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.