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.


  1. Jean-Pierre Antonio9:57 PM

    There is a difference, isn't there? There must be a difference between a piece of cloth that becomes a dress that becomes part of a rug or furoshiki (wrapping cloth) that becomes a wash rag that becomes... and a piece of clothing that comes direct from the factory looking as if it has already had a well worn life.

    Do you think that overpriced pre-washed and pre-ripped jeans are today's version of Marie Antoinette's statement about eating cake (did she really say that?)? We are a little insensitive to the way most people actually live in the world.

  2. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Hi Heather, So I remembered to check your blog. Excellent writing as always, photos beautiful, bags beautiful, ideas stimulating - what more could you want in a reaction - except some sales, eh!

  3. Barbara12:37 AM

    I share your sadness and outrage that "Recycling" and "Save the Earth" sentiments are cheapened by Madison Avenue's trend-of-the-month fad....which will be discarded as quickly as the fake overpriced garments, which were made for pennies by the sweat of someone's brow somewhere in the Third World. Wanna bet the typical wearers couldn't find the country of manufacture on a map?

  4. Anonymous1:26 PM

    Hi Heather:

    Fellow Harlot lurker here! I saw your comment on her blog re Felted Clogs. I am a North Deltan and I too am frustrated by the lack of yarn shops. I have to make a trip to White Rock, Langley, Burnaby or Ladner for a ball of sock yarn - yiks.

    Anyway, I found the pattern at Burnaby Knitworks (right across the street from Metrotown). They have/had - I hope I didn't take the last one! - the revised pattern which includes instructions on how to make a clog with trim and a narrower foot.

    Here is a warning - the pattern calls for #9 - 60cm and 40cm circular needles. I don't know if it was just me, but #9 - 60cm circular needles do not exsist at any Walmart or Zellars that I'm aware of.

    The clogs can be knit back and forth with a few pattern changes. A discovery I made after ordering the Childrens clogs on-line from the Naked Sheep which includes instructions for knitting with straight needles.

    Ok, have wool, have 80cm circular needles and know how to knit clogs back and forth - oh no! - the pattern is so hard to read! I can do this, I'll just type out the pattern in the size I want to knit in a larger font.

    Finally it was worth all the effort and aggravation. My husband, son and I now have Felted Clogs.

    Just wanted to share this info with the hope that it will save someone aggravation and gas. I'm still upset about all the running around I did.


    Sale of Patons Classic Merino at Michaels w/o Feb. 10. $4.99 ball and I have an extra pattern I will share.

  5. Thanks Pat - Another very kind Harlot reader sent me the pattern from somewhere out in the Midwest. Knitters really are the best people! I was a little daunted by the instructions too, so I'm glad to hear that you had such success.

  6. Denise Tabuchi3:44 AM

    Hello Heather, Just found your blog and love the bags you make from Japanese fabrics. I`m Irish but married to a Japanese man and living near Kyoto. I just wanted to tell you not to feel bad about ripping the kimono seams...kimono are usually taken completely apart just for cleaning. I saw a programme on tv recently where they showed kimono being taken apart and sewn back into one long piece that was then stretched on a fine bamboo frame.When all the cleaning process the kimono was sewn back together. Kimono and obi are often recycled for clothes and crafts ...the Japanese seamstress would be happy to see her work undone if she looked at your bags. Best wishes, Denise


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