One part how-to, one part visual art
Madam Chino brings you fashion instruction you can do yourself
By Cortney Heimerl
Published: March 26th, 2009 | 1:10pm
How many crafting guides can you find on your bookshelf? If your answer is many, you are in good company. Artists, crafters, and makers alike scavenge local second-hand stores to discover new techniques via vintage books – searching for the common knowledge of yesteryear that will inspire her to learn, create, and innovate a veteran’s making repertoire. If you feel like bypassing the legwork to find your inspiration, you can directly click to find Madam Chino’s YOU-torials – hand-illustrated guides on crafting techniques. She has been drawing them for the last three years and just recently began to compile them into zines and make them available online.
Vanessa Andrew, the talented lady behind the fashion design label Madam Chino and Penny Spencer Press, decided that she was going to illustrate the techniques she acquired creating her own clothing line. “I was thinking that I could take techniques that I have learned from here or there and draw them with the same DIY ethic that I use when creating clothes.” What emerged was a library of instructions that accentuates handmade: her artwork doubles as a method to spread her vision of creating with your hands.
The YOU-torials outline each step in a comic book style, moving the reader through the process with little arrows, tips to ease the work, and tiny helping hands that appear when assistance might be needed to complete the maneuver. The YOU-torials are created for the reader to take the information and build on it. She doesn’t waste time on templates that will produce the same product over and over – she gives you basic tools and information and then lets you run with it. From beginner information on sewing machine anatomy, threading, and explanations on different sewing machine feet to advanced draping techniques, smocking and closures, fabric flowers, bead rings and hats, each YOU-torial only takes up one sheet of paper making even the hardest technique completely underwhelming and very attainable.
“I think that people are transforming their way of looking at things. The DIY attitude is empowering. People are inspired to create really amazing things and come to the table with really amazing ideas themselves,” says Andrew. “The reason I am continuing to do this is because I want to be involved in something that is socially responsible.” Recycling holds a prominent place within the illustrations. They encourage you to reconstruct, reuse vintage materials, or just look in your closets and drawers for raw materials. A simple t-shirt can be reformulated into something completely unique by dealing with simple geometry, fractions, and anthropometrics – all outlined in basic terms through the YOU-torials.
Andrew emphasizes that clothing doesn’t have to be about vanity, and rich people who can afford fancy clothes aren’t the only ones who get to look good. Making things on your own is about self-expression and feeling good about yourself. “Clothing can transform you by making you look really comfortable in your body. The whole body image thing is a big topic for people who are impacted by media and I have found that wearing things that I feel good in makes me look even better.”
Although Andrew has her own clothing label that she sells at a local Milwaukee boutique called Fasten and two Etsy stores, Madam Chino’s Shop and Penny Spencer’s Shop, she still feels that sharing her secrets is as significant as selling her clothes. “I think that it is more important that people make things themselves than for them to buy my stuff, and that is why I am willing to share tricks. As far as sales go, hopefully giving away secrets will be good advertising.”
View more of Madam Chino’s YOU-torials online at flickr.com/photos/madamchino/