Friday, October 14, 2016

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: long-worn

Here is the post for week 2 of Slow Fashion October:

How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning.

I'll admit I've been dragging my feet a bit on writing this post because, well, it's been a busy week, but also I'm kind of wracking my brain for something interesting to say here. Last year I posted about my gray fleece jacket. It's still in use. In fact, I wore it today to bike to my workplace for a meeting/seminar thing. I still haven't patched that one pocket lining that has a hole in it; I just never put loose change or my earbuds in it!

My life keeps me active and outside a lot, and the truth is, I do wear my clothes out.  We all do, actually.

Example: my favorite pair of work jeans finally bit the dust when they ripped beyond repair and got completely covered in mud and burrs at a woods cleanup/workday at the end of the summer. They weren't special jeans. I bought them at Old Navy at least 7-8 years ago for $20, and they were undoubtedly made under dubious conditions halfway across the world. I loved them anyway because they fit well, the rise was perfect (not too high! not too low!) and  they took a lot of wear and tear before finally falling apart. They don't make for a nice photo here, though.

Another example: My running shoes. The pair I bought when Anya was a baby (she'll be 9 in December) are practically in pieces, but I still use them for gardening and outdoor work at the school. The pair I used to run in are good every day shoes for getting around. And my current pair is starting to get holes in the stitching around the top, but I can still run in them, so I do.

My husband is a great example of someone whose clothing is well-worn. He hates shopping as much as I do, so he only goes when he absolutely has to. If it weren't for REI, I'm not sure where he would find clothes that fit him, that last a long time, and that he is comfortable wearing. He wears t-shirts until they are threadbare, coming apart at the hem, and wearing holes in the neck. He has worn his current pair of running shoes down so far that there are literally holes in the soles...and he has conceded that because he could see daylight through themit  really is time for a new pair. Probably.

As for my kids, well, I've made the point here several times already that slow fashion and kids are a hard sell. They grow fast, they don't necessarily want to wear handmade, and most families (us included) can't afford to stock an entire wardrobe with the sort of sustainably-sourced heirloom quality wardrobe pieces for their kids even if we wanted to. I don't think anyone necessarily expects us to, either. I know I am not alone in this.

Fortunately, we still get some hand-me-downs and my kids happily wear them. I've patched a few t-shirts to extend their wearing life. I am also very careful to save the clothes that are still in relatively good shape (aren't torn to shreds or stained or stretched out beyond recognition) by the time they've been grown out of to hand down to other kids in the neighborhood, rather than donating to thrift stores. That way I know they're more likely to be worn than to be tossed in the trash. 

I know this will only work to a certain point. Soon enough they'll reach an age when style matters and they'll only want new. We'll cross that proverbial bridge when we reach it, I think. 

Still, with all that said, I don't have great examples of refashioned garments (I tried this once and it was a big fat hilarious FAIL!) or heirloom clothes or exquisitely patched jeans. Honestly, it's not my style. I like making clothes for the challenge and the creative exercise, but when it really and truly comes down to it, I don't like to think for too long about what I'm going to wear. I'm a fairly utilitarian dresser (if that makes sense.) It's why my running clothes don't match, why I often wear shades of gray that aren't very flattering, and why I only own one single pair of heels and I only put them on when I have a gig that requires really dressing up.

So while I would love to show you some treasured thrifted dress that I remade to fit me, or an heirloom coat or pair of lovingly patched jeans, I can't. Because I don't have those things. What I do have is a closet full (not stuffed) of well-worn, well-used clothes that I wear while I live and move and work.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


So. I'm not going to Rhinebeck and I'm mostly okay with that except it feels like I'm the only knitter on the internet who won't be there. Sigh.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

snapshot: latest Gemma tank

This is the only picture of me today that I don't loathe.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Slow Fashion October: Introduction

October really sneaked up on me this year. We've had unseasonably warm weather (the new norm, probably, because #climatechangeisreal) and the school year/fall semester hasn't exactly gotten off to an easy start. It always takes a few weeks for my freelance schedule to fill up and for me to settle into a regular practice/rehearsal routine, and on top of that, the kids have already been through two rounds of illnesses (one is still home today). I'm just not in my groove, and yet we're talking about Halloween costumes and I think the holidays will be here before we know it.

But that's not really what I meant to post about! Slow Fashion October is upon us again, and once again there are a lot of really good, thought-provoking posts on what it means to have less waste in one's wardrobe. 

Here I was wearing my linen Gemma Tank from Made-by-Rae, and my Milk Stout Cardigan in Julie Asselin's Nurtured yarn

I'm not sure I really have anything new to say about my feelings about a handmade wardrobe, or my discomfort with the textile industry and fast fashion, and my mixed feelings about what this means for families (the handmade clothes industry is almost exclusively marketed toward women, even though many people who aren't women also wear clothes!!). It's nothing I haven't already said, and most of my sentiments on these topics have been written about already, quite eloquently, by others.

If you care to read the posts I wrote last year, you can click on the links below:

Week One: About me

Since a year ago, I've made more sweaters, tried and failed at making jeans (I've not given up for good, though) and gotten better at sewing with knits. I have made several t-shirts for my daughter and have nearly given up on making anything for my son except for a pair of neon pink socks he stole from me on a hiking trip this past summer. (He is 10, so wearing things your mom made is decidedly not cool. I'm ok with that.) Slowly but surely, I think I'm moving towards more of a handmade wardrobe for myself, which is a fun and rewarding creative exercise for me, though I'm not sure if it's really as virtuous as I'd like to believe.

Aren't I funky in my Cloud9 Luna Pants (also MBR) and new wool shoes from ?
So here's the thing about so-called slow fashion and handmade wardrobes, and here's where I'm going to say some stuff that will probably not necessarily go over well with other people in this movement: For one thing, it's simply not practical for someone like me to make all my own clothes. This is not because I have a huge wardrobe and need to dress for all occasions, but more because I don't have the time or skills or inclination to make everything I need to wear, like underwear and running clothes and sturdy hiking pants. And jeans that don't look ridiculous. A lot of times, someone else like REI or T9 does it better. And it's definitely not practical to make all the clothes for people in the family. So maybe I'm making 10% of the things my household wears, but a lot of the rest (namely kids' clothes and underwear) is from fast fashion.

For another thing - and here's where I might step on some toes - I think we have to be careful about getting too caught up in our sense of virtue by focusing so much on clothes and their origins. I see the slow fashion and handmade movements as one way of coping personally with issues of environmental destruction and humanitarian crises that are almost too large and frightening to ponder. This is certainly true for me! It's distressing and overwhelming that humans are gobbling up fossil fuels and other natural resources, polluting the air and water, dumping trash everywhere, and exploiting each other for labor, with little or no sign of slowing down. It's a natural reaction to find some small part of your life to try and get control over some part of that so that you can say to yourself (and possibly anyone who will listen/read on social media): "Look at me! I'm making a difference! I'm a good person! I care!"

It's not just clothes. This feeling of virtue drives decisions in other aspects of people's lives, like the food we eat, the cars we drive, and even whether or not we shop at thrift stores or buy from Amazon. It makes us feel better about ourselves. It feels like the more effort you go to, the better it must be somehow, like making vegan cupcakes or re-using a priority mail envelope or biking 2 miles to the ATM instead of driving there. Whether or not these individual actions are really making a difference on a global scale is debatable. (For the record, I do two out of those three - can you guess what they are?!)

Yes, I'm cynical. I believe that without strong enforcement of environmental laws, without a forceful change in the way major countries (including ours) approach energy production and consumption, without a complete restructuring of the global market, these small actions are going to take a very, very long time to add up to any significant change. Not that we shouldn't try.

I haven't even gotten to my thoughts about marketing and privilege, but that's a post for another time.

Now then. Despite my pessimistic comments in the previous paragraphs, I want to be mindful of the origins of the things I consume! I try very hard. I do not in any way intend to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. In fact, I do ride my bike and buy local produce almost exclusively and reuse packaging and, of course, I make some of my own clothes.

Another Gemma, this time out of rayon I bought at a yard sale.

All that said, I don't have any particular goals for Slow Fashion October. This is partly because I'm still trying to sort out my schedule and figure out how to get a household routine running smoothly so focusing on clothes just doesn't fit into that right now. It's also because I am pretty happy with my making life (lots of knitting, spurts of sewing here and there) and I don't want to disrupt that.

Readers, what do you think? Am I totally a party pooper here? Am I way off base? Or is there something to what I'm saying? Please comment and let me know your thoughts (politely, of course).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

testing, testing...

Yes, I'm here. And yes I'm knitting! I'm knitting so much, actually! But it's all socks and test knits so either 1) boring, or 2) secret.

Actually, Thea just launched a whole collection this morning, so I can finally share one of the test knit projects I've been working on. This took me a good chunk of the summer, but it shouldn't have. The Roxborough sweater knits up quickly at a fat aran gauge (4st=1"), but I made a lot of really stupid mistakes (like STOOPID, as in, I had to cast on three times before I got the right number of stitches) and summer is hot and sticky, so I wasn't motivated to have a pile of hot wool on my lap, either. It was slow going. 

But so worth it. Look at the final sweater! Comfy, classy, and with just enough detail to keep it interesting:

Unfortunately, it's still hot and sticky and buggy outside. I was sweltering when we took these pictures last weekend, and Stuart got a whole bunch of mosquito bites.

I also need a new top to wear underneath this sweater. It's a dark purple color and I have nothing to wear under it. The top I wore for these photos is the first Beatrix top I sewed, and while it worked for photos, it's not really wearable otherwise. The double gauze fabric really sags and I totally missed the boat on matching plaids. It's pretty sad.

Clearly, I was happiest with the photos that show a close-up of my shoulder and not so much my face or tummy. I blame the heat, but it might be that I'm uncomfortable with how I look as I age. Interpret that as you like.

Thea used O-Wool for this collection, and I kind of wish I had, though I didn't want to buy new yarn for the test knitting. I'm trying to use what I've got and reduce the stash a bit. So I used Valley Yarns Greenwich, a wool yarn that was discontinued a while ago. I have enough in a different color to make another sweater, but I might destash it instead. Greenwich is pleasant to knit with and nice and soft, but I'm afraid it's going to pill too quickly, and it doesn't quite have the beautiful stitch definition as Thea's sample. It's still warm and cozy, though. Eventually, "warm and cozy" will be attractive qualities in a sweater, but not yet. It still feels like summer and I wish it didn't.

Fall is ostensibly here, and even though the weather didn't get the memo (we had this crazy wild storm here yesterday, with 1" hail and terrible winds and everything) I'm getting in the mood for knitting warm wooly things. I think it's also time for another stash toss so I can clear my storage space and my conscience for the things I truly want to knit.

Check out the rest of the Roxborough collection here on Ravelry. There is some good stuff there! I think I might need the hat. One can't have too many hats.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

snapshot: flashback tee for school

School starts this week (hallelujah) and my growing kids need clothes. Anya still likes wearing handmade things, and the Flashback Skinny Tee is a guaranteed success. I've lost count of how many I've made. Sometimes I think I should branch out and maybe try another top pattern I've got sitting in my electronic library, but why mess with a good thing? (Actually, the Rowan Tee might be a good choice for Daniel because of the looser fit and I bet he'd like the hood...but he's ten and entering 5th grade so the whole handmade clothes thing is difficult territory...)

Anyway, here's Anya modeling her latest Flashback Tee. She actually did a lot of the sewing on it and is very proud of that. I had to baste/pre-sew the sleeve caps in but she really wanted to put the whole thing together, so I let her have a go. I also had to attach the neckband (seams with stretching are extra tricky) and do the twin needle hem because she was losing interest. 

Cooler weather will arrive soon enough, and then she can actually wear this! I have several more cut out that are just waiting to be stitched up.