Making a Killjoy Jacket Part One

Good afternoon!

In a non-corona world, I’d be headed to Milton Keynes today to see My Chemical Romance for the first time since 2011. Instead I am at home, looking up what happens when you accidentally swallow a cherry pit. I suppose I could conceivably do both.

Anyway, I wanted to commemorate the day, partly as a reminder to myself that I have one year until MCR actually play in Milton Keynes (and therefore one year to get fit enough to dance through a 90-minute set, as thanks to lockdown inactivity I am knackered after a forty minute walk). The other reason is that I think I mentioned in a video back in May that I’ve been customising a jacket for the show?

It’s not finished, and probably wouldn’t have been finished even if corona hadn’t happened… but on the plus side, I now have a year to make it look Very Cool. In fact, even though I’ve only done a couple of embellishments, I think it could be legitimately considered a killkoy jacket.

Before I show you it, I think it deserves some back story: towards the end of last year (or maybe the beginning of this one; I feel like 2020 has gone on for a decade), I came across an initiative by Southend council to encourage clothes swapping. It was in one of the shopping malls, with two council workers plus a couple of racks and bin bags of clothes that people had donated through the recycling system. I’m assuming your council has something similar: you fill a plastic sack clearly marked TEXTILES (our textiles sacks are grey) and leave it on your curb with the other assorted rubbish.

I always wondered what happened to the clothes – I usually only put in garments that are damaged past fixing or donating to that scheme where they give you 50p per kilogram of clothes and ship them to disadvantaged people in eastern Europe. I assumed the fabrics were sorted out and broken down for recycling to be turned into pencils or something. None of my grey textiles sack clothing would be suitable for a clothes swap, but the ones on this stall were in really good nick – some even had tags. Naturally, I stopped for a rummage and found… a military jacket. Not that type of military jacket, MCR fans. The modern-ish type.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a big dark camouflage-y jacket with big pockets, but I am suspicious of anything beige or taupe, which rules out most of them. This jacket, though, was pretty cool. It was originally from New Look, had huge pockets and smelt a bit like cigarettes.

The whole point of the clothes swap was to exchange goods, but as I’d just wandered over with nothing to swap, the ladies on the stall were kind enough to let me take it. I promised I’d be back with my old clothes, but then corona happened, so I might have to wait to fulfill my debt to the universe.

Okay, story’s done, here it is:

green khaki New Look jacket with MCR and Raven Cycle patches
back of dark green New Look jacket
I did wash it before doing anything

I should add that originally, it was just the jacket plus the star patch on the front pocket and the Route 66 badge on the sleeve. It didn’t occur to me to take a picture until after I’d started adding bits.

I already had a Fun Ghoul patch from MCR’s killjoys era that I’d originally planned to put onto a bag but had, inevitably, sat in my sewing box for eight years. To the uninitiated, that’s the yellow patch, it was part of Frank Iero’s killjoy jacket. They don’t sell the jacket or the patch any more but someone put it on Pinterest for posterity if you fancy an eyeball. I thought it might be fun to put the patch on my jacket where it sat on the original.

Earlier this year I snaffled an Aglionby Academy patch which begged to go on something ostentatious. To the uninitiated, that’s the blue patch, a fan-designed logo of the school in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. I highly recommend you check out the artist, Caroline Dougherty. She helped produce The Major Arcana, a very cool Raven Cycle illustration anthology, as well as being a fantastic artist in her own right. The Algionby patch was actually the first thing I put on the jacket, but it’s a) not centred and b) is peeling a little, so I might redo the whole thing.

In terms of finished design, I want to add a mourning armband that came with the May Death Never Stop You CD, that greatest hits album that Warner Bros put out when MCR ended. It says ‘MCR 2001-2013’ so feels fitting to wear it to an MCR show no one expected to happen. According to the internet, mourning armbands are traditionally worn on the left arm, so I’ve unpicked the Route 66 patch and might pop it elsewhere later:

green jacket with unpicked Route 66 patch and unpicker

The armband is going to take forever to attach because it’s made to fit the Average Man Arm and I have Quite Small Lady Arms, as does the jacket. There’s far more armband than sleeve, but I’ll figure something out. There’s time.

To conclude – because this is reminding me of a proper craft article, haha – the jacket is beginning to feel a lot like something the killjoys would wear on down days. I think Gerard might have worn something green and camo-esque at their return show last year, so it feels fitting to add bits and pieces to mine until Milton Keynes next year. I’m fully planning to wear it around and about, too, because I am not one to look a pocket horse in the mouth. It’s quite nice denim-y material, too, not too heavy for warmer months but not too light to be useful.

I don’t know what I’ll add to the back. My two great artistic loves, MCR and The Raven Cycle, are fully repped, so maybe something mythology-related? Or tarot-related? There are some fantastic patches on Folksy and Etsy, and I have a good collection of enamel pins to add. But first I need to fix the Aglionby patch!

Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas and I will strive to keep you updated.

Look after yourselves!

A note on the last week or so, ish (ft. BLM in case you were expecting, I dunno, a chat about the changeable weather)

I almost didn’t finish this post, although I started it days ago, as I’ve been mulling over both what to say and how to say it. The last thing the world needs is another white person saying, ‘I’ve been educating myself this week,’ or ‘I have signed X petition,’ or ‘I have quite a few BAME characters in my last book,’ as that implies I’m off the hook. I’m not. I also don’t want to tell readers which funds to support – we don’t know each other’s financial situations.

That said, I started Indifferent Ignorance to discuss just that. Little Me saw a lot of ambivalence in society and couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t understand why no one was throwing tables and screaming their lungs out about topics and issues that were so obviously dodgy or horrible and relevant to the lives of millions of people, if not all of us. How did anyone manage to learn about these things and just shrug? So I like to think I’m mindful of the notion that if I don’t speak up about something I perceive as wrong, I’m complicit in allowing it.

So, for the record, although I suspect I will have to say this a great number more times: to my BAME readers and customers, I am so sorry that our realities are so different in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I hope to spend several more decades on this planet, and I’ll do my best to spend them learning how to be a better person than the individuals previously and currently in charge of so many of our governmental and societal systems. I’ll do my best to understand the privilege I was born into. I don’t expect your patience (I’m from a country that’s spent 400 years pretending the slave trade didn’t have any impact on modern-day America; I wouldn’t tend toward patience in your shoes, either) but I hope you’ll let me listen and ask questions where I can, and allow me to learn from any fuck ups as opposed to announcing my ‘cancellation’ on Twitter.

I was going to list some of the ways I’ve been trying to actively help out and educate myself this week, but I sort of feel that implies, once again, that once the protests have ended and the news cycle has moved on, that I will be off the hook because I made a bit of effort for a few days. Anyway, you can all find the relevant petitions and media in about five minutes.

That said, as a novelist I’m never going to stop shouting about how important ‘fictional’ stories are for education-disguised-as-entertainment. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons but also have a break from straight-up news, please consider looking up the following. They are all fantastically interesting, thought provoking insights into someone else’s life even before you consider the race-related commentary:

  • Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo
  • Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series (the TV show is also *chef’s kiss*)
  • Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

I very much plan to decolonise my bookshelf and expand that list. There’s another book I can’t remember the name of that I read in primary school and stuck with me. It may have been by Malorie Blackman but I’m not sure. I’ll have to do some serious Googling because I think I read it circa 2004.

Another note on reading: I looked up a lot of non-fiction books I’m planning to read in my local library catalogue, but they aren’t stocked. It took about 15 minutes to look up half a dozen ISBNs and request them, because they should be available to all of us (I’m fully planning to buy my own copies anyway, but I am limited on money and space, as I suspect we all are). Even if you own a copy of a book you think is really important – and you can do this with any old book, really – it’s worth searching it up on your local library site or shop wish lists, and requesting it if it’s not there. The powers-that-be might then stock it, and will at least know which topics their customers care for, thus helping them improve their displays, marketing, etc.

Finally, a photo of an electricity box (is that what they’re called?). I live in a mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly well-it’s-not-in-our-bubble neighbourhood. I hadn’t seen most of my neighbours before the Thursday night NHS clapping, and I’ve lived here on and off since 2005. But someone thought it worth pasting these posters over every available bollard and box at the local row of shops/cultural-epicentre-even-if-it’s-mostly-coffee-shops-and-estate-agents:

Black Lives Matter posters on electricity box in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, June 2020

I never thought I’d see a civil rights poster in my neighbourhood. I didn’t notice last time I was there if they’d been taken down. I suspect someone will have considered them out of place. But I looked up those books, you might look up those books and my neighbours might have too. That someone took the time to put them up, knowing that they might be completely dismissed as unnecessary or inappropriate, deserves immortalising. I also love that they used FRAGILE tape.

I am off to bed… I can’t believe I thought it’d take me half an hour to finish this. When will I learn that posts always take double the time I expected? Blogs are like building work.

Look after yourselves and see you soon!