You'll never believe this, but I was a bit of a booky two-shoes at school. My worst ever mark was awarded in year 7, in a subject then referred to as "Craft", but which, I'm almost certain, was shortly thereafter rebadged as "Listening to Mrs Hanlon Tell You How Her Son Developed Pubic Pimples As A Result of Wearing Tight Lycra Underpants". I quite enjoyed "Craft": the lack of homework, the dermatological advice, the forty or so dress-making pins I collected from behind the sewing machines. If there'd been extra points for the thrifty acquisition of other peoples' poorly husbanded pins, "Craft" would never have become my own personal toothy bête noir of scholastic failure.
I didn't technically fail "Craft". I scored 55%, a pass, which enabled me to leave year 7 and permanently avoid any further insights from Mrs Hanlon upon synthetic fibres. It felt like a fail, though, dripping and oily with condemnation. Mrs H had noticed that I'd spent the entire term collecting pins and stitching a single pants pocket with such rigour that I'd virtually sewn it shut. I'd done nothing but sew that pocket - unpick it and sew it again, trim it with lace, embroider it with daisy stitch – because in week 3 I had lost all the other pieces of my shorts project. "Lost", I say, but when I think of my own depredations upon the pins, it seems more likely that they were stolen. For the brisk underground trade in unsewn pants pieces. Probably exchanged for cocaine or chocolate buttons or whatever it was my hardened criminal schoolmates were into back then.
So I get a bit of a "Ha! I've shown you, Mrs Hanlon!" moment every time I sew something and it turns out sort of okay. Which more and more of my sewing projects are required to do, because I recently pioneered Project Never Buy Clothing Again.
There is no proper rationale behind Project Never Buy Clothing Again. It's a bit to do with this situation:
And a bit to do with underpaid garment workers, and a bit to do with saving money, but mostly it's about exorcising the demon called 55%. Get thee behind me, 55%.
On the weekend, in between not writing the conference paper I'm giving on Friday, and the book chapter that I scheduled for completion in January, I figured out how to make underpants.
And so now I present to you the Lexicon Harlot Quick & Easy Guide to Making Your Own Underpants at Home:
1. Cut out an underpantoid bit of fabric. Do not use lycra.
2. Hem the leg-holes, taking care to press the seams at every opportunity.
3. Sew up the side seams.
4. Make elastic casing.
5. Thread elastic through elastic casing.
6. Embroider with your initials, or "I heart Andrea Dworkin", or whatever.
7. And now, having girt your loins with this serviceable and comfy undergarment, write your conference paper. There is no no no no no excuse not to.