Project Minima:

About Project Minima

It all started with this post called PREQUEL on May 31, 2011:
Buddha with mudra of greeting, prayer & respect
Just the facts please.

I want to do this, I want to have a plan of sorts and a commitment, therefore a blog is born during my birthday month of June.

Say 15 minutes a day of working toward it, or once a week.  We'll see how it goes.  I don't want to get overwhelmed, nor jump the gun and do something too radical that I'll later regret.

Goal is recognizing my style(?): or everything works, everything looks good, it all fits and I like it.  And, of course, letting go of everything else...for real.

Starting with clothes: 
  1. Gather all of one type of clothing together, sub-dividing as necessary (i.e., pants, jeans). 
  2. Try on & sort into piles/boxes/bags of:  fit, like, looks good, to be altered, or NOT any of them.
  3. Give away the Not Wanted pile
  4. Put away the Fit, Like & Looks Good stuff (must satisfy all 3 categories to stay! be vigilant.)
  5. Play with To Be Altered things as desired, on and off. 
  6. Repeat with next type of clothing...
(and somewhere in there) Sew what you really need/want that fits the 3 "must" categories.  Be careful here.  May want to wait until you come up with more info - like a style, theme, color range, fabric keep it all simple...

I refined my goals with this post, EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT on June 2, 2011:
Emergence of the Ganga on the Earth
Had the thought, after looking at some of the "sites of inspiration" listed, that perhaps my framework might be to use only what I already have in reforming my wardrobe.  Originally I was thinking to ultimately have everything working/going together with everything else, as well as being minimal.

Now perhaps, it's more me, more reasonable to start from where I'm at - that is use what I have to get to where I want to be.  The same plan would be involved, but I would not buy anything for this year of the project, not even fabric to make something.  It would be about using the fabric I already have and never used, and/or re-purposing clothes I don't wear anymore for whatever reason.  That way nothing is wasted in the process of simplifying, nor justifiable in buying.  I'll see how that sits with me for now...

Meanwhile, later that same day:  Spent my 15-minutes + gathering up all my clothes, shoes that were laying about and put them away.  Eureka!  Didn't spend time sorting, etc. because I didn't want to bog myself down.  But, did put in a load of laundry and was frankly disgusted by how much of everything I have.  So the idea of not buying a thing to wear this year feels really, really good.

After completing the first quarter, I submitted my STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA  post on 9-29-11:  
Sculpture by Kiki Smith
It's been just about 4 months since I started Project Minima as a concentrated effort to reduce my consumption in the clothes industry to zero.  So far, so good.  I haven't even wanted to buy anything apparel-wise.  Once I switched consciousness and started to see my existing wardrobe of ill-fitting, unwanted stuff as potential supplies for reconstructing clothing I liked, I was off to the races! 

I started off slowly, spending a few minutes (15 or so) a day to gather, collect and sort my stuff.  Gradually my studio rearranged itself to accommodate sewing more than art-making.  All my fabrics, embellishments, sewing notions and implements were organized and at hand.  And my potential clothes-in-waiting, i.e., my old wardrobe, were in my dressing room and out of storage and arranged by color, fabric and type like in a thrift store.  My 15 minutes a day eventually gave way to all my studio time pretty much every day.

I see making clothes or reconstructing them as creative as any art-making I've done.  Thinking, reacting, experimenting, considering...looking at shape, color, texture, form, line, etc.   And still being true to myself and the fact that I'm going to be wearing them in public!

The fact that I'm not going to buy any clothes (even at thrift stores), shoes, underwear, socks, coats, jewelry, bags, scarves, hats - anything that can be considered apparel - for a year, seems very exciting to me.  Actually the thought of buying any of those things seems disgusting after seeing all the stuff I had once I went through the closets and storage.  I mean how much do you really want?!  Especially now that I see all the raw material I have on hand to make anything my heart desires.

After 6 months, my STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA II  report was posted on 12-2-11:

artwork by Louise Tidd
6-month status report on Project Minima:    Approximately 65 pieces completed.  Joined Refashion Coop, contributing twice a month since October.  Starting Sewing Rebellion Chicago Chapter in January, to meet monthly.  Re-organized work space.  Received 2 sewing/ design books:  I Am Cute Dresses by Sato Watanabe and Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch, pouring over them constantly.  Started wearing my jewelry again (unearthed it from storage) as part of my ensembles.  Also mixing it up by wearing shoes and boots from the back of the closet to go with different "outfits."  Having fun dressing up!  Enjoying the unexpected, going for what works, not blanketly taking what is, as is...

I love not buying anything.  I'm psyched about sewing, repairing, re-making, re-fitting & re-designing.  Sew be it, in deed.

And after 9 months, I posted my STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA III report on 3-1-12:
artwork by Sebastiaan Bremer
Nine months into the project and still going strong.   Can't see myself stopping sewing, mending, creating and/or making do - why would I?  And I certainly no longer have an interest in shopping for stuff that I don't need, crave or want.  How cool is that?!  What I'm doing is way more satisfying...and fun too.

Anyway, let's tally up.  I've completed &/or reworked approximately 29 pieces this quarter, so added to the 65 from the last 2 quarters, that's a total of 94 in 9 months.  Let's see, that breaks down to about 2 and 1/2 pieces a week, right?  (no good at math here...)  Although I don't work like that, on a schedule, I do go into the studio pretty much every day.  It all adds up. 

Additionally, I've started to have fun with nail polish.  Another blast from the past (like my jewelry).  And I continue to have fun dressing up.  It's even spilled over into the watercolor class I teach, where we've been choosing a color to wear each week and then arranging ourselves in color wheel order during the next class (this is with adults mind you!)  I've also been learning new sewing techniques - the internet makes that soooo easy - as well as finding some really cool sewing bloggers.

My STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA report after one year, posted on May 31, 2012: 

illustration by Clare Owens.
Yes, a year has gone by since I decided to launch this project and I'm still as involved as ever.  Let's look back and see if I accomplished my original goals and what other doors opened along the way.  hmmm.  Well, the main goal I had written on Day One was: "...everything works, everything looks good, it all fits and I like it."  I would say I have achieved that - although in ways that I had not envisioned at the time.  In terms of my starting with the clothes list, I have favored the "play with to be altered" item rather than the "give away the not wanted."  The significant refinement came for me in my second post when I decided to go on a shopping free ban for the year.  I haven't bought a single item of apparel (new or used) in all that time.  This allowed my creativity to flourish - both in putting together outfits to wear, and in refashioned my clothes or making new ones from my fabric stash.  I also had a shopping ban on fabric due to my huge stash of it and sewing notions.  I even played with redoing my shoes!  It was all so empowering.

I saw how much I had used shopping as a leisure (and mindless) activity.  And how I didn't need anything in terms of clothing (I mean I wasn't going to starve).  And I loved rehabbing my clothes and not using patterns.  It was way more creative to work with what I had and see where I could take it, step by step.  More like art-making, less like paint-by-numbers, if you get my drift.  I started dressing more creatively, more interestingly - in terms of colors, textures, shapes, patterns.  Like art-making.  I had more fun with it.

One of the most amazing things (really) was I began taking pictures of myself wearing the clothes I put together.  A friend called them my clothes collages and that's how I thought of it too.  I really didn't think of these as pictures of me, but as pictures of my clothes put together and I was the one wearing them.  And I took them like I take pictures of my artwork, then like I play with artwork, so they're evolving in their own way - and that might be interesting to see as time goes on...  As soon as I started posting these pix in April 2011, I began getting comments which was another interesting phenomenon.  I began sharing with Patti on Visible Mondays at Not Dead Yet Style and I was off.  From there I found myself on the Style Crone's Blogs We Like and then the Citizen Rosebud's 40+ Bloggers.  I was in full community and enjoying the diversity. 

Hey, initially I wasn't even going to take pictures of the clothes at all, even on their own.  Just a post and an art image that seemed relevant.  But friends said I just had to do that.  I thought it would be boring to see a shirt laying on a bed or hanging on a hanger.  But that was me, then. I first branched out with Refashion Co-op learning to share what I rehabbed within that community twice a month.  I learned what people were interested in (and not).

This last quarter I've completed 20 items, making a grand total of 114 pieces in one year.  That breaks down to a little over 2 per week.  Cool.  The other major accomplishment this quarter was the reorganization of my studio - dressing room - supply room - enclosed porch.  Hallelujah.

Oh, and least we forget here - speaking of rehabbing - I'm back on the wagon with exercising!  Proving my commitment to the coach/owner of the fitness center down the block, I've been doing my program there 4 times a week going on my second week now. We'll see what she has in store for me in terms of employment opportunities in my time of need, so to speak.

And I don't want to stop now, I've added another year to my commitment to Project Minima.  I may lift my shopping free ban from time to time.  I have had a desire to buy bright colored sox...but maybe I can just make them or do without!

I posted My STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA: Summer of Year 2 report on 8-31-12:

Starting from scratch with Year 2, I've completed a total of 14 refashions during this first quarter of summer.    
~ painting by Marieloes Reek ~
~I notice a new trend with my posts where I'm including more of my everyday life, thoughts and opinions.  Like in the posts: Memory Lane, DIY Shelving, I Don't Donate/Thrift, Graceland Sketch Club, and giving out my art website, etc.

~I bought something, the first thing in 1 year and 3 months:  a pair of shoes!  Sandals to be exact, on sale at Marshall's.  I got them for my 60th b'day.

~Then I got pneumonia.

~I've often been a nervous wreck about health insurance and work.  The Reader has been decimated and sold to The Sun Times and my true love has been transferred there after being cut to part-time with no benefits.

~I received a Leibster Award from a rocking blogster and I nominated 11 others for the award.

~We helped my Mom pack and move from her house to a Senior Retirement Community last week - and - she just loves it!

~Oh, and my exercise program is on hold - the pneumonia stopped that in the bud.

See what I mean, much of this has nothing to do (directly) with refashioning.

The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA: Y2-2nd Qtr. posted on 11-2-12:

This Fall quarter production totals 30 pieces refashioned and/or made-from scratch:  12 items of clothing, 8 pairs of shoes and 10 accessories, primarily jewelry.  The items are shown on the Clothes for Fall page, under year 2012.

painting by Sharon Yamamoto
Seems I've doubled my output from the Summer quarter (14 pieces) which was the start of my second year of Project Minima.  But there were extraneous circumstances that summer to consider.  See the above report for details.

Noted trends from Project Minima Fall quarter:

~ rehabbing, painting of shoes
~ putting together bits and bobs for jewelry
~ mending knit gloves
~ buying some things:    + new fabric  
(although it was drastically on sale @  $1.99/yard)
    + new patterns  
(they were drastically on sale online @ .99 to 3.99 ea.)
     + new color tights
(also drastically on sale under $4 ea. with free shipping)
     + second-hand shoes/boots 
(e-bay golden boots, e-bay red & orange cowboy boot shoes, thrift store pink snakeskin ankle boots)
~ new concepts absorbed about design and construction for refashioning clothes

A red flag goes out for the buying of things that has charged to the forefront this quarter.  I can say it was reasonable, or low prices, whatever, but it is not the direction I want to be going.  I do not need more.  Let me say that again.  I do not need more.  I have enough of everything.  I have more than enough of everything.  I love sewing.  I love re-creating.  I have more than enough to recreate with what I already have.  I know this.  Acting from this allows me to stretch and grow and be even more creative.

I can also buy some things, some times.  But I don't need to get obsessed   Or side-tracked with it.  And perhaps it would feel better if I figured out a frame in which to do that - a budget, or a time, or an amount.  We'll see.  But I want that to be a back-burner kind of thing, if anything.  hmmm.

Where are you at on the matter of buying new, thrifting, and/or making do?

The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA: Winter Quarter of Year 2 posted on 3-1-13:

The Winter Quarter was a slower production period with a total of 14 pieces completed.  The items can be seen on the Clothes for Winter page under Year 2.  I know I've doubled my ebaying on the other hand...
painting by Antonio Donghi
Trends noticed from the last 3 months:

~  for the first time I had a 2-week hiatus from blogging that spontaneously occurred in mid February.  (I think this came about due to extraneous stress from outside obligations where something had to go.)
~  I joined a Bra-Sew-Along and quickly dropped out when it seemed out of my league
bought more boots from ebay (2 pair of cowboy boots, 1 extra pointy brown, 1 black suede & leather and 1 pair extra pointy black leather riding boots)
buying more patterns, now from ebay
~  I'm working more from patterns and fabric, less from old clothes to be refashioned
~  Although I tend to deviate from patterns and go off on my own design
~  I've especially enjoy using up scraps of fabric and/or mixing fabrics in one piece

Trends I'd like to see in the next quarter for Spring:

+  Much less ebaying (come up with a schedule or limit)
+  15 minutes a day/ a week of sorting an area
+   maybe start a project on doing every pattern I have...
+   do a swap...
+   figure out the paper doll-drawing project

The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA: Spring Quarter of Year 2 posted on 6-6-13: 

The Summer Quarter for Year Two of Project Minima has been stopped in its tracks by my Mom's sudden turn of events.  Rather, by my state of coping I should say.  Nevertheless, following is my summary.

painting by Haidee Becker
I've completed 13 pieces this quarter, all from patterns except 1 skirt that was simply gathered at the waist.  Some were very complicated designs, however.  Like the Koos Spring Coat and the Koos Kaftan, wherein I used multiple pieces of fabric from my stash. You can see the clothes I made on my Spring Clothes page.

Thanks to all of you for you kind thoughts and wishes about Mom.  They really helped me feel connected.

I haven't made a thing since Mother's Day when I finished the Kaftan and got called the following day about Mom being rushed to the hospital.  I just can't focus on any one thing or make decisions about sewing.  Things that once were important now seem irrelevant and vice versa.  It's a whole new world out there with medicare and medicaid, elder law attorneys, rehab facilities vs nursing homes, assisted living vs skilled nursing, power of attorney vs guardianship, competency, insurance, being the only relative, plus living in different states.  We've been driving back and forth to Detroit - 3 times in the last 2 weeks and we'll be going again in a few days.  That's 6 hours each way.  I feel crazy. 

Meanwhile, this is officially the end of Year Two for Project Minima since I began it in June of 2011.  I'm going to go into year 3 now.  I need to revisit my goals and get back on track.  But I'm just not in a place to do that at the moment.  Soon though.

Let me just calculate the total for the year anyway.  Year 2 total is 71 garments.  Year 1 was 114 -   altogether making 185 articles of clothing.  No buying in Year 1, buying on e-bay and twice in a store (several times more if you count fabric!) in Year 2. 

The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA: Year 3 posted on 9-4-13:

Yes, I'm going into my third year now for Project Minima.  This summer quarter, production pretty much stopped alongside my mom's rapid decline in health.
painting by Sally Moore.
It was only after she was relocated to a senior living community near us in Chicago last month, that I was able to focus on a new type of construction.  A Dress-Abillity.  The confluence of mom being a bit more settled and of me being asked to participate in a show at my old gallery brought forth a renewed burst of creativity.

The only piece I produced this quarter was a dress made from an old turquoise top I deconstructed and various bits & pieces of fabric I auditioned from my stash.  I embroidered it's name, "Bounce Back-Ability" across the front.  I suspect it will become part of a series of Dress-Abilities.   You can see close ups of it on my Clothes from Summer page.

One thing I did do, amongst the traveling back and forth to Detroit every week to visit Mom, was buy things.  Like crazy.  Totally anti-Project Minima, stress-induced, and pseudo-creative.  E-baying shoes, oh my.  I don't know if I could even list them all.  (all cool of course.)  I would just mindlessly cruise shoes to turn my mind off.

And I lost touch with the whole bloggerhood.  I didn't post, or comment, or even read.  I wasn't able to focus and I felt bad about it.  But I'm back now, slowly, kinda intermittently, bouncing-back.  Mom's in the hospital again.  4th time in as many months.  Maybe, perhaps, it's time for palliative care...

The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA:  Year 3, 2nd Qtr. posted on 11-29-13:

Time flies.  And so do I, in circles, orbiting around my Mom's downward spiral, now in hospice.  sigh.
painting by Irene Ferguson
Everything is okay, as well as can be, all things considered.  yeah.  I've been sewing this quarter anyway, although not picture-taking.  yet.  And I've just heard I'm next in line for the Traveling Yellow Skirt!  How cool is that?!  
Just what the doctor ordered to get me out of the blues 
and into sunshine yellow blogospheric fashion is serious sistah blissness.  

Can I get it together to do stats...?  I don't have anything posted that I made this quarter so it's not so easy to do...hmmm.

  • Okay, well, my obsession with ebay shoes/boots has subsided.  That is after a real rush in October.  I think I'm done with it now.  It was part of my de-stress sessions. (That, and napping.  Major napping, like very long naps, several times a day, with cats.) 

    • Eventually, I was able to sew again after making only 1 thing last quarter:
    • 2 necklaces created from bits and bobs
    • camel-colored velveteen print pants made, remodeled, failed
    • wild cotton print/ wild designed sleeveless top/vest/smock
    • subdued mauve, sheerish, dotted swiss, blouse
    • dress with black stripped knit top, black leather suspenders and black gauze drapey skirt
    • tie-dyed green to hot pink with gold elephants cotton print amazing zip up dress
    • lovely reversible burgundy velvet, crushed deep orange organza, Egyptian tapestry and copper lame trimmed coat.

    • Re-started the Sewing Rebellion last month, rotating our monthly meetings at each other's house.  And gained another rebel!  (Haven't posted anything on that yet either.)

    • Oh, and one of the students in my watercolor class had inexplicably started to paint whatever I wore to class that day.  Susan stated I was "inspirational" and that these paintings are being turned into a calendar for 2014!!  Oh my.  Talk about making my day!

      detail of watercolor by Susan Silvano

    I look forward to getting back on track, or something like it.  I miss...everything.

    The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA:  Year 3, Qtr. 3, posted on 3-7-14:

    A rite of passage, these last three months.  Only now have I realized I did all hand sewing during this time.  hmmm.  ahhh.  yes.  That's nice, just for 3 months - starting and then stopping without conscious thought - as my Mom slipped away. 
    ~ painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi ~
    But right before this hand-sewing marathon...I received the blessings of the Traveling Yellow Skirt in the mail. You can read/ see all about this amazing week-long adventure starting with this post:  The Day the Yellow Skirt Came To Call.  I cannot express what a difference the TYS made in my life and my mom's at that time.
    • Anyway, what I made was mostly from fabric scraps.  Lots and lots of NECKLACES.  Some as gifts, one for Mom, and some just for me.  I was fascinated with using the tiniest scrap of fabric, making stitches to give it form, choosing colors, textures and shapes to go together.   You can see pictures of the gifted necklaces here.  And the other ones here.

    • I also made several FINGERLESS GLOVES out of larger bits of fabric scraps.  My first experiment that didn't come out to my liking, was well liked by Hollie of  Modern Colors, so off they went to their true home.  You can see all the gloves here.

    • HATS.  I don't usually wear them.  But you know, Judith of the Style Crone has raised our hat consciousness.  So I think about them now, when normally I wouldn't.  I made two.  Ahh, yes, that purple one that I made by Mom's bedside over the 3 days she lay dying.  sigh.  sigh.  sigh.  You can see the purple hat here.  And then I made another, a little more elaborate, black and dark gray with tiny black seed beads.  I like them both. 

    • My grand finale of the quarter was my grand flop:  the couture manure.  My designer COAT/ jacket completely hand-sewn and a mess.  If you really must, you can see it here.

    Actually, I have put all these items in one place on my Clothes from Winter  page for one-stop looking.   Clicking on the "here" above takes you to the actual post & pictures about that item.  (Something for everyone!)

    My total production, then for this 3rd quarter of this 3rd year is:  9 necklaces, 3 gloves, 2 hats and 1 jacket.

    I also bought 1 pair of shoes/ boots from e-bay, some on-sale patterns from BMV club, and very on-sale fabric from Vogue Fabrics.

    The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA:  End of Year Three, posted on 6-8-14

    ~ painting by Gritty Jane  ~
    Yes, end of May 2014 was the last quarter of the 3rd year for Project Minima.   My, my, etc.  So let's see what's been going on, shall we?

    During this past Spring Quarter (March through May) I did a major reworking of my studio space, discovered the Chicago Sewcialists and met up with them at the Textile Discount Outlet, made 4 dresses, 2 pair of stockings/ tights, 1 slip and a raincoat.  Okay then, not bad, not bad at all.  You can see 'em on my Clothes for Spring page (or go to the posts during that time period).

    Oh, I also bought shoes on e-bay, as well as some patterns and occasionally some cloth.

    What seems the biggest adventure at this moment is my tablecloth house dresses.  I've made two during this quarter from donated pieces and just love them.  More are on their way...Year 3 has been the Year of Mom.  My 1st quarter starts with her decline in health, multiple trips to Detroit, a hiatus from blogging and sewing, and stress buying of ebay shoes.  Sewing resumed with the opportunity to make a dress for an art exhibition, my "Bounce Back Ability" dress.  One make that quarter.

    Moved Mom to Chicago and by my 2nd quarter, she was in hospice.  I was not taking pictures, but did sew.  Made many failures, but did a few keepers: my elephant dress and my Egyptian coat.  One of my students did a calendar with watercolor paintings of my ensembles for each month of the year!

    During my 3rd quarter, the Traveling Yellow Skirt came to call in the nick of time for the holidays.  And Mom died in January.  During this 3 month period I did all hand sewing without realizing it.  9 necklaces from fabric scraps, 3 pairs of fingerless gloves, 2 hats, and a major failure of a couture coat/ jacket.

    That brings Year 3 totals to 24 items including the wadders.  That's an all time low for me.  Year 2 totaled 71, and the First Year was 114.  All together than makes 209 dresses, skirts, tops, pants, stockings, slips, pjs, bloomers, hats, gloves, necklaces, re-shoes, coats/ jackets.  hmmm

    The STATE OF PROJECT MINIMA:  Year 4, 1st Qtr. posted on 9-9-14

    ~ painting by Lori Field ~

    hmmm, first quarter of the 4th year is over.  Let's see what's happened here...

    Gotta say I'm back in the saddle, working on a total of 22 items:
    • The tablecloth dress series started in Spring continued this Summer with #s 3-7.  I branched out with my use of vintage tablecloths to other styles of dresses and jackets, some of which I haven't even  posted yet, but they are noted on my Clothes for Summer page.
    •  made a non-tablecloth dress(!), a sheer high-low dress
    •  made 2 pieces from Tina Givens free on-line patterns:  her Plinka Pants and Kika Dress.  
    •  Made 2 pieces from Folkwear Patterns.  1 flop turned Retro Alienwear and 1 cool-looking top thingy.
    •  Re-rehabbed a few things I hadn't been wearing, and now I like them much better.  The baggy jeans and dotted Swiss top.
    •  Restyled and/or rehabbed 2 dresses, a shirt and an accessory to fit, to look better, you know.
    •  Painted/ distressed a pair of ebay shoes. 

     Other stuff:
    • I want to recommend a graphic novel that came out this summer, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" by Roz Chast.  My True Love gave it to me for my birthday in June and it was spot on.  I only wished I had read it before, or even while my Mom was going through this ending part of her life cycle.  I really didn't know a thing.  And believe it or not, this is humorous.  As well as so true and real.
    • I participated in Melanie's VOGOFF!   What a treat that was.  I couldn't believe I was amongst the in crowd.  woo-hoo.
    • I need to clean up stuff.  ok, I said it.  Like areas of the house that I mess up and leave that way.
    • And thank you to blogland and all you bloggers out there.  (You know who you are, yeah, you're reading this.)  You keep me inspired and gleeful and tuned in and encouraged and are sewtastic!