How will fashion respond to global issues such as climate change and vulnerable economic conditions in the future? How can you transform an everyday garment, like the ubiquitous t-shirt, to be more responsive to a wide range of situations through innovative design?

These were questions posed to a group of young women at SKETCH during our most recent Fashion Futures workshop. Inspired by Lucy Orta’s Refuge Wear, participants transformed t-shirts to be more adaptable to changes in weather. Sleeves and hoods were added; button bands allowed for the t-shirt to be worn open or closed; tabs were added to hold rolled up sleeves in place; pockets were added to store precious and necessary items.

This post illustrates one of these transformations: adding hidden side pockets. Follow these instructions to hack your own t-shirt!

1. Decide how big you want the opening of your pocket to be. A good reference is the width of your hand to ensure you can reach into your pocket. Add an extra inch to this measurement (A).

2. Draft your own pocket pattern on scrap paper and referring to the image below. The number you calculated above (A) will be the length of the straight line that marks the opening of the pocket; the image below gives you a general idea of the shape of the pocket. Cut out the pocket pattern.

3. Choose the fabric you want to use for your pocket. Fold the fabric in half, pin your pattern to the fabric, trace and cut out. You should have two identical pocket pieces.

4. Lay pocket piece along the right seam of the t-shirt to decide on its placement. Using contrasting thread, handstitch across the seam to mark the placement of the top of the pocket and the bottom of the pocket. Repeat on the other side.

5. Turn t-shirt inside out. You should be able to see the contrasting thread on this reverse side. Unpick stitches connecting the front and back of the t-shirt together between the two pieces of contrasting thread. You may want to stitch along the seam away from the contrasting thread markers to reinforce the existing seam.

6. Turn the t-shirt right side out. Pin first pocket piece to back of the t-shirt, along the edge that you just created by unpicking the stitches. Line up the top and bottom of the pocket with your contrasting thread markers and sew together. (You may find it easier to handstitch this seam than use a machine!) Fold pocket into t-shirt and press seam. Repeat with second pocket, attaching second pocket piece to the front of the t-shirt in the same manner.

7. Turn t-shirt inside out. Pin both pocket pieces together along the edges, and sew together. Turn T-shirt right side out. One pocket is now complete! Repeat on the other side of t-shirt if so desired.

Share your own t-shirt hacking experiments in the comments!


Although Wide Open Wednesdays will be on hiatus during July and August, the TMC will continue to explore traditional and digital “maker” processes through a new initiative supported with funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Mozilla Hive Toronto. We’ll be working with youth from SKETCH, the AGO’s FREE After Three program, and the Toronto Public Library’s Word Out summer reading program for teens to develop and test a series of shareable open source learning modules that encourage creative/critical explorations of the future of what we wear and our interactions with our environment through an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to investigative design and knowledge-building.

On Wednesday, May 28, we invited our partners to the TMC for a learning session and workshop to launch the project. This was an opportunity to receive feedback from project partners and their youth regarding the five workshop themes and activities that have been developed so far, as well as connect to and learn from local innovators exploring one of these themes in their practice.

Our engagement with local innovators in the field of wearable electronics began with a presentation by Erin Lewis, an emerging Canadian artist working in the field of New Media and Wearable Technology. She works in OCAD’s Social Body Lab, alongside Kate Hartmann and co-organizes a wearable computing meetup in Toronto. Erin’s presentation provided an overview of what wearable technology is, and some of the shortcomings facing this technology, as well as its potential for future design. Besides work on conceptual projects, such as the Earthquake Skirt (2011) which explores what it means to wear trauma every day, Erin’s research explores ways to embed new materials such as fibre optics, resistance wire and memory alloy within a fabric during the weaving and machine knitting process.

We then moved into our interactive gallery to learn how to assemble soft circuits with Eric Boyd, president of HackLab.TO, a community space with a diverse membership, including artists, computer programmers, web designers, and hardware hackers. Eric shared some of his own experiments with soft circuitry. The group then experimented with LED lights, conductive thread and Lily Twinkle, a microprocessor that’s pre-programmed to cause lights to twinkle in a predetermined manner.

This workshop allowed TMC staff to anticipate factors that might prevent a soft circuit from lighting up, and these strategies proved useful when we facilitated our first workshop as part of the AGO’s FREE After Three program on June 12. Participants made headbands and armbands, using LED lights to reflect their current mood. Arts for Children and Youth were also in attendance, contributing materials and ideas for embellishing participant’s projects.

TMC staff will be travelling around Toronto to facilitate further Fashion Futures workshops throughout the summer. Join us for one of the following workshops:

Fantasy to Fabrication
Watch our 3D printer in action while you design your own original, printable 3D model that is functional both in digital and real space.
Thursday, June 19 from 3:30-5:30 in the Weston Family Learning Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Saturday, August 2 from 2:00-4:00 at Fairview Public Library (35 Fairview Mall Drive, Toronto, ON)

 Smart is Beautiful
Show the world how you’re feeling by creating an armband or headband to reflect your mood. Learn how to create a soft circuit using conductive thread and LED lights.
Monday, August 18 from 1:00-4:00 at Malvern Public Library (30 Sewells Road, Toronto, ON)

Express Your Self
Create a logo to represent your own personal brand by identifying patterns and symbols that define the most distinguishing features of your identity. Print your design, and add it to clothing, exchange it with friends, or use it to tag public spaces.
Wednesday, August 20 from 4:00-6:00 at Eatonville Public Library (430 Burnhamthorpe Road, Toronto, ON)

Photo Set

Métis beading workshop May 21, 2014


Last night Sahra MacLean and Jessica MacLean, Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Infinite Reach Student Solidarity Network facilitators, shared their traditional knowledge of beading. In a recent article she wrote for Voyageur, Jessica describes the ways in which Métis identity is explored though making beaded art:

"For the contemporary Métis person beading is a pastime, something we do to unwind after work or on the weekend. It is an art, an expression of our vast creativity and our artistic tribute to nature. For most it is a social activity, something we bring to the coffee shop to work on while we spend time with friends. Beading is a way we connect with our children, something we learned from our mother or grandmother. It is also a way we show our love for one another, as there is nothing sweeter than the gift of beading from a loved one. No matter what it means to you, the practice is rooted in our heritage and is a defining feature of Métis culture.

 Material culture is integral to the Métis way of life. We define ourselves in many ways; by our music, our stories, but particularly by the way we adorn ourselves. This is especially apparent when we look at distinctly Métis objects such as the iconic sash, that which was essential for survival; or beaded clothing, traditionally a physical manifestation of a woman’s love for her family. These are symbols of our culture that can only be preserved by making those traditional practices a part of our everyday life.”


It’s been a pleasure to host Collage Collective on a monthly basis since August. Last night was their last Open Studio at the Textile Museum, but they will be resuming their meetups in the near future at The Shop, located at 1139 College Street West (www.theshoptoronto.ca).

You can also join them at the Monkey’s Paw Collage Party at the 2nd annual “Dundas West Fest" on Sat. June 7. 

A big thank you to Ruth Silver for coordinating Collage Collective and allowing the TMC to be home base this past year!

Photo Set

Our March Wide Open Wednesday was an opportunity to connect with the cosplay community of Toronto. We were pleased to have members of the cosplay club from Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate in attendance in their kimono inspired costumes. Cosplayers learned traditional Japanese stitching techniques like sashiko to use as inspiration for future costumes. The anime viewing room was popular (in particular the bean bag chairs!) as was the parapara animation wall.


As part of our Cosplay Meetup on March 19, participants had the opportunity to contribute to our parapara animation wall. “Parapara” means flicking paper in Japanese. Using an application developed by Mozilla Japan, participants had the opportunity to draw simple frame-based animation on a tablet which was then added to a much bigger animation projected on the walls.

Check out the full animation we created here:

Or create your own here:

A big thank you to Karen Smith for facilitating this workshop!

Photo Set
Photo Set

We had people stitching all over our interactive gallery for the sashiko workshop!