear down, but I’m aiming for later rather than sooner.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas on how to reinforce these weak zones without just throwing more patches on them. So, I had one crazy idea that I spent way too much time on only to fizzle out on me. I thought that perhaps I could use a decoratively cut strip of contrasting denim to cover those areas – providing the needed reinforcement while at the same time looking interesting.

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If you notice, while the band fits well at the cuff, it’s too short on the other side as the arm of the jacket begins to expand out. If I secure this band onto the jacket, it will cause bulging and puckering. So, now I need to come up with another idea. In the meantime here are some photos of the jacket showing the completed back panel replacement.

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In other news, I have about a week before I am set to share a table with another friend, Julia, at C4A’s Race Street Bash in Urbana, Illinois. This means the jacket is going on the back burner while I finish making things for that event. Given that the temperature has been in the 80’s this past week, I don’t think Melissa will be needing her jacket back just yet. Besides, as I’ve been experimenting on it, I’ve decided there are a couple more things I want to do, for the sake of aesthetics. 🙂