Tagged: denim

Jan 14

Scrap of the week #35

 

Boussac fabric samples

1993 Boussac fabric samples

Boussac furnishing sample, ‘Tsunami’, 1993, New York

 

I have a stylist friend in New York who understands my passion for fabric scraps. When I visited her in 1993, she presented me with a huge stack of rectangular home furnishing samples jettisoned from the Third Avenue offices of French textile company, Boussac. Such treasures! I had to buy an extra case to get them home.

 

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Third Avenue scraps – nothing but the best!

 

Poignant to think that I hadn’t even heard of the word ‘Tsunami’ when I was given these beautiful fabrics.

It can take me a while to find just the right use for a scrap. 21 years later, one of these Boussacs finally assumes its role as a patch for my student son’s jeans. He basically lives in jeans these days, and all his pairs are showing signs of wear. Here’s a typically shredded knee.

 

Jeans for repair

Jeans before

 

Jeans repaired

Jeans after

 

I love the rich shot effect of the red warp and teal weft of this fabric. And the 50% linen, 50% cotton feels great with the denim as it’s robust, yet yielding. I worked quite a traditional kind of reverse appliqué patch which should be super-secure (with 4 rows of stitching, though only 2 are visible). I hoped it would do justice to the Japanese influence of the fabric, with just a whisper of boro, the Japanese art of repair. What do you think? 

Jeans repaired plus Boussac samples

Jeans repaired plus Boussac samples

 

Jeans patch.

Four rows of stitching (two invisible) make this a really strong patch

 

And here are those jeans alongside another pair, patched with raw-edged scraps from my husband’s worn-out pyjamas. Both pairs had been in my mending pile (well, it’s more of a spreading mending cairn) for a while but were finally completed and delivered to the diligent student yesterday. He’s very happy  with them, despite their ostentatious repairs (which I suspect would be a little full-on for most blokes).  Their new wearer just told me that the patch is really comfy, hugging his kneecap and actually feeling much nicer than the non-repaired knee. So, a great result!

Two pairs patched

Two pairs patched

Would you like help repairing your jeans?

I’ll be teaching jeans makeovers to small groups in Bath this spring; Jean Genie sessions will show you several patching techniques (some very visible, some not) to re-knee your favourite jeans, plus the best way to shorten hems, narrow legs etc. Do get in touch if you’d like further details.

Patch-ology: I also teach a comprehensive selection of patching techniques for your whole wardrobe in small workshops. Do get in touch with me for more information.

 

 

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Sep 18

Scrap of the week #23

 

London Fashion Week is just ending. It’s not something I pay close attention to at all as I’m obviously not a dedicated follower of fashion; if you’ve met me you’ll know that the way I dress is almost 100% sale or second-hand, frequently with a subtle got-dressed-in-the-dark twist. But on Saturday I met someone who made me think hard about fashion and how little we, the end consumers, know about our clothes and how they are made.

I was running a mending event in Wiltshire when a man wandered over and picked up this piece of denim from my heap of scraps.

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Sandblasted denim scrap

 

The scrap came from a pair of my youngest son’s cast-off Gap jeans. He’d successively holed, ripped, then outgrown those jeans, and I eventually cut them up for patchwork. This scrap now sits in a small cardboard suitcase of denim pieces which I lug to the Big Mend and back every month, just in case anyone wants a worn, soft denim patch to repair their jeans with.

The man looked closely at the scrap and, after a moment of scrutiny, said in a thick Middle-Eastern accent: “Yes. Sandblasted.”

He then went on to tell me that he had worked in a Turkish jeans factory in the 1990s, sandblasting garments to fade them fashionably. The work had damaged his lungs. Permanently. Living and sleeping in the sandblasting part of the factory (not unusual for migrant workers) hadn’t helped. He only retains about half his original lung function. It is not a reversible condition. Many of his co-workers and family members have died of the lung disease silicosis. Sandblasting is such a pernicious process that it was eventually banned in Turkey a few years ago. But the fashion for the worn jean continues, and so does sandblasting – but in other less regulated places, such as Bangladesh.

The fashion in the West for the pre-worn is curious. Why, when we can’t bear to allow our bodies to show any vestiges of age, do we want our clothes to look prematurely old? I can remember the time when all jeans were as stiff and unyielding as they were deep blue. You had to work at wearing them in, like a stout pair of leather boots or a Brooks bike saddle. Fading, similarly, was achieved only with time, wear and washing. But on the upside, in contrast to most of the ones you get today,  your jeans lasted intact for years. I wondered if I’d imagined the former ruggedness of jeans (a kind of false denim-memory syndrome) until I found an old scrap of a pair I’d owned as a teenager. I’ve kept it, absurdly, in the materials lugged from home to home over the years – retained because it still bears my embroidery stitches (a bit of belated Flower Power). That denim is truly rugged. They really do not make them like that anymore.

That said, a few companies (like the Hiut Denim Company) now specialise in making robust denim jeans once again, jeans with a conscientious provenance too, but at a price. Perhaps this is the right price, the price free of needless exploitation and pointless disease. Very nice if you happen to have £130+ available to spend on jeans. But what about those who can’t afford it? What to do?

One thing is to learn to detect the sandblasted finish and simply not buy it. Should you even buy sandblasted jeans second-hand? A moot point. The charity shop can seem for clothes what the money-launderer is for immoral earnings, displacing the context, cleansing the sins of production. But, of course, it doesn’t really.

Another thing you can do is ask your favourite jeans manufacturer/s whether they still use sandblasted denim. If so, where has it come from?

And finally, you can consult one of the organisations working to eradicate sandblasting.

I felt rather humbled to learn so belatedly about the distress caused by those distressed jeans, to hear first-hand from a sufferer about the perils of sandblasted denim. It’s not the price I wanted anyone to pay, not for a pair of jeans.

 

 

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Apr 11

The big mend

You’ll have noticed that I’m a bit of a fan of mending – in theory, if not always in practice. Like everyone else, I seem to have an ever-growing pile of things with holes or without buttons, waiting to be rescued from the clothing version of limbo.

Well, I’m thrilled to announce a new project happening very close to home which will help to redress that problem. It’s called the Big Mend and it aims to get Bath (or the small corner of it in which I live) mending its ways. Imagine a great big sociable gaggle of people sewing on buttons, darning, nibbling snacks and gossiping. That should be it. There will be sewing tools on hand to use, free of charge, and other helpful items to purchase, should you wish. Or you are welcome to bring along your own bits and pieces. If your problem is carving out the time and space, hopefully we can give you that. If your problem is trepidation or insufficient skills, we aim to be able to help you with that too; if there isn’t someone there who will know how to fix your beloved vintage dress, we will know where to look to find out.

Our first meeting of the Big Mend will be on Wednesday 24th April at Crockadoodledo, Larkhall from 7-9pm. You’re very welcome to drop in any time you like (though it would be advisable not to arrive at quarter to 9 if you have a long hem to repair). Entry is free.

Huge thanks are due to Caroline Harris, local author on matters thrifty (amongst many other talents) who encouraged me to pursue this idea. Curiously enough, she provided the  inspirational spark for the project when she wrote an article for Bath Life back in May 2009.

Caroline 's Bath Life article

 

In her article, Caroline rued the parlous state of her three pairs of jeans, and wished for what she called a ‘mending amnesty… an occasion where you can bring along all that forlorn forgotten sewing and do it in company, with a chat and a drink’. I read that and thought: That’s me! I can do that! And here it is, three years later, after a few false starts;  I  actually conjured up the artwork way back then (see it propped against this antique sewing machine?) but have managed to sit on it ever since. I just hope that Caroline’s favourite jeans are still salvageable.

The Big Mend takes place on the last Wednesday of the month from 7-9pm. May’s event (30th May) takes place at the Museum of Bath at Work in Julian Road. Entry is free, so just turn up!

 

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Nov 23

Scrap kitty

All this talk of first sewing-machine experiences reminded me that jeans renovation featured prominently in mine. A previous incarnation of the skinny jean, c.1980, required them to look as though they had been sprayed on. I couldn’t afford to buy them (or maybe they weren’t even available to buy) so had to adapt what I had (straights? I think we’d already abandoned flares). As far as denim was concerned, this was the pre-Lycra era, making skin-tight pretty difficult to achieve. But with plenty of pinning, trimming, sewing and endless trying on (and peeling off), the more grimly determined teens among us got there. How sad that I can find no photographic evidence!

Well, I’m more likely to deconstruct jeans completely nowadays, and turn them into something else. Or sew on the odd knee-patch for Little Scraplet, who can hole a trouser in just one wearing. Little Scraplet’s friend’s 11th birthday party (actually back in September, but forgive me for being slow to post about it) sent me to my scrap bag looking for a suitable gift idea.

I leafed through Pip Lincolne‘s charmingly fun retro-styled Meet Me At Mike’s book and found a sweet kitty pattern. Looked good to me, and Little Scraplet approved. This is a really appealing project book, but I think there may have been a problem with the pattern-drafting (seam allowances omitted?) as I thought my kitty emerged looking like the one in the book after a celebrity crash-diet. And the instructions didn’t tell me to cut out the correct number of pieces (forgetting you need two for each arm and leg). Getting caught in an instruction-/pattern- failure ambush tends to puncture the ‘can-do’ approach just a little. I’m sufficiently experienced to read around the instructions and figure out how to fix it without the book’s help, but I thought it would be a pity for someone attempting a first project (the book’s real audience, I would guess) to be derailed so soon. End of rant. Well, it all came out OK in the end, though my kitty was a bit skinnier than she might have been.

Scrap kitty

Scrap kitty tries to relax

The rest of her is scrap or thrifted. Her face is cut from a felted 2nd-hand sweater. She’s stuffed with a 2nd-hand bag of unused toy stuffing (the stuff I find in cupboards!)  plus some lavender. She can’t be washed but smells s-o-o-o relaxing.

Scrap kitty face

Scrap cat close-up

I was slightly disappointed by her final mouth, realising that I liked the effect of the pin that had been holding her nose on during construction (vertical line and dot) and I should’ve tried to emulate that. Nevermind. Maybe another time.

Feedback on kitty was good. Sort of. Recipient’s older sister had purloined it as her mascot (she was taking exams), and was refusing to relinquish it. The mother cooed and said I should be making and selling them. Well, obviously I can’t ‘cos it’s not my pattern, but it’s a nice thought.

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