I have started to get stuck into the pile of shirts and jeans that need repairing. I have managed to wear out several pieces of clothing in recent weeks, all work wear items, worn through in the regions of highest wear.
The most critical was my welding shirt, which has worn very well for many years, possibly 5 or 6 years. It had become a bit threadbare and almost transparent at the front. To the point that I got a radiation burn on my tummy after spending a day welding up all the seams on the recent kiln. I didn’t realise at the time of it happening, that I’d torn a hole through it. I had a ‘T’ shirt on as well but it wasn’t enought, as you don’t feel radiation, but in the evening, when I showered, I got a nasty shock.
So my first job is to add some dense dark fabric to the front of my shirt. I also have a few pairs of jeans that have worn through in the front thighs and knees, but also suspiciously in the crotch? I’m guessing that this is from sitting on the Leach-style potters kick wheel wooden saddle? I’m hoping so, as I can’t think of any other reason.
These are some sort of stretchy jean fabric, so I steal the off-cuts from the bottom of the legs of Janine’s new turquoise stretch jeans, that she had to shorten, so as to get the same weight and stretch of the materials matched. The colours work OK too. Perhaps not in public? I’d feel a bit like one of those Japanese monkeys!
I have quite a collection of used, 2nd hand, Japanese indigo fabrics. I buy these off-cuts and old recycled pieces of clothing whenever I go to Japan. They are still plentiful and reasonably cheap in the markets. I really like them. indigo dyed fabric is so long-lasting because of the preserving effect of the indigo. I also just happen to love the colour. There was a time, when I was younger, when I couldn’t feel really comfortable in the colour blue, I preferred orange, then my favourite colour morphed into yellow, eventually into green, and finally I’m OK with blue and mauve, or even a bit of purple. I guess that this leads me to thinking that I’ll end up wearing red. Perhaps I’ll go full circle and wear yellow again? Or will I finally end up liking white? I doubt that. I lead a very busy life. I just can’t wear white. It gets dirty so quickly.
What ever the reason, I’m very happy to wear Japanese indigo fabric as patches on my clothes. The Japanese even have a specific word for this, and it’s called ‘boro’. The repair or mending of worn clothing with patches to prolong their life. It was always seen as something shameful in the past, when it was a sign of poverty, but these days, I’m starting to see Japanese patchwork clothing everywhere. It’s finally trendy. I don’t do it because it’s trendy. I’ve been patching my clothes ever since I learnt to sew. My mother taught me to sew on my own buttons, take up my the legs of my new jeans and hem them. So it wasn’t such a big step to add a patch or two as needed.
Next, I work on my worn out shorts that need a new front to one leg.
then the jeans.
An earlier pair from the time when I was transitioning out of orange through yellow into green.
This activity fits in well with my philosophy of self-reliance and not throwing anything out until it is really worn out. For me this is not any statement of fashion, as fashion is just not on my radar at all. It’s a political statement. Not consuming stuff that you don’t really need and making things last, it’s cutting against all the advertising and market pressures. Over consuming is polluting the world with toxic landfill and adding to global warming. So much of what we are encouraged to buy is just not necessary. So I’ve decided to minimise my spending and as a result, I’ve found that I have more money left over for the things that I really want and need, when I really need them.
I spend my evenings these days sitting comfortably and listening to music or listening to the idiot box with half an eye to the screen, while I pin-up and stitch my patches. Some of these clothes that I’m working on go back 15 years and they are still going, and I believe becoming more interesting as they display their work life and history. I’m applying new patches over worn-out older ones. The layers just keep building. It’s an interesting topography of work, wear and repair. A 3D sculpture or installation that gently illustrates environmental activism as some sort of artwork.
I’m pretty sure that it’s not art, It’s not quite ‘boro’, it’s possibly interesting, maybe it’s beautiful? Maybe not?. Otherwise it’s certainly ‘creative’ and a nice piece of re-cycling, re-purposing and life-cycle extending handiwork. After-all, it’s just work-wear.
If nothing else, it’s a very rewarding evenings entertainment.