I’ve been busy, lately, taking things apart.

I never really got knitting. Years ago, when we were both pregnant, me in my early stages and her in the late stages, one of my oldest friends DRAGGED me to a knitting shop while I was in town visiting. It was UNIMAGINABLE that I was going to be bring a new life into this world and not know how to knit the small creature anything. I tried, I really did, but my fine-motor skills did not lend themselves to knitting. It was too repetitive, but also too detail-oriented. Besides, we lived in Southern California, so what would we need warm knit clothing items for?

Now I see the possible attraction of knitting or crochet, as I’ve spend the last few weeks unpicking shirts in the evening while watching TV or listening to podcasts while in the sunny reading room. Pick and pull, pick and pull, pick and pull. A shirt becomes a pile (oh what a pile!) of thread and a cup of buttons and pieces of fabric. I’m noting the construction (there are markings like on my patterns!) and the kinds of stitches. Pick and pull, pick and pull, pick and pull.

The shirts I’m unpicking are all the same, from the Missoni for Target collection. I loved all of those designer collaborations with Target and Kohls. I had an item from just about every collaboration (see Liberty of London for Target for example), but the quality isn’t the best (given the price point, that’s not surprising) and, well, I’m not that size anymore, so any item that isn’t a scarf no longer fits.

In my great closet purge stemming from the move, I sent most of my items of any worth to a consignment website, and I’ve been accumulating credit. I choose to spend some of it on deeply discounted collab items, for the fabric. The Missoni for Target shirts are in a beautiful abstract, geometric floral pattern. The fabric is a kind of sheer polyester, not particularly soft but it has decent drape.

Made in China, of course.

None of the shirts are in my size, as the second-hand market seems to suffer from the same sizing problems of the regular clothing market: a glut of XS and S sizes. Each shirt nonetheless yields a decent amount of fabric: two sleeves, two yoke pieces, a large back piece, two front pieces, two cuffs, a collar, and a whole pile of buttons. I keep the collars and cuffs largely in tact, for reasons I haven’t quite figured out yet. They are all laid out on my cutting table, piled and organized, possibly the most organized I have ever been.

I think about undoing all the work that was done most likely in sweatshop conditions, most likely women on industrial machines assembling shirts as fast as they can to meet whatever quota has been set. But I also find the ease stitching on the top of the sleeve and think, someone had to take that part just a little slower, as I quickly pull and snap the line of stitches so that it will lay flat.

I think about what the hell I’m going to even do with this fabric, how they oddly-shaped pieces will be made to fit together into something new. I can get some squares but nothing big enough, but I guess I could (obviously) sew all the squares together like a quilt to make something out of that. A coat or jacket lining perhaps, I’m still too traumatized from my first failed attempt at making a lined coat that the thought of another one, possibly wasting this fabric on another sewing fiasco…

Of course because the fabric is from a shirt, all I can see it as are more shirts, but I have to have more imagination than that. I almost see it as an accent fabric – the large bow on a pussy bow blouse, the ruffles in an otherwise plain skirt or shirt, a pop of a pocket bag. I don’t want it too look too arts-and-crafts (for lack of a better word) and so I’m trying to think of ways to disguise the piece-meal nature of whatever I’m going to make. Maybe an entire pussy-bow blouse (still with the shirt!) but with the extra fabric added to the sides and under the arms, to disguise it a little better. Maybe I’ll learn, finally, how to do flutter sleeves.

I have a bunch of Liberty of London for Target maxi-dresses coming in soon. From the pictures, it looks like all one piece from shoulders to the floor, yielding two large rectangles, some ruffles, and one cordage, and this time it’ll also be cotton. More unpicking, pick and push, pick and push, pick and push. More organizing and imagining. More saving and reusing. More taking what was once on-trend and hot and turning it into something more lasting for my closet (mind you, I wore most of the pieces for at least a decade).

Last year, I made so many garments. So. Many. Garments. This year, well, doesn’t look like I’ll hit the same heights. That’s ok. I’m going to keep unpicking until I get inspired.

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