Sunday, September 16, 2018

All the Rage: Voices Against Trump

Wearing your politics on your sleeve

"Well I have news for you. We're already in a constitutional crisis." - Dan Rather

If ever there was a time to suit up, speak up, and stand by your values it is now. Thus the "All the Rage" series (click on "Politics" here or in the menu at right to see other creations in this series.

Clothing label

This shirt, created by collaging two men's thrift store shirts, is embellished with hand-embroidered quotes about the current president.

"He is a wolverine." - Dan Rather

Shirt front

"Mr. President, we are not afraid of you." 
- Maxine Waters

Shirt back

"Mexico is not going to pay for that fucking wall." - Vicente Fox


"Trump's action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulfuric acid." - Stephen Hawking


"Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn't it?"
- George W. Bush


"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian. - Pope Francis


The quotes included on this shirt in addition to those highlighted above:

• It is our consensus view that Mr. Trump in the office of the presidency is a danger to the nation and the world. - Dr. Bandy Lee, Professor of Psychiatry, Yale

• The earth is not flat and climate change is real. Can someone please inform the folks at the White House? - Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General

• I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong. - David Cameron, former British Prime Minister

• Standing up to bullies is the hallmark of a civilized society. - Robert Reich

• I don't like him. - George H.W. Bush

Wearing clothing with a conscience 

Time to go out and stitch some statement couture of your own and if you don't sew, use magic marker!

Friday, August 10, 2018

All the Rage: Political Fashion

Photo transfer onto cloth

There comes a time when it is incumbent on citizens of good conscience to wear their politics on their sleeve—literally. This is the first in a series of upcycled political fashion titled All the Rage.

Say them loud, say them clear: 

"Transgender, fetus, evidence-based, science-based, entitlement, vulnerable, diversity. 

These are the seven words highlighted in a memo and follow-up meeting at the Centers for Disease Control under the Trump regime, advising staff members not to use these words in any official documents prepared for the budget. Follow-up on this story indicates this wasn't so much a ban originating at higher levels of the CDC as a strategy to avoid trigger words that might reduce chances of getting funding from a right-wing, reactionary, Republican-controlled government. (Meanwhile, references to climate change have been removed from the Environmental Protection Agency website, but that's a censorship shirt for another day.)

What better way to provoke conversation among the populace about these seven words than to don a forbidden words protest shirt? The words, along with vintage black and white photos of Laurel and Hardy making shushing gestures, were printed onto photo-transfer paper, ironed onto cloth, and stitched onto a linen thrift-store shirt.

Ironing photo transfers onto cloth

Shirt front




Shirt back



Inspired? Go out and make some protest couture of your own.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Urban Summer Vest for Discerning Gentlemen

Summer vest

What to wear during summer in the city, trying to keep track of glasses, bus passes, money, and other assorted crap one simply must have on hand while simultaneously fighting sweltering heat? The gentleman's summer vest, of course, a lightweight garment fashioned from recycled thrift store men's shirts.

Piecing detail

As always when piecing together thrifted fabric, some of the garment's most alluring details are the result of sheer necessity (i.e., patch this piece over that piece or you will have a gaping hole).

Vest back

Because the recipient of this garment is a man on the move, I've added a small graphic from an ancient Persian text onto the back, created using photo transfer paper.

Swimming against the tide

Monday, July 16, 2018

Indigo Girls: At Play with Shibori

Awash in indigo

Here are the results of a session of shibori dyeing with two young apprentices ages six and eight. Above you see the fruits of our labors, including two t-shirts, two stuffed animals (designed and stitched by the girls), and lots of dyed cloth using a variety of shibori wrapping techniques.

To learn more about traditional Japanese shibori dyeing, just google "shibori," or visit this site, which has one of the best overviews of various shibori techniques in a series of easy-to-follow photos: I highly recomend the Dharma Trading Company shibori dye kit as an easy intro to this technique. We could have dyed a lot more with their kit (, but we simply ran out of cloth.

Dream bear

Dream cat

Note that the stuffed animals are actually "dream animal pillows." This sewing project for the girls was based on the folkloric wisdom that sleeping with your head on something that has been indigo dyed produces deep sleep and pleasant dreams. Other than help drafting the initial pattern and a little stitching assistance with the faces, the girls were on their own.

Once the girls had their animals completed, I packed up the remaining fabric and later pieced together two dresses, combining the indigo-dyed cloth and recycled fabric from thrift store men's shirts. Here is the dress for the eight-year-old:

Dress front

Dress back

Dress detail

Dress in action

And here is the dress for the six-year-old. She has not kept still long enough for a photo.

Dress front

Dress back with surprise pocket

Once you dabble in indigo it is easy to get hooked. 

It's hard to be unhappy in shibori

Monday, July 9, 2018

Nesting: A Study in Stitching Scraps

Have sewing kit, will travel — and I never, ever travel without my sewing kit. In recent years that kit has included a baggie full of assorted patches, ranging from intriguing scraps of material to photo transfers on fabric using images gleaned from a treasure trove of ancient illustrated texts from around the world. As a house guest, it is nice to be able to stitch in idle moments, repair your hosts' favorite clothing, and leave a little creative patching in your wake after you depart.

I was recently back visiting in London (see Mending Mania: London for an earlier bout of patching for the same hosts) and as I stitched away in their solarium I regularly herded stray bits of cloth and thread together for easy removal, using a random patch with an image of a rabbit on it from an old Persian textbook as a base to gather all the scraps.

At one point I glanced over and saw that the rabbit now appeared to be sheltering in a very cozy nest, and promptly stitched all the random components of that nest in place, adding a lucky find I discovered while rummaging through a kitchen drawer looking for glue: an old label my hosts used to identify their children's clothing when they went away to camp in years gone by.




The house in London is a lovely nest, and this was another way to thank my hosts for being kind enough to share it with me.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Power Cuffs: Become a Fashionista Superhero!


I have fiddled around with cuffs before, recycling the cuffs from thrift store men's shirts and embellishing them (see examples here). My current cuff obsession, however, addresses a specific need: protecting and concealing bruised wrists. As one ages, skin gets thinner and more apt to tear and bruise, an unsightly inconvenience that is exacerbated if one also happens to be taking any kind of steroid medication.

Presented with this dilemma, one can choose to either look like a frail victim, or....opt for the role of fashion-forward superhero, in the spirit of Wonder Woman or the Black Panther. If you thought the Wakanda crossed-wrists chest thump was cool before, wait until you try it with cuffs.

For this series of cuffs I've utilized a range of materials and stitching techniques, identified in the photo captions below.

Recycled man's shirt cuffs, scraps of West African indigo, Japanese sashiko stitching.


Recycled truck inner tubes lined with scraps from recycled men's shirts, embellished with vintage buttons.

Buttery soft vinyl, top-stitched with spirals, lined with scraps from recycled men's shirts, and embellished with vintage buttons.

Close-up of spiral stitching.

Recycled man's shirt cuffs and scraps from another recycled shirt.

Just how powerful do these cuffs make you feel?

Very powerful.

I have never seen anyone else wearing anything like these, and they answer a very real need. They would also look fabulous as a fashion accessory for a twenty-year-old. Hell, they would look fabulous on Chadwick Boseman.

So cuff it up!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Celestial Gifts: Bojagin-Wrapped Objects

Scraps of the cosmos

I am rounding out my obsession with Korean-inspired wrapping cloths with photos of two final pieces before moving on to an entirely unrelated project. To learn more about these cloths, called "bojagin," click on this link: Bojagin: The Gift of TravelClick here or in the sidebar to see all of the works in this category: Bojagin.

These two final bojagin are vaguely related to the cosmos and celestial objects. Materials for this first piece include scraps of red silk from a Chinese jacket, pieces of recycled men's shirts from the thrift store, and remnants of indigo-dyed cloth from West Africa. If you look more closely, you will see that there is a frenzy of activity going on as the indigo scraps rocket across the background.

Fabric scraps rocketing through space

The object to be wrapped is a chunk of meteorite from the caves near Cuetzala in Mexico. Local children find them and sell them on the street, and the little girl who sold me this one pointed out how special it is because it looks just like a fat little woman. I think it looks like a spaced-out Venus of Willendorf.

Object continuing on its celestial travels

And finally the point of all of this: the object wrapped. It is a little bundle of mystery, potential, and magic.


The second piece is all about comets, and the end result looks mid-20th-century-industrial-Russian to me. I don't know why, and I'm the one who made it. That is often the case, but in this particular instance I charged myself with suspending (in so far as possible) all cultural baggage regarding color and aesthetic judgement. Materials include pieces from recycled thrift store men's shirts and scraps of gray polkadot fabric from a robe I stitched years ago for the sole purpose of looking glamorous at Northern California hot springs and later cannibalized to make other stuff. Here is the result.

Comets in the night sky

I got admittedly carried away with the comet tails.

Stitched comet tails

The object to be wrapped is a tin container for tea, formed in the shape of a cat, purchased in Japan fifty years ago. Little containers like this liven up a traditional tea ceremony. If you have to ask about the connection between cats and the cosmos, you haven't been paying attention.

The object: a tin cat box

The box in open position

And finally, the object wrapped. And that, my friends, is the end of stitching bojagin for a while.

Wrapped cat

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