This Slow Fashion October, I’ve made a commitment to a different kind of closet: instead of focusing on my clothes, this year I’m focusing on my linen closet. I realized that I’m not terribly interested in my clothes this year, but that I am intrigued by textiles, sustainability, and making the most of the textiles already on this earth, especially the ones under my own roof.
It’s slowly dawned on me that I’m not doing too much good when I donate my old clothes and worn out bath towels to secondhand stores. The first time I realized no one wanted my clothes was when I was (humiliatingly) turned down for selling my clothes and shoes to a consignment store. All the clothes were too “last season” or too worn for them to take, they said.
It’s true, I do often wear my clothes until they can’t be worn anymore, but these were nice clothes and shoes being turned down. If my best is still not good enough for someone else to buy, then what? The fantastic article “No One Wants Your Old Clothes” gives a more thorough explanation of why thrift stores aren’t the solution for our old clothes.
So what does this have to do with my linen closet?
Well, blankets and towels and curtains and sheets are textiles too. When they’re sent to thrift stores or landfills, the same economic and environmental issues apply.
Lately, I’ve felt the “holes” in my linen closet. My towels are starting to look shabby. I have exactly zero bath mats. The blankets for our guest bed clash with the paint scheme of our new rental house. Basically, I’m ready for a linen closet overhaul, and I want to do it as ethically and sustainably as I can.
Not too confident in my sewing skills or what to do with old duvet covers, I started with my yarn stash, weaving some dish towels for my kitchen. I have a stack of dish towels, but none of them match each other or anything else in my kitchen. And, since I’ve used them to wipe up spills of all kinds for the last six years, they’re stained and ratty.
I wove a test piece that I thought would make two dish towels, but it’s only enough for one with some waste. Plus, I didn’t make it easy for myself to hem the cloth. It’s a waffle weave that is quite thick and textured and will make a very bulky hem. So instead of making dish towels out of the test piece, I’ll make a reusable grocery bag.
Next up, I corrected my error with the first set of towels by weaving a plain weave hem for the next three towels. These are currently awaiting finishing, and I’m excited for fresh new dish towels that actually match my kitchen.
At the end of the warp, I wanted to try an experiment. For all you non-weavers, the end of the warp is where weavers try out new ideas and techniques. I took a bath towel we bought this summer, but that I never liked much. I cut it into 1-inch strips and wove it into the fluffiest rag rug ever.
So, from an 8-yard warp, yarn already in my stash, and an old, unwanted bath towel, I’m getting three new dish towels, a new reusable shopping tote, and a rug.
I have to say, I’m most excited about the rug. It turned a towel I didn’t much care for into an object I can use and that I actually like. I’m so excited about it that I’m dying to make more. After all, I still need bathmats for my new house.
But. Before I cut up all the old textiles I don’t like anymore, I’m testing out my new rug. Is it durable enough to withstand wear and tear in a high-traffic area of my home? Does it wash well? Are there any techniques I could use in the weaving next time to improve its durability?
This approach, this mindfulness, is what Slow Fashion October is all about. Getting caught up in excitement is, well, exciting. But it’s not always the most productive behavior for me. It’s easy to get off-track and create more waste than I intended, and I’m working to curb that.
By slowing down, I get a clearer picture of what it is that I really want. And since it’s so easy to end up with something that’s “just okay” when I hurry the decision, I’m enjoying this change, even if it means going without the things I want for just a little longer than I’m used to.