Saturday, 11 June 2011

The story of an outfit...

Age UK, Market Street, New Mills


I bought an outfit from Age UK, four garments - jeans, jacket, t-shirt and scarf - tried them on, photographed them and then set about deconstructing them.

The Jeans

The jeans were a good fit and I wore them for a year before deconstructing them and making two quilts.

The t-shirt

I took the t-shirt apart, cutting it into strips and created a ball of yarn 80 metres long.

The jacket

The jacket took several hours to deconstruct. There are many parts and the stitching was very tight, strong and in some places several rows of had been layered on top of each other. The stitching was used to create strong, sharp edges and pattern as well as to join the fabric. The thread used was yellow as usual is jeanswear, some of the inside edges were overlocked in blue.

Although the jacket seemed clean as I took it apart there was dust and granules of sand-like grit trapped in the seams and hems. There was also a faint smell of stale perfume. When I iron the pieces the smells became stronger and less pleasant, moth balls, sweat, dead aunts, smells that were older than the fashion.

However the fabric pieces are very interesting, unusual shapes, several different tones of blue, darker where the fabric has been hidden inside a seam, paler where it has been exposed to heavy wear. My favorite pieces are the pocket linings, they have stitch holes, frayed patches and areas where dye has bled through from the denim.

The denim pieces and cotton pocket linings have some great qualities when ironed flat, I have decided not to make these into string but to try and join them in some way to create a new piece of fabric.

I eventually made two quilts.

The Scarf

The scarf would not unpick so I cut it into strips and braided it.

This project has been process based, tracking the events from purchasing an outfit in the charity shop, through it’s deconstruction or demolition, observations of it in the dismantled state, followed by its reconstruction or rebirth into either balls of yarn or quilted fabric pieces, this can be seen as a conclusion to the procedure or the commencement of the next phase.

I have endeavored to record the process by means of photography, visual evidence such as highly visible tacking and samples, notes regarding non visual evidence such as smells and triggered memories, exploration of ideas in sketchbooks for development of work from each stage of the process and technical records of facts and figures.

The process has made me more aware of how things are made, the qualities of different fabrics, a couple of surprising examples were that the strong heavy duty denim became weak and vulnerable when cut into narrow strips and the small ‘Primark’ bra consisted of 40 pieces of fabric.

There is an abundance of secrets to be discovered within the garments, shapes,  colour palettes created from worn faded patches on exposed surfaces and deep vivid shades hidden in the seams, different types of stitching, smells, memories, information about the fabric, the origin, how to wash.

The deconstruction and reconstruction process can totally transform the elements for example the fine flimsy geometrically patterned blouse became a solid sphere of strong yarn comparable to an impressionist garden. Quantifying the amounts has a slightly peculiar side to it as well, it is mysterious to me how the ball of yarn still is the blouse, still has the same surface area of fabric - all good science!

Thoughts concerning issues of time and labour are also triggered by the process, it took me far longer than I had anticipated to take the garments apart, even longer to reassemble them into their new state plus countless hours photographing, recording and analysing the data. It would be interesting to investigate who made the originals and how long did it take them?

Comparing the technical data from each garment produced some fascinating graphs which are both attractive to look at and thought provoking and entertaining to study.

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