Friday, February 9, 2018

on slow fashion & handmade wardrobes

 my finished Rosemont (designed by knitbot and made using De Rerum Natural wool)

This post has been a long time coming. For real. Slow fashion and handmade wardrobes popped onto my radar a few years back and I've not been able to shake the idea- planted like a seed in my mind. The truth is, for several years I've felt a bit of a disconnect between my values, ideas, goals and my wardrobe. For several years, I've sat back from this conversation a little, not sure of where I fit or if I have anything of value to add to it. 

And while I am still far from perfect in this area, a few things have happened recently that have really changed things for me.

The first thing is that I discovered mending. Over the summer I started doing a little bit of visible mending, inspired mostly by Sashiko, and the Japanese tradition of Boro, which is mending your clothes using Sashiko embroidery techniques and pieces of other clothes. So far this has mostly been jeans, but I'm working on mending a wool cardigan right now and it's such a blast. I also started altering clothes a little (mostly small things, like cutting the arms off a button down to make it sleeveless and that sort of thing.) 

an example of my visible mending, on my most favorite jeans

This has been HUGE for me. Because I neither own a sewing machine nor have the ability to sew more than a straight line, I always felt that any sort of handmade wardrobe I could have would be rather lopsided (in a word: knitwear). Mending and altering has given me so many more options for using what I have and changing it to fit my needs.

Along with this, I'd say over the past year I've just gathered a little more awareness about what goes into making clothes. This includes "fast fashion" or clothes that are made in a way that is harmful to the planet and our fellow humans but for me it goes so far beyond this. I've learned through starting up my yarn label that even textiles that are ethically produced, with care to the environment, still require so much work and go through quite the process to be transformed into something useable.

I think in the past I would sometimes approach slow fashion practices with a bit of a fast fashion mindset. I'd go to the thrift store and pick something up that I didn't really need and only sort of liked, because it was second hand and well, because it was there. I would knit things without much thought to whether or not the colors or styles would fit in my wardrobe, whether the design was wearable for me, or whether it would stand the test of time and really last. 

a mix of long worn, handmade (by me and by other artisans), second hand, and mended clothing

So I'd say the other big thing that's shifted for me recently is embracing a more mindful approach to the clothing I acquire- including my handmade items. I've started trying to take responsibity for the items I bring into my wardrobe (how long will I be able to use this? what will happen to it when I don't want it anymore?), which includes both what I buy and make. 

How does this affect my knitting life? Well, I guess I'm trying to plan things out a little more- maybe even knit less (dare I say it?) so that I can knit better. I'm trying to identify the holes in both my own wardrobe (and in the wardrobes of my most knitworthy family and friends) and work towards mindfully filling those, by making garments that won't wear out quickly and can be used for a long time.

Of course (OF COURSE) I'm not perfect at this. And I do still think there is room for crazy, not quite utilitarian knitting projects just because they're fun -this is my hobby after all! But in general, I'm super happy about the direction I'm heading.

So onwards- towards mindfulness in making, and confidence in wearing my clothes every day! 

PS: if you're still here, here's a little list of the items I'm hoping to make for my wardrobe this year (this doesn't include socks because honestly? I want to make ALL THE SOCKS right now- I think this little collection has something to do with that!)

1. Sauvabellin sweater using raincloud and sage Origin
2. Little Twigs sweater using De Rerum Natura
3. Shoreline Cardigan using Quince & Co Owl
4. Tegna OR Saco Stripes top using WOLLEN Berlin Lino Muka 
5. Hollows Shawl OR Ludlow scarf using De Rerum Natura 

1 comment:

  1. I so enjoyed reading this thoughtful post when you first published it Ruth, and have come back to it a couple of times since to re-read it...

    It spoke to me a lot, perhaps because of our shared interests in making & handmade wardrobes, as well as the wider issues of sustainability & ethical fashion. But I think more than anything else, it was because you wrote it from the stand point of a fellow mama, and it is so comforting to read your thoughts on a topic which has been bothering me a lot these past few years but which I can sometimes be inclined to try to ignore because I feel embarrassed.

    Since becoming a mama, I seem to have had no trouble embracing the changes to my body that motherhood has brought (both the good and bad!). But My without realising it, I see now I have been struggling somewhat when it comes to what I put on it...

    My life & style have both changed beyond all recognition since becoming a mama and I still don't seem to have quite managed to bring that transition into my wardrobe. I hold onto clothes that I'm hoping I will one day be able to wear again (when I no longer have to fear sticky fingers or prioritize comfort over other things). My tastes have also changed quite considerably in the (almost) four years since I first put on a pair of maternity leggings...

    I love the idea of carefully weeding out things from my wardrobe that no longer fit either my body or how life is now, but just cannot bear to get rid of them because of the memories they hold of the way life was before.

    The result of all of this is that I have a wardrobe full of many clothes that I no longer can or want to wear, as well as a couple of bags of maternity & nursing suitable clothes that I also don't want to get rid of "just incase" we manage to have another bubba.

    I suppose more than anything I feel at a complete loss about how and where to go next and am really looking forward to my Mum coming to visit next month as she has kindly agreed to set aside a couple of afternoons with me to help me (=hold my hand) as we go through my wardrobe together and do a really good prune & weed. We are also going to take some time in the evenings to do a little dressmaking together as somehow I feel like slowly getting started on my own (little) handmade wardrobe might be a wonderful long term project to help me find myself again under the layers of mothering.

    Thank you so much for writing & sharing this - and sorry for the essay-length comment, it has just been so good to scribble down some thoughts I've been mulling over for quite a few weeks...