Saturday, October 15, 2016

Long-Worn (and Used) Meets Handmade

Nichols Cardigan in NFC's
Studio Worsted
For those who love all things fiber, this is the weekend of the fall season - The New York Sheep and Wool Festival, otherwise known as Rhinebeck (where it's held)  - is happening. For many knitters and crocheters, it's an annual event. For others (like moi), we aspire to make it to Mecca one of these years very soon.

While I personally will not be in attendance, I am happy to report a few of my designs will be courtesy of Neighborhood Fiber Co. If you are anywhere near Rhinebeck Building C, booth 40 this weekend, not only will you get to pet some awesomely hand-dyed fiber, but you can also check out my Nichols Cardigan as well as the Lace Decadence Shawl.

Of some note, this year New York Sheep and Wool is hosting a used equipment auction in addition to a wool sweater upcycling class for kids (old wool sweaters are felted and then used by kids to craft plushies and other things). I have found the knit and crochet community to be extremely good about recycling, upcycling, mending, and just generally squeezing every ounce of wear out of their respective handmade (and commercially purchased) items. 

For me personally, it's been a more mixed bag in this regard. Growing up, we didn't get many new wardrobe items, but we absolutely adhered to the hand-me-down and mended theory of wardrobe management. Of course, through middle school that also made me an instant stand-out in the poor/working-class person's fashion parade, which was not the superlative to which I aspired. Once I hit high school and started making my own money, I cheerfully waived good-bye to hand-me-downs and ditched my meager mending kit. I cheerfully (and fairly mindlessly) breezed my way through the next few decades purchasing what I wanted, whenever I wanted as my budget allowed. 

Lace Decadence Shawl worked up in NFC's
Rustic Fingering Gradient Kit in Shades of Umber
It was not until the last decade or so that I have started to be more mindful of clothing - and designing for myself the last five years has shifted my mindful wardrobe gear into overdrive. It has not ever been a question of knowing the simple monetary value of my wardrobe - I have always paid for my own clothing - but gaining insight into and valuing all the other aspects of clothing has opened my eyes. From design, to materials, to production (including the all-important labor), waste management, and then upkeep - I have experienced nothing short of a slow fashion conversion. If I can crochet or knit it, I will (and no, there is NO sewing machine in my future). I have not made any real ready-wear clothing purchases in the last oh, at least, three years. Since I have no jeans (really, not one pair), I will need to make a few well-placed buys very soon, and they will be new, as opposed to used. I have no per se issue with used clothing - for others. Admittedly, this former hand-me-down kid will almost always choose new or handmade. I am not the vintage or used pied piper - every person is entitled to source their wardrobe in their own way based on their own rationale. Clothing is just too personal to expect anything less.

Despite my thin wardrobe depth, I am not-so-secretly jealous of those with wardrobe depth that demand a separate room in the house. One, to me, that seems to demand just such a room has to be Sonya Phillip of 100 Acts of Sewing. Her wardrobe, as well as her energy to sew, knit and otherwise create it, seems to be boundless. I may not want to sew, but I do covet Sonya's daily wardrobe choice possibilities.

All this gets me to my final point - I am not certain, if one is being mindful, that there is such a thing as "too much" in the context of a handmade wardrobe. Similar to thoughts expressed in Sonya's project statement, if one is fully conversant with the process of personal clothes making, and actively engages in that process, then what they produce is perfect for them. The last thing the DIY community needs is the consumption or politically correct police. Anyone with nominally imaginative powers can see exactly where that well-intentioned path will lead. If a person wants 10 skirts in 10 different colors, and is mindful about sourcing and acquiring said 10 skirts, then more power to him/her. Personally, I'm working on New Wave Skirt #2 for myself - and if I want 8 more, I will darn well make them.

Enough from me on this for now


  1. I'm so glad you directed me to this post on Instagram today. I had such a hard time putting in to words the fact that I don't feel much guilt over my excessive handmade sweater collection, but you've nailed it. I needed to read this today.

    1. Well hurrah for that! Just leave that guilt at the front door, thank you very much. :)

  2. I already have a huge collection of scarves and cowls :) In the past few months, thanks to you, I've added a shawl, a few hats and soon my first sweater! Yes, I think you might have contributed to the cause of my addiction, Denise! I absolutely agree and value the things I can make with my own two hands.

    1. I do hear you on the neckware, Michelle. Really, I do. :) And I am pleased to help you along in your considerable, mad crochet skillz!