[september acknowledgment]

September was a month of leading away into the territory of a new pair of shorts, and a few alteration projects. The alteration projects were in one sense about random access, slightly dissolved variations of a few simple items re-generated into something other. The shorts were an attempt at beginning again with pattern making for denim jeans. The first alteration project was depleting a collar into the back-yoke of wildly colored but inoffensively muted plaid shirt. In the simplest terms the shirt was opened up to become almost shawl-like. It still required the user to insert their arms into sleeves, and it still hung about the body in a traditional sense, but all the fastening areas of the front were sewn back into itself creating an open front. This stitching continued into the collar and became a way to make a flattened faux-collar-collar. The other shirt was a simple dark-blue-wool-naval shirt. The alterations made to the second shirt involved extracting the collar, stitching the original hem (a standard shirt hem meant to be tucked) into a straight across jacket-style hem, adding two hand pockets on each side, and finally attaching an extra set of buttons to mate to two small loop on the cuffs. All of this happened with great care making sure not to lose anything in the jacket whilst the changes were made. The first action was to remove the collar, a simple seam-rip and re-stitch. Next we seam-ripped down the two seams of each side of the shirt’s tails to open up the usable fabric before re-stitching this from the already-existing double flat-felled seam of the armpit. The extra sewing here made it possible to have a slightly longer hem-line for what would become the new square bottom. Then it was time to square the bottom up, a bit of trimming, ironing, tacking, and sewing took care of this. Third up was creating two side pockets, using some new grey wool and a bit of matched blue wool, we had this going in a timely fashion. The pocket strategy for this was taken directly from the canvas shorts which were made previously. A small jig was made, and all the important cuts, incisions, and interfacing were placed to turn the pockets inside out and give way to a set of hand invite’rs. After this a few loops were added half-way between the cuff’s original button placement and the top of the split. With some buttons placed to meet the loops, the alterations were complete. The shorts are a more difficult thing to compress into an acknowledgment, so please be patient for further notes on that.

The alteration projects were a unique learning experience that will come up again. The thing about them that is unique comes from the sense of taking an otherwise non-unique item, and making it a bit different. In the case of the naval shirt, although it is hard to say for sure, but it could have been one in thousands made just like it. Not to mention the context in which it was meant to be worn is one of complete homogenization. While we are running with this shirt we begin to dissolve its form, thus dissolving its intent. The naval shirt is quite reliant on its form, as that is what signals this other entity called the Navy, or possibly even-partly mechanizes the Navy as network of individuals working in unison to create a “well oiled machine”. By taking the context out the shirt, we could be injecting a small virus that inhibits the usual system from completing its cycle to the highest degree. With this said, it is not to imply these alternating motions as deceitful, this is just a simple observation made from a distance. Of course one may say that perhaps this shirt/jacket when worn about will never be consumed by the eyes of someone associated with the Navy, but it will certainly conjure ideas of an adjusted Navy, spiking the system with great might little by little. In addition to all of this, by breaking down the immediacy of the naval shirt, it is also expanding the sense of the materials themselves; putting the materials ahead of the “symbolic” aspect of their combination and order. This is the most compelling argument for altering such a simple object. By re-ordering it, and transforming small inlets of its capacity, the change becomes a way of re-energizing the life behind the uniform. It supplies the materials with an advantage over its their past association, which calls attention to a deeper structure, one beyond human orientation and direction. How much the shirt/jacket’s alterations achieve this is questionable, and is possibly a tripping-stone backwards as an argument that it was only augmented, thus it did not make it beyond the “human orientation and direction” but rather fell ill to spiraling-spell. Going beyond the materials, going beyond the fabric, there is an inert harmony that these bits of wool and polyester inject into the garment. They are their own network, and by us shuffling them is only an example of their flexibility. Our invasion of the original designers intentions move with the fabric to explore other potentials within the garments perimeter. This shuffling creates an alteration, it breathes momentum into a new network of fibers.

[july acknowledgment]

July is always a difficult month to juggle any projects as it is the month of the Tour de France. Typically when the Tour starts, everything else stops. That said, the rotations of the Brother were of course reeling away, one pulley wheel revolution after another. Unfortunately though, the usual regimen was simultaneously dissolving into other activities and areas of life outside of needlefeed. The construction of various boots/shoes had finally ramped down and what this meant to lead to was more traditional sewing, more traditional uses of the Brother DB2-B791-015. A few ideas of a few good projects came and went, but in the end the actual stitching side of life was halted to a slow pace. It is hard to conjure now, where that month went, so we will do our best to hypothesize.

In thinking about the many uses of leather, the toughest question has been how the two sides of stitching compare against each other. On the one hand there is the machine stitch, and on the other the hand stitch. Both have proven useful in multiple situations, but, depending on the leather used, one will always climb above the other. All this climbing and traversing of such mending brings about many questions, and many tests of materials against thought, thought against materials. Using the Brother to stitch things up has been more than adequate in almost all situations, the only down fall is that with leather is it hard to get the right amount of tension in the seam itself. The hand stitching will always have more tension, the only draw back with such is the time that is take to complete said joints. With joinery in mind there is also glue. Glue is somewhat like the tool of the abject when it comes to items of function. Glue is not hard, nor is it soft, it is not liquid, nor is it gas. Some glue never dries, and others rely on pressure to activate their greatest potential in adhering to materials into one. Wood glue often claims that once it has fully cured it is stronger than wood. Does that mean wood glue, when it drys becomes something more substantial than wood itself, or at least some varied degree of a harder wood than what the original two pieces are composed of?

[june acknowledgment]

This month was spent furiously working upon four shoe/boots. Leading up to the 27th of June was a simple goal; complete 2 pairs of boots in the likes of Boots [built for berlin]. Unfortunately this timing was not quite executed in the timely fashion it required. The work order these two pairs – {Boots} & (Boots) – was cut short as conflicts arose outside of the needlefeed’s control. There were some notable mentions to their building; the use of a slim toe-lift made by Topy on the very bottom of the heel pieces, and finally creating a smooth and bunched free toe area. The Boots [built for berlin] have a slight bunch in the leather right at the toe on the left hand shoe, and the same thing (somewhat mystically/miraculously) happened on the second set of Boots [built for berlin] (which have yet to be featured on the site as they do live in Berlin and there is no photographic evidence of their whereabouts). Again, small steps for one maker, giant leaps for making. Anyway, this is where June went to, in terms of making.

On another note, June was a month of travel between Chicago, IL. and California (both Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo). Perhaps the most suitable thing to speak of is/was dropping into SLO Sail and Canvas in San Luis Obispo, CA. This is where Karl Deardorff runs a sail shop with great swiftness of production and a mighty intellect for material usage. As we walked through his shop he showed us the many tools and tricks of making sails, and stitching in general. Of course with stitching comes a hefty amount of pattern making, pattern drawing, and pattern cutting, and thus spending time searching high and low for the best solutions to easing this function. For Karl this means employing a plotter/cutter. Essentially this is a CNC machine for cutting fabric. We have mentioned it on the site before, but will recap a little here. The machine itself is a 2 axis mount that carries a blade across your chosen material, which is held tightly against a semi-porous, semi-soft cutting mat (the overall table size here is/was approximately 5’X20′ which for the purpose of needlefeed would be quite liberating, although for Karl’s purposes it is still a bit small, as he has some rolls of fabric which looked to have been 20′ wide, and who knows how long). This mat is semi-soft for the obvious reason that it will be cut upon, and semi-porous because the table uses a vacuum to literally pull air through the fibers of the material thus holding it in place while cutting. So while the plotter/cutter is a marvel of innovation, the most advanced unit of it is the mat itself – due to its pure-materiality. The computer used to drive it is nothing out of the ordinary, and is simply transferring the lines from a jpeg, or pdf document (usually initiated in Adobe Illustrator, but could be acheived in various 3D programs such as AutoCad, Maya, or even Google’s Sketchup) to the driver moving the mount side to side and up & down (x,y axis). What this achieves is not only incredibly accurate cuts, but also the most efficient use of materials. As one sets up the file for telling the machine to cut, it can either take the shapes and arrange them to fit in the best manner, or one could manually set the shapes up to use the space as effectively as possible (and because the cuts are so accurate, you can really move the pattern shapes close to each other). Another added bonus is that the machine can take a marking bit in place of the cutting bit, i.e. you can place a small chalk bit, or a pen-like device within the bit and have the machine plot out certain cuts to be made by hand, which seams come together, or where anchor points are for bits of webbing, eyelets, lash-tabs, etc.. These things all together make an amazing significance in production terms. The objects at hand will achieve a more precise tolerance, you can be assured that the positioning of extraneous pieces are exact, and most of all keep waste to a minimum. Also, the time saved in drawing/mapping and cutting can now be relayed into development. One such thing to put time into is the consideration of the materials we use. As we wrapped up our morning of sewing, plotting, and cutting, Karl generously donated a boat-load of material to needlefeed. The majority of this was various weights of nylon and Cordura, in different colors and varying textures. A few rolls; however, were of Spectra cloth, which – working with – has been a learning experience to say the least. Sewing Spectra is fairly easy, but cutting it is nearly impossible, the only device suitable appears to be a box cutter, no shears in the area could cut through the advanced polyethylene weave. That said, the polyethylene weave is what makes this cloth so special, according to mil-spec statistics, Spectra cloth is pound for pound ten times stronger than steel. The base of the cloth is typically nylon, and has a rip-stop appearance, but the white lines which are so characteristic of Spectra are these wonderfully strong strands of polyethylene. In theory the part of the cloth that is polyethylene is Spectra (more information is needed to go on). See this.

Material Choices – Porous Cutting Mats – Reams