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Swap-o-Rama-Rama brings DIY activities to the Hack Factory

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This weekend the Twin Cities Maker, a hole-in-the-wall co-op that gets crafty with wood, electronics, metal, and textiles, will bring New Yorker Wendy Tremayne's large-scale, recycled-clothing fest to Minnesota.

Minneapolis has been uncharacteristically slow to this progressive party. The Swap-o-Rama-Rama has had its run in Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, and other places. This Sunday, folks will be able to rifle through thousands of pounds of donated clothing, go to workshops, visit stations with a punk-rock do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, and make the outdated hot once again. Maker and events coordinator Karin Fitchett took a moment to talk to us about this creative event.

[jump] How did you get the idea to have a Swap-o-Rama-Rama here in Minneapolis?

I went to one when I was down in California at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. I really had no idea what to expect. It was this controlled chaos of heaping piles of clothes with people rummaging through. They'd then go and find a spot and start cutting and working, popping from one area to the next, going from the ironing boards to the sewing area, asking people for help, and just talking to other people.

I really enjoyed the energy, and I thought that it was something that Minneapolis could really appreciate. I just felt like it was necessary.

What will the Swap-o-Rama-Rama entail?

A participant at the Houston Swap-o-Rama-Rama uses a sewing machine

A participant at the Houston Swap-o-Rama-Rama uses a sewing machine

We have stations of sewing machines and one for screen printing. People are able to just freely design whatever they feel creatively inspired to do. Not everyone owns a sewing machine or cutting supplies, so we'll have that. Not everyone knows how to screen print. Well, a lot of people don't know how to screen print. But it's cool! People want to do it.

One of the guys that's going to be helping does a lot of leather construction, but I think he's going to focus on screen printing this time. Another gal does all sorts of textiles, mostly "geek" embroidery and cross stitch.

You can incorporate rips and tears, really change the dynamic an outfit, and completely repurpose clothes. If you try something and it doesn't work out, you throw it back in the pile. It's okay, whatever happens. All the clothes that aren't used are donated at the end.

Do you think this event will bring in a different crowd than who usually hang at the Hack Factory? Folks that aren't engineers, or wood or metal workers?

We want this type of environment to be accessible to everybody. This is not a boy's club. Yes, right now we do have a lot of guy members, but we have female members as well, and would like to encourage even more.

While we do have some male members that are interested in textiles, there's a larger female population that are intrigued by them. There is a desire by our electrical engineers to help cultivate new knowledge for new female members. Having more viewpoints changes our creativity level, and we want to be able to really bridge the gap between art and science because they're really one and the same.

We're also starting a women's night here. Woodworking is something that I think women should have access to. The last woodworking class that we had I think there were three women that participated.

Welding is definitely a class that I've had women take in the past. It's one that seems intimidating, but it's not. It can be very accessible, and it should be. It's something that everyone should try at least once--whether or not you continue is up to you. But I definitely want to throw that out there.

Are the TC Makers doing anything crafty and similar to Swap-o-Rama-Rama in the near future?

One of the big things that we want to move towards is electronic textiles (e-textiles): weaving LED lights into clothing. There is a company in Colorado called Sparkfun, and they have some e-textile products that we would like to start bringing in here and doing classes with. One is an Arduino kit, and it's sewn into a fabric, like a skirt. When it gets brushed, it has a speaker that releases chime noises. If you're going through a crowd and the skirt is flowing, it sounds just like chimes--how cool is that? There are also potential functional applications, like having LEDs on jackets for people who are biking.

IF YOU GO:

Swap-O-Rama-Rama

Sunday, September 11

$10 or $5 with a bag of clothes to donate

11 a.m. to 7 p.m.