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. ūüôā

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The Fitch Pitch: Socially Conscious Re-Branding?

So, I know that I had promised that my next post would be the finished jacket that I’ve been working on (See posts 1 and 2), and I promise to get to it. However, I saw this video in my Facebook news feed, and wanted to comment upon it.

I’ve never been all that keen on Abercrombie & Fitch (or American Eagle, or Hollister, or any of the other cookie cutter trendy fashion outlets for that matter). It’s just never been my style. When I was a teenager, I spent all of my hard earned burger flipping money at Hot Topic (which, 10-13 years ago actually carried some pretty awesome stuff). I still have my spiked leather collar… oh, memories. Of course, this was also before I woke up and started to learn about where all of my clothing came from and noticed the consumer machine I was taking part in. But, I digress…

A&F, like just about every other brand out there, is marketing to an audience and is pushing this image of what is physically and socially desirable. Everyone and everything around you is trying to influence you in some way. Our parents, our friends, the schools, the media, religion, all of it. How do you think culture is passed on? No one is born knowing anything or having any opinions or philosophies. We learn these things from the society around us, for better or for worse. At least the guy doesn’t deny he has an agenda. I don’t agree with his agenda, but, I give credit where it’s due.

So, the Fitch the Homeless campaign. I kind of like it in that they’re pretty much telling A&F, “Screw You and Your Elitist Crap!” And I also get that, generally, giving homeless people clothes isn’t a bad thing. Donating used clothes and keeping them from being trashed is certainly the opposite of the massive textile waste A&F creates by burning clothes (Seriously? Quit being such a dick.), so it’s doing some good there.
— Did you notice though, that they didn’t just shop some anonymous thrift shop, they went to Goodwill, and even made sure to flash the logo? The song, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis also specifically names Goodwill and just recently Beyonce teamed up with Goodwill for her latest tour. I’m sure these are all just coincidences, and it’s likely just genericized trademarking at work, as Goodwill is one of the largest second hand companies internationally and perhaps the most widely known company name in the US, aside from Salvation Army, but 2 syllables is less hassle than 5. Sorry, Salvation Army, we’ll always remember you come bell ringing season.

Perhaps what rattles around my mind the most with regard to this Fitch the Homeless campaign, is that, it’s pretty much using the homeless people to combat this image that A&F is pushing. I’m sure they have the best of intentions and they just want to wake some people up to this system we live in, tarnish the A&F CEO’s elitist vision and hopefully get him to 1) Quit burning clothes that people could use 2) Realize people come in all shapes and sizes and 3) We already have a big enough self-body image problems and disorders stemming from them.¬† I also respect that in order to get people involved in a cause, you have to get that message out somehow, so why not make a youtube video and use social media to get people motivated, interested and interacting with your cause? It’s a very smart thing to do and hopefully it *will* get people involved and bring about some positive change. But, despite all their well-meaning, at the end of the day, they’re still juxtaposing the image of homelessness against the current conventional ideals of social desirability. They’re mad at A&F for saying “A is pure, we don’t want to be tainted with B” – which I wholeheartedly agree makes them douchebags – but they’re fighting this message by saying, “Hey, look! We’re tainting your precious A with B all over the place and there’s nothing you can do about it!”. This is still a problem.

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 Рlaying 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…

 

Purse Repair and Updates

After a wonderful 2 weeks in North Carolina, I had to return home and return to work. I had hoped to have some pictures of Neil’s baby nephew wearing the shirt I made for him, but sadly, when Neil and I left to drive out to visit his brother, we both forgot to bring the box of baby clothes. We did, however, leave them in NC with his Dad to give to the baby later next month. So, pictures are still to come, they just have a longer wait than I originally anticipated.

While I was on vacation, I took advantage of the time to read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline. If you’ve been following my Facebook page (click on the “like” button in the Facebook widget to the

overdressed_bookright of the blog), you’ve already seen my praises for this book and that I feel everyone needs to read it. What happens in the textile industry and how clothes are consumed does not stay in the textile industry. It has direct ties to the economy, unemployment and the struggle for a living wage/ fair labor practices, the environment, and how arable land is used just to name a few.
If you’re like me, you can’t really afford to buy “new” clothes anyhow, even the fast fashion from the mall or Target. I buy almost all of my clothes second hand, or I make my own. But when you DO buy new clothes, you should understand the power your dollars really do have. No matter where you get your clothes, it could be worth the time to learn how to alter and/or repair them yourself to make them last and fit better, or find a local seamstress or tailor to do the work for you (and help support your local economy while you’re at it).

It is in the spirit of repairing and keeping what I already have and getting it’s full use that I am fixing one of my purses. This backpack purse was actually my very first purse. My father got it for me when I was in 6th grade. I never really used it until I started riding my bike more than driving my car – the little black backpack purse was both cute and effective for carrying while on a bike. However, the lining inside my little purse ripped and I’d been having issues with my keys and other things falling through into the no man’s land between lining and purse. Not really having any lining on hand and knowing cotton is sturdier anyway, I chose to re-purpose an old pillow sham.

The old lining, after taking a seam ripper to my purse. I used the original lining as a pattern for the new.

New lining.

The inside of my gutted purse.

I still have to do the actual sewing yet, but wanted to share the start with you all the same. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Running from Frustration

I have yet to determine whether this works to my benefit or to my downfall, but, I am forever juggling multiple projects at the same time. More often than not, I start a new project because I’ve gotten fed up with a previous one. I’m trying to be better about going back and completing already started projects… I currently have 4 projects I am in the middle of: The Rag Rug, a jacket I started around this time last year, a latch hook kit, and an afghan I started in September. The only thing anywhere close to completion is the afghan.

Complications with The Rag Rug

¬† As of right now, I have completed 49 out of 176 rows of the rug. I’m not nearly as far along as I originally hoped to be by now. (Granted, I’d be at least 5 rows further along if I never had to undo and redo rows because I didn’t pay attention to the pattern.) There are multiple factors for this. The project isn’t portable at all, so I only work on it when I am home. When I *am* home (when I’m not at work, out of town visiting family, at an art show, or spending time with my boyfriend), my attention is also being taken by trying to clean my apartment or watch a movie, which is hard to do while I work on the rug as my back is to the TV. It’s also while I am at home that I work on writing these blogs, check email, Facebook, etc. As the weather gets nicer I find myself getting cabin fever quicker, always wanting to go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine. Of course, allowing myself these pleasures cuts down on my productivity. However, there is one other reason I’ve been avoiding the rug lately: I’ve noticed that the lower rows of the rug are bulging out. I don’t know if this is a tension issue, or due to using scrap material of varying thicknesses, or what. I don’t know if this is something that can be easily smoothed out once the rug is taken off the pole. Because of this, I’ve been somewhat putting off rug production – I’m worried I’ll do all the work, think it’s done, but then have to go back in and fix it somehow.

The Mandarin Jacket

I started working on the Mandarin Jacket shortly after I finished the Nowhere Man jacket early last year. I replaced the entire front panels (by hand!) so that I could create and utilize frog button closures. I then used brocade to make the bottom band and the collar. The collar was hard for me as I had no pattern to work from and was using scrap fabric to try different variations. Because an iron will melt brocade without a press cloth (and a press cloth obstructs my view of the fabric), I had to create the creases with tiny hand stitches near the edges. After all that, I learned a valuable lesson when trying on and trying to close the jacket: brocade has no stretch. Suddenly, a jacket that fit me fine before no longer wants to close. I was so wrapped up in the concept that I failed to consider the properties of the fabrics I was working with. I haven’t touched it since, but I still have it, waiting for the day when I will come back to it.

The Latch Hook Kit

I picked up the latch hook kit from the I.D.E.A. Store a couple months ago. I knew it had a hole in the mesh when I got it. I’ve just been trying to work around the hole in the meantime. I know I have extra mesh around my apartment somewhere…¬† Until I find it, this will wind up in the unfinished pile.

The Afghan

I started the afghan when my mother came up from Florida to visit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to work on the rug, so I began this endeavor so I would have a decent travel project. The pattern I’m following is called “Blue Star” from the book Blue Ribbon Afghans. This is probably closer to being finished than any other project right now, simply because it is portable – I take it to work and to my boyfriend’s all the time – and because it doesn’t take much brain power for me to follow a pattern (unless I stumble upon any errata).

Longing to be a Western Bollywood Heroine

I got to see Agneepath this afternoon at a local art theater. It was amazing to see it on a big screen, in a packed house. I love the energy of the audience, the way everyone claps and cheers when the Hero comes on the screen. I’m still riding the high. I love Indian Cinema. I love the music, the culture, the clothes… It is a wish of mine to one day visit India.

A good friend and I awaiting last summer's showing of "Ready".

While Hindi films have gained a fairly large fan base in the US over the last few years (at least, I know a good number of people familiar with the term “Bollywood”, even if they’ve never seen a single movie.), I often find myself being curiously asked about my interest by Indians I encounter. Today, during intermission, I was asked by 3 people sitting near me how I was enjoying the film, if I’d seen a Hindi film before, if I was able to follow the story well. I never mind answering, I love the conversations that tend to follow – in this case it was a short discussion about how South Indian films are often remade in Hindi and it’s typically the Hindi versions that get the recognition in the US. (There’s fodder for a whole other post that I won’t go into here.)

Last time I went to see a Hindi film in the theater, I went with some friends, and I dressed in a salwar kurta and jeans. Admittedly, I felt self-conscious and wondered if my choice in attire was being well or ill received, or if I was over-thinking it. I couldn’t help but think about the words of a TA (Teacher’s Assistant) I had in college, and I still think about them. One day, in class, he read to us a poem he’d written entitled “I am not a dot”, after which he went on to talk about cultural appropriation and we had a discussion about whether it’s ok to take elements from another’s culture, how different aspects of cultures are appropriated, dynamics of power and so on. (It was actually quite interesting and enlightening.. I still have it recorded, but sadly, I need a new micro-cassette player to access it.) I also distinctly remember Madonna being mentioned, and, while these things never really have a “right answer”, I remember his distaste for the way she wore mehndi, and the way she talked about yoga. These discussions are a large part of why I’ve never donned a bindi, even as I have become more infatuated with Indian fashion and design.

I know, mirror pictures are garish. I had no other choice... really.

Despite seeing numerous positive blogs and videos and generally having been told by friends that I look good and can pull it off, my mind somehow always wanders back to the issue of appropriation. I start to dance around when I hear the tabla, and then I hear George Carlin saying, “…stick to your … polkas and waltzes, and that repulsive country line dancing shit that you do.” I get carried away in the magic of a Hindi film song, and as I close my eyes and begin to imagine myself as a heroine, sometimes I see myself merge gracefully like Heather Graham in The Guru, other times, I think I clash like Rachel Shelley in Lagaan.

 

Additional Reading:

How to be a white girl in Indian clothes – http://jacquelinecieslak.com/?p=1327

Cultural Appreciation or Appropriation? – http://www.the-nri.com/index.php/2010/05/whats-wrong-with-white-women-wearing-sari/

Recommended Movies (just a few, or this list would never end!):

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Ghajini (There’s a Hindi version and a Tamil version, I like both)

Kites

3 Idiots

Veer Zaara