Friday, 19 January 2018

fabric chef

Like a lot of contemporary textile artists and sewists I'm concerned for the environmental footprint and amount of resources wasted by the clothing industry. Those readers in my age group - 50 to 60s  -will be aware of the massive change in attitude women have gone through about the amount and type of clothes we own since the latter part of last century. My mother still recalls the hat, gloves and lipstick era that was de rigeur before any middle class woman left home for a public appearance, even if just to pick up a bag of spuds for dinner. I have no sentimentality moving on from the rigid formality of that time! Also, another aspect of social change is that hardly any of us are full time house wives any more!

Thrift shopping has always been part of my pleasures since I was in my mid teens way back in the 1970s. That was many years before I was a serious textile artist which changed the way I saw the clothes and fabrics to a whole different level of appreciation. In the 70s almost all the clothes came from deceased estates or from elderly women who were clearing their wardrobes. Only a very small amount of clothes were modern and they would be well worn and seasons old. You never found unworn, new clothes (often with sales tags still on) as I do all the time now.

But what a bounty it was! Fabulous tailored suits from the 1930s, 40s and 50s! Extraordinary jacquard hand knitted vests and cardigans. Genuine fur coats and stoles. My greatest find ever was an Emilio Pucci silk dress, completely hand sewed. Sadly, I had no appreciation of that garment and wore it to death over the Summer of 1977. When my son was born in 1979 I had collected a great stack of hand knitted baby clothes and sweetly embroidered and smocked cotton gowns for his newborn months. Apparently most of those women at home full time spent significant hours making, maintaining and cleaning the family clothes. Clothes were expected to last many years, if not decades or a life time.

Nowadays I have a wholly a different attitude to thrift shopping. It appalls and astounds me how the racks are full of current or last seasons clothes, barely worn, and frequently brand new unworn clothes. A few days ago a major clothing brand was advertising on TV childrens school polo shirts for sale at $1.69. Duhhhhh....!!? No wonder we have such a disposable attitude to clothes! Is the owner (mother or wife, of course) going to mend, handwash and iron that shirt for the next 5 years....? I had nightmares about that fibre being created from petroleum requiring gallons of water and electricity. Sewed in a Chinese or Pakistani sweatshop by some woman earning 2c a shirt. Shipped halfway across the world with more cost of fuel and labour. Nuts! Would I be neurotic to declare we are all going to hell in a handcart of our own making!

I'm looking out the window as I write this anticipating the heatwave warning we have gotten for the next few days. The prediction is for 3-4 days with temps 40C+. Last year was the hottest, driest year on record where I live. I'm looking with a heavy heart at my dying garden. I can't water it because we are legally restricted from using water for that. I'm allowed to use a hand watering can on Sundays between 6-8pm....

A few days ago I bought 3 garments from the local thrift shop to rejuvenate. I have a modest collection of interesting vintage fabrics and keep all my fabrics scraps so the plan was to bust them out to alter these garments.

The first project is finished. I just call it Daisy Top in reference to the several pieces of printed linen I cut from a classic 70s table cloth. This pull on top had interesting kimono sleeves that attracted me. It took about 5 hours to apply the patchwork in applique technique.

front of Daisy Top
back of Daisy Top

Yesterday I started on the next item I bought which is a brand new Chefs Coat in black cotton drill. What attracted me to this was the lovely pointed lapels. I had to cut off the massively long man length sleeves.
black cotton drill Chefs Coat, still a blank canvas

At the end of yesterday, after about 4 hours work this is the result so far....

back of Chefs Coat

detail of lower back, showing combination of applique and stenciling

detail of bottom front

bottom right front, stripey bit in the middle is a pocket taken off a mans shirt. There is a tie looped through the buttonhole and dangling down. The pocket has been stenciled.

front of Chefs Coat, with the work so far

Will show the finished result soon.







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If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au