Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The 150 Mile Wardrobe, From Scratch

I just read about a new project this morning that has captured my imagination. The Fibershed Project seeks to create a wardrobe from "Seed to On-The-Skin" in a response to the current unsustainable practices of textile manufacture.

Although I do have sheep in my own front yard, the snag I see in the possibility of taking on a similar challenge myself is that the Fibershed group are happily (and conveniently) located in California, where cotton can be grown. Here in the Pacific Northwest, nettle fibre is the best option for next to the skin dainties, and it really hasn't been processed in any practical way for a couple of hundred years. Handspun wool panties have no appeal for me.

Nevertheless, it is a very intriguing project and I look forward to following the group's progress. Here is a link to their Facebook page, and their wonderful blog can be found here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This Cat Has My Number

Angus is taking advantage of his "ailing old codger" status to delay the progress on the quilt. His perfectly comfy basket is only three feet away.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Lasqueti She Project

I participated in the Lasqueti She Project last weekend. It's a satellite of the original project - each participant is sent a line that begins with "she" and, in two hours, creates an expression in art, poetry or other medium that responds to the initial statement.

My line was "She blew off the rules." I was quite disconcerted by this as I am a bit of a compulsive rule follower. Then I had an image in my mind of a woman blowing the dust off an actual, official looking list of rules. This led me to consider the rules I have encountered in my life, and instantly remembered a series of paintings I had done based on a penmanship exercise book from 1829. I had inherited this little book, which was a rather stern collection of proverbs and homilies such as "Honour thy parents." "Return good for evil." "Beauty soon fades." "Modesty is the best adornment." Pretty heavy stuff for the writer, 11-year-old Eliza Carmen.

The first line of the book was "Avoid wicked men." As rules go, that one is hard to beat.

So, naturally, I decided to embroider that line on a vintage linen handkerchief, suitable for dabbing daintily at one's nose.

I printed the text out from the computer and traced it with a pencil onto the hankie. Then I hand-embroidered with two strands of DMC. Not as perfectly as I would have liked, but there was no time to unpick and re-do. Overall, I'm quite happy with the white on white, ephemeral quality of the piece.

I haven't had a chance to see what other people have done with their lines, but I certainly enjoyed the challenge and the two hour time limit.

And I am intrigued by the possibility of using a slow cloth technique on vintage handworked textiles - the integrity of slow is maintained, I think, and there is a collaboration with another (usually unknown) textile artist. I can't imagine ever sitting down and working a drawn thread handkerchief with a tatted lace border, but one of my predecessors did, and I can honour her work and give it a new life with my own contribution.

Come to think of it, this is a really slow piece - started by Eliza 170 years ago! Maybe it's not finished yet!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

How Can a Kimono Break One's Heart?

I am taking apart a kimono and weeping an unreasonable amount of tears. Every step of deconstructing this simple garment reveals such care, and elegance, and refinement that were taken in the making.

I'm not destroying, simply the last witness to a vanished world.

The tiny square of silk kasuri that reinforces the underarm just pierces my heart. The fact that it co-ordinates with the outer wool fabric shows the care taken in its selection, a tiny scrap that will never be seen, except in this final stage of its unmaking.

The silk thread in stitches so expert and appropriate, again, none that will ever be seen.

The perfect mitred hen at the front opening, such care, such evidence of a long history of garment making, such perfection in the details.

The interfacing of old cotton, a second layer starched so the collar falls just so on the woman's neck. Pure beauty.

And it was never worn. It is pristine.

Sold in a used kimono shop for 525 yen, about $5.00 Canadian.

How does one continue to live in such a world?