FAQ

Q: What is Hack Your Clothes about?

Q: Who is the audience for Hack Your Clothes?

Q: Who are you, anyway?

Q: I have a question about something I’d like to hack, but don’t know how.  Will you help me? 

Q: Would you come to our city and teach seminars?

Q: What is Hack Your Clothes about?

A: The short answer is, I think everyone should understand how their clothes, bags, and other textiles are made so they can hack them to be more awesome. It amazes me that most people I encounter know more about how their computers and cars work than about their clothes.

I spend a lot of time at a maker space in Seattle called Metrix. It’s a very social place, and we talk about various sorts of technology. I love robots at least as much as your average girl, but the technology that really turns my screw is clothing and textiles.

The development of clothing technology was one of the most important advances our species made. It almost certainly predates farming. It allowed us to move into colder and colder climates, and to this day wearing the right clothes can be the difference between life and death.

I’m not just talking about extreme environments like climbing Mt Everest or scuba diving. People here in my beloved NorthWest get hypothermia and die every year because they get caught outside overnight in 50 degree wet weather without clothing to keep them dry and warm. There’s a phrase used in the hiking community: “Cotton Kills,” because of this. novice hikers and people traveling from other parts of the country are cautioned to always take a waterproof layer as well as clothes that will insulate when wet. All it takes is a badly twisted ankle on a secluded trail for a pleasant day hike to turn into a disaster.

Beyond keeping us alive and comfortable, however, clothes are an adornment. We use them to signal socially what groups we belong to, and what we think about ourselves.  We use them to flatter and accentuate our bodies, and to cover or hide them. Pretty much everyone wears clothes every day, and frequently thinks hard about which clothes to wear on a given day, sometimes wishing a given piece of clothing could be made a little bit better. And yet almost no one in the US knows what it takes to make that happen.

This wasn’t always true. The clothing industry was one of the biggest businesses in the late 19th and early 20th century, launching entrepreneurs like Levi Strauss. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the clothing industry was one of the first to be moved off shore. Access to the knowledge, tools, and materials to create and modify clothing started to disappear, and we have come to a point where a few rabid hobbyists keep fabric crafting alive, but the vast majority of people don’t know anything about it any more.

Even those hobbyists tend to be extreme specialists, so a quilter wouldn’t know how to make a tailored jacket, or possibly even how to blind hem a pair of pants. The technology, materials, and tools for production of clothing and other textile goods such as bags and bedding have exploded in the last 40 years, but all of that innovation has occurred oversees. By and large it’s not possible for am individual to purchase the materials necessary to replicate her favorite pair of pants, even if she had the tools and knowledge. I speak from long, frustrated experience here.

The goal of Hack Your Clothes is to change all this. I have developed more skills in textile production than most people I know, and I’d like to share those with others so they can make more awesome things. I love teaching what I know, and look forward to the exchange of ideas with textile enthusiasts of all skill levels.

I’m also hoping to be able to source some of the difficult to find materials and share out large lots, or find ways to replicate them with accessible materials.

Q: Who is the audience for Hack Your Clothes?

A: Everyone! We all need clothes, bags, sheets, towels, and other textiles. We’d all like them to be more awesome than what we can buy “off the rack,” and it’s easy to make small changes that are big improvements. Hack Your Clothes will have tutorials and example projects for all skill levels from beginner to expert. “Make Your Favorite Tee” and “Hack your Jeans” are the first two planned, with a tutorial on making a custom corset soon to follow.

Q: Who are you, anyway?

A: Jennifer “Jennigma” Leigh. I’ve been working occasionally as a knitwear designer for the past 5 years, and personally I’m an avid knitter. I’ve recently developed a fascination with knitting machines, and I’m hoping it will speed up my ability to produce good designs.

I was raised in a house where textile technology and craft were ordinary. My father is a textile engineer and chemist, so I lived through the end of the textile industry in America; it was the fortune of my family to move frequently following my father’s career as mill after mill was closed. I was also taught to knit, machine sew, crochet, cross stitch, needlepoint, and tat before I entered grade school. I made my first dress on my own when I was 8, starting with an idea, my mother’s sewing machine, and some fabric and ending up with a lumpy awful thing that I was embarrassed to wear, but I made it myself.

I supplemented my income in college and grad school with my sewing skills, creating everything from custom curtains and upholstery to medieval costumes and wedding dresses. It was in this period that I actively studied modern pattern making.

I began to knit regularly when I was commuting to work on a train in Philadelphia in 2003. I released my first design in 2009, and have continued releasing a pattern or two a year. I have a book in the planning stages as well, which will focus on constructing knitted fabric to make various shapes from toys to fitted garments.

Q: I have a question about something I’d like to hack, but don’t know how.  Will you help me?

A: I would love to, if you don’t mind me blogging about it and possibly writing a tutorial for whatever we come up with. I’m actively developing Hack Your Clothes right now, and want to answer real questions. Your questions will help me prioritize and direct my efforts, and I always love hearing new ideas!

Q: Would you come to our city and teach seminars?

A: Absolutely! email me at jennigma at gmail dot com and I’d be delighted to discuss a visit!

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