Final Project#

The Sleep Warrior#


The 24-7 economy is making people sick. Literally. Mainly by causing a chronic lack of sleep. 50% of the people in so-called ‘industrialized’ societies are sleep deprived. 25% have serious sleep problems. Meanwhile the planet’s biosphere has become sick too. The 24-7 economy results in too much pollution and too many distruptions in the earth’s ecology. What is disturbing our sleep is also ruining our living planet. The Sleep Warrior is a celestial being who helps us to deal with this. She lovingly helps us to reverse climate change by embracing sleep instead of fighting it. She makes us turn off our screens and turn off the lights. Turn off and turn in. And so she inspires us to dream of a better world and actually build it.

The Sleep Warrior is speculative research into how the bedroom can be converted into a wearable bed for more and better sleep. Also, perhaps, for sleeping under nomadic circumstances, should global warming prove to be unstoppable and force future generations to continually migrate elsewhere. (Background images by Moebius/Jean Giraud. Background music by TalkTalk/Mark Hollis.)

Some Words on Sleep#

Why it is so important and why we need more sleep than we take.

Bed Time Science#

Just like the scientists who study global warming, the scientists who study sleep unanimously agree that free market capitalism and growth economy have damaging effects. Both conclude that non-stop industrial enterprise disturbs and eventually wrecks biological processes.

No sleep With the invention of the light bulb in 1879 society started to move into the direction of our current non-stop outpouring of activity, cumulating in the conduction of round-the-clock operations in almost every sector of the global economy. But humans, as living organisms, need nighttime to recover, re-energize and regenerate both physically and mentally. Light from computers, phones, televisions and LED streetlights all have a negative impact on the body’s biological clock, physical resistance and psychological resilience. Apart from causing fatigue, drowsiness, moodiness, clumsiness and memory loss, a lack of sleep can lead to deadly accidents and a wide range of severe illnesses, from anxiety, depression, obesities and diabetes to cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Pain and anguish are experienced more intense. Over the generations a continual decline in sleeping hours even leads to a strongly impaired capacity to memorize, learn and be creative, which are all closely connected to having enough REM-sleep (our dreamtime). Young children who go to bed with a smartphone or tablet perform worse in school than children who read a (paper) book.

Light pollution in Amsterdam. From the Interactive Light Pollution Map.

Do sleep Most people need between 7 and 9 hours a sleep at night. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker claims that sleep is more important than diet and exercise. If you need to choose one than choose sleep, he argues. For this project I immersed myself in a sleep training. For several weeks I went to bed at 21.30 hrs. and got up at 6.00 hrs. No snoozing. I removed all electrical devices from my bedroom. I also removed potential ‘wake-up stimuli’, meaning I dismissed my two cats to their own beds in the hallway. I did not consume caffeine, alcohol, daily news and social media. I used my bed solely to sleep. I even obtained a new mattress. I set an alarmclock for ‘cooldown-time’ in the evening, in which I turned off all screens, dimmed the lights and did some reading, leisurely handywork or meditation. At 21.30 hrs. it was lights out and tuck in. In the beginning I felt quite restless on my pillow without podcast or book. But as the weeks progressed I noticed that I fell asleep almost immediately after covering myself with the blankets, and that I did not wake during the night anymore. Try it for yourself: the National Sleep Foundation can tell you what to do.

Save your Sleep, Save our Planet Sleep scientist Matthew Walker believes that people could easily improve their sleep patterns if they just allowed themselves to get one more hour of sleep. One more hour of sleep to make you more healthy and happy. Just imagine that you could also save the planet by giving yourself one extra hour of sleep. Just imagine how much energy would be saved if billions of people would actually take Walker up on his advice. One hour less power-use for all those devices, appliances, cars, plains, heatings, airco’s and lights. One hour less Netflix and browsing on the internet (server farms use incredibly large amounts of energy). One hour less food, drink and product consumption. One hour less economic productivity. In Dutch there is a saying. It is ‘slapend rijk worden’. Becoming rich while sleeping. This is actually neoliberalspeak for ‘profit, interest and increase in value’. Eco-activists should say something similar. ‘Slapend schoon worden’. Becoming clean/fair/beautiful while sleeping. Sleep yourself and the climate into better shape. Isn’t that truly a win-win scenario?

Read, Browse, Listen, Watch

Bed Time Stories#

In my research on sleep I hardly came across any deities or mythological figures associated with sleep. I was a bit disappointed since I assume sleeping and dreaming are both significant mythological and mythic themes and I had expected more cultural or folklore storytelling about it. Especially since the sleepless part of present-day humanity could certainly do with a cosmic guardian of sleep, like Gotham City needs a Batman.

Morpheus and Little Nemo I don’t mean fairytale characters like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. They sleep as victims. I had been wanting to find beings who regard sleep as a power and a gift. There is the Hindu sleep-goddess Nidra, who inspired a recent trend in yoga. Of course there is the famous Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, and his rather unknown father Hypnos, the god of sleep. (However, just Google ‘Morpheus’ and the first 10 hits give you The Matrix movie franchise.) When I was a young girl I often heard the story of Klaas Vaak, the Dutch Sandman who comes in the evening and sprinkles sand in your eyes to make you sleep. There are thousands of children’s books with bedtime stories about sleep. I need to conclude that it is mainly left up to the writers of children’s stories and comic artists to concern themselves with sleep, like Hans Christian Andersen and Winsor McCay of Little Nemo.

Sleep Deity So I think we, as grown-ups, are in dire need of a contemporary sleep deity. That is, a figure who shows us how sleep enriches and revitalizes us. A mother, really, who makes us feel safe, secure and cherished. Sleeping and dreaming are things to yearn for, not because they make us more ‘productive’ or better ‘performers’, but because they make us feel more alive and humane. I proudly introduce to you The Sleep Warrior, the divinity who is there for you when you go to sleep, anytime, anyplace. She rides a worker bee that softly showers your face with sweet pollen, like fairydust. The worker bee is the Sleep Warrior’s proud familiar. Without bees there would be no blossoms and flowers. And yet, bees are dying in large numbers because of industrial pesticides, toxic waste and global warming. The textile-industry is partly to blame, since it is one of the dirtiest industries in the world.

Clockwise: Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay. Ole-Luk-Oie the Dream-God by Hans Christan Andersen. The Sandman (in Dutch Klaas Vaak). Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep.

Some Words on Sustainability#

Why it is so important and how thrift makes you happier than you think.

While there are organizations that try to question and counter the global pollution and toxic waste of the fast fashion industry (like Fabricademy), the bedware industry is sort of left unregarded while many textiles are produced for this specific section of the trade, with just as much global pollution and toxic waste as a consequence.

Good Quality Materials I find it remarkable that there is so little innovation in bedware textiles. True, the production of mattresses and pillows is often state of the art, but the actual textiles and bedcovers usually are not. Their manufactering should be studied and improved, I think. I suppose we should produce less textiles but from a better quality and re-use these materials when they are ageing or growing old-fashioned. (Though I did not study this for the sake of the Sleep Warrior-project, I am curious if new weaves could extend the lifespan of bedware textiles.)

Masters of Mending I think we can learn from the past here. Centuries ago The Netherlands were the global suppliers of high quality cloth or ‘lakenstof’ for sheets, made of natural materials like linen, cotton and wool. These materials could be used for decades on end and had ample second-hand possibilities. Rich Dutch women treasured wooden chests filled with expensive sheets as a status symbol. All Dutch women, rich and poor alike, were masters of mending because they were taught as girls. Mending or ‘stoppen’ is actually a very nice way to relax, I think. It is both easy and challenging and quite rewarding.

Binnenhuis met vrouwen bij een linnenkast, Pieter de Hooch, 1663. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Natural and Second Hand For The Sleep Warrior I only used natural and second-hand materials like unwashed cottons, 100% cottons, leftover felt from the market, a piece of foam found in the thrift store and radiator foil I got as a gift from the landlord. I used one button and it is from the button box I inherited from the grandmother of an ex-boyfriend. Thrift is not really considered a virtue in a society that values luxury and the consolation of retail therapy. But take it from me: spending and consuming less makes you really happy. When you only buy things you really need or really love or both - things you will use at least 30 times or 30 years - you do make better choices, thereby increasing the joy of having them in your home with factor X. The money you save makes you a bit more financially secure and this improves a full night’s sleep without worrying. And surely thrift on a large scale could halt global warming. Do you want tips on how to live more sustainable? Read There Is No Planet B, A Handbook for the Make or Break Years.

Zero Waste Why are sheets so large? Why are duvets so square? Why do beds and mattresses only come in standard sizes, often much too big for the sleeping person? Do we really need a whole room for sleeping? Do we really need to throw away a sheet or bedcover that is worn in the middle? In The Sleep Warrior’s garments I focussed on a more economic use of textiles and zero waste in the design and the cutting. The wearable mattress is, when spread out, more or less the size of a yoga mat. This saves on materials. The sheet is sized according to the person who wears it. This also saves on materials. The leftover fabric I used as filling for the soft bonnet and as wrapping paper for some birthday presents. The modular blanket is made of uniform interlocking modules that did have some waste in the cutting. However these leftover cuts I used for another modular piece. The point is to always consider how leftovers can have a purpose.

Something old, nothing new, something borrowed, something blue On top of all the many retail products that did not made them happy, more than 10 million people now own a copy of Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The popularity of Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of uncluttering, is a sign that people are cultivating a fresh relationship with the things in their intimate surroundings. It is not new possessions they desire. In Kondo’s view (and also my own) people rather crave carefully chosen, curated and well-organized stuff they probably already have had for a long time. For one, I love things I have had for years. I still use the duvet I got when I was eight and I am actually looking forward to mending it (I noticed that is starting to wear thin around the edges after forty years of daily duty). This duvet has in fact become a part of ‘me’. I think we should treasure old things and perhaps borrow from friends, or exchange, to sometimes have something ‘new’ in the house.

Keep, Mend, Repair, Re-Use Bedware fabrics wear out, partly because the textiles need to be washed regularly on a high temperature (60ºC) to remove dust mites. It is wise to spend a bit more money on bedware textiles of good quality because these last for years if not decades. There are traditional embroidery techniques for mending sheets when they are worn or torn. Old sheets of a good quality cloth can be re-used, for instance in patchwork duvet covers and quilts or made into smaller sheets for children. They can be turned into tableware (napkins) or kitchen textiles. Or turned into rag rugs for the bathroom and picnics in the park. Finally they can serve as cleaning cloths or diapers when there is nothing else left to salvage from them. In short: carefully choose your things, consciously use your things, keep your things well maintained and love your things forever.

Above. Leftovers from the Sleep Warrior’s modular blanket. Below. Mending techniques learned by Dutch girls in earlier centuries.

Some Words on Nesting#

While I was working on the full body suit for sleeping I came up with the idea of ‘nesting’. Not only because the word ‘nest’ reminds me of ‘bed’ and ‘rest’, but also because the full body suits I studied are in fact ‘nested designs’ with many different layers. I especially looked into astronaut’s suits (mainly for the technology) and pharaoh’s tombs (mainly for the storytelling). Both envelop the body of the ‘wearer’ in distinct different layers, beginning close and soft to the body and ending in some sort of hardened outward shell (respectively helmet and sarcophagus). The closer to the body, the holier the design.

The Sleep Warrior’s Garments#

The Sleep Warrior is dressed in a full bodysuit consisting of eight nested layers, including a mattress and a modular blanket. Made of natural and second-hand materials and dyed with natural pigments (plant-based, bacteria). Traditional embroidery crafts are combined with digital design. Old technologies (the needle) are paired with new (the lasercutter). The wearable bed produces zero waste because of the smart, digitally designed cuts of the fabrics. It is sustainable because the different parts and modules can easily be mended, repaired or replaced.

Darkness: Eye Pad#

The biological clock or ‘circadian rhythm’ is directly influenced by light. Sleep scientist therefore recommend to install dark or darkening curtains in the bedroom. Surely this will take yards and yards of heavy fabric. More sustainable, cheaper and as effective is this Eye Pad, which covers the eyes and looks pretty too. One-celled organisms that also have circadian rhythms inspired the shape of the Eye Pad. (One of the very first adaptations of the very first living organisms on earth was the circadian rhythm). The Eye Pad is made of scraps of naturally dyed cotton left over from the full body sheet. Gradients in colour symbolize the recurring rhythm of dusk and dawn. The Eye Pad has a long strap to fasten it comfortably around the head. It has three layers, including a padding of soft filling. It is plainly quilted around the edges.

Insulation: Sleep Cap#

Before central heating and insulated glazing people had to do their best to keep warm in bed. Also they had less opportunity to wash and groom their hair because generally they could only take one bath per week. So they wore nightcaps to preserve body heat and hairdos. Modern day people have the luxury of big bedrooms and lush everyday showers. But it costs energy to heat those big rooms and it costs energy to heat those gallons of running tapwater. The Sleep Cap adds an old solution to the new solution of being eco-friendly. It makes it possible to turn down the heat and keep your hair in shape a little while longer so you need fewer showers. The Sleep Cap is custom-made for the head of the wearer. Its pattern is designed in Adobe Illustrator and sown by hand. It is dyed with natural pigments extracted with ethanol, hibiscus for pink, annatto for yellow. It has three layers, one of which is a soft padding in between.

Sacredness: Full Body Sheet#

The full body sheet is the showpiece of The Sleep Warrior, even though it is hardly visible when The Sleep warrior is dressed in full array. It symbolizes the sacredness of the body and its intimate relation with textiles. Textiles are the first and last need of a person. Textiles are sacraments. Cloth is the first thing a baby receives when she is born. It is the last thing a person shrouds when he dies. The bed is our tender night temple made of fabrics. It is the delicate space of the sleeping person, who is completely vulnerable, completely recipient, and completely innocent. Bed sheets are a private cosmos in themselves and yet they are standardized, mass-produced, generic, square and impersonal. The Sleep Warrior’s full body sheet is custom-made for the wearer. It is egg-shaped and fully encloses the body. Openings for the face, arms and feet are positioned in such a way to accommodate the horizontal body in foetal position. It is dyed with the natural pigments of onion peels and hibiscus. Sleep scientists recommend people to sleep on their left sides to enhance healthy body processes. The left side of the body sheet is therefore dyed with onion peels (onions grow in the ground, they are ‘rooted’); the right side is dyed with hibiscus (these flowers grow in the air). The dyes are soaked up by the raw cotton as its bottom part is dipped in the dye bath and left overnight. This method produces gradients symbolizing dusk and dawn. Also it symbolizes how sleep is a gradual process; sleep ‘overtakes’ us like soaked-up dye ‘overtakes’ a fabric. The hood is dyed bright blue with bacteria to symbolize the open air, the perfect backdrop for dreaming. Lasercut ornaments in the shape of branched nerve cells (or ‘roots’) connecting the left and right sides of the sheet. The fabric of the arm and foot sleeves is manipulated with smock-embroidery, which makes it elastic and easier to use when drowsy. The soft buttons are made of leftover fabric decorated with ethanol-extracted bacteria-dye. Computational designed parametric airholes are stitched in at the shoulders to make it easier for the sleeping person to breath fresh air.

Silence: Soft Bonnet#

Noise pollution is sleep’s most notorious public enemy. Scientists of the World Health Organisation studying the consequences of intensive air traffic around large airports (like Schiphol near Amsterdam) have discovered that noise pollution disrupts sleep and demonstrably causes a decline in physical and mental health. But noise is very hard to battle. Humans have no earlids and as it is very expensive and elaborate to sound-insulate rooms, using earplugs or other hearing protections can prove to be very uncomfortable in bed. The Sleep Warrior’s Soft Bonnet muffles sound while serving as a pillow at the same time. It provides the wearer with a silent, calm, and almost meditative surrounding. It is custom-made from leftover scraps of fabric used for the body sheet. Some parts of the bonnet are dyed with ethanol-extracted pigments of Brazilwood. It uses the same pattern as the Sleep Cap, extended with strips of fabric to form the pads. The pads are filled with leftover fabric and light cushion fibres. A wool fibre could also regulate temperature and humidity. A heavy filling of kapok or buckwheat hulls could be suitable for people who are restless during sleep: the heaviness of the bonnet would prevent them from turning and tossing.

Support: Neck Pillow#

In my biased opinion every bed should have a handmade quilt. Quilts are heritage; they are unique, personal, homely, and hardwearing. If made smartly, quilts are very eco-friendly, the perfect fit for the ‘circular economy’ of using, re-using, mending, repairing and recycling. The Sleep Warrior’s Neck Pillow is an experiment in 3-D patchwork, meant to create a quilt that could both serve as a heavy cover on top and a pleasing mattress below. The 3-D patchwork modules are made of 100% cotton in a typically Dutch woven plaid pattern. The modules are designed in Rhino and cut zero waste in the lasercutter. Next they are sewn together on the machine, filled with soft fibres and tied together by knotting. I intended the Neck Pillow to be The Sleep Warrior’s actual wearable mattress. It would likely function very well as such and be quite soft and supportive where it should be. But to make the 3-D patchwork modules is very, very, VERY time-consuming. I had to downsize the project and made the modules into this Neck Pillow instead. It forms after the body and is in fact more supportive and comfy than the inflatable neck pillows you can buy at airports.

Temperature: Modular Blanket#

To sleep well a person needs temperature regulation. Too hot or too cold will interrupt the sleep cycle. This modular blanket can provide both coolness and warmth, depending on how the blanket is folded over the body. One layer (so no folds) cools because of the holes in the modules; two layers (so folded on top of each other) close up the holes and provide warmth. One of my reasons to enrol in the Fabricademy program was that I wanted to be able to create modular blankets that can vary in size and can easily be mended and repaired by swapping worn modules for fresh ones. I am happy I achieved this goal. The modular blanket for The Sleep Warrior is interlocked without stitches and so can take any wished-for size and shape. The module is based on the hexagon, a classic patchwork polygon that is rather elaborate to use. (In traditional patchwork hexagon shapes need to be folded over cardboard templates and hand stitched together.) Each module has six flounces and six slots. Pulling the flounces through the slots with tweezers assembles the modules. The modules are designed in Adobe Illustrator and imported into Rhino to make a zero waste pattern for the lasercutter. The modules are cut from 2 mm crème felt. After cutting the flounces are dipped in hot water-extracted natural dyes (avocado skins for brown, hibiscus flowers for pink, annotto seeds for yellow, onion peels for orange). The leftovers are turned into modules as well (but for another interlocking project).

Comfort: Wearable Mattress#

If you think about it, a mattress is actually huge in size. In fact, 60% of a mattress is not (indeed not ever) used by the sleeping person. This is also true for double-sized matrasses for couples. Even lovemaking or giving birth does not require such a large surface. Just think of the resources, commodities, energy and waste that could be spared if mattresses and beds were smaller and specifically designed to perfectly match the body. The Sleep Warrior’s wearable mattress is both cloak and mat. It is made from a secondhand piece of 4 mm foam found in the thrift store. Using a larger piece of foam could make a larger mattress. For extra padding the cape/mattress is made thicker by slashing the material and pulling it together with yarns. Since foam is a polyethylene plastic it cannot be cut in the lasercutter (it melts). It must be cut by hand. For the design I therefore created ‘non-digital parametrics’. This is rather simple, no Grasshopper, no math: it only takes a pencil, a carton template, a pin and calculated measurements. The wearable mattress is lined with raw cotton dip-dyed in hibiscus and onion peels. The large button at the neckline (not visible in the picture) is an heirloom from the grandmother of an ex-boyfriend.

Protection: Electromagnetic Shield#

Electrical wires and wireless communication technologies (4G, Wi-Fi) create electromagnetic fields (EMFs) within the home. EMFs may have health hazards. Some studies show that exposure to EMFs may impede the production of melatonin and thereby affect the body’s circadian rhythm. EMF-exposure can undermine sleep cycles and cause ailments and symptoms such as allergies, muscle aches and a weakened immune system. For this reason The Sleep Warrior has no electronics in any of her garments. Sleep and electricity do not go well together. For protection against EMFs special shielding textiles are produced with a metal in the weave (silver, tin, aluminium). These fabrics are rather expensive. The Sleep Warrior wears a budget DIY EMF-shield made of raw cotton and radiator foil. The fabric and foil are merged together with smock-embroidered pleats. The shield is worn as a high collar or put over the head when sleeping. To be honest, this shield is more of a statement than true protection. Though radiation will not come through the material (I tested with my smartphone), it won’t seal off the body completely, making parts still exposed to EMFs. The best thing to do if you want less EMFs in your bedroom is to remove all electrical devices, leave your laptop, tablet and smartphone outside the bedroom and turn off your Wi-Fi-router at night.

How to Make Your Own Wearable Bed#


Any of these items can be made as a single piece to help you sleep better. If you do, please let me know how you like it (tips? suggestions?) and how you like to wear your Sleep Warrior garment. E-mail me a picture via the address at the bottom of this page.

Eye Pad#

Materials - Scraps of fabric - Larger scrap of fabric (+/- 20x40 cm) - Batting of natural fibres (cotton, wool or silk) - Paper, pen, scissors, needle, pins, thread, thimble - For extra’s: 3-D printer with semi-opaque white filament

Instructions The Eye Pad has the shape of a one-celled organism. Print out the pattern and cut it out along the lines. Number the pieces and transfer each piece on scraps of fabric with 1 cm seam allowance. Sew the pieces together by hand. You can work neatly if you pin the pieces exactly along the pencil lines. For the strap stitch scraps together until you have a strap of +/- 40x10 cm. Stitch the strap together on the long side and on the short side turn. Make a sandwich of the Eye Pad and the larger scrap (good sides in the middle) and use a stretch of natural filling to be the third layer on the bottom. For more padding you could use more layers of filling but not too much otherwise it will not fold over your nose. Stitch the seam around; make sure the strap is added at the smallest part of the Eye Pad. Leave a small opening for the turning. Turn the Eye Pad and close the small opening with a slip stitch. Quilt the border edges with a running stitch. Make a buckle from cloth and stitch it to the opposite side of the strap. If you wish you can 3-D print structures on the fabric as ‘jewellery’-like inner cell elements. This will make the Eye Pad more luxurious. I had prepared a file to 3-D print on the Eye Pad but sadly I fried the Ultimaker Original 3-D printer at WAAG which is used for 3-D printing on fabric. Use a semi-opaque white filament.

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Sleep Cap#

Materials - 100x80 cm of raw cotton, decorated with naturally dye - Batting of natural fibres (cotton, wool or silk) - Paper, pen, scissors, needle, pins, thread, thimble, Clingfilm

Instructions To make the Sleep Cap custom-made, make a mold the size of your head. For this wrap your head in Clingfilm and cut the plastic ‘hat’ open along seam lines you want and like. I choose seam lines that would create large pillowy ear covers (also inspired by Russian cosmonaut’s padded caps), meaning I drew one piece of pattern for the sides and one long piece for a strip in the middle. Either trace or directly scan these parts and import into Adobe Illustrator. Patch up the pattern by making clear lines (‘paths’). Put in markers for front and back (marking the left and the right ear pads.) Cut all the parts 2x from fabric and 1x from natural fibre filling. Now decorate the fabric with natural dye. I used a stencil with perforated dots that I found in the TextileLab but of course you can make your own. Stitch the inner lining of the bonnet by using one left part, one middle part and one right part. Turn with the good side on the inside of the bonnet. Stitch another middle strap to another left and right earpiece. Stitch the fibre filling parts also together. Make a sandwich of the three layers, fabric pieces with the good sides together and the fibre filling pieces on the outside. Stitch the outside seams and leave an opening for turning. Turn and close the opening with a slip stitch.

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Full Bodysheet#

Materials - 300x180 cm raw cotton, 50x50 cm dotted swiss cotton (arm sleeves), 300x40 cm heavy cotton (foot sleeves) - Hot water extracted pigments of natural dyes (onion peels, hibiscus) - Bacteria dye - Lasercutter, sewing machine - Paper, pen, scissors, needle, pins, thread, thimble, silk embroidery thread, textiles glue

Instructions Dyeing Prepare the dye baths by boiling 2x 5 litres of water and adding the onion peels and hibiscus to each of the separate baths. Soak for an hour to extract the pigments. Pour leftover dye in plastic bottles for later use. Keep them refrigerated because they can become mouldy (but you can still use them). Hang the bottom part of the scoured fabric (use a strip of 100x80 cm) in the hot dye bath, tie the top to a beam above or a hook on the ceiling. Turn off the heat and leave to soak overnight. Rinse. Dry. Next day hang the other side of the fabric in the other dye bath and repeat. Now you have the fabric to use for the lasercut embellishments on the Full Body Sheet. The sheet itself is hung in the dye bath after it is stitched, one side first and the opposite side next. The arm sleeves are hung in the dye bath with only the topside. The foot sleeves are dyed after smocking but before closing the seams. The smocked fabric is put in 1 cm of dye and left up to soak overnight. For the preparation and proceedings of bacteria dye, please follow this link. Pattern making The Full Body Sheet is custom-made for the body. I used my own measurements prepared in the free MakeHuman software to make the design, so the size of the pattern in the dfx-file is for a slim woman of 176 cm in height. You can tweak the file to fit your own measurements. Leave the holes for the arm sleeves uncut for you need to try on the sheet and lie down in sleeping position in order to place these in the right position. Cutting Before cutting the fabric first scour and iron the cotton as you will dye it. You can do this in the washing machine. Pre-wash and wash the fabric with baking salt (sodium bicarbonate) at the highest temperature and rinse extra. Dry. Iron. Now the fabric is ready to be cut in the lasercutter and dyed. The Full Body Sheet is cut in pieces because the lasercutter is not big enough to cut the whole. The hood is cut separately because it will be dyed with bacteria pigments and it should be able to fit in a (large) petri dish. The Full Body Sheet is embellished with lasercut adornments in the shape of branched nerve cells and with parametric air holes for breathing at the shoulders. These are designed in Adobe Illustrator and Rhino/Grasshopper. You can change the files to make your own version. For the smocked foot sleeves I lasercut holes in the fabric to make it easier to stitch even pleats.
Sewing Sew the Full Body Sheet on the machine except the hood. Sew the arm sleeves and smock the borders (10-15 cm border width). Measure out the holes for the arm sleeves, cut by and and stitch the arm sleeves in the holes. Pleat the fabric for the foot sleeves and smock. Dye. Close the seams. Stitch the foot sleeves in the holes for the foot sleeves. Dye the hood with bacteria (tie the fabric for interesting patterns). Sew the hood on the sheet. Stitch the parametric air holes in the openings at shoulder height. Decorate the hem with dots of natural dye and bacteria dye and stitch the hem to the hood and front opening. Make soft fabric buttons and loops of leftover scraps and attach to the hem. Appliqueing or glueing The adornments are appliqued by hand (if you have time) or glued (if you have not) on the Full Body Sheet.

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Soft Bonnet#

Materials - 150x150 cm of raw cotton, naturally dyed in gradients - Scraps of fabric - Batting of natural fibres (cotton, wool or silk) - Paper, pen, scissors, needle, pins, thread, thimble, Clingfilm

Instructions To make the Soft Bonnet custom-made, make a mold the size of your head. For this wrap your head in Clingfilm and cut the plastic ‘hat’ open along seam lines you want and like. I choose seam lines that would create large pillowy ear covers (also inspired by Russian cosmonaut’s padded caps), meaning I drew one piece of pattern for the sides and one long piece for a strip in the middle. Either trace or directly scan these parts and import into Adobe Illustrator. Patch up the pattern by making clear lines (‘paths’). Put in markers for front and back (marking the left and the right ear pads.) Measure the circumfence of the ear pad pattern using the ‘document info’ window. Now you know the length of the strap of fabric that goes between two ear pad patterns to create the cushion, width is 20 cm. Print and transfer the pattern to the fabric. Leave 1 cm seam allowance. For the larger ‘cushion’ strip pieces leave 10 cm seam allowance on the short sides. This will make it easier to close them neatly once they are stuffed with filling. Cut the middle strap of the cap 2x from fabric and 1x from fibre filling, cut each ear pad 2x from regular fabric and 1x each from stitched-together scraps, cut the larger ‘cushion’ strap 2x. Stitch the inner lining of the bonnet by using one left part, one middle part and one right part. Turn with the good side on the inside of the bonnet. Stitch another middle strap to the fibre filling strap and stitch togeher to another left and right earpiece. Now stitch a ‘cushion’ strap around the last left and right earpiece. Stitch the other long side of the ‘cushion’ straps to the bonnet part you stitched last. Leave the short sides open so you can fill the pads. Before you do that stitch the lining and the outside of the bonnet together and turn. Fill the cushions with light natural fibres or leftover scraps of fabric. (Note: if you use leftover scraps be sure that you thoroughly dry the bonnet after washing for the scraps might stay moist and will start to decompose and smell badly – trust me, I know from experience.) When the pads are filled to your satisfaction close the seams of the cushions with a slip stitch or any decorative stitch you prefer. And voila, a perfect soundproof bonnet for sleep and meditation.

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Neck Pillow#

Materials - 4x 60x60 cm of fabric (Dutch woven plaid) - Batting of natural fibres (cotton, wool or silk) - Lasercutter, sewing machine - A lot of time

Instructions DISCLAIMER. This work is very elaborate. It took me four full days behind the sewing machine to create 60x30 cm of Neck Pillow. So continuing is at your own risk. Cut out the patches with the lasercutter. For this Neck Pillow I used 4 different fabrics but of course you could use as many fabrics you like, from just one to many. If you cut the dfx-file 4x you will have 64 modules. You could cut out more. Also you could enlarge the patches by tweaking the document-size of the dfx-file in the lasercutter. This I highly recommend for it will make the sewing of the 3-D modules easier. After you have cut the pieces start sewing them together. First sew the rectangular strips to the top of the triangles. Make the seam very firm for these parts you will knot together. Then sew the triangles to the squares. If you repeat the same pattern you will get interesting effects when the work is completed, but if you wish you could work randomly too. When you have sewn the triangles to the squares, close the four sides between the triangles. Turn the ‘pyramids’. Fill with natural fibre batting and leave the top open. Knot the modules together with the straps. Do this in rows and use double knots. Each module has 4 straps so each module will have 4 knots. Knot the outside modules neatly together.

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Modular Blanket#

Materials - 150x180 cm felted wool with a thickness of 2mm (or any other kind of 2mm felt) - Natural dyes - Lasercutter, tweezers

Instructions Cut out the modules with the lasercutter. If you wish you can make the modules a bit smaller or bigger. The dfx-file also gives you leftover (different) modules that you can use for another interlocking project. You can always cut more if you like. I cut 4 panels from 150x180 cm felt. For a perfect cut: 100 speed, 35 power. After cutting dip the flounces of the modules in natural dye. Leave to dry for two days. Interlock the modules by pulling the flounces trough the slots with tweezers. You can work in rows or circles. Make any kind of shape you like.

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Wearable Mattress#

Materials - 120x150 cm 4mm foam, 150x180 raw cotton fabric, naturally dyed - String, pen, scissors, cardboard, push pin, pins, yarns (naturally dyed), thread, needle, thimble

Instructions Foam is a plastic that cannot be cut in the lasercutter because it melts. So you need to cut the pattern with scissors. First cut out a half circle from the foam to make it into a cloak. Attach a pen to a piece of string. Measure the middle of the foam and use a pushpin to mark the spot. Attach the string to the pushpin and draw a half circle with the pen by stretching the string to the outside edge of the foam. Draw a small half circle from the middle to make the neckline. You do not need a seam allowance. Trace the half circle of foam on the raw cotton for the lining and now add a 5 cm seam allowance (you will need this for the binding). In order to create a bit more padding to the 4 mm foam, and also to create an interesting pattern, I made a ‘non-digital parametric’ design. It is coiled and smaller on the top than on the bottom. To do this draw a wavy line on a piece of cardboard. Make the ‘wave’ as long as your half circle foam and cut the other edges of the cardboard into a small strip like the hand of a clock. Attach the top of the wavy strip to the pushpin in the middle of the half circle foam. Measure regular distances on the circumfence of the half circle and turn the cardboard-wave on the pushpin from point to point, from the right side all the way to the left side of the half circle. On each stop trace the wavy shape with identical lines at regular intervals (these will make the ‘slashed paddings’ when you cut them open). Trace two opposite lines for one trajectory. Skip the lines a few centimetres lower for the next trajectory. Turn back to the original line position for the next trajectory. Repeat. Slash the lines open with scissors and bind the openings together in the middle of the slash with naturally dyed yarns. Now stitch the lining to the foam. You need to do this by hand because the sewing machine is also not very fond of foam. After sewing the fabric lining to the foam, fold the seam toward the front of the cape, pin, and sew the binding with a running stitch. Sew a very large button below the neckline and a make a loop out of leftover fabric. Stitch the loop on the other side of the neckline. Close the cape/mattress by pulling the button through the loop. Horizontally spread the cape looks like wings; vertically spread it can be used as a mattress.

Electromagnetic Shield#

Materials - 300x50 cm raw cotton fabric, 300x50 cm metal radiator foil, unbreakable nylon thread, silk embroidery thread - Gridded pattern paper (300x50 cm), pins, extra long needles, thimble


In order to use the smocking-technique you will have to first pleat the material. As you are using two layers of material (fabric and slippery metal foil) you need to bind them together before stitching. For this pin the radiator foil, the raw cotton fabric and the gridded pattern paper together. The gridded pattern paper will help you to make even stitches. Roll up the materials as you are working because your worktable is probably not big enough. Now stitch with regular intervals of 2 cm (width) and 6 cm (height) the entire length of the material. Use a very firm nylon thread because the material is heavy and you will need to pull the threads in order to pleat the materials. Believe me: you do not want the thread to break because you then need to stitch all over again. I used 9 fully threaded needles from top to bottom and worked my way gradually to the end. After you have stitched the entire length, remove the paper and knot together the ends of the threads two by two. Be sure the knots are firm because you will pull hard on the threads from the other side to create pleats. Now pull and pleat. Secure the threads on the opposite side with very firm knots and cut off the excess thread. Now use silk embroidery thread and a long needle to smock the pleats. Mark the stitch lines with pencil. I used the honeycomb smock stitch for The Sleep Warrior’s shield because I wanted hexagons and bees as a recurring theme. But of course you can use any smock stitch you like. There are many around to choose from. Just google a bit for tutorials. Take care that you stitch through both layers, so both fabric and foil. When you have completed the smocking, remove the nylon threads and admire your work. Compliments for all!

Good Night and Good Luck#

Teresa van Twuijver, Amsterdam | 2019 | |

Thanks to Everybody at Fabricademy 2018-2019#

And especially Fabricademy Amsterdam!