Friday, December 21, 2012

Boro Yogi Update: It's Done!

Well, it's done. Into the laundry last night, hung to dry overnight, a few shreds trimmed, and it's done. And by 'finished', I mean that the two fronts are lined with a patchwork of scraps. And so this is now what the inside looks like:

The fronts and sleeves are thus now four layers of cloth thick: a foundation cloth (hidden both inside and out), an outside base that was woven into and patched (making this layers two and three) and then this patched lining cloth.

I didn't stick with found cloth on this lining. This is all second hand, and each piece is more personal. Some of the plaid flannel is old sleep pants from the guy who lives here, the batik (brown on the right hand sleeve) is part of a napkin I bought at the Goodwill, the emerald green is shantung silk I got second hand. I just basted these on a piece at a time, holding the whole garment in my lap, smoothing each piece and adjusting until it 'fit'. I discovered pins were not useful doing this part- I just needed to work with each piece and the foundation until they worked together properly. I overlapped the edges an inch or so in most spots.

This is the outside back. As you can also see, I completed the sleeves, both inside and out, with a base cloth over the foundation which I then wove into and patched. The inside of this back is not yet lined, for two reasons. First, because it just might not need it. It is three layers thick now, and the foundation cloth is quite sturdy (it was a new second hand scrap of some kind of heavy cotton). The second reason it is not lined is that the back is translucent- meaning that I will have to line it with white, or the colours will show through. So I'm still deciding what to do with this. I am going to start using it for now, and see what happens.

And finally, this is a close up of one of my favorite parts, built up with two cloths 'full' of holes (the grey brown on the right and the sun faded blue on the left), holes I just filled in with other small bits.  I love how it looks abraded and worn away.

That's the outside front above. And so now the boro yogi will go on the bed and be the blanket it is meant to be. But it is always ready to travel, too:

I'm ready to start something new for the new year. I started this on January 1 2012. It's a very exciting prospect. I have a found quilt (a 'Dresden Plate' pattern) that I want to work with, so it is on my mind in quiet moments what it might be best to become. 

Thank you for stopping by.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rag of the Day December 01 2012

December 1, 2012 under the Horton Street bridge. Poly/Cotton blend from polyester-stuffed duvet that has been stuck in the mud here since at least August.

Other side of the above. This side had some tender small roots grown through it.

For comparison, the red I found today beside the red I found in the same place some months ago. The stiched piece above is a close up view of the red patch on the front of the boro yogi/dragon robe. I'm struck by the difference. The original red is more yellow, the new is more blue. And it makes a huge difference.

November 29, 2012, L and PS tracks at Bathurst Street. Really jammed up against the track. Probably from a quilted garment of some kind, there is a wisp of polyester fill caught in a line of stitches on one piece. Seems like a rayon blend of some kind, but I can't quite tell. Blue, full of holes, some from sparks, rust marks. Survived washing and being pressed dry.
Just a catalogue and process entry today, to keep track of the dates. Also, to note that I've discovered that I can take small parts of items too large to carry home or that would be impossible to launder properly (like 'sleeping bags that have been underwater in the river' or 'blankets embedded in mud for months') by poking a hole in it with my house key. I can tear segments of the cloth using this method. It leaves most of the item behind, and I only do this when the item is too far gone to recover whole, if there's no chance someone else could use it, or if it is home to 'wildlife' (by which I mean insects settled in for the winter!).

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rag of the Day: Fall Digest

August 2012 Cotton summer shorts. Soaked for over a month, laundered, much of it just disintegrated, but two largish pieces left. Flecked with holes. Dramatically faded on one side, a lovely indigo colour on the other. Found them while stealing rocks from a factory that's been closed for 10+years on Bathurst Street.

November 6 2012 Swatches of cotton flannel; part of the lining of a c.1970s cotton sleeping bag. By the river at Weekend Park. No tag.

October 2012 Cotton 'fake' ticking; removable cover of a feather pillow. I say it's fake because I always thought of ticking as having the stripes in the warp of the cloth. This is printed on one side. The tag said "Made in the USA". Probably new. From a pillow abandoned in Greener Pastures with a chenille bedspread, various knit t-shirts and some socks. It's been there since July.

September 2012. A most unusual cotton/polyester blend shirt, Arnold Palmer brand, and I can't remember where the tag said it was made. Found perfectly folded up into a little square. It had been unearthed while somebody (the rail company? the city?) was excavating to remove the shack that folklore tells me covered the entrance to a terrazzo-tiled tunnel under the CN tracks near Clarence and Bathurst. The cloth is translucent except for the thin white stripes. I think the cotton is rotted away, and left the polyester.

A batch of little finds that have been adding up. Some of them are already getting worked into the hybrid boro yogi dragon robe.

The whole garment is getting difficult to photograph, because it is so huge. As you can see below, I have started on the collar. It is just a strip of walnut-dyed cotton (a cover from an ironing board), not even cut on the bias. But the stitching- long running stitches in parallel rows one way, and then perpendicular the other way- has given it the structure of a collar. Or the stitches shape it into a collar.

Someday soon I'll be able to get it set up outside to get a better picture of it. When it's light out, too!

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Foraging for Lost Cloth as Discipline and Practice

When I first started out with Jude's classes, my discipline was that I only used second hand cloth- inherited, gifted, purchased second hand. Because, at the time, I was interested in the intrinsic qualities of old cloth. Cloth made within a less rushed, less profit-oriented production process. I was  concerned with the failure of mass production to ensure quality and durability.

-September 1, 2012, Weekend Park. An entire Dresden Plate quilt. Hand pieced, hand quilted. Cotton batting, cotton cloth. Left behind in an abandoned mid-summer camp.

I was acutely aware of the problems of a system of production driven not just by haste, but by a sense that everything is being made cheaply enough that it can be rapidly replaced. Everything from towels to garments to bedding to the cloth we buy to make things is engineered to fill a short term need. To me, old cloth carries the traces of different priorities.
-September 10, 2012, between the dumpsters at the paint store across the street. Cotton Club Monaco shirt. Not too filthy, but needs a serious wash.
But it is not just 'old cloth' that fascinates me. It is, it turns out, cast-off cloth. Stuff that has been sent off to the second-hand store, donated to charity or put in the garbage because it is excess. Not because it is worn out, not because it is used up, but because its current owner wants to move on to something else. Is ready to move on to the next thing and has too much.
-end of August, 2012, weird little meadow triangle where I found the grey Camp Shirt. Yellow with navy woven check, I guess. Cotton, blood stains on left front, but otherwise in perfect condition.
The same system of production that, arguably, drives down quality (and consumer's awareness of quality), also drives down production cost. Which drives up consumption. And drives up production. Less-discerning consumers do not need to discriminate on the basis of quality. They only need to discriminate on the basis of style, only to catch up to the ever-moving trends. Unless 'buying something new' itself is the end, which it could be.
Really horrible, inexpensive fashion shirt that inspired the boro yogi dragon coat. Because I kind of fell for it after all.
Consumption has become over-consumption, in short, and the excess that falls out of that system has to end up somewhere. And here, where I forage every day with the dog, in the big loops that begin and end at the gate, that excess is scattered around in various states of decay. Because, and this is the key, because this is the kind of landscape occupied by the people who catch this excess stuff when it lands. Where people without homes, without privacy, without a place to stash their stuff find themselves acquiring and then casting off the cast offs.
Camp Remnants in Weekend Park, September 8 2012; where the Dresden Plate quilt came from. Not an indictment of the people who stayed here, but a record of just how much stuff gets cast-off within our current system of consumption. Whoever camped here couldn't possibly have taken all this on to wherever they had to go next.
Most of the above has already been hauled to the dump. It had a brief respite from this fate after whoever brought it here found it on the curb, in a dumpster, at a second hand store. This stuff was all old, used, nothing here was even vaguely new. Most of it had still had some use.
Most stuff left behind in sites like this, however, simply rests there, worked into the plants and the soil by the usual stuff- rain, wind, snow, sun.
-Mid-August 2012, CN tracks on a rainy Saturday morning, behind the Men's Mission. Cotton (? it is still too wet to burn test it) from a padded jacket almost completely buried in the ground. This is pre-washing; it is still soaking, and turns out to have dozens of small holes in it.
It disappears to reappear in the fall and the spring. And it changes in those interactions. It gets.stained, fades, develops marks and traces. It gets shredded by lawnmowers, snowblowers, run over by cars. It finds its way into nests, gets eaten by insects, plants grow roots through it.
-September 9, 2012, Greener Pastures under the mature American Chestnut on the north side of the park. Astonishingly, I found another piece of this very same cloth about 100 feet away over a year ago.
That first piece is now part of the cloth that is on the back of the boro yogi.
Trying to understand why there is so much lost means, to me, understanding all of this- the long chains of production, getting, giving and losing. It has been necessary to me to understand that these are not isolated, individual, surprising processes. These are processes and flows that are normal. They make finding cloth unsurprising, expected, normal.
The practice of setting out to find cloth disciplines, sets the parameters within which I am sewing things like this above. This is 'discipline', not as in 'I don't eat a cupcake every day' discipline, but as in a practice that frames and limits the enterprise of making for me. Foraging is the practice that puts (welcome) boundaries on what I can use, but that also produces the ground for imagining what's next. For me, what's next has to include evaluating the processes that produce so much lost cloth.
Horrible shirt strips reworked into a flaming pearl for the dragon to pursue. HA!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Boro Yogi Progress

The cloth is now really in the shape of a yogi- in this case like a narrow-armed robe. It doesn't quite show itself as a yogi yet, because the sleeves beyond the body are still only two layers of cloth- the base cloth and the thin cloth that I weave into. I think that once the sleeves are finished on both sides, thicker and heavier, they will show more.

On the right hand side of this photo, you can see the top of the one front panel is complete. I am going to move across to the other side next, finishing the edges of the sleeves beyond the main trunk of the cloth later.

Filling in this top front panel, I get the feeling of the pieces really coming together into one cloth. The shoulder seam is less stressed, the bottom hangs flatter. The front bows out a bit, making room inside. It is starting to hang like it is a coat, I guess. When I pick it up, it really feels like a garment already.

And I gave the dragon eyes, and a pearl to chase.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Assembling the Sleeping Cover

I have assembled the pieces of the sleeping cover (see previous post) that I am calling a hybrid boro yogi. A yogi is a garment-shaped coverlet used to cover a sleeping body. I saw one first in Stephen Szczepanek's beautiful catalogue for the show Mottainai: The Fabric of Life. A proper yogi would have a removable stuffing, which this one doesn't. Doesn't yet at least. I'll see.

I have made this one from components- the back panel, two front side panels and four pieces for the sleeves. I thought a lot about the process of constructing a garment while I worked on this- setting the pattern pieces, pinning them, cutting, etc. This is very different. The seams are lapped, and I just closed them with running stitch. And none of the component pieces is complete at this point, and now I'll just work directly on the cloth, stitching across the seams where the components meet. The blue cloth above is the lining of the sleeves which will be covered with patches. Here is a view of the back (and Emma Goldman the old man cat/my shadow):

And here is a view of the front. The cloth on the sleeve on the right will also be on the left sleeve. This over cloth is the first thing I printed with native wild blackberry leaves two years ago. The cloth is an old diaper (found in a box of rags). I'm going to work around those prints. They look very elegant to me. And they evoke being outside to me; these leaves are from the blackberry we grow just along the fence at the right of this photo, but are from seeds and berries the birds must have foraged along the river. I think this is very definately cloth for being outside. Maybe for sleeping outside.

I need to figure out something to do for the collar; a proper yogi has a collar like a kimono. It suggests the shape of the back of the neck. It is kind of like a lapel on a jacket. It runs from midway on one front panel up around the back of the neck and back down the front. I think it needs to be one piece of cloth so that it will stand up, and give the impression of hugging the sleeper's neck.

I also have a plan for making it a sleeping bag- I found a matched pair of extremely long skate laces in a parking lot last week. If I attach them to the yogi, then I can tie it into a bundle. Like this:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Hybrid Sleeping Bag (Three-toed Dragon Boro Yogi)

One of the components of my second Magic Diaries cloth, which I began on January 1, 2012, is an opened pillow case. It is the base that everything is woven into in the entire bottom half in the image above. It is actually the thin inner cover of a fibre fill pillow. Light and fly away and grey and stained.

Finding things like pillows, blankets and sheets along the river is provocative. And it happens all the time. Below is a pillow case that I opened along the side seams. I found it embedded in the river bank, full of sand. It had roots growing through it, screws rusted into it, and yet still had its tag: polyester cotton blend, made in Turkey. The dark stains on the upper right are paint, too. It is over two yards long.

Inspired by Jude Hill's most recent workshop, Contemporary Boro 2, I decided to work on a garment. At first I thought the cloth at the top of this post could be a lining for a garment; and because so much of the cloth above is made from stuff left behind by people sleeping out rough, I wanted to make a sleeping garment- what I see called a yogi, a kimono-shaped garment to cover a sleeper.

But then I found this shirt two weeks ago at an abandoned camp site from the late spring, hanging in a tree. It is torn in part and covered here and there with duct tape. I left it for a week to see if anyone was missing it. This is it after washing it and removing the tape.

This is a cheap and poorly made shirt; the seams aren't straight, the hem was not pressed before it was sewn, the finishing on the seam edges has long knotted tails. This is made by someone working quickly, very very quickly. The print is kind of horrible, sinister. And yet, the shirt makes me think of Chinese dragon robes. Magnificent garments worn only in company of others wearing their dragon robes, each robe a record of the wearer's status relative to others. (Relative to others with robes who, together, composed a class exclusive of everyone else.) A robe bearing a three toed-dragon reserved for those a step below those wearing four-toed dragons and so on, up to five toes. 

Fake Dragon Robe; silk; Goodwill maybe 1987? Brocade.

I had to inspect the dragon on that horrible shirt left hanging in a tree at a camp, left draped in a bunch over a branch. It has three toes. And it is somehow just magnificent to me. And so, of course, I've decided to make a Dragon Robe. But to merge it with the yogi. To make a kind of hybrid garment where sleeping out rough, boro, rags and symbols meet. This is the front.

The base is the pillow case from above, cut in half. You can see on the left hand panel that the original hem from the pillow case is not let out yet. The fronts are lined with a blue sheet I found in the park last winter, it had been made into part of a tent. Almost all of the cloth is found, but I am adding bits of silk sari strip, and have some silk from one of my mom's old blouses, and a pink rayon trim from a destroyed blanket my grandma made. And the back is the Magic Diaries cloth at the top of this post. Once it is all assembled, after the front panels are completed, I can laminate scraps into the inside. Maybe even someday it will be reversible.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rag of the Day: The Story of a Shirt

When I showed my mom this shirt (because it is quite a find) the day after I found it, it dawned on me how much we knew about it. Between the tag and how and where I found it, its story is remarkably clear.

I found it spilled out of a sun-rotted garbage that is grown into, overgrown by, engulfed by the meadow plants and wild shrubs that reinforce a decades-old chain link fence that separates the CN tracks from municipal property. The municipal property in question is a very odd little wedge of unmowed dirt and gravel that, until recently, was a privately run parking lot- illegally so, because the City had just overlooked that it actually owned the land, for years.

After the City took back control, it added another fence, and created a well-fenced triangle of meadow, now full of flowering sweet clover, alfalfa and milkweed. The fences give the impression it is sealed off, but the newest fence misses the one it was supposed to adjoin by a good foot, and the elaborate, expensive gate along one side has no lock, just a heavy latch. It is a perfect place for The Dog and I to pass through on our way home from the river (unpaved), and a perfect place for mostly men from the homeless shelter a minute away to while away a fair day. The Dog, They and I all know and greet one another, we are acquainted. I call out "is anyone afraid of dogs? She is friendly but will knock over your beer!". Usually some one says "oh that's my buddy, that dog with the blue eye". Maybe we are more than acquainted. (update: today, after three years, there is a lock on the gate).

It is not a surprise to find a bag of clothes in this place. A garbage bag full of clothes in this place is one of three things. It could be a bag of a man's or woman's possessions, a man or woman moved out of the homeless shelter and either not welcome or not willing to cycle into the other shelter. Or, it could be a bag of donated used clothes distributed to a person with the proper paper work (a 'voucher') by the clothing bank run out of the nearest homeless shelter. (Neighbours have brought me clothes from there, in repayment of small favors we've been able to do for them; I always have to bend to that kindness and accept). Or, finally, it is a bag of clothes that was left in the drive-through drop-off at the also nearby Goodwill, by a donor who pulled up in their vehicle after the donation centre closed, and decided to just leave the bags outside and hope for the best. And then the bag was stolen.

I think this shirt came out of the last kind of bag. Its contents were all neatly folded- they are being spilled out one layer at a time. No one moving out of the homeless shelter has such neat luggage. And the bag was packed, full, dense. No one gets such a volume of clothing from the clothing bank. And, judging by this shirt, well, it is hard to see whoever owned it taking it to the homeless shelter, which is slightly harder to find, you need to get out of the car, you need to go inside and find someone to take the bag, etc. It's a chore.

Judging by this shirt, I mean to say, it is a brand name shirt from a company that bills itself as "purveyor of island lifestyles and maker of luxury lifestyle clothing and accessories". This is one of their Camp Shirts, and a nearly identical new one retails for $110.00 US. As they say on their website, "Whether it's late summer in the city or any time on the islands, this versatile camp shirt is the perfect complement to your relaxed lifestyle." Silk. Well made. The website recommends that you "zoom in to see the plaid dobby texture and how it flows uninterrupted over the front pocket." And so it does.

When Mom and I looked at the shirt, I said "I think it is from a bag of clothes stolen from the Goodwill". She tsked, "stealing...." and trailed off. Because she knew I didn't mean shoplifted, daylight robbery, late night break and enter. She knew I meant that whoever owned the shirt left it outside the Goodwill. Really just dumped it. Just had too much other stuff and needed to get rid of it. And didn't really care where it went, just that it went.

What strikes me most is that whoever dropped it off has no idea that it was more likely to be poached than to ever make it into the store. Whoever dropped it off has no idea that the shirt might fall off the consumption treadmill that needs the Goodwill for a legitimate conclusion to the process of over-consumption. What strikes me is that whoever dropped this off has no way to understand not just where it ended up, in the no-man's-land triangle, but how likely it was to end up there after all.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rag of the Day- Summer 2012

A few little things have come my way, or I have come their way, in the past couple of weeks, a shop rag, two whole garments, a shawl, two handkerchiefs, and some tomato soup-coloured cloth that has remarkably survived some unusual stuff.

June 2012, Bathurst Street. A typical pink shop rag, heavily stained. Fell out of somebody's car. I passed it about five times, but after a very rainy few days, I decided to pick it up. These wash and sew well, oddly. And the mottled staining is kind of great.
June 2012, brought home by B and The Dog. Lovely cotton with spectacular tear.

July 1, 2012- spilled out of a sun-rotten green garbage bag full of clothes in the brush along the fence that separates Bathurst Street from the CN tracks. Last week there was a blue t-shirt pulled out of the bag, this morning this had been pulled out into the dirt. Machine sewn, of course, but well made by someone sitting at a machine in a factory in China. An almost stiff, heavy cloth; when you shake it out it makes the sound a sail does when the wind fills it. Snap!
Mid-June, a Sunday, 2012 in the parking lot at weekend park. A pair of shorts, in a boxer style. Cotton, Old Navy, made in India. The inside of the waistband is a different light indigo and white stripe. Very worn cloth, bleach stained, sun faded. Tears easily, but still not too thin to sew.

 Early June 2012, Bathurst Street, a viscose shawl tied up like a head scarf when I found it. The black flows into the white. Black tassels on all of the edges. Each tassel is knotted, by hand.

June 29, 2012 Bathurst Street near Waterloo, fragments of camoflage print polyester cotton blend. Very oddly, one is a circle.

May 2012, but I didn't pick it up until early June, under the Horton Street bridge, in the river bank that has been exposed by the drought for the first time in two years. Polyester-cotton blend. Fragment of the backing of a nylon-stuffed comforter. Machine stiched quilting lines perfectly intact. Left edge shows where it has been on fire. ON FIRE- this cloth has survived being on fire, buried in the mud, and being under water for months. through every season. Way to go, red cloth.

 I'm working some of these in to the last section of the Magic Diaries 2 cloth, above you can see some of the red cloth and some of the shorts. The rest of the open space now is going to be light coloured cloth, using up lots of anonymous little bits. I've become acutely aware that every stitched thing we buy (and throw away or leave behind, or give to charity) is hand made in some way. Hands hold precut shirt pieces, turn seams open, tie tassels on shawls. So I'm thinking about this. To add to the stories of how these things find their way to where I find them I suppose.

Thanks for stopping by.