Idle Pastime: In Off Hours, Truckers Pick Up Stitching With Less to Haul, Drivers Try New Hobbies; Quilting in the Cab


Kevin Abraham-Banks, a Sioux Falls, S.D., trucker, likes to knit while passing the time on the road. Here he makes a sweater for his wife. photo: Gretchen Abraham-Banks

I’m sure you guys have probably seen this already…but I thought this was super-cool!


WALCOTT, Iowa—Semi driver Dave White happily sequestered himself in his rig at a truck stop on a rural stretch of Interstate 80, waiting to pick up his next haul: 45,000 pounds of Spam. He used to loathe the downtime in his job.
Then, he bought a sewing machine.

Since last year, when the economy left drivers with fewer hauls, Mr. White, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound ex-Air Force mechanic with a bushy mustache, has hunkered down inside his truck in his many off hours, making quilts from patterns with names like “Meet Me In Paris.” When he’s not sewing, he’s daydreaming about it, he said as he ran a square of yellow cotton with little violets through his machine. “Oh, there’s many a time you’re just going down the road at O-dark-thirty in the morning and you just start thinking about a particular pattern.”
Some truckers are finding themselves with more spare time on the road. Loads of goods delivered by truckers fell 15% in 2009, to 170 million loads, the largest drop in modern history, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. That came on top of a slow downswing in hauls because of what the industry laments as “miniaturization” of goods: It takes less space to move flat-screen TVs and iPods than their clunkier predecessors.
With declining freight, truckers who drive hundreds of miles to make a delivery may not immediately have a load lined up for the return trip. So they bide time at truck stops, where they can shower, dine and sleep in their rigs. A couple of years ago, a driver might drop off a load and pick up a new one in two hours; now the wait can be two days, said Mr. Costello.
Though evidence is anecdotal, industry groups and trucking-company owners say the increase in spare time has spawned more hobbies. “We’ve got guys who are into opera, photography, skydiving,” said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers’ Association, a truckers’ group.
Mr. White’s employer, Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking Corp., last year started a loosely organized “sewing club,” and encourages drivers who are nimble with a needle to show off their handiwork at headquarters. “We want them to pass the time to make themselves happy, rather than get frustrated waiting,” said Dena Boelter, Hummer’s human-resources manager, an avid sewer who calls the hobby a great stress reliever that can be done almost anywhere.
Kevin Abraham-Banks, a 37-year-old trucker with a shaved head and dragon tattoos, passes time at truck stops with his cocoa and knitting.

Mr. Banks, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and hauls romaine lettuce between California and the Midwest, learned to knit last year after load-volumes slowed. Creating something tangible beats sitting around the truck stop “talking about who has a bigger radio,” he said. He’s finished a scarf and socks, and is working on a sweater for his wife.
“The fact that you can take strands of thread and basically make something out of it, that’s awesome I think,” he said. “It’s pretty cool stuff, man.”
Still, trucking can be a macho world that doesn’t feel conducive to knitting or sewing. Some 95% of truckers are men, said the ATA. At the Iowa-80 Truck Stop, whose signs bill it as the “World’s Largest Truckstop,” a top request at the theater is for “Smokey and the Bandit” and the on-site dentist, Thomas Roemer, often sees drivers only after they’ve tried to yank their teeth out themselves. Crafting with fabric and yarn is “nothing I would do—my mom does that,” said Mark Sanchez, 47, a long-haul trucker.
Thomas McConnaughy, a married grandfather from Hemet, Calif., hauls cereal, reads his Bible, plays Sudoku, and talks trout fishing at truck stops. He doesn’t let on to other drivers that he keeps 15 coils of yarn in his cab and makes what he describes as “really cute slippers.”
“In the truck stops, it’s usually a bunch of guys watching football,” he said. “If I sat down with my knitting, I think there would be some funny remarks.”
Mr. White, the quilter, who is 53, came to his new passion last summer after feeling he was wasting time “waiting on freight.”
He drove 2,600 miles a week on average in 2009, versus 3,200 in 2008, even though he spent the same amount of time—about three weeks at a stretch—on the road.

He struggled to find a hobby, having burned out on reading. He tried carting along a remote-controlled helicopter, but it kept falling on him from a shelf in the truck. His wife, Dee, an accountant at their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a quilter and suggested he try it. By August, they had outfitted his truck’s sleeper cabin with a $179 sewing machine, supplies, and a starter’s pattern. “Boy, let me tell you, I created a monster,” she said.
Since then, Mr. White has made seven quilt tops, which are finished with a filling and backing between trips. He spends three hours a day on his hobby, sitting on his bed, with his sewing machine next to his mini-fridge. Flowered “project boxes” sit next to neat stacks of blue jeans and baseball caps. Quilting, he said, “gives you a little bit of ownership. You’ve actually accomplished something with your time off.”
He pulled over once to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and if time allows, visits fabric stores in towns he rolls through.
In his truck, he showed a quilt with illustrations of fruit, and emphasized the importance of strategically placing quilt blocks so that “you don’t get three lemons in a row or two plums in a row.”
His blue eyes widened behind his glasses as he moved to the topic of thread. “There is a variegated thread that goes purple to white then back to purple,” he said. “Oh! Just beautiful.”

from the Wall Street Journal

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Yup – Japanese fashion (both street style and designer lines) is one of the best-kept fashion secrets in the world – and now the New York Times is in on it. (Thanks Jenn for the tip!! Luv ya!) I’ve often lamented on this blog that very few Japanese lines are available for purchase outside of Japan (and nearby Asia, if that) – and there’s a dearth of information regarding Japanese brands as well. (In the U.S. for instance, almost every company out there knows: no website, no company. In Japan, so few companies actually have their own multi-page website – and if they do, often it’s just a landing page, poorly-made, or impossible to navigate! They’re slo-o-o-wly catching up with the times, though. So strange from a country so technologically-advanced in many other ways…and fashion/style sites in a blog format? Still on their way. There’s no Japanese FashionToast just yet.;-)
Very few established brands actually participate in the annual renamed Japan Fashion Week (I can’t believe I’ve missed going to NINE of them already!) – and very few venture out beyond the country’s borders, let alone sell online (both domestically and abroad). There is very little cohesiveness to the industry as a whole – and the Japanese government has once again royally screwed things up by appointing 3 “style ambassadors” to introduce other nations to their idea of “Japanese style.” (Said “ambassadors” are working to spread the Lolita style, the secondhand mashup style, and the “schoolgirl” style – such a tiny facet of the incredibly diverse fashion landscape that is Japan. )
But I’m sure you’re already familiar with style sites such as Dropsnap, Bijin-Tokei, Japanese Streets, Style-Arena, where you can see thousands of images of Japanese street style in all their uncategorizeable glory. (And if you have a hankering to buy Japanese-style fashions but don’t want to deal with the mess of international forwarding, try Japanese-style/Asian-trendy shopping sites that do ship internationally, like AsiaJam, TokyoStyle, and YesStyle!)

But by and large Japan’s up-and-coming brands and stylish in-the-know people keep to themselves, according to the article below.

I love that the article mentions furfur – a brand I’m in love with (and that Jane from SeaofShoes purchased some items from when she was in Tokyo in July of last year)…I just sniffed out where you can purchase items from them online: at nuan and from Rakuten – for the reader who emailed me re: where to purchase their stuff. (nuan only ships to an address in Japan but with Rakuten, depending on the seller, they may ship overseas. And there are forwarding companies that can forward parcels overseas for you to get around this little annoyance.) But Jane’s fabulous cardigan that she posted on Sea of Shoes is nowhere to be found!! Japanese fashion has a super-quick turnover. (An ambitious DIY, perhaps??)

But I was not familiar with the other brand the article above mentions: Garcia Marquez Gauche. Hmm…must investigate more.
And another update on one of my fave Japanese brands: if six was nine and L.G.B. (I wrote about them here) has collaborated for the costume design on the film Filth and Wisdom (2008), directed by Madonna. Yes, that Madonna!! I had no idea – must rent film NOW.

-Carly J. Cais
photo from
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Vivi Model Elli-Rose and Boyfriend Gui at Home in Tokyo

I just came across the website The Selby through Fatlace. I was completely unaware of its existence up until now – but am so glad to have stumbled upon it! Photographer Tod Selby has compiled an online photo-journal of people and their homes around the world (Tokyo, Brookly, London, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Milan, Paris…) Seeing people, photographed in their homes, and the variety of living spaces they inhabit – so cool. (Am I also a little creepy for being curious about how other people live??)

Fabulous photography – arresting characters – a voyeuristic peek into the lives of others – what more is there to say?

Except this…I was doubly surprised at a collection of photos of model Elli-Rose (click to link to her personal blog – in Japanese) – a model anyone who reads Vivi Magazine will recognize instantly. There she is, in the home she and boyfriend Gui inhabit in Tokyo – lolling around, playing with their kitten, opening up their closets, being frank with the sex-talk…v. interesting to see her like this. I had no idea – nor that she was only 20! (Or maybe I did and I forgot.) It’s always interesting to see a more intimate portrait of people who you know so well by sight but in reality…don’t know very well at all.

more of Elli-Rose’s apartment here

I love the photographer’s selection of items he photographs around their apartment – the tiny minutiae and objets so seemingly insignificant – it really gives you a feel for the owners’ personalities. I was ROFL over the “Super Premium Catty Milk” above! Those silly Japanese and their penchant for English words on their products!!

Definitely check out The Selby is you have a free moment (or a free hour) for more intimate looks into other people’s spaces – and to satisfy the inner voyeur we all know is there.;-)

-Carly J. Cais

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V Magazine – “One Size Fits All” Spread

If it’s bright enough, tight enough or eye-poppingly printed enough, odds are it’ll work on any figure. Crystal Renn, model and author of Hungry, and Jacquelyn Jablonski, spring’s new star, show off the season’s most sizzling looks

Photography by Terry Richardson; Styling by Mel Ottenberg
In case you are interested, the models’ measurements are as follows:

Jacquelyn: 5’9″….32-24-34 

Crystal Renn: 5’9″…36-31-41


On first glance, I thought they did this shoot with only Crystal – then photoshopped her skinny to create the left photo – I honestly didn’t think they were 2 different people at first!

It’s interesting to note that they are both the same height – but to me, Crystal looks shorter. I guess the skinnier you are, the taller you look. But it’s just an optical illusions! (Is it just me? Maybe it’s just me.) Plus, Crystal’s bust size is only 4″ larger than Jacquleyn’s….but her waist AND hips are 7″ larger. Strangely, she doesn’t look it – in fact, she just looks proportionately larger overall, not just larger in the waist/hip area.
I think they both look pretty smokin’ and high-fashion…and for me, it also took a moment to realize that the two girls are two different sizes since everything else is so similar in the shoot.One of the reasons why Crystal Renn is so successful as a “plus-size” model is that she is proportionately plus-size…i.e., her weight is distributed throughout her body evenly and isn’t bunched up in one place (unlike the majority of us when we gain weight…most gain it in a couple places, not evenly throughout) and this, I think, visually makes her appealing. (I think that the human attraction to symmetry and proportion trumps the human attraction to skinniness every time.) She looks toned and fabulous & I’m not saying she is fat or anything – she just looks a little larger overall than the model on the left.

I can’t wait for her book, Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves to come out in paperback so I can snag myself a copy!

So what do we all think? (I think it licks the Glamour Magazine November 2009 Issue plus-sized model spread into a cocked hat, personally.) High-fashion vs. nakedness?? More please!

-Carly J. Cais

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Recent Happenings in Fashion

Lindsay Lohan looks druggy and haggard in MUSE magazine…& releases the NSFW video from the shoot (what’s new?)

Brit It-Girl Alexa Chung’s “It’s On With Alexa” cancelled after 2 seasons on MTV… (wish I had watched it so I could feel ticked off at MTV)

13-year-old Blogger Tavi Gevinson Writes Column for Harper’s Bazaar and Makes Video about Rodarte for… (insert gagging noise here)

Rodarte for Target is Coming! (And you could get it a week early at Target’s Pop-Up Shops in NY, San Francisco, and DC) (But the questions one everyone’s mind is: Will you buy it? And is the model a man or a woman?)

V Magazine Features Plus-Size Models (including Crystal Renn) in January Issue (yay or nay?)

-Carly J. Cais

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