Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow Fashion October's End: What is Known

It is the last week of slow fashion October. My thanks to Karen over at Fringe Association for organizing this month of most excellent blog posts and social media entries around this topic. It has been a pleasant surprise – to find new makers and artisans I like, to read others’ perspectives on this trend, as well as to recognize what I still don’t know about all this.

However, this week is dedicated to what we all do know about the (in my case) fiber and textiles we source. Even as Karen blogs about this being one of the cornerstones of the slow fashion movement, I had to put palm to forehead when I read that obvious nugget. Of course it is, but to think about it consistently when reaching for fiber is quite another matter. The realities of designing for publication don’t always mean I have a choice in the fiber used for a particular project; the realities of my life sometimes dictate a different choice (read: budget constraints, budget constraints, budget constraints). Nevertheless, when it’s been possible, I have and will continue to make fiber choices that reflect my ability to source as many stages as is humanly possible of that fiber’s life. Here’s a rundown of those I like:

Clockwise, from top left: (1) the former lace weight version of Wonder
Why Farm's alpaca silk blend; (2) a beautiful, yarny plate of Wonder Why
Farm's alpaca bamboo blend and Neighborhood Fiber Co.'s Capital Luxury
Lace, a hand-dyed blend of cashmere, silk and nylon; (3) a lace curtain
panel designed with Blonde Chicken Boutique's hemp; (4) the Etched Ice
Cowl, designed with Baa Ram Ewe's Titus in the Aire colorway; (5) Blonde
Chicken Boutique's hemp lace weight; (6) Slouching Towards Tassels cap
designed with Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter and Loft; (7) Wonder Why Farm's
gorgeous yarn with the New Wave Skirt it was becoming; and (8) Noro Taiyo
and Berroco Remix, which became a Buds Bag, complete with the cotton
lining fabric and leather handles prior to design completion.
1.  Wonder Why Farm: Andrea Morrison is a renaissance woman when it comes to sourcing a yarn. She uses fleece from her own farm’s camelids (and since she’s a certified fleece grader, I trust her ability to identify the most excellent fleece from every shearing); she hand spins some of her fleece, and some of it goes out to be commercially spun; she hand dyes all of the skeins as well as batts, and she weaves some really beautiful pieces. I’ve designed with her yarns as well as made her things from handspun that she’s sent to me, and it’s all just great.

2.   Brooklyn Tweed: I’ve designed with both Shelter and Loft and love pretty much anything coming from Jared’s house (as well as Harrisville, where his wool is spun). I’m looking forward to designing with the new yarn.

3.  Neighborhood Fiber Co.: While Karida is technically a dyer, she’s an artist with an activist’s heart, who this summer started a community-sourced fiber box. It had a limited, but incredibly successful run, so I hope she’ll do it again next year (and I’ll be able to get in on the locally-to-her sourced fiber act).

4.  Blonde Chicken Boutique: At one point Tara Swiger used to produce yarns from recycled materials which she dyed using natural dyes. I’m a big fan of recycling things, and I loved the hemp. While it’s currently not the focus of her business, I think you can still find the hemp in certain local yarn shops.

5.  Baa Ram Ewe Titus: Not only do I love the story surrounding this yarn, but the fiber itself was great to design with, which I did as part of a Yarnbox mailing. The yarn bloomed in blocking to something soft and full of texture and character. I cannot say enough good things about this fiber!

6.  Noro: This is another fiber from a source of genius – thank you Mr. Noro. This yarn house isn’t all that big on media coverage, but I have Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton’s book of Noro designs, for which she was given complete access. Noro has been ahead of its time in not only sourcing its raw materials, but in its allowance of “imperfection” in the final product (and anyone who has found vegetative matter in a skein of Kureyon knows exactly of what I speak). I will be on the Noro bandwagon until I or Noro are no longer in existence.

7.   Recycled Yarns (the Berroco Remix in the montage): I realize the inherent issues in sourcing information for such a yarn, but as I said above, I’m a big fan of recycling and I will support such an inclination.

In the end, I think there could be an ability to get too precious with all of this. Mindfulness is key, but so too is balance. I won’t let all the sourcing and questioning detract from my ability to enjoy the art and craft of designing and making. Mindfulness + joy factor provides me with the tools to make the best decisions I can at any given point, but I'm also aware that this is a path. I take steps in both directions; hopefully the steps forward outnumber the steps in opposition.