Thursday, March 24, 2011

DJ A9 + some handmade politics

Here's finished block A9, which was a surprising struggle for me to complete. I used tissue paper to kind of paper-piece the center few rounds. That was tricky. Then I ended up with the center a little too large, so I trimmed it before adding on more borders (log-cabin style) and somehow trimmed it too much, and had to rip some sides and sew on new pieces. Ugh. Then I kept putting together the triangles wrong for the outsides, before finally figuring those out and stitching them on. I did more ripping on this block than probably all the others combined. Definitely not fun, but I'm glad it's done! 41 pieces!

And now, switching gears a bit to get a little political... I've been thinking a lot about labor and unions lately (Wisconsin is my home state, and I've been following that situation closely via college / facebook friends who are teachers and protesting) and this week I happened to catch some thought-provoking documentaries on HBO that are semi-related. The first was Triangle: Remembering the Fire on Monday, all about the horrific fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory in NYC that killed almost 150 people 100 years ago. Then last night I happened to catch most of Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, which is about New York's garment district--and its disappearance.

What's basically come out of this idea stew, for me, is this: Collective bargaining rights are important for so many reasons, which include worker and workplace safety. Garment workers are typically young, female, commonly both, and have a long history of being abused. Something like 95% of all clothing sold in the U.S. in the early 1970s was also manufactured here, whereas that number today is closer to 3%. That's right: about 97% of clothes sold here were made in factories overseas, probably by women, possibly by children, and for a wage of less than $1/hour.

It's hard to find clothes that were made here (other than American Apparel, which is difficult for a feminist to support for a completely separate set of reasons)--in fact, other than AA tees, I don't think I own anything made here. It's hard to make clothes. Especially pants. But it's also hard to spend good money on things that were manufactured by exploiting those with little or no power. Watching these documentaries almost back-to-back has really inspired me to strengthen my efforts to craft my own apparel (and maybe tackle some of those difficult pants). Winters are tricky, but summers are easier, and I have a ton of fabric in my stash... Although the ethics of fabric manufacturing are tricky, too, but I think the lesser of two evils. And if you're a reader of this blog, you know I don't have to be convinced of the value of the handmade.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox now.


Liz said...

Hi Karissa
Thanks for the thoughtful political comments; I think you know where I stand on the union issue. As for sewing pants, it's really not that difficult. I made them quite often when I was sewing for myself before kids. Getting the crotch length is the trick. It's a simple measurement and just as simple alteration. Once I learned that I had comfortable, correctly fitting pants.

Molly Ann said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karissa, and your crafts! Good luck with your homemade clothes; I know that I, for one, needed the reminder to be more careful and aware of where my clothes are coming from. Oh, and did I ever tell you that I sometimes lurk around your blog? Your quilts are amazing.