Lexicon 97: distressed evolutions

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Distressed Evolutions (portal page)
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                                                                             Results of a Google Search for   
                             Distressed Cotton History

A Few of Many

Distressed Evolutions 

of Lex-97 

& non-lex T-Shirts

Listen to Are My Hands Clean (the story of a blouse) 
as performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock  
(Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Songtalk Publishing Co. 1985)

Buy Are My Hands Clean, live at Carnegie Hall
at Amazon  or at iTunes

Are My Hands Clean  (lyrics)











When I mined the 97 t-shirts (discarded in Washtenaw County) for their lexicon, I simultaneously distressed fabric (already distressed, on various scales, from multinational handling, processes of manufacture, sales, purchase, systems of ownership & identity, systems of overcoming usefulness & value, systems of disposal, exposure to detergents some of which also further distress parts of environments so that related parts can achieve a temporary clean state), with scissors that needed to be sharpened, so the mining wasn't as smooth as it could have been, but I persisted, intimately hacking, shirt in one hand, scissors in the other, the handle around two fingers (the articulated thumb and another) like oversized rings, leaving behind evidence of modification of  mostly cotton landscapes: frayed tendrils, and holes with jagged boundaries (like halves of broken hearts) that became more pronounced in the top-loading energy-inefficient (18 years old) washer during encounters with the agitator and spin: the birth of t-shirt skeletons

the removal of words only on one surface of the front or one surface of the back of the t-shirt—the top surface—only through desecration of both (top & bottom) surfaces: removal of a mountain top of lexicon to fuel my project.


According to Sickduck

in a forum at word referenceDistressed means that the material (usually denim) has been artificially «abused» so that it looks old and threadbare. 

Enter the world you're already part of via a shared journey with six young fashion-conscious Brits who not only journey to some of the countries and communities of clothing manufacture, but who also participate in the manufacture, the community, the joys, the challenges, the complex lives of workers by being workers having to provide for themselves off the regular salaries, living as part of the communities, learning that even notions of exploitation are more complex than they'd realized. We are so connected that jobs begun as outsourcing of jobs in one place become essential to lives in other (at least initially) less prosperous locations, those low wages, pittances to some, are making a difference in impoverished lives elsewhere —those jobs are as needed there as here:

Blood, Sweat & T-Shirts



How to Distress Cotton Fabric

as shown at ehow.com

By Jennifer MooreeHow Contributor
updated: May 7, 2010

Distressed cotton garments are fashionable and there are garments that look better when they appear worn, such as T-shirts and jeans. However, there are other reasons why you would distress cotton fabrics. For instance, if you want unusual-looking pillows, curtains or bedding, you may want to distress them. You may also want to distress Halloween or theater costumes. 

Distressing cotton fabrics is a simple process and only requires some washing, nicking and roughening.

 Difficulty: Easy


Things You'll Need:

1 small board 
80-grit sandpaper 
Razor blade  
Wire brush


Distressing Fabric as defined by LOTR costume at alleycatscratch.com:

Distressing = making the outfit look old

What you need to do for the worn not-so-new look...

The Lord of the Rings movie costumes have a wonderful texture and feel to them.  All the clothing looks like the characters lived in it., and some, like they died in it.




Wash the fabric with detergent and 1/2 cup of bleach. This will slightly fade the cotton fabric but not discolor it completely.


Hang the cotton fabric garment outside and let it weather for a week or so in the sun, rain and wind.


Glue a piece of 80-grit sandpaper to a small piece of board. The board does not have to be any particular size.


Stretch the fabric tightly and drag it across the board. Do this a few times and use different directions when pulling the fabric across the sandpaper. If you don't want a great deal of distressing, whisk the fabric across the board quickly and don't exert heavy pressure against the board.


Create nicks in the fabric by using a scissors or razor blade and place them on areas of the fabric that would naturally wear out sooner, like elbows, hems, knees, creases, necks and cuffs.


Take a wire brush and run it across the fabric a couple of times to create snags.



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