Earlier this week, my blood boiled at a news story. Mass clothing retailer Urban Outfitters  claimed that they had NO idea that a recent bloodied Kent State sweatshirt that they manufactured had a link to violence.

Zara tshirt and Auschwitz Children

This story came on the tail of another, weeks earlier clothing retailer Zara was under a storm of criticism for producing a t-shirt for children that resembled Nazi concentration camp uniforms. Apparently Zara feigned innocence – citing designer’s unawareness of the historical reference (and apparently the same unawareness among the manufacturers, the sales teams, the merchandisers, etc…etc…who all work for the company. To which I say, really? Hundreds of people are involved in the garment manufacturer process and not a single soul noticed?)

I’ve been mulling over how to write about these two events when I came across this brilliant video by  and  of The Guardian UK:

Urban Outfitters Kent State Sweatshirt video

Do you see the common element in each retailer’s statement? Essentially: the designer didn’t know. The designer didn’t have cultural awareness. The designer isn’t aware of history, or textile history.

Garments, by their very existence can drum up all sorts of feelings, historical significance, and cultural connotations. I want there to be a greater awareness that textiles have meaning – just as much as any other object that we choose to surround ourselves with. This is why I wrote Strange Material – I hope it contributes to a growing body of work around textile conversations and discourse. Collectively, the world needs to know more about the stories that surround cloth and symbols and those who make them – not just those of us who are heavily interested in textiles and craft but everyone. I assume that before Zara and Urban Outfitters got called out, some of those pieces of clothing were purchased and worn, in public.

This rant follows the news that the intelligent fashion journal WORN, is retiring, which is a little heart-breaking. The WORN fashion journal had a mandate unlike any other fashion magazine and it will be missed:

“WORN hasn’t missed the fact that there are scads of fashion magazines out there. But we feel something is missing: opinion and intelligent commentary that’s untainted by advertisers’ demands. 

WORN discusses the cultures, subcultures, histories, and personal stories of fashion. We strive to embody a place between pop culture magazine and academic journal that opens new avenues in art and fashion theory by hovering where these two ideas intersect, connecting with fashion scholars and artists. We pay attention to how what is worn is made, interpreted, transformed, disseminated, and copied. “

Worn’s last issue is available for pre-order* and I’d recommend it, we obviously need more commentary on textiles, and fashion, that create critical awareness.

*I am not affiliated with WORN in any way. I am endorsing this magazine because I think we need to support more intelligent commentary on the things that we wear and purchase, and it was one of the few publications that actively provided this sort of commentary.

Also, I’ll be speaking my mind on this and other subjects on panels with Kim Werker and Betsy Greer over the next month. If you haven’t had a chance to find out about our tour, all events are listed here. One week from today I’ll be Seattle at Schoolhouse Craft teaching a course on subversive textiles and activism. If you are in Seattle, please think of joining the conference! It will be a great time with a lot of interesting people, and I’ll be running a fun making session at the closing party on making Six Word Story Bracelets (DIY to come!).

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Thumbnail image for Silvie Kilgallon’s Stitched Illiad

Silvie Kilgallon’s Stitched Illiad

September 7, 2014

Now THIS is a feat. Classics student and artist Silvie Kilgallon is attempting to stitch all twenty-four books of Homer’s Illiad. She’s chronicling her daily process here: http://stitchediliad.tumblr.com. Silvie has published a wonderful artist statement about her work, including this statement on how a great classic work can translate to the act of stitching: “Here, I attempt […]

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On Yarn Bombing and Ethics

August 20, 2014

Olek, aka the bad girl of yarn bombing who doesn’t consider herself a yarn bomber, is in the middle of controversy again. Last week, she wrapped pieces in Cancun’s Underwater Museum with her signature camo-graffiti crochet in a campaign to “save our seas” supported by PangeaSeed, who, according to their website, is an international organization who […]

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Thumbnail image for Vancouver’s Our Social Fabric Needs Your Help

Vancouver’s Our Social Fabric Needs Your Help

August 10, 2014

Yesterday I finally got a chance to check out Our Social Fabric.  A non-profit organization based in Vancouver, Our Social Fabric takes donations of any fabric that can be repurposed through crafting and sewing. This fabric is then sold at bi-weekly sales at extremely reasonable prices. The 2-meter bundles pictures in this post (the blue one is silk!) […]

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Thumbnail image for On Starting Small: Six Word Short Stories

On Starting Small: Six Word Short Stories

August 5, 2014

The city that I live in has a mild climate – we live in a rainforest. Each summer we get a couple of weeks of rain that washes down the city, returning it to cleanliness and coolness. I expect this.  As a pale skinned, sweater-loving person, I long for it. This year however, our summer […]

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Thumbnail image for All this with a little bit of yarn…

All this with a little bit of yarn…

July 12, 2014

Yarn street works by Femoesa, who is based in The Hague. Who says that you can’t create great street art with just a little bit of yarn? Pretty clever, isn’t it? This takes fence-wrapping to a whole new level. All photos are courtesy of the artist and used with permission. To see more of Femoesa’s […]

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Book Tour Announced!

June 11, 2014

I’m thrilled to announce the details of my fall book tour with fellow authors Betsy Greer and Kim Werker. Our brilliant publishers Arsenal Pulp Press & Sasquatch Books have partnered to send us on an incredible fall tour where we’ll visit 12 venues in eight different cities across the US & Canada. We’ll be participating in […]

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Thumbnail image for A Conversation with Knit Artist Olga O’Shea

A Conversation with Knit Artist Olga O’Shea

June 3, 2014

Tell me about your art. I love knitting, I love being creative with yarn. I knit with yarn that is donated to me and I cover various objects with fiber. Objects that I use are recycled and saved from the landfill. It all started with a mishap of my daughter’s bike. Thinking that bike was […]

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Thumbnail image for Strange Material has a cover!

Strange Material has a cover!

May 31, 2014

A month ago, I debuted a cover design for my forthcoming book Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles on my Facebook page. Here’s what it looked like: My publisher, the book designer, and I thought we were ready to go (they even put up an Amazon sales page with cover #1) but then feedback came in […]

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Thumbnail image for Jealousy, Curation, and Fear

Jealousy, Curation, and Fear

May 15, 2014

Tonight I had the pleasure of going to see a talk by Danielle Krysa, aka the Jealous Curator, who has recently published a book for blocked creatives, aptly titled The Creative Block. I’ve never met Danielle, but I’ve enjoyed her blog throughout the years. I even included it as a recommended creative resource in my […]

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