3. Circular fashion#
What I Made#
For me this assignment was first and foremost about zero waste. As a quilt maker I am very much focused on zero waste. It would seem that patchwork is made from leftover scraps. For some quilt makers in the past this used to be the case, for example for the quilters of Gee’s Bend, a poor black community in Alabama, who used old clothes and worn blankets as their materials. But in contemporary quilt making? No. Alas, in most designs the pattern is in fact leading. This unfortunately produces a lot of waste because sometimes just a fragment of textile is used to create a motive. Me, I try to create patchwork patterns that leave no waste. And what leftovers I have, I use for multifunctional ‘scrap balls’ or as filling. So for this assignment I really wanted to cut a complete patchwork pattern with several ‘looks’ out of one single piece of fabric. The result is a (wearable) blanket with different modules, i.e. big rectangles and small interlocking 3-D-shapes, that you can assemble anyway you like. Here I made it into a poncho with armholes and a drop-down collar/cowl from the small modules. The piece is cut from a 150cmx100cm stretch of duotone fleece with no waste (but with spares!).
Plan for the lasercutter. A 3 mm duotone fleece must be cut at 100 speed, 45 power.
I started with designing the small modules on the screen (Illustrator). Since I wanted no waste I concentrated on the possibilities within a simple square. I ended up with a kind of windmill/pinwheel structure by folding corners of the square into the middle and attaching the opposite corners to each other. It took some physical try-outs and several calculations before I discovered where to best place the flaps and holes. I did some paper and fabric iterations. A material or fabric with two different sides gave the best effect. By the way it took some time and concentration to create an Illustrator-design that was EXACTLY alligned. When I embeded modules I often created double lines which the laser cutter will read double and cut double. Trick to solve this: when you have your module ready, select all, group, go to pathfinder, select outline tool, reset the stroke with a new color and ungroup.
How to Assemble the Small Module#
How to Assemble a Panel of Modules#
Having designed a small module that I liked and that seemed to work both structurally and visually, I focused on the bigger module. (Because I do like variation and also I think actual usability is important: a blanket from small modules only would be too flimsy, too windy and too cold.) I decided to keep the larger modules simple in shape but not too simple. So instead of squares I used rectangles in 2 different sizes (40cmx35cm and 40cmx25cm). These give more options in assembling a fitting model or size. The patchwork panels are interlocked with a separate thin strip that is cut from the same piece of fabric. This is a more firm way to assemble them (in stead of say little flaps, which would also produce more waste when cut). In the panels are holes that could either be used for interlocking modules or for interlocking strips.
How to Use the Strips#
How to Assemble the Wearable Blanket/Poncho#
(A) Leave open so you can interlock the panels with smaller modules here. (B) Leave open for arm holes.
Interlock the panels with small modules in the patchwork panels. Play a bit with distance to create a flowing effect. Some holes will stay open.
Result. The back part can be used as a hoodie or cowl.
Two Sides of the Same Thing#
For a zero waste modular blanket/garment I think it is very important to cut out spares for longevity. Some modules might wear in time. I have made spares of the smaller modules (because they are more fragile) and of the strips. And since the fabric I bought turned out to be bigger than I ordered, I even have some extra fabric. I keep my spares in a ball.
References and Inspiration#
Note to Self#
- I am not a pattern maker or fashion designer, although I do know how to sew garments (which I did by rule as a young woman). I have not enough experience in garment patterns to be able to ‘read’ them from paper/screen or to create a design by sketching or tweeking them. But I am very much interested in it and want to learn more about it. I do want to study pattern design software like Valentina and Open Fit Lab.
- There is too little time in a week to dive deeper into the subject. However I think modular interlocking is a great and important technique for creating patchwork quilts that are sustainable and mendable (since you can have spares). Also it might be a solution to size: with modules you can easily change the size of a quilt. I seriously want to study this further and am happy that I have now learned how to approach the design process.
Materials need to be explored before use. For this assignment I used different materials. The duotone fleece (double-sided/two-tone fleece of 3 mm thick) I used for the final wearabkle blanket/poncho turned out to be totally different from the jersey-like duotone material I experimented with. This gave some unforseen changes, for example in solidity and suppleness.
Andrea Zittel is an artist who researches into sustainability and the objects of daily life. For instance clothing. Each new season she designs for herself a new dress or ‘uniform’ that she then wears every day. She is literally a pioneer in the West of the United States, where she runs the small community A-Z West to explore other ways of housekeeping. Needless to say I love her work!
A Final Word on Modular Blankets#
A technique our grandmothers already used.