In a nod back to my previous 100 Day challenge, I am also planning on doing some digital textile design that I can use to print more unique fabrics inspired by my Oneshirts. This is where the watercolors of each shirt will come in handy. I started by scanning the painting of the front of Origin and then used the offset filter in Photoshop, plus the cloning tool and some paintbrushes, to make an endless repeat drawn from the painting.

And so this..

became this..

 

which looks like this when applied across a larger space.

This fabric is not necessarily the one I will pay $18 a yard to print, but it demonstrates the concept. I am upcycling design ideas, not just materials.


My Oneshirt project has several origins, each of them providing an opportunity to examine craftsmanship, sustainability, design, science, and history. I guess I will start with the word “craftsmanship”. As a lifelong feminist, my eye is often snagged on the word “man” but, as I tell my students, in many cases, the chunk of “man” in a word actually comes from Manual, coming from “hand” instead of from the universal human. This means that Craftsmanship could be rewritten Craftshandship and that feels so real and essential to my experiences as a Craftsman or Craftshand.

Hands are amazing and our relationship with them can be so complex but unexamined. I depend on my hands to do so many things but making or crafting is my favorite hand task. My handiwork, my making skills, makes me proud and fills my day. The subtle vibrations of a surface as felt through the tip of a tool and communicated to my hand tells my brain so much about the world and the shape of what I making or the make of what I am shaping.

I can so clearly recall sitting perched on a stool in the Tailor Shop of my (now) good friend Valdene Mintzmyer in Lincoln’s Haymarket District. As a 22yr old college student, I was grappling with disillusionment over my future prospects. My rush to college began early (I am a high school dropout) but college did not provide the complete realization that I had been promised by literature. How to become, who to become, we all remember that deep concern of our young adulthood. Valdene, who was just becoming my friend, asked me in kindness “what do you want to do with your life”. I answered “I want to become a craftsman and own my own business”. I joke now that she replied “boy, do I have a deal for you” , but whatever she replied, it was almost no time at all that I began an apprenticeship with her and began the journey of my life, stepping through the journeyman door towards mastery of my craft.

Oneshirt has been a project focused on using my crafthandship and making skills to solve a real problem in my life, the challenge of what to wear. Use it or lose it, is what they say, and after years of higher education administrative hoo-ha, I felt I was loosing touch with my skill of touch. Getting back “in touch” with my hands as the vital tools that allow me to realize my inner vision in solid form is an essential goal of this project.

 

Another reason I designed the Oneshirt was to allow me to incorporate some of my silk paintings into my garments. River is the result of my use of both the scraps not used in Origin and pieces of silk painting practice that didn’t end up on a canvas or scarf.

The little appliqué at the bottom front is a painting of a jellyfish I did on the beach in Oahu after I was stung down my neck and chest while swimming in 2016. The top front is a painting I had used in a shell top but once my Oneshirt wardrobe became my only wardrobe, I took the shell apart to reuse the painting and fabric elsewhere.

The dark teal in the back is part of that shell. Trying River on again after a year or so, I remember that this early iteration did not have generous enough sleeves right at the elbow, something I have since altered in the pattern. However, the beauty of a pieced garment is that I can easily expand the sleeves from any of the remaining scraps.

The origins of Oneshirt are complex. It’s not like I woke up one day and said “I am going to design a garment that I can wear everyday for the rest of my life.” But, at a certain point, I actually did exactly that. To explore the origins of this radical change in my life, I will have to look at who I am, where I was at the time I made the change and what I hope to achieve. To tell this story, I am going to have to talk about my body, my family, my values, my taste, my skills, my job, my students, my reading, my hopes for the future. I want to get the origins story in the right order because knowing that I chose not to own a dryer before I chose to try a capsule wardrobe, or that I decided to try wearing graduated compression tights before I tried wearing compression leggings, or that I was doing silk painting before I tried shibori, these orders matter to the outcome. I have to start somewhere, so I guess that I will start in Denmark.

I apprenticed as a Tailor with a Master Tailor who had apprenticed with a man who had studied at the Royal Tailor Academy in Copenhagen. Sitting at the large padded worktable (that I still work from) at the age of 22, Valdene, my apprenticeship master, told me that she would teach me how to hold a needle, the same way Steen taught her to hold a needle, and the two of us, perched at the end of the 20th century gently inserted the tips of our needles into a mysterious history and opened our hands to drop the needle and the reached inside the fabric to catch it passed through. “The needle is falling, you dropped it and you are catching it as it falls.” 

My work as a tailor, in my little shop in Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket in Nebraska, gave me a clear perspective on the issue of how clothes fit. Making the clothes brought in by me clients fit them (or fit them again) was my bread and butter. Taking in, taking up, letting out, letting down, all in a day’s work. The worst letting down was telling clients that they couldn’t make their clothes endlessly smaller. Two sizes at most before we were confronted by fabric missing in the wrong spot. The seat of trousers or the armscye of shirts, these are both places where a larger curve is cut to accommodate a larger body and, while fabric is taken out to make a garment smaller at the side or center seams, the curve cannot be raised because the fabric needed is already gone.

Another fit issue is one I have experienced first hand but can understand better in light of my tailoring training, the tight sleeve. Sleeves have a long lovely curve across the top, forming what is called the sleeve cap or head. Sleeves are not simple tubes, just like arms aren’t simple sticks, and the distance from the top of the sleeve to the start of the seam down the underarm should depend on the richness of the shoulder it is enclosing. The width of the sleeve at the same point reflects the meaty nature of the arm and the work a good set of biceps must do in a day. The pathetic excuse for sleeves being sold these days, not enough in any direction, speaks of cheapness, of the lack of live fit models to test prototype with even the smallest flex of their arms, of the shame the designer should feel but instead hope that their strong armed customers will feel instead. I tell my students every year that the reason they need to be careful with the fit of their designs is because no one like to be told they’re fat, especially by their clothes, all day long.

I used this experience to plan my Oneshirt with the intention that it would fit in the places life had taught me do not change much on my body while giving plenty of space for change elsewhere. I was driven to the draw board because I have inherited substantial arms. I can remember my great grandmother (who lived to 100 year old) pausing in the small daily chores she performed to do arm circles. She looked slyly down at me, to be sure I was paying attention, learning the secrets to what (she hoped) would take away the soft, warm folds of arm, dangling at her elbows and wrists. What I learned instead is that 80 years of exercise can’t change the shape of a lady’s arm. So, the first requirement of my design is generous sleeves. Knowing that my body gains or loses size in the hips but not the bust means that I can splurge on expensive bras that will fit until they wear out, even if my pant or skirt size changes.

The Oneshirt fits snugly across the shoulders and bust but is generous in the hips and thighs, generous enough to let me tuck a smartphone, keys and a wallet into the pockets without changing the shape. The shape can hang more loosely when I am a smaller but still be comfortable and flattering 30 pounds later.

My research into the main reasons that consumers throw away clothes is that the clothes don’t fit, not that they have worn them out. Making clothes flex with changes in body size is more eco friendly and economical.

Day 5