A few years ago, I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver to make cheese. It called to me like a siren's song. I yearned to learn the process. So, I resolved to carve out time amid thesis writing to make cheese as a way to celebrate my birthday. Pat ordered all of the gear, rennet, and cultures to get us started, but when my birthday rolled around, I came down with the flu. In the end, we made cheese weeks after my birthday, but I'm so grateful we got around to it.
For years, the sirens of clothes making have been calling to me. Each year, I tell myself that I will order a pattern for my birthday and make myself a tunic, a shirt, or a dress. But each November is busier than the last, and there never is time to make myself anything. To stall matters more, I'm terrified of patterns! I have never made anything from a pattern in my life. I'm horrible at reading and dissecting directions. I regularly mess up recipes. I'm much more comfortable with figuring something out myself.
Well, it turns out last birthday, I did receive a handmade shirt. This one was made by crafts people from Zihuatanejo, Mexico. My Mom bought me a simple, elegant cotton blouse with elaborate pink embroidered flowers. After examining the construction, I thought to myself, "I could figure this out." Soon after, my Mom gave me an old denim shirt of hers to use for fabric. As I began to dream of shirt making, I decided to use her castoff to make my own shirt! I added a too-small denim shirt of my own to the mix, and voila---a denim blouse made by me, inspired by Zihuatanejo blouse and Japanese boro mending!
Now look, I understand how basic the construction of this blouse is. It is basically a rectangle with some holes in it. It's a step up from what a house elf might wear, but I love the damn thing. I don't know if it is the Ikea effect (Look, I made it myself), the good feeling of recycling/upcycling, the creative satisfaction of hand stitching, but I am hooked. I want to make more blouses and maybe a tunic or two. I think I want to stay in denim, and perhaps--like some of my favorite artists, dress in a uniform to minimize decisions and clutter. (You know, like Steve Jobs' black turtleneck or President Obama's identical suits.) I could envision wearing more or less the same thing everyday--especially if I made the clothes and the clothes are ethically and ecologically sourced.
Two of my favorite art professors at Saint Mary's had their own sort of uniform. Billy Ray, my painting instructor, wore denim exclusively and cowboy boots. Julie wore black jeans, black shirt, and black boots. It's easy. It's classic. Maybe I combine the two looks into denim shirt and black jeans. :) Perhaps. . . What I do know is that clothes not only project to the world how you want to be treated, but they also contribute to how you feel about yourself. I'm excited to see where this leads. Who knows, maybe I will even get my hands on an actual pattern?
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.