Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A few words about a jacket

Several years ago I made myself a quilted jacket.

Most of the women in my circle of acquaintances had lots more money to burn than I, and they all had nifty little jackets to wear on chilly days.  I didn't have any such jacket, and certainly not a closet full of them.  So I searched the Internet for a design.   After I found several that I liked, I created a pattern that incorporated elements of each, and made myself a jacket.

The prototype turned out all right, but it wasn't perfect.  I knew where I'd made mistakes, where I should have made adjustments to the pattern to make it fit better.  But that's what a prototype is for -- to work out the bugs.

The first time I wore the jacket, someone wanted to buy it, literally right off my back.  I told her I could make her another, though it wouldn't be quite the same fabrics, but it would be better constructed, wouldn't have flaws.  She said she didn't care about the flaws. . . . . until I pointed them out to her.  A misplaced buttonhole.  A too-narrow seam.  I told her I wanted to make sure any jacket she got from me was properly made for lots of comfortable wear.  When I delivered the jacket to her a week later and showed her the improvements I'd made and how much better quality this was than the prototype, she thanked me for my honesty and promptly ordered another as a gift for a friend.

Not too long after that, some friends invited me to go with them to the local "swap meet," which is one of those big commercial operations with several hundred vendors hawking everything from belts to golf clubs to cactus gardens to artisan bread to surplus cosmetics to toys to books to you name it.  In one of the "shops" featuring imported clothing, we stopped to look at . . . jackets.  Some were actually quite similar to the design I had used, but of course close inspection revealed seams that were already coming apart, mismatched buttons, loose threads, poorly stitched hems.  Though the jackets were priced about 75% lower than the two I had made and sold, they weren't even worth that bargain price.  They didn't look like they'd stand up to a single hand washing; mine were made to be thrown in the washer and dryer with no special treatment.

As one of the women remarked when we walked away from the display, "You'd think people would have more pride than to put that kind of junk out for sale.  And why would anyone buy that crap?  I'd be afraid it'd fall apart the first time I wore it."

And that's even taking into consideration that the people selling it are not the people who made it.

But I replied to her, as someone whose arts & craft products (Remember?  I make jewelry and stuff) directly competes with that flea market merchandise, "Many people don't know any better.  The stuff is cheap, and they buy it because they can.  And when it falls apart, they shrug and go out and buy another."

So there's all this cheap junky clothing in our flea markets and our stores, and thousands of women die because someone has to make an obscene profit off it.  No one seems to deny that a lot of it is garbage, and yet neither is anyone driving that point home: People die so other people can buy garbage.  And we know this doesn't make any sense, so why do we do it?  And I don't want anyone to think I'm blaming the workers for producing a shoddy product.  They do what they're told with the material and equipment they're given.  And if the boss says to cut the seams a quarter inch narrower to save a bit of fabric, they do it.  And if the boss says to set the sewing machine for eight stitches per inch to go faster instead of 12 to make a stronger seam, they do it. 

The point is, few will argue about the quality of the end product.  It's very often crap.  And that's the simple truth.  The colors fade, the stitching unravels, the buttons fall off, the zippers break. 

What's wrong with pointing out the obvious?

I happen to love the imported rayon dresses and skirts that are commonly found at the flea market, but I've learned to be very careful when buying them.  Often they have stains or fade streaks from being in the sun.  I check all the buttons, because even if I am perfectly capable of sewing on a loose one, I can't always match the missing ones.  And I'm not going to pay even $15 for something I essentially have to remake.

I don't buy appliances that don't work.  I don't by clothing items that are obviously poorly made.  I don't by rotten tomatoes or sprouted potatoes or moldy bread or bald tires.  Nor does anyone treat me like a leper for saying so.

But if I dare breathe a word about the absolute garbage that's being "published" these days by eager but woefully unskilled "writers," I'm called a hater, a bully, a scary troll, a jealous failed writer.  (Why would anyone be jealous of crappy writing?  Never mind.)

I don't care if it's a crocheted pot-holder (I've made more than a few of those in my lifetime) or an amethyst crystal wrapped in sterling silver wire (I've made quite a few of those, too)

 or a quilted jacket

or lathe-turned ironwood bowl

 or what it is.  If it's crap, it's crap.  Saying it's wonderful isn't going to make it so.

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