Slow Fashion October is almost over. It's been an amazing conversation, one that I hope won't end just because October is over.
Between being a little too ambitious with my Slow Fashion October goals and life stepping in with other plans, my Slow Fashion October making is going to bleed into November. But really, as a maker, slow fashion happens for me every month of the year.
This week's Slow Fashion October theme is Known - it's all about knowing the source of your clothing and materials, knowing how they were produced, and what environmental (and human) impact their production makes.
If you're looking for good sources for materials, there are pretty awesome lists of yarn sources at Fringe Association and Woolful. Lately I've found great organic cotton fabric, yarn, and ribbon at Organic Cotton Plus. And of course, there's also our stashes, which are probably full of yarn of unknown origin, but it would be a waste to throw it out just because we don't know where it came from.
Lately, though, I've been obsessed with spinning my own yarn and knitting with it.
Since gray and taupe are two of my favorite colors, I'm not too concerned with dyeing right now - I'm way more interested in the color combinations and patterns I can get with naturally colored wool.
I'm lucky enough to live in a region that has a pretty strong sheep farming community, though I didn't know it when I moved here.
The local wools I've found aren't super soft (the alpaca is), but they are generally hardwearing and easy to work with. And since I've made one sweater too many with supersoft yarn that ends up being way too pilly, hardwearing wools sounds great to me.
Two local (to me) fiber farms I've found include:
Right now I'm working on a vest made of Jacob wool. it came from my coworker's neighbor's sheep - a small flock of pet sheep and something special indeed. And it really speaks to me about the spirit of Slow Fashion October:
It's not just knowing the source of your clothes, but knowing the people, animals, land and stories behind them as well.
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I missed week four of Slow Fashion October. As in, not only did I not blog about it, but as the week whizzed by, I missed thinking about it, I missed creating, I missed all the wonderful conversations around last week's theme, Worn.
In a way, my post for week three, about my most loved pieces, is also a post about worn pieces. In the few moments I could think about Slow Fashion October last week, I beat myself up for not thinking ahead, for not having the time, for wasting an opportunity.
But that's not what Slow Fashion October is about.
It's not about beating ourselves up for past choices. It's not about feeling like a failure when life suddenly speeds up and things get out of control for a while. Slow fashion isn't even always about fashion.
Slow fashion is about what we do have.
About taking the time we have (however little) to think about our fashion choices. About taking the resources we have to make conscious choices about the clothes we make, buy, and wear. About sharing how and when we can. About what happens to our clothes when they can't be worn any more. Ultimately, it's about feelings and relationships and attitudes and the actions we take.
Bristol Ivy said it for me on her Instagram page - the idea of having something in my wardrobe that isn't worn is a bit foreign to me. Ideally, clothes only come into my life if they are exactly what I'm looking for and then they stay there until they're practically rags.
Last weekend, I bought a loom. I've been taking a weaving class and renting a table loom, but aching for a "real" loom of my own. As in, a loom big enough to weave rugs and yardage for clothing.
And that's exactly what I got. The loom belonged to a woman named Marly, who was a weaver, spinner, and crocheter. Along with the loom came all her weaving equipment, as well as fourteen boxes of yarn. Except it wasn't all yarn. As I dove into the boxes, I found that several of them were full of very worn clothing that Marly intended to cut up for rag rugs.
Here was a woman who had surely never heard of KonMarie, and would have found the prospect of throwing things away truly wasteful.
Like everyone just a few generations ago, Marly knew that even when clothes were rags, they still had value and the ability to spark joy. They could be transformed into quilts or rag rugs - useful objects that are works of art unto themselves.
Today it's easy to understand the appeal of throwing away worn clothing or sending it to the thrift store. It's easy. It doesn't require much work or much thought.
Marly's boxes of old clothes are just the opposite. As I sift through them, I think about how she wore each garment, how best to cut it up, how to combine each color and texture I find. It's daunting to think of the work ahead, but then I realize that many of these items are so worn they'd never be sold at the thrift store - they'd be boxed up and shipped somewhere else for someone else to deal with.
The thing about fashion - slow or otherwise - is that even after we're long gone, like Marly, some of our clothes will still be out there.
I'd like to be a part of bringing back the part of our culture that knows how to make good use out of worn clothes once they can't be used anymore. So no matter how daunting it is, I'll be over here, making these worn clothes into something else.
It's going to take me a while, but isn't that what slow fashion is all about?
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This week Slow Fashion October is all about love: your proudest accomplishment, your most frequently worn item, the thing you saved up for, the thing you worked on for a long time, or your oldest piece that's still in rotation.
I might not have mentioned this before, but I love old things. Whether it's old houses, old china, old jewelry, or old clothes, I find it all fascinating. So for this week's Slow Fashion October post, I'd like to talk about my two oldest pieces: my Dad's Pendleton shirt, and my engagement/wedding ring. Both of them have been in my life for a while now, but they've each been on this earth longer than I have.
It has a couple of holes in it, and it's been through the wash a time or two so it's slightly felted. The tag on the inside still has a price on it, handwritten in red pen, for $27.99. As old as it is, that was probably the going rate for this shirt when my Dad bought it in the seventies.
I rescued it from one of my mother's KonMarie-style closet cleanouts - which she was doing long before KonMarie was a thing. She had good reason to want to throw it away - besides the holes, Dad had put on a few pounds since he bought it and couldn't fit into it anymore.
But I could.
As a law student living in a drafty old house by myself, this shirt was perfect. I wasn't alone when I wore it. I was loved. And I was warm.
This shirt hangs on the coat rack in the entryway to my home, and I still wear it - around the house, walking the dog, hiking in the mountains. And I love it because it's warm, and hardwearing, and because it's a link to Dad, who lives on the other side of the country.
While I've had the Pendleton longer than I've had my ring, the ring is easily twice as old. It's an antique, not passed down through the generations but purchased at an antique jewelry store. The engraving is dated 1942, so I like to think someone wore it and loved it for fifty or sixty years before me, and now I'll wear it and love it for another fifty or sixty years.
I love this ring - it's a beautiful piece of jewelry - and I love what it means. I love my husband, of course, that's the most important part. I also love that no new materials were mined to create this ring, and that by buying an antique I actually got more bang for my buck - more carats, a better cut, and better craftsmanship than if I had purchased a new ring.
There are many pieces of clothing and jewelry that have come into my life, and I'm sure there will be plenty more. But Dad's old Pendleton shirt and my wedding ring are daily reminders of the love that surrounds me.
What are yours?
This week Slow Fashion October is all about small: the handmade, living with less, quality over quantity, capsule wardrobes, indie fashion, small-batch makers, and sustainability. Some of these things, like sustainability, are at the top of mind for me. Others, like the idea of a capsule wardrobe, are a struggle. But that’s what this is about – it’s a challenge to think differently about clothing.
I’ve thought (andwritten) a lot about living with less – about why I want a smaller yarn stash, about how it’s sometimes difficult to downsize.
Ultimately, I think it’s really about sustainability and wasting less.
It’s tempting to think of sustainability and wasting less as the same thing. Certainly, they are closely related but they have some subtle (and important) differences.
The word “sustainable” gets thrown around a lot these days as a marketing tool. Whether or not a product is totally sustainable, if even a part of the design, manufacturing, or shipping process is sustainable, the whole product gets the label. It’s definitely great to support small changes towards true sustainability, but it’s also easy to let marketers delude us into a false sense of what it is we are really consuming.
Wasting less seems to imply minimalist living, but again, this doesn’t tell the whole story. It can also be about choosing to purchase things that won’t be wasted or thrown away, about buying things with less packaging, about finding useful applications for the leftovers that might otherwise get thrown away.
I’ve managed to achieve a place in my life where I can make meaningful choices about both sustainability and wasting less. For me, sustainability is all about buying materials that were consciously produced – local or organic where possible, or at the very least by a company that is environmentally minded (and treats its employees well).
Wasting less is all about finding new ways to use things – unraveling a failed project instead of throwing it away, using up scraps, and finding new life for worn out rags.
There’s a great conversation over onBristol Ivy’s Instagram page (look for the post where she’s resting her hand on her chin) about sustainability and the economic disparities of slow fashion. Not everyone can afford small-batch, hand-dyed, ecologically sustainable materials. For much of my crafting career, I couldn’t afford those things. Only recently did I find out what a wonderful fiber community I have right in my backyard – where I can purchase good local wool to spin at a very good price.
I could spend hundreds of dollars on sustainable yarn to make a sweater, or I could do it the slow way and buy about $30-40 worth of roving, spin the yarn, and make the sweater.
It’s not as easy. It’s not as fast. But it gives me more time to enjoy my hobbies of spinning and knitting.
Not everything in my life is sustainable, and I’m not always good at wasting less. But they’re both at the top of my mind, and something I’m constantly working toward.
In many ways, wasting less is a great way to start towards sustainability, and for a fraction of the price. My stashbusting sweater was all about wasting less, and even though I ended up with as much yarn as I started with, it was a way to explore a new way to use leftovers. And my leftover yarn from the stashbusting sweater became a pair of striped knitted shorts. And when those didn’t fit, they got felted to make a bag. The scraps leftover from the bag will get put aside to make stuffing for a plushie or pincushion.
The part of sustainability and wasting less that I love is the challenge.
Doing something challenging instead of taking the easy way out is so satisfying. The challenge is where we grow.
And that’s what keeps me at it.
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Slow Fashion October is here! (Don’t know what Slow Fashion October is? Start here.)
With the rise of fast fashion, where we as a culture are pushed to treat clothing as disposable, it’s helpful to take a step back and think about what impact our clothing choices have – on society, on our happiness, on the environment, on our checkbooks.
Everyone wears clothing. And as clothing has gotten cheaper and cheaper, consumers have bought more and more of it. Since we don’t see and interact with the factory workers who make it, we don’t think much about how our clothes came to be. They’re just clothes.
But are they just clothes? We spend our entire lives surrounded by clothing. We have a relationship with our clothes. A favorite top, a favorite pair of pants, Dad’s old flannel shirt that feels like a hug. Our clothes say a lot about us, how we feel about ourselves, how we want others to see us.
I’m ready to take back my clothing choices. Living in the United States, making a living wage, I’m privileged enough to make real choices about my clothing – where it comes from, who makes it, how much they’re paid, whether it’s organic, and more.
I’ve never really stuffed my closet with clothes I’ll never wear. But now I want to make more measured choices to build a lasting wardrobe in a meaningful way. I hate letting go of favorites when they wear out, so why not buy (and make) pieces that will last years – and that have a positive impact on society?
For me, this mostly means making garments. And since I’m a knitter, it means knitting things.
When I first started knitting, I made mostly scarves. Eventually, I started knitting lace shawls, but scarves were my comfort zone for many years. You could chart my knitting history through the scarves and shawls I knit through the years - garter, stockinette, ribbed, bias, stripes, and more.
Now that I’ve moved on to socks and sweaters, knitting fills much more of my wardrobe than it once did.
Scarves and shawls are still an easy favorite – as summer turns to fall (and my chilly office turns to freezing), it’s so pleasing to grab a shawl on my way out the door. My shawls do double duty – they keep me warm and they’re accessories to spice up my wardrobe.
I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, though I’m not so great at the execution. Scarves, though, are perfect additions to a small, thoughtful wardrobe. They’re quick to make, don’t take much yarn, and take up just a small amount of space in your closet.
The scarves and shawls already in my collection are going to play a big part in my Slow Fashion October.
Going through my shawls this morning, I found some old favorites that will go back in the rotation. While my main goal this Slow Fashion October is to make a truly Slow Fashion sweater (from yarn that I spin from local wool), most of what I actually wear will be shawls.
What's your plan for Slow Fashion October?
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