Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Traveling Shirt

This piece builds on an earlier post, Upcycled Shirt #12. The transformed man's shirt illustrated in that post essentially served as a blank canvas for an embroidery-on-the-road project. Those of you with itchy fingers will sympathize with the compelling need some of us have to keep those fingers occupied at all times. In the past this has led to frantic searches for embroidery thread in Vientiane, Laos, or a trip to the stationery store for a sketchpad and pencils in Ios, Greece. For this trip to Costa Rica I planned ahead and brought the materials with me: the upcycled shirt, a spool of white thread, and a sewing needle.

Look carefully to see embroidered sleeves (click on photo to enlarge)

The trick is that, because this is white-on-white, the embroidery whispers rather than shouts. This means you can wear the shirt while the embroidery is in progress and no one will notice. Whenever you get bored, thread a needle and start stitching away again. This traveling project has several advantages, not the least of which is that it doesn't require any extra room in your suitcase and serves as a wearable piece of clothing during every stage of the process and also doubles as a travel journal and/or birding list.

Close-up of embroidery

Close-up of embroidery

The original idea was to record bird sightings on the sleeves and to record impressions of people on the body of the shirt. However, a month-and-a-half after returning home I was still embroidering away on the sleeves and realized this was becoming less of a travel journal and more of a chore. So this traveling shirt stops at the sleeves which include over fifty bird sightings.  To embroider an entire shirt I estimate a trip would need to last at least three months (assuming you want to be enjoying your surroundings and not inside embroidering all the time).

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