Open Source Undies?

In hardware, Open Source techniques (collaborative working, sharing experiences and experiments, transparency in production) are designed to democratise the design and production process. To take what traditionally was a difficult and expensive task done only by experts, and provide the tools and methods to make it more accessible, faster, and more efficient.

Not all aspects of my life will provide great opportunity for open source improvement, however – particularly anything that already is fast, cheap, and easy to produce. For example, anyone can produce their own toothpaste in the same time it would take to brush their teeth. Here’s proof:

(this video is my first attempt at using open source editing software- OpenShot. It’s basic, but everything was easy to work out!)

To make toothpaste there’s no special equipment needed, no expensive materials. This recipe is just a variation on the WikiHow one: 80ml baking powder (NaHCO3.), 30ml hydrogen peroxide solution (3%, H2O2), 10ml glycerin (C3H8O3) (or you can use xylitol – C5H12O5), 2 drops peppermint oil. You can get hydrogen peroxide, peppermint oil and glycerin at most pharmacies. There’s not a great deal of variation or strong opinion on different toothpaste flavours, so although I’ll be using this open source version throughout the year, I’m not expecting others to get excited about it.

But what about more complicated matters? What about open source underwear?

I’m somewhat worried – I haven’t threaded a needle since the horrific experience of winning the school prize for sewing when I was 11 – it was a co-ed school, and my gigantic tribal beach baggies had for some reason impressed the judges. But I don’t just want to make undies for the sake of undies – I’m interested in seeing how Open Source methods can change clothing production.

There are already interesting ideas in the world of fashion with regards to crowdsourcing and technological innovation, and there are people working collaboratively and sharing their designs with others.

My thinking is based on the simple idea that not everybody is a perfect small, medium, or large. Most people are not shaped like shopping mall mannequins. Even mannequins only fit their clothes because they’re pinned at the back. My chicken ankles make any pants other than stovepipes flap listlessly like spinnakers. My shoulders wouldn’t even look broad in an ’80s power suit, and I think my hips are wider than my chest. While a fit 60-year-old might proudly boast ‘I have the physique of someone half my age‘ it’s not ideal for a 28-year old. I’m not worried about my body shape, it’s just an inconvenience when looking for clothes.

One of Da Vinci’s lesser known drafts, before he really nailed that circle.

But if I were to go to a shopping mall on the hunt for a jacket, I’d have to hope that one of these multi-national chains happened to have a style I like, that suits my body shape, and doesn’t have any stupid piping, or contrast-coloured zips, or whatever else the mass-produced version of this season’s style is.

So finding something I like is already an unlikely proposition, even before thinking about the sizes available. Instead of finding just the right jacket for me, I might end up buying 2 or 3 articles on sale (‘saving’ money) which aren’t necessarily quite the right style, colour or fit.

It also seems that manufacturing clothing in the countries with the lowest wages and then shipping it in bulk to the countries with the highest incomes is hardly an agile system, and difficult to achieve efficiently. We’ve taken this frustration of clothes shopping for granted for a very, very long time. But what other option is there? Tailoring is too expensive, and making things yourself is too difficult, right?

Well, one goal of my project is to get people to consider how an open source method might work in different areas, and I think there are plenty of opportunities in clothing.

For example:

-Imagine an online community, (kind of like a thingiverse version of openwear), where people could share their designs freely with others. These designs would be electronic patterns, readable by a software program.

A user could download a pattern, alter its design to their own taste, and release it back to the community as well.

-If this software program could parametrically alter the designs – for example, if I took my chest, neck, waist and arm measurements as inputs, the program could calculate the necessary changes to the pattern and provide the correctly shaped and sized pieces to be cut out.

-On a private section of your online profile you would have all of your measurements recorded so you could instantly adapt any pattern to fit. (Of course, your measurements might need to be adjusted should you switch to a Paula Deen-inspired diet.)

-Then you would be able to print and cut out the design to sew together. This could be done in a low-tech manner (print out on paper, pin to material, cut out with scissors) or a mid-tech manner (use a computer-controlled plotter to draw the design on material, cut out with scissors) or a high-tech manner (a computer-controlled laser cuts the parts directly)

Now this idea does not solve all the difficulty of actually designing or sewing the clothes, but the focus is on removing or streamlining the computational aspect of a tailor’s work, and leaving more time for creativity in design and high-quality crafting.

In order to illustrate the concept I would like to make my own boxer shorts. I’ve chosen boxer shorts because they’re one of the simpler articles of men’s clothing, and they really only have one key measurement – the waist. There’s generally a bit of give and take in terms of the length and leg circumference of boxer shorts, and I’m sure you could adjust them in a ratio with the waist measurement.

Is anybody keen to help me? I’m not trying to build a huge software program, just develop or adapt:

-a boxer short design (I guess in vector graphic format?)

-an equation which would adjust the size of pieces in accordance with the waist measurement

-a way of linking these together.

Who’s in? There’s a perfectly-fitting pair of boxer shorts in it for you…

Let me know what you think in the comments – could this kind of clothing system work? is there anything like it already? is the future for open source toothpaste really as dead as I assume?

Read on for a writeup of our open source clothing brainstorming session…

Ways you can help!

This is an independent documentary project in support of free / libre / open culture, with no crew and few resources – I ran an initial crowdfunding campaign in July to get things going, and we were able to raise almost €5000, but if you’ve just heard about the project and would like to help out, the best way is to donate via the links in the sidebar (flattr, paypal and BitCoin- open source money!). There are Open Source Swimsuit Calendars on offer as a thank you as well.  I’ve quit my part-time job to focus on this, but I’m only just scraping by!

If you like the idea of the project and would like to help out, there is all sorts of non-financial help that I need:

If you know of interesting relevant events happening within Europe throughout the duration of the project (until August 2013), please let me know. If you’re interested in collaborating on a project, I’d be keen to hear from you as well.

I don’t have the resources to be able to buy an open source computer or camera, or even to buy the parts and put them together. If anyone can sponsor me with an open source product, or if you know anybody developing an interesting open source hardware project who might need some publicity, I would love to be able to at least borrow a test version to play with and discuss, even if only for a month or two.

For the film at the end of the project I’ll be looking for people to help out with translation, animation, and all aspects of video production.

If you’re based in Berlin, there are plenty of ways you can help. If you:

a) have some experience shooting with Canon DSLRs, or would like to learn

b) have some editing experience or would like to learn, and are keen to join me in getting to grips with open source NLEs

c) are good at organizing and planning, and could help me make a timeline and organise some projects, visits and interviews to help me tackle this huge task (Native speakers of German would also be very helpful).

There are plenty of other ways people might be able to help, just send me an email if you think of something you can offer. The more skilled people who can help in any way, the better this project can be. If someone you know might be able to help me out, tell them to get in touch. I want it to be as far-reaching, entertaining and thought-provoking as possible, and I can only do so with your help. Thank you very much for all the suggestions so far, I’m working on turning this blog into a navigable, functional website, so keep checking back!

This last open source hero sure can fill out a speedo…

9 hours to go, and the IndieGoGo campaign is just over $6600! thanks so much to everyone who has contributed so far, it has been an amazing experience getting the word out and hearing back from so many helpful and generous people around the world.

So, who’s the last open source hero going to be…? wait for it…


the community!


Open Source users, developers, writers, funders, engineers, and organisations, drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit edition)

There are enough dedicated and inspired individuals working, discussing and tinkering on open source projects to fill thousands of calendars. We’ve tried to highlight some of the core individuals leading by example and spreading the word about open source, but the movement’s greatest asset is and has always been the community, and they need to be honored too.

And you can get the calendar in the next 9 hours by donating $25 or more for the digital download, or $60 or more for the physical version!

Last 24 hours of crowdfunding!

The IndieGoGo campaign has just 1 day left, so time to reveal the last few heroes for the calendar…

One of the most mind-blowing and inspiring projects of the open source and open hardware world is certainly the 3D-printing revolution, and this is lead by the original, evolving, self-replicating 3D printer, the RepRap. I’ll be investigating the RepRap, its evolution and its community throughout the year, but here’s its inventor, Adrian Bowyer, to whet your appetite.

Adrian Bowyer drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)

There’s a nice quote from the Guardian in his Wikipedia entry: “[RepRap] has been called the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…”

Here’s Adrian talking about his invention (the video’s a few years old, I’ll be covering some of the more recent breakthroughs over the coming months).
[vimeo 5202148 w=500 h=400]

Also, of course, none of the current world of open source would have been possible without the World Wide Web, and its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee:

Tim Berners-Lee drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)

As well as, you know, bringing you the internet as you know it and giving away his idea royalty-free, he’s also an important advocate of open data and net neutrality.

So that’s 11 heroes in swimsuits, the final drawing will be up sometime in the next 24 hours… but who will it be?

In the meantime, you can get your calendar or check up on the campaign’s progress on IndieGoGo!

A Double Hit of Handsome

Two more fine men for you to feast your eyes upon:

First, the man who best put into words just what made the Free Software working method so fascinating, and who also helped to give the idea two new words… ‘Open Source’.

Eric S.Raymond, drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)

It’s Eric S. Raymond (in a bazaar), author of the movement-defining The Cathedral and the Bazaar, one of the coiners (could you really call yourself a ‘coiner’?) of the term ‘Open Source’ and a founder of the Open Source Initiative.


And next, it’s Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the influential MIT Media Lab and the One Laptop Per Child project, designed to bring education and empowerment to children worldwide, through open source software and hardware.

You’d best get in quick to get your calendar… 35 hours left!

Nicholas Negroponte, drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)