The Seam Decoder for Local Wisdom

As part of Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom project, I was commissioned to design something in response to the collected garment stories. Different use practices are systematically ordered into categories, such as ‘climate-led behaviour’, ‘transfer of ownership’, ‘super long life’, etc. The Seam Decoder is a response to the use practice of ‘open and adjust’.

The first garment is digitally printed wool which has pattern lined and notches taken from old home dressmaking books which indicate the different adjustments that can be done to make the garment fit the individual body. We all come in different shapes and sizes, yet the garments are standardised to fit a size B cup… no wonder they don’t fit properly! The second dress is the same as the first but unprinted and with the seams coded in green, amber, red to indicate which seams invite for opening and adjusting.

The images below are prompt cards which were used in group discussion at the Local Wisdom event in March in  workshops. There is also a Seam Decoder zine that goes with these pieces (see below). This all fits in with my thinking on garment longevity as part of my PhD studies at Brighton under my amazing supervisors Jonathan Chapman & Joan Farrer.

With massive thanks to Katelyn Toth-Fejel for her support throughout the project.

The Craft of Use event has now also published a brilliant Issuu publication.

John Thackara mentioned my project on his blog (stoked!):

>>Open Source Seams

Even where there’s a will to care for clothes, the global system puts practical obstacles in its way.  In her project The Seam Decoder, Anja Crabb discovered that clothes from the 1950s and 1960s were much easier to adapt than they are today. Their bigger seam allowances made it possible adapt the garment as one’s body and the passage of time – or cake – interacted. Yes, those 1950s garments were mass-produced, but their design allowed for adjustment by the owner. Today’s seam edges are bound together all in one go, in a process called overlocking, that leaves them both narrower and harder to unstitch.<<

– See more at:

COU Prompt Cardssm-3COU Prompt Cardssm-11

Below a page from the Seam Decoder Zine which was originally digitally printed on wool delaine and stitched. For the digital version, click here.



About anjathecrabb

sustainable fashion designer & thinker

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