A few words from within an ongoing process of exploring ideas, fabric art and functional skills.
When I want to properly refer to Mintage, I’m still in search of words. This clothing and fashion accessories boutique has been open since 2005. I peeked in once and kept away for a few years.
A few years ago, out of curiosity, I actually stepped in. It has a large quilt framed on one of its walls. Other than that, it was obvious there was nothing for me there to even consider looking at, let alone buying. I was curious about the quilt though, not for buying of course, just about it. Turns out it was made by the owner’s mom. This is a lovely piece of fabric art, made of what looks like a random assortment of off-cuts. Not your typical, painstakingly surgical pattern of fabrics made into a wedding gift. I appreciate quilts a lot. However, they usually give me a sense of… well,… I never ever would have interest in one of them hanging on my wall. I do appreciate them a lot though. The one in Mintage inspired me.
The whole space has the unmistakable aura of a well thought of, lovingly cared for shopping destination.
As much as the inventory at Mintage looked like costumes from B movies to me, I was still curious to browse through it a bit. On one of the racks of shirts, my eyes got a glimpse of an odd item. “What tha hell?!” was my first reaction. The one and only time I had some liking for a denim jacket is long forgotten in my teenage years. Plaid too, is one style I wish we could see less of in the streets. I had some of my own, but please, let’s just forget about it, OK? OK, what on earth is this thing?! Almost half denim, half plaid – this crazy piece of wild west clothing beast includes a third type of fabric. A shiny red strip of fake glamour is integrated into its sleeves and other parts.
I lifted the shirt out with its hanger. I wanted to get a better view of it. I wanted to imagine who might be the person who’d be willing to pay for such a thing. New, it couldn’t have been cheap, that’s for sure. Someone was taking this design pretty seriously. Since I was already holding it in front of me, I noticed it had missing buttons in both cuffs. And they were hoping to sell it?! Oh, well.
And what is it here!? In one of the sleeves there was a small hole, obviously not part of the original design, something that looked as if a cigarette burned through the fabric. But wait, that was not all. A designated piece of partly printed, partly embroidered fabric was sewn to the box-plate (what I might call buttons-band). Really! This was making no sense. And you might guess that it wasn’t long until I tried it on.
Missing cuff buttons? Embarrassing “cigarette” hole? That was my first Mintage purchase.
When I asked about the missing buttons, the young woman at the cashier brought a large jar made of glass and empties it on the counter. Of the hundreds of buttons, I managed to choose the ones that I later added to the cuffs on my own at home.
For the cigarette hole, I took an old piece of fabric from a discarded pair of pants and made a patch to cover it. My sewing skills were so bad at the time that the patch looked as if it was part of the original design.
Then I realized that the two chest pockets were a bit saggy. So, I added two more buttons of my own to this DIY, rebranded fashion declaration.
Since that first purchase I occasionally stepped in again to Mintage. I kept coming back to that rack, hoping to catch a glimpse of yet another oddball shirt. The quilt on the wall was still there. The shirts on the rack, however, returned to being the typical dreary second hand items worthy of B-Movies. The same sense of “What tha hell am I doing here!?” returned to the comics bubble above my head.
And yet, among the bizarre, there sometimes happens to reside a perfectly old fashioned, insanely mundane item: a regular, yet high quality shirt that would probably cost over $200 anywhere else. Would I want this one if it cost only $24? Sure, why not. That was my second Mintage purchase.
Meanwhile, my pile of discarded old jeans was growing steadily. In most of them the zipper stopped functioning. Replacing a zipper these days, apart from being a slightly time consuming affair, is quite a breeze for me. At the time, I knew that eventually I will need to take a course somewhere to bring my sewing to the desired level of freedom. But I didn’t want to throw the broken zippered items yet, however much I couldn’t really use them anymore. However, I could turn them into something else. Not necessarily a king size blanket such as the Mintage piece of art, but something. Something simple, like a tote bag…
I’ve already purchased a nice looking tote bag – lining and all – some years before plunging into this adventure. I even bothered to fix it here and there when it started to fall apart. So I had a reference for how my quilted tote bag should be made. Who cares how bad my sewing skills would be in making this one.
Then came our visit to New York in 2016. I was sitting on our hosts’ window ledge, enjoying the space, the conversations and the time off from home in Vancouver. Without thinking much, I measured the size of the surface I was sitting on. I knew that when we get back home I will make a pillow case to fit that recess. The measurements were made with the palm of my hand. This was obviously going to be a surprise. And when I sent the complete item to our friends, I was informed that it fit perfectly.
I was always frustrated by the results of my haphazard sewing habits. There were mostly long gaps of time between the need to mend a pair of pants or adding a zipper to a duvet cover. Until the tote bag and window ledge pillow case, there weren’t any projects I committed to engage in. This meant that every time I sat down to use the machine, I had to struggle with leading the thread in the right path. Until I did that, of course, whatever I tried to do ended up in a mess. So what better way to keep my practice alive if not by trying to make a shirt? A front buttoned shirt, that is.
Well, I’m a designer. I can trace a pattern from an existing shirt, can’t I? Well, I’m a designer. That doesn’t make me a seamster, nor a tailor. But, y’know, I’m not afraid to try and trace a pattern. And that’s what I did. And the result, although seemed to have taken ages, was made in a matter of a few weeks in the winter of early 2017.
Then, in April of that year, I got a job that made me pleased with celebrating in a clothing purchase. Incidentally, one of my Israeli nieces started her army service at that time. Back to Commercial Drive in Vancouver, I was facing the familiar reality of the stuffy air of Mintage. “What am I doing here?!” floated above my head like a comics balloon again. But wait!
My Israeli niece, army, camouflage… Perfect. I’m taking this.
In late 2018 I resigned from my job mentioned above. I was feeling empowered. Where can you find a decently priced, unobtrusively wacky, strangely normal shirt if not in Mintage. With four unique items on my home rack, I can probably be called a steady client.
However, my reluctantly curious shopping adventures haven’t deterred me from looking for sewing opportunities. OK, my collection of shorts is also growing worn out a bit. This was a worthy challenge for my pattern tracing practice. In my most recent spree, I (finally) found out that my sewing machine had a foot specifically suited for sewing zippers. Yey!