Early this morning I had a dream in which I made the decision to hand stitch a mile, piecing together scraps to raise awareness about waste, about the need for us to re-claim not only material, but skills we have slowly surrendered, as a culture and as an economy, over the past century or so. The idea is in the genre of efforts like walking across the United States, or sailing across the ocean, to call attention to a problem. Of course this is smaller, domestic, and it can contribute to the problem it’s seeking to mitigate.
In the dream, the project was specific. I decided to Stitch an American Mile. The American was important. I’m not sure why, exactly, except that I am here, in the United States. Others could choose to re-claim material and re-claim skills in a similar manner in other places, and decide to join me in stitching a mile by hand and documenting that distance.
As I worked on the idea in the dream I rejected the notion of creating a pieced example of stitching that is a mile long. While that would be interesting, I have no room in my house for over 5000 feet of material. And there would be no utility unless it were to become an installation somewhere. For my purposes, that approach, itself, would be wasteful, one of those moments when consumption masquerades as production.
I went in a different direction and conceived the idea of making vegan shawl cuffs from strips of cotton jersey scraps hand-sewn together. The dream-plan went like this: I would measure my progress along this mile by making 12×12 inch panels with unidirectional lines of stitching so I could document the squares, count the number of feet of stitching, and then indicate, on each cuff, where I was in the mile when I made that cuff. It would be the very slowest mile I have ever traveled.