Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"La Chute" Book Bag - Whiplash

Making something for this edition of Whiplash should have been easy - I already work with recycled materials, but I wanted to enter something different from my usual fare. I found my inspiration in the Winter edition of Marie Claire Idees, which arrives in my part of the world mid-January. A feature on the scrappiest of scrap art included a bag that, for me, looked challenging.

I used the tiny scraps from my scrap bag (usually I save them to stuff pillows) for patches, part of an old Harris tweed coat for a base, buttons from the odd button jar and split thread that was leftover from an embroidery project. What was really hard for me was trying to make the stitches uneven - the charm of the original design was in the clumsy stitches. I had great fun NOT being "perfect", choosing colour combinations that really didn't work, and using up some odds and ends that had been gathering dust for a truly long time. (How 'bout the red strap leftover from duffel coat I made in 1994?)

Here's a detail. The bag measures about 12" wide by 14" deep, and is lined with, of course, some striped cotton reclaimed from an old kimono.
In Marie Claire, the bag was called "La Chute". My French being what it is, I thought that referred to "garbage chute", which was only logical since the materials might have all been destined for the garbage. But Babel Fish tells me it means "the fall", which I guess could mean the season, a tumble, or maybe a metaphorical fall (from grace). I hope I have elevated the materials of this humble bag into something charming.
Oh, and a side note. The pincushion that can be seen in the upper left corner of the picture is made from upholstery sample covered baby food tins and was made by a German neighbour lady back when I was a kid! True vintage scrap-crafting.


Vancouver Spring

I passed this tree on the way to the studio yesterday. Even in the pouring rain (maybe ESPECIALLY in the pouring rain) the yellow blossoms were bursting forth. There's hope yet!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Beauty and Chaos

Yesterday there was a march in the Downtown East Side in memory of the missing women. My sister-in-law and I attended for the first time. The theatre was already full when we got there, and so we didn't get to hear the words spoken by elders, Phil Fontaine, and the women's family members. This didn't lessen the solemn, respectful atmosphere of the crowd waiting outside. The march proceeded very slowly along Hastings, stopping often. Jackie and I didn't understand why it was moving so slowly - reading the news reports afterwards explained that we were stopping in front of places the women were last seen.
One thing I noticed because of the slow pace was that my experience of the neighbourhood was very different on foot than as seen through the window of a bus or car. From the removed space of a vehicle, the streets of the DTES appear desperate and chaotic. But as we walked in the crowd of people we saw many people waving to each other and calling out to people on the sidewalk, there were smiles and hugs, and it did really feel like a neighbourhood where people knew each other and looked out for each other.

I think I was most moved by the handsewn quilt panels that many people were carrying. They expressed love and care and grief and loss.

I returned home and saw that the mess on the dining room table was becoming stratified and beginning to resemble an archeological dig.

I cleaned it off and took a picture of the results of some dyeing with madder root that I have been doing. These were actually under the mess somewhere. Beauty is often lurking in the chaos.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Odds and Sods

The East Van Revolutionary Knitting Front held their first meeting on Friday - and plotting to overthrow the corporate state was never so much fun! Twelve bold souls turned up, and we not only knit, but had a charka demonstration (lower left), embroidered, and unravelled a hammock (lower right). Big thanks to Jonathan, who not only offered the use of the Vegetarian Resource Centre for our meeting, but made us tea as well - along with Conrad, who fit us in between screenings of his new film "Five Ring Circus" and planning the Stop the Highway party the following evening. I think some very fertile seeds have been planted, and I look forward to seeing what grows from our modest beginning.

I just saw this on Extreme Craft and loved the flaccid-ity of this handsewn version of the gas-guzzling behemoth. Artist Margarita Cabrera created this life size Hummer out of vinyl.

And here's a picture of the latest bag. I did my first sashiko stitching to embellish the front and back. Sashiko is just running stich, so it's very easy and quite satisfying as it goes so quickly. Not quite quickly enough for mass production though - I estimate it took me about 10 hours to embroider just the cloth. I think I'll keep this one for myself.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Taking a Vow

I have signed up for six months worth of the Wardrobe Refashion challenge, thinking it will be a breeze, since I already make most of my own stuff, and have cultivated a pretty low maintainance look over the years. (Yes, cultivated! You think this frizz came easy?!) This morning, I had a meeting in Metrotown, a bloated suburban mall. Normally, I would pass by the window displays without a second thought, but, strangely, I now found myself carefully considering what I have publicly declared I will not wear. There's something both brilliant and perverse about the challenge - it's made me so aware of all the things out there to buy. Not that I had any desire to purchase anything I saw today - it just seemed like there was MORE of it than I had realized before.

What actually made me stop in my tracks and take a picture was this display in American Eagle. The T-shirt is printed with a leafy design and the apparently hand lettered words "Grow your own everything." Obviously cashing in on the DIY, eco-conscious trend, this shirt made my inner cynic cringe. On one side was a picture of a bicycle in a grassy field. On the other, a male mannequin was sporting patchwork shorts and a baseball cap with the "Recycled" symbol on it. I walked away in disgust, then backtracked once again. I was pissed off enough to enter the lair of the enemy.
I surveyed the table laden with identical shirts proclaiming "Live your own life". Another design had detailed instructions on how to do so. They were cute, I admit - obviously someone at AE has been checking out Craftster. A perky sales clerk came up to me and I asked her if the shirts were organic cotton. She studied the label and said, "Well, it doesn't say organic, but they are 100% cotton." I noted that the shirts were made in Peru, and then asked about the baseball cap. Was it really made from recycled fabric? The helpful clerk sweetly checked that label for me too. "Nothing about recycled, but they are 80% cotton." The caps were made in Taiwan. I thanked her for her time and couldn't get my ass out of there fast enough.
Well, you've read No Logo. I don't have to go into detail.

I've noticed something else since I started True Stitches, and became immersed more deeply with fabric than ever before. I will be taking apart a kimono, and be almost overcome with emotion that this garment was stitched by hand, by a person with a lifetime of experience, who was respected for what they did. It feels like sacrilege ripping out the seams. Sometimes, and I swear this is not an acid flashback, I will be so conscious that this fabric came from something that was alive, that it was cotton growing in a field or wool on a sheep's back. I am aware of all the steps that were taken to harvest the fibre, to spin it into thread and weave it into cloth.
I make a vow that what I create out of this cloth will be worthy.