It’s Something

Today is my day off from my day job. I have 3 tasks ahead of me today.

  1. A friend of mine is paying me to hem a pair of his scrub pants. It’s a quick and simple job. So I should get those done.
  2. The same friend also needs me to affix a couple of patches to the shoulders of his scrub tops.
  3. Another gentleman I know has asked me to med a pair of jeans for him. I’ve got plenty of scrap fabric, I’m just gonna patch them.

I suppose the first thing I should do is get dressed. That’s a bit problematic for me, because I’m laying in bed with 2 blankets on me. Well, they’re not really blankets as much as they are body heat insulators that protect me from the cold of the rest of the room. My body has a natural disinclination to the cold.

——- Editorial Time Jump ——-

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Patches done. I use wonder under  and an iron to affix patches.

One way to hem a pair of pants, the way I frequently use:

GEGet the inseam measurement you need – that’s the length along the seam from. Measuring a pair of pants that are a good length for you already works well enough, though it’s not as fine tune accurate as having someone measure your inseam while you stand in your underoo’s. But we’re talking maybe a half inch room for error here.

GEIf you do not know the outseam measurement – that’s the outside seam from waist to ankle, or the measurement you’re given (if they’re not your pants) is wrong or off, simply measure the distance from the bottom of the original hem to the hash-mark where your desired inseam hem is. In this case, it’s 6 inches. (6 3/16 inches, but I’m not that precise.) So, I measure 6 inches from the bottom on the outside seam and make a mark.

GEFold the leg inward so that the hash-marks are both are even and centered. Pin.

GESew.

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I like to tuck in the inside too. So,  from here, I turn the pants inside out, cut off some excess leg…Fold inward…Pin and sew

And here’s one way of patching holes (there are several):

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These are the jeans before I did anything to them. This is the downside of those expensive pre-torn jeans – they tear in ways you don’t intend for them to much easier because they’ve had a head start.

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Turn the clothing inside out. Pin scrap fabric to cover the hole.

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Sew. Be careful though, when you’re sewing far into a pant leg or a sleeve – you have to really bunch the rest of the leg or the sleeve to avoid sewing through layers of folded over material (i.e. sewing the pant leg/ sleeve to itself).

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This is how they look after the scrap had been sewn in. I still need to go in and hand sew that long tear, and I will probably do so decoratively. Like this:
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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.

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. 🙂

Fringe Distractions and The Wonder of Fusible Web

Was my last posting really 3 weeks ago? Where did the time go?? I suppose I can blame a recent obsession with Fringe for part of my distraction. I discovered it was on Netflix and have been systematically working my way through the series (I’m currently into the first 2 episodes of season 3 for anyone who cares). Though I did just spend a week out of town visiting family, so, that played a role too. (I managed to get my grandmother hooked and now Walter (played by John Noble) has become her heart throb. It’s too cute.) For anyone unfamiliar with the show, here is the promo for it:

Whatever the reasons for my absence, I hath returned! And I have updates on the progress of the jacket I started working on last time.  The very first thing I did was to take out that upper back panel and the two cuffs, as they suffered the most damage. I ironed them out and used them as patterns to create new pieces. Because the front sections of the vest were too small by themselves to cover the entire back panel, I needed to combine them to create a big enough piece. So, I played around with them a bit – laying them out in different ways, trying to imagine how cut out pieces would look, how I would need to arrange them to both utilize as much of the decorative material as I could while trying to maintain some kind of visually pleasing aesthetic once the sections were to be joined with the denim.

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Now, while I am entirely replacing the more damaged pieces, there are other areas of the jacket that are worn down as well. The folded edge of the collar has a lot of wear on it. However, as the collar sits directly above the back piece that’s already been replaced, I can’t very well replace the entire collar without compromising the visual harmony of the jacket. But I couldn’t very well leave it to wear down further, otherwise I would be doing all this repair work only to have my friend’s beloved jacket wear out again in a short time. So, as an answer to both of these problems. I patched them from the wrong side with the help of some fusible web.

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This is actually the same thing I did when I realized the buttonholes from the vest were part of the back piece I’d cut out and installed. As I was predominately concerned with layout and fabric conservation, I managed to overlook them! However, a few pieces of scrap and some fusible web and the buttonholes were no longer an issue.

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Next time, I will show you all the finished project!

Productive Procrastination

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It’s the middle of the afternoon on a beautiful Sunday. I have 2 loads of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away, my kitchen is a mess from all of the dirty dishes that have not only filled the sink, but have also piled up on the counter and stove, and one of my couches is still covered in various balls of yarn, purses and other odds and ends. I *should* be taking the time to clean this place. And I will, eventually, sometime before I go to sleep tonight. But for right now I am putting it off.

There is a lot to be said for procrastination and it isn’t necessarily all bad. Sometimes, when we put off doing one thing, we’re still being productive, we’re just not doing what we feel we are *supposed* to be doing. Walter Chen wrote a fantastic post over at 99U on this very idea. You should read it. It’s marvelous. Basically, what it boils down to is that, when you feel the urge to procrastinate, do it – but do it in such a way that you are still accomplishing something. If you’re not keen on doing your homework right now, what else needs to be done? Do that. I did a hell of a lot of that in college. For quite awhile when I was in school, my apartment was actually clean almost all the time. Why? Because I would put off finishing a term paper in favor of doing the dishes. I made a pair of denim bell bottoms, entirely hand stitched, in a matter of 3 days (less than that if you subtract sleep, work and classes) because I was putting off something else.

Of course, you still need to eventually get around to doing whatever it is you need to do. My boyfriend, who always has 5 million tasks that he has to juggle, frequently uses something called pomodoro. Basically, you work for about 25 minutes, then you break for 5 minutes, work another 25, etc.. and every 4th break is a longer one, about 15-20 minutes. I think this is great if you can get it to work for you. It apparently works for him. I haven’t been able to get it to work for me. I just don’t work that way. I generally start off at something slow, but then I get into a zone and I’m entirely focused on nothing else but what I am doing. While I was in college, this was often how I did my papers. I would agonizingly struggle with an introduction, but after that, things would flow, and I’d crank out 4-8 pages in a single night, and not even realize it was 4 AM and I’d stayed awake all night. It’s how I still do some of my artwork (although now that I work full time at a physically demanding job, I have to force myself to get some sleep, or pull most of my all-nighters when I’m off the following day). I want to note here that getting into a zone does not necessarily mean the day before a deadline. That will get you into trouble.

So, what am I doing instead of washing dishes and folding laundry? Aside from writing this post, which is in itself productive, I have been watching episodes of Fringe on Netflix while taking my seam-ripper to a vest and a jacket a friend has asked me to repair for her. Take a look at this jacket:

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As you can see, this isn’t exactly a simple repair. The back of the neck is damaged badly enough, and so close to the seam, that it has to be replaced. The cuffs too are pretty bad off. If one were interested, the other edges could be made raw and the cuff could be left as they were, and just re-fashion it to be intentionally fringed. But, I’m not going to be doing that GEhere. Instead, I will be replacing those cuffs and that back panel with sections from this vest, which my friend also gave me to use. I really like the colors and patterns in this vest and I think, if I do it right, it can look quite nice with the well-worn jacket. Now. To fold that laundry…

 

Seeing Sound – A Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

Materials

I like to use re-purposed materials in the work that I do. Most frequently, I make use of clothing or old bedsheets. While occasionally I will use non-traditional materials such as newspaper or VHS tape, I just prefer working with fabric. Perhaps you may not consider re-using old clothing as doing much to combat the landfills, or you may just see it as a fun hobby to upcycle clothing like the ReFashionista (an amazing site, btw), but you’d be wrong. I actually work for a 2nd hand store during the day, have been for over 3 years now, and I see every single day how much textile waste we create. What I use may not be making much of a dent in huge piles of waste we create, I also do my part to not add to that pile if I can help it.

Working with what I have

GERather than seek out some specific pattern or shade, I have to work with what I have available to me. While there are some constants when working with clothing – denim is plentiful and will almost always be some shade of blue – I cannot always anticipate what I will have at my disposal. Even with the items I have already, I often forget what I have shoved into the corners of my closet so it’s usually a surprise. It is good to learn the basic properties of common fabrics/fibers and how to identify them when there is no label present. There are entire books written on fabric properties/ identification.

Playing Around

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine paid me to hem several pair of jeans for him. As I often do, because I hold onto GEeverything and have nightmares about turning into a hoarder, I saved the scrap bits that I’d cut off from the bottoms of the legs. I decided to take them apart and flatten them out. When I did that, I noticed something interesting. The creases and crinkles of the original hems create a pattern which, to me, looks something like sound waves. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. Immediately, my thoughts are turning to the sounds of screams and crying – the sounds of arguments late at night. Of course, the sound wave patterns created by screaming look quite a bit different, so I’m going to claim a little bit of artistic license. My next thought is to isolate the throat, the organ that creates sounds. I do an image search for throat scans and throat xrays to get an idea of what they look like. Sure, I could go with the tongue and tonsil image I see when I open my mouth in the mirror, but I want to go a little further, I want to see the voicebox itself… And so it is that I will spend (waste) half an hour or better just looking for just the right diagram or image that I might want to incorporate…

What am I working on?

In case you haven’t read my previous post, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Nowhere but Where you Want to Go…

Life has a funny way of unraveling itself. Despite all our efforts, all our planning, the road we set off embarking on will change as time goes by. Life will set obstacles in our way, and if we are to stay on course, we must surmount them. Yet, sometimes we’re forced to take a detour. Often, we become frustrated, and we try bustle through and get back onto our well planned pathway. Every once in awhile, if we actually look around us as we travel down these side roads life’s detours force us to take, we might discover something worthwhile: an out of the way diner, a cozy independent bookstore, an old theater, or maybe just a pretty house with a for sale sign in the yard.
Or sometimes we simply decide we want to go somewhere else and cut across a parking lot or a farmer’s field to get to another road.

I feel like society at large expects us to plot a course and stay true and unwavering to that course. The implications being that if we stay the course we will be happy and stable and successful. The general model that we’re supposed to base our lives on is: Get your HS diploma (or GED), go to college (or trade school), get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family. It also feels as if getting off that course suggests failure at life. But what happens when you’re traveling down the expressway and traffic jams up and forces you into a painfully slow single lane? Or what about when your ending destination suddenly disappears like Atlantis into oblivion?  This is what a lot of people who have lost their jobs have had to deal with. This is what myself and my peers have had to face (or will have to face) coming out of school. It seems like college is becoming more and more of a necessity with fewer and fewer guarantees of anything beyond student loan debt.

What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere? Where do you go? Do you keep moving in some direction, or do you pause for a moment and take in your surroundings? Do you follow the well trodden path? The path less traveled? Or do you create your own path, hacking your way through the brush if necessary? It seems to me that we often feel pressured or rushed to keep moving and to “get back on track” as quickly as possible. As if to be off track is to be in this very undesired position. I find it somewhat amusing that it’s ok to be “outside the box”, so long as you are “on track” and even better if you are “on the fast track”.  (this is my odd/corny sense of humor at work here)

When I started this project, I had no real idea where it was going, and over time, as I built upon it, its true nature revealed itself to me. It really took on a life and a meaning all its own. The Nowhere Man, with its kind of off-kilter compass and frayed edges that shirk convention, reminds us that even when we we’re out in the middle of nowhere, we have the freedom and the power to go where we want to. We don’t even have to know where we are going when we start off, the path will reveal itself in due time if we keep our senses open to it.

Having come to the end of the road (but certainly not the end of the journey), the Nowhere Man is now officially for sale on my Etsy.  I’m excited to see what other roads I will be led down as I continue to work this blog and continue to create…

Nowhere on the Horizon

I want to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my negligence in posting the past few weeks. Almost immediately after I finished dealing with all the holiday happenings and the post-holiday take down, I was viciously attacked by a nasty flu bug bent on world domination… or, well, at least the domination of my immune system. After almost a week of full on war, the entire flu army has been obliterated. Somewhere in my sinuses there are still bits of mutilated flu bodies scattered around, and on a cell wall is a photo of some of my white blood cells in combat fatigues and helmets, climbing over a tonsil and raising the flag of victory.

Now that life is settling back into it’s normal rhythm, I’m back to work, sewing away. I’ve been doing most of my work on the Nowhere Man.  Have a look at what I have been up to:

Adding the second later of diamonds...

Rather than applique the star onto the back of the jacket, I decided to replace the entire back panel. I ended up using one of my collector knives as a seam ripper because I had lost mine. It actually worked rather well, however I did get a proper seam ripper as a replacement for Christmas.
I wanted to replace the entirety of the back panel, so, it’s obvious that I needed to add more diamond layers. One thing I would like to point out now that ended up turning into a huge pain later on: Do you see how the original panel is sewn together in 3 sections? Notice how they are curved? It’s a seam trick that makes the garment a little more form fitting — this is a woman’s jacket afterall. It also does not allow the fabric to lay 100% flat, there is an ever so slight curvature to it. With the way the star is put together and laid out, I can’t very well replicate those panel sections. So, I had to alter the shape of the entire back somewhat to accommodate my design.
I toyed around with the idea of orienting the star in such a way as to designate the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in red and using the grey for NNW, NNE and the like.  I also, ultimately, wasn’t able to do this either once my star was big enough to cover the majority of the back.
All the diamonds come from old jeans. The bigger chunks of denim come from scrap material left over from when I made myself a pair of bell bottoms 4 years ago. I save everything. I have some scraps of fabric I have been toting around since 8th grade that I’m still not sure how I will use. Maybe someday I’ll make some twined rag rugs or maybe I’ll get really industrious and use the smallest bits of fiber to make my own paper. I don’t put it past myself. The point is, I do not want to waste anything if I can at all help it.
Right now, I am actually in the process of installing the new “Nowhere Man” panel into the jacket. I still need to pick up some more yellow denim thread to do this properly, so all the current stitches are just temporary stay stitches. Something else that’s going to be super fun (and a super pain in the butt): Do you notice how those big chunks of new denim are so much lighter cleaner than the rest of the jacket? Left alone, it probably won’t look right once the installation is done. That’s right… I’m going to have to manually age/dirty those sections so it’ll fit into the surroundings better.  That’s something I have never done before.. so, on one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am nervous and worried that I might end up ruining this piece that I have spent so many hours toiling over. This is how I learn though, I play around and experiment.

He’s a Real Nowhere Man

I know it’s been a few weeks since my initial post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been extremely busy most of the month. I’ve sat down and given this blog a healthy dose of will power and fiber, so I promise this thing will be regular from here on out 🙂

Earlier this year I started playing around with old jeans and scraps of denim. I didn’t really have any rhyme or reason, I was just toying around, not really knowing what I would make, what these old pieces of jeans would become… kind of like streams of consciousness crafting, lol.  I wasn’t far into anything when I got called into doing some other major project and my little nowhere man got shoved into a forgotten corner of the fabric heap.

My Little Nowhere Man

Well, I have finally reunited myself with my little nowhere man, and have started working on him once more. Only now, I have all these ideas running through my head.. I’ve decided that my nowhere man needs a purpose.. he should be going somewhere.

I considered what he is.. he is essentially pieces of recycled denim being handsewn together like a patchwork quilt. So I thought more about the concept of combining blue jeans and quilts… and thought to myself, a denim quilt, even a small one, would be kind of heavy and cumbersome.  That was out. I thought about building on him and making him into a couch pillow.. but I felt that my nowhere man needed to be seen out in the world. He needs to be worn. But how?

I thought about what he symbolizes, what he represents.. I looked at the history and cultural significance of blue jeans in America. They say that the average American owns 7 pairs of jeans. I am no exception.. in fact, I own about 10 pair. So I did some research.. here are some of the more interesting parts of blue jean history, for your amusement:

  • Despite the fact that denim has actually been around longer than the USA and was developed in Europe some 500 years ago blue jeans have become a distinctly American wardrobe.
  • The word “jeans” comes from the name Genoa, where sailors wore pants made of a kind of rough cotton/ linen blend material(1).
  • The officially recognized birthdate of the blue jeans we know and love today is May 20, 1873. It was on this day that Levi Strauss got the patent to add rivets for added durability. The idea of Jacob Davis, who sold the idea to Strauss and went into business with him (3).  Blue jeans started off as the sturdy and long lasting pants worn by the miners, the scores of men searching for gold, and most any hard working laborer because they were rugged and didn’t rip and tear as easily. Because of this, jeans are tied into that American dream, that hunt for fortune and glory of the prospectors and into the notion of self-reliance and a hard days work.

It was Hollywood that really helped to push the image of blue jeans. Most of the world thinks of blue jeans and thinks of the cowboy or the American Old West. Indeed, according to Wikipedia:

In Spain they are known as vaqueros (“cowboys”) or tejanos (“Texans“), in Danish cowboybukser
meaning “cowboy pants” and in Chinese niuzaiku (SC: 牛仔裤, TC: 牛仔褲), literally, “cowboy pants”
(trousers), indicating their association with the American West, cowboy culture, and outdoors
work. Similarly, the Hungarian name for jeans is “farmer” (short for “farmernadrág”, meaning
“farmer’s trousers”).

Before Hollywood started making westerns and depicting cowboys wearing jeans, cowboys actually hadn’t worn jeans as a regular thing. Of course, the movies and John Wayne helped to change that.
It was in 1950’s that started to bring about the association of jeans with rebelliousness, non-conformity and youth. Teenagers were wearing jeans more often, and movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean and “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando gave rise to the image of the American bad boy, the wild child anti-hero. And what was this iconic anti-hero wearing? Blue jeans (and a leather jacket, but that will be another post for another day).  Did you know blue jeans were actually banned from schools and other public places because they were connected to this troublemaker image?

Marlon Brando in "The Wild One"

Movie poster for "Rebel Without a Cause"

I thought about all these connotations, all these icons and images that are wrapped up into the very soul of the substance I was working with. I thought about the social and environmental implications of my making this.. thing.. strictly out of old blue jeans, and that I am not using my sewing machine at all and doing all the work by hand. My mind took a tangent off into the realm of Etsy and what kind of meaning that has for us, for those of us who have gotten tired of cookie cutter fashion and big corporations controlling what we buy, what we think. I thought of how 50-60 years ago, or more, Americans knew more about how to make their own clothes and alter them themselves. I thought about how few of those of us who sew our own clothes in America today know how to draft their own patterns.. we buy readily available patterns from McCall’s or Simplicity or whoever. All we have to do is trace and ta-da! I thought about that, and how girls in Japan draft their own patterns from ゴスロリ(Gosu Rori) and the like as if it were nothing. I feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of Pro-Green, Anti-Consumer Culture, Anti-Walmart-and-all-it-stands-for, Neo-Self-Reliance Revolution…  and how, somehow, my little nowhere man is supposed to be this unifying visual symbol for all of these concepts and ideas.

And then I remembered my Peirce (Semiotics) and what my nowhere man really began as.. a nowhere man. And I think he would look pretty cool as the back panel of a denim jacket when he grows up.

Sources

  1. http://www.jeans-and-accessories.com/history-of-blue-jeans.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeans
  3. Confidential: Blue Jean Confidential via Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK-JRxrprAA