A travel and embroidery project 5 years in the making

Over the past 5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to take 3 more-than-a-month trips to some pretty neat parts of the world. 2011-2012, while waiting for grad school to start, I took off to India (and Cambodia and Singapore and Australia/NZ), came back to the states for a month, then went to Eastern Europe (and some Western too). 2016, after Tati and I got married, we went to central-western China.

Each time, I brought one button-down shirt. They tended to be khaki-colored, which is partially just coincidence and partially because I want to be Indiana Jones. Each time, by the end of the trip, after I wore it for 50+ days, that shirt was pretty beat up. For some reason, I still saved them. And here’s why: I had this idea to stitch the routes I took onto them. Finally I got around to doing it.

India, plus Cambodia and NZ. In Singapore and Australia, I was just in a couple cities for a few days, so they’re not as interesting to map. Blue is flights, green is ground travel. Only two flights here, from Kathmandu to Paro and Trivandrum to Bangalore; I try to stay on the ground as much as possible.

The countries I went to in Europe. Had to add another color for this: red is travel on my own two wheels. (125cc Aprilia Leonardo scooter, in this case.) Maybe should have redone my NZ trip with the bicycle trip, across the center of the South Island, in red; too late now.

Technically cheating with this shirt, b/c the India one made it as far as Lublin, Poland, and then I bought this shirt there. And this shirt then survived back to the US and I wore it sometimes here. But it’s already complicated enough :P

No two-wheeling in China. But luckily, no flights either. There is a lot of China, and we saw only a slice of Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu. Kinda like if you went to the US and stayed in the Mountain time zone.

Things I learned:
“Embroidery” just means sewing decorative things. (Thanks to my friends Erin and Iris for some tips on the process btw!)
Stitching across pockets is hard.
A “Transfer pen” is a thing you can use to draw on fabric then stitch over it and easily wash it out. Here’s the one I used.
There is “embroidery thread” that would have made these lines a little thicker and prettier. Whoops.
Every project about your own travels is pretty navel-gazey unless you’re Paul Theroux or Pico Iyer. I’m fine with that.
We have a nice frame shop in the Mission at 20th and Valencia where you can get nice premade frames.
I can be an artist in my spare time. That is both possible and ok. Furthermore, I can call myself an artist regardless¬†of how much art I make or how good it is. Doesn’t mean I’m claiming I’m as cool as most artists, just means “I make art sometimes.”
Being Done with a capital D with a long project feels good.
Being Done with a project that feels really awesome, that has personal history and meaning embedded within it, feels extra good.


h -

Ah, and here’s a project I used a heat-transfer (or iron-transfer) pencil on: http://byov.blogspot.com/2009/09/another-t-shirt-mod.html

And another project that uses “Wonder Under” to no-sew attach some fabric to some other fabric, and then used some embroidery thread to strengthen it: http://byov.blogspot.com/2010/08/how-to-applique-banner.html.

There’s all kinds of nutty things available to you at fabric stores ;)

h -

My comment above totally looks like a spam comment, rofl. Anyways, ‘meant to say that your project came out awesome!

Dan -

Not at all! I love learning about what’s possible out there. Plus, less spammy than some of the comments on the heat transfer pencil post, heyo :P

Cheryl Cochran -

This is a really fantastic idea!

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