It's the last week of Slow Fashion October, and with that comes talking about the origins of the things we make.
Here's what I had to say last year. Since I've been buying less, I really don't have much to add to the online sources. But, I did move this year, so the local-to-me fiber sources have changed.
In this area, alpacas are much more common than sheep. I love both, so I'm still on the lookout for Colorado sheep, but here are a few of the local-to-me alpaca farms:
SunCrest Orchard Alpacas
Alpacas GLC Place
I still stand by the idea that buying local roving is a great way to participate in Slow Fashion October. Alpaca can be a little bit pricier than wool, but it still gives me more miles on my craft dollars than storebought yarn. Above is an alpaca/wool blend that I've been working on spinning for a sweater. Weeks of spinning will get me a sweater's quantity of yarn, and then I'll have the additional time to knit. What's more slow fashion than that?
Guilt. Shame. Judgment. Insecurity. Anxiety. Feeling left out.
These are all feelings that come up when we talk about Slow Fashion, when we talk about how fast fashion is damaging to the environment, to fair labor, and more.
This year, Karen Templer, who graciously organizes Slow Fashion October, posted this in the guidelines:
The most important thing I can emphasize is this isn’t about judgment. We all have different opinions and resources and time and wishes and skills — we are each on our own path. ...[W]hat matters is just to be talking and thinking about it, and doing whatever is desirable and possible for you.
And yet. People still feel these feelings of being left out of the conversation, or shamed for their making/wearing choices. Two posts stood out to me this week on this topic of inclusivity and where this movement goes as a whole:
Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October from Knitted Bliss
Slow Fashion and Longevity from Temple of Knit
How can I possibly re-work my closet to be ethical and sustainable when I'm on a tight budget? It's just too expensive.
I love to knit/sew/make, but I can't afford the luxury of fancy ethical/sustainable/organic fibers.
I'd love to make everything in my wardrobe, but I don't have the time.
I want to wear only sustainable/eco/ethical clothes, but I have a dress code to follow at work.
All excellent points. It can often feel like Slow Fashion is there to tell us what we should be doing, how we should be conforming to some seemingly unattainable ideal that is possible only for someone with more time/money/talent/skill than us.
And, these worries that we have are universal. Don't think for a second that the "cool kids" who look like they have all their shit together on Instagram don't have these feelings too. They're human feelings that we all feel at one point or another.
But to pigeonhole Slow Fashion October into a movement that is only for those who have the resources is to ignore the small ways in which we can all make changes for the better. And if people feel left out of the conversation, the movement has a limited scope. And these are issues that affect everyone.
Slow Fashion is about mindfulness, not judgment or a proscribed set of rules. If we can be mindful of what we purchase, that's a huge step in putting the buying decision back in our own hands instead of following the lead of carefully crafted marketing campaigns. If we can be mindful of what we discard, we can start to think about whether they should be "thrown away" or "repurposed." Even if all we can do is be mindful that someone, somewhere, made the clothes on our backs, that's mindfulness, and it counts.
The idea that only certain people with enough time/money/skill/resources can participate in Slow Fashion October is simply not true. You don't have to purchase special materials or buy expensive clothes or shop only at thrift stores. Here are five ways you can participate in Slow Fashion October without breaking the bank:
Knit/make from your stash
Most crafters have a "stash" of some sort - materials stored up to use later. I say, if it's already in your stash, it doesn't matter what it's made of, where it was made, or how much it cost. Buy using something you already have, you're generating less waste, and that totally counts towards Slow Fashion.
Work on a WIP
WIPs, or Works in Progress, are the epitome of Slow Fashion. Whether they've been hibernating three weeks, three years, or three decades, nothing says Slow Fashion like restarting an old project.
Refashion/repurpose things you already have
I'll be the first to admit that refashioning old clothes is a skill I lack, but mostly because I haven't tried it yet. My latest obsession (pictured above) is cutting up the old, worn things around my house that are destined for the trash/thrift store anyways. Since neither is the ideal way to discard old items, working with these textiles offers unlimited opportunity - with no cost to me.
Buy from the source (or trade/barter)
Fiber farmers are some of the friendliest folk. They're always happy to share what they know, talk about their animals, and what goes into making their fiber products. Often,the products on display are priced "high" because there are a lot of costs associated with making them, and the farmers need to make a living. But if you're friendly and polite and ask if there are any more affordable materials they have for sale, they might just have something more affordable tucked away.
For spinners who also knit or weave, I find that buying roving (or even a fleece) directly from fiber farmers offers a great way to stretch my money and still participate in Slow Fashion. For $30, I bought a pound of good wool that was enough to keep me spinning for a month, and gave me a sweater's worth of yarn to knit with. Thirty bucks for a true Slow Fashion sweater isn't much more than you would pay for a fast fashion one - and it has a fun story behind it. And, if you don't have direct access to a fiber farmer, there's always the Internet, where there's tons of opportunity to find affordable, quality fiber.
Buy USA/Canada made materials where you can
Believe it or not, there are still inexpensive yarns made in the USA and Canada. And if your yarn was made here, you know two things: First, the people making it were at least paid the minimum wage. Second, the factory making the yarn had to meet basic environmental and safety regulations. These two things are huge steps toward breaking the cycle of destruction that is inherent in fast fashion. And these yarns are available at big box craft stores.
Slow Fashion is available to everyone. Don't let fear, judgment, or feelings of inadequacy keep you from participating. We can all start where we are without judgment. What's important is that we start, and we keep on going.
A lot of people (particularly on Pinterest and Instagram) frequently say things like, “I’d love to make this when I have the time.” I get the feeling, I really do. Especially in this world where we feel the need to keep up with everything that’s going on around us, the act of making can start to feel like it’s a time pressure. Then there’s the need to make every single little thing, from your homemade yogurt and gluten-free sourdough starter (guilty) to your soap (guilty again) to your sweaters (super guilty).
As the website pinterestfail.com so adeptly illustrates, making isn’t always as easy as it looks in glossy images in magazines or on the internet. Making takes time, skill, patience, and sometimes, luck.
So if it’s so hard, why make things?
For me, it’s part of an essential human drive. I grew up around making, and so I make. I watched as other people around me made curtains, sewed clothes, canned jam, and reupholstered furniture. I knew it was possible to make the things I wanted, and so I did.
As I got more and more into making, particularly knitting, I found myself getting into “flow states” where time changed. When I make, I relax. Fidgets and anxieties ease. Dramas are less important. Distractions slip away. All that exists for me is the thing I’m making.
But what about all the time it takes?
In just a few words, it’s worth it. It’s worth it for my sanity, for the joy it brings me, for the thing I make (whether it ends up being a successful project or not).
So I make time.
At first, it’s not so easy to do. Where to find the time to make when there are so many other important things to do? A creature of routine and habit, I make it a habit to make, so that time for making gets folded into my day just like showering and eating.
I’ll be the first to admit that creating these habits can be difficult, especially at the beginning. It takes patience and practice and persistence to try and try again. And when one habit doesn’t work, it takes effort to try something a little different.
The phrase may be a little worn, but if you want to have time for something, you’ve got to make the time. It’s something I struggle with constantly, as I’m often impatient to move on to the next thing, and the next. But every time I make time for something valuable to me, I come away with nothing but gratitude for having made that time. What I get out of it is so much more than just the time spent making. Besides the thing I’ve made, I have the satisfaction of creating, of experimenting, of playing.
And that keeps me coming back to making, in all its many forms, again and again and again.
How long can you really wear a piece of clothing?
So, it seems that the Huffington Post has picked up on Slow Fashion October, in its own way. Two reporters, one male and one female, wore the same outfit to work for a week. Both had a few awkward encounters where people noticed, but for the most part, no one was paying attention to what they wore. And, they noticed that they didn't really smell when wearing the same outfit.
Just some food for thought this Friday. Hope everyone is headed for a relaxing fall weekend!
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.
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