Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Slow Fashion October: Finally, Where Do We Feel Best

Initially, let me say that I cannot believe how fast Slow Fashion October has flown. It figures, of course.

This final time in the month is, traditionally, the time when we share resources. It is also, for me, the most dense amount of reading and link clicking and saving and information processing. One of the best resources on how to sort out ways to approach slow fashion in a meaningful way is this Racked article from August, compliments of the Elsewhere feature of this Fringe Association blog post. It was nice to read that beyond the obvious (buy less, recycle/upcycle more, DIY), it focused on industry standards and other environmental impacts (like using public transportation in both personal travel and shipping materials - a big issue with me, a confirmed public transportation user my entire life).

Moving on to the main attraction, however, is where I'm feeling best in sourcing my raw material - the all important yarn. I first did a similar round-up in 2015's Slow Fashion October, and the sometimes fleeting nature of yarn producers will show that some of those mentioned in the past are no longer yarn resources. If one likes to use small, independent yarn producers where the fiber can be sourced from animal to skein, then there's a likelihood of high turnover. Basically, if you like a source, speak up loudly and often so they stay around. Additionally, while Brooklyn Tweed has actually added new yarn lines since 2015 (a great thing!), I am getting, if truth be told, a little bored with the single color approach, as well as the designs. I hope Jared will shake things up in the house - perhaps a foray into crochet? Jared, I'm a stone's throw away. Just sayin'.

Left to right: A Hundred Ravens' Tyche base,
Neighborhood Fiber Co's Studio Chunky,
and Manos Del Uruguay's Silk Blend.
This year, while there is some overlap from 2015, you'll find at least one surprising choice, although I will explain all:

1. A Hundred Ravens - The first half of this past year, I curated/organized/birthed my first global design collection and related maker event (you can read more about it, as well as view the designs, here). That effort put me in contact with my first yarn resource. Female owned, awesome hand-dying, yarn bases made in the U.S.: this is a source that I can absolutely support - and so can a lot of other makers, apparently.

2. Neighborhood Fiber Co. - On my first resource list, Karida & company will remain on my list until the not-so-bitter end. She and I continue our symbiotic relationship with the publication of my Aviatrix Pullover in the 2017 edition of Knitting Traditions Magazine. 

3. Manos Del Uruguay - This non-profit, established to provide rural Uruguayan women with economic and social opportunities, has been producing wonderful yarn for the last over 4 decades. I am not certain why it didn't make my first list, but it's on there now.

Left to right: Garnstudio Drops Merino Extra Fine and
Belle, Lakeside-wolle's merino alpaca sock, and
Sidispinnt's 100% merino single.
4. Garnstudio Drops - This European-based yarn supplier has yarn lines made in the EU, Turkey, and South America (with additional mohair sourced from South Africa). It is high quality, amazingly priced yarn and, on its surface, a yarn source that seems out of place on my list. However, all of their yarn lines produced in the EU and Turkey (with the exception of the kid silk - that darn South African mohair!) are all OEKO-TEX certified. While the certification site is rather dense, basically there are three types of textile certification, and the mentioned Drops yarn lines fall into one of them (and the Drops site notes their OEKO-TEX certification numbers). The value of this yarn (which I've used for a long time), went way up.

5. Lakeside-wolle - This is another small, independent dyer I met during my earlier curated event. She has many wonderful OOAK colorways, and her small batch approach and great customer service made her yarns one of the summer event's favorites. Bonus points come from her ownership of an independent book store.   

6. Sidispinnt - This Swiss-based indie dyer/spinner/weaver is the third new-to-me source from my summer curated event. Not only did Sidi provide some of the deepest yarn support, her yarns were far and away the most popular on social media, selling out of the event's custom colorways almost immediately. She's highly creative and endlessly supportive of her fellow indie dyers. 

I can so easily not only feel good about sourcing yarns from any of the above, but my slow fashion path falls in nicely with each of their respective approaches to their craft. It is a great feeling - and one on which I will end my third Slow Fashion October.

Thanks once again, Karen, for wrangling all of us into a coherent month of awesome social awareness. Until next year ...



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Slow Fashion October Week 3 - The How of it All

My Aviatrix Pullover: starting to look like
something vaguely resembling a sweater.
I am about to tuck into sleeve #2.
Here we are already in week 3 of this slow fashion month - which, to me, seems to be flying past us. This week we're focusing on the how of it all: in terms of skills, thrifting strategies, and wardrobe care, as well as how we carve time for the making.

I am going to start with the last of these things - the time. I make a lot. As I've stated, I enjoy it; nevertheless, I still make a lot. And because I am always in design mode, the making for myself is definitely relegated to last place. Not good, in my estimation. I will state, however, that Octobers and this month-long awareness campaign actually has made me focus and carve out time during this very month for, like, the last three years. That's a great thing, also in my estimation. Balance when estimating is a beautiful thing.

In the middle of all the making this month,
this also became a new design thing.

My wardrobe care is quite something else. I have had extenuating circumstances that has made my wardrobe care take on additional facets, in addition to the normal wear and tear mending. I really don't purchase that many pieces anymore, and now I find myself in need of several basics. For instance, I really only have two pairs of pants for winter, one of which is jeans. I need to rectify that. I also am in desperate need of foundation pieces, including cotton camis in all colors, as I wear them under everything. Because I am trying to source these pieces ethically, I really need to up my source knowledge, and because I have a lack of the aforementioned time, I find myself putting off the task. Then I place undo stress on those pieces I do have by, literally, wearing them into the ground. I have not yet found a happy balance between what I have and what I need because my wardrobe seems to be evolving right before my eyes. I just breathe deeply and take it one day, and piece, at a time.

As for my skills, I just do it. I make. I mend. I learn from the making and the mending. I did learn how to hand sew basic things (read: hems) when I was fairly young, and that knowledge has actually held me in good, albeit grudging, stead. I have a few well-worn knit and crochet technique books that fill in gaps and provide ideas on how I might approach making dilemmas. I don't thrift too much for myself - I have, however, taken to thrifting when styling designs for photography. This has actually turned into a fun activity, and then when the shoot is over, if models want the pieces I've thrifted, they are welcome to them. Everybody comes out ahead. I like that.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wardrobe Wednesday - Second Slow Fashion October Edition

Happy (late) Wednesday, everyone! In keeping with my promise last Wednesday, here's my second outfit of the month that I have actually worn, utilizing parts of my handmade wardrobe.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that both items I made in this outfit are two that definitely fall into the "well worn" and "much loved" #slowfashion description categories. The cardigan is my version of the Nichols Cardigan from Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace; the cowl design is also from the same publication, the WASPs cowl. I have worn these two particular items a lot since I've made them. In fact, the cowl is the one that hangs right inside my front door, so it's my go-to cowl in most situations, and it is starting to show it around the edges. 

I am planning on making a second version of this cowl design for my own personal use, and I may make another of the cardigan. I wore this with a pale pink cami, and I actually would like another cardi in a different color so I can mix things up. This is a perfect time to invoke Sonya Philip's influence - while I am not necessarily looking for a uniform of sorts, if you look at her wardrobe photos, you'll see that she's made the same basic patterns (her own sewing patterns), over and over and over in multiple colors and textiles. She's found what works for her, it's definitely not boring (!), and she's sticking with it. I love these two pieces, they get worn ... so why not make a few more versions for myself? 



Sunday, October 8, 2017

The What of My Slow Fashion Closet

Welcome to week 2 of Slow Fashion October. Initially, let me provide a visual update on some of the projects I am working on during this month. You will see the completed back as well as the lower portion of the front of my own Aviatrix Pullover; the bottom right shows the shrug portion of my Quimby Hooded Cover-up. I am trying to complete both by the end of this week - we will see how far I get. 

I started this post with a projects update because it is directly relevant to this week's #slotober prompt: the what - specifically, what am I doing differently than I have in the past vis-a-vis my clothing, how has slow fashion impacted my closet, and what projects or individual pieces do I feel strongly about, and why. 

Initially, because I am also a designer, slow fashion has had an impact on what I design. I have been having this very conversation with a few of my fellow designers on social media for a while now - I have become rather picky in terms of what calls I respond to. Some aspect of the call itself needs to speak to me in order for me to put together a submission. I am also being very particular with those designs I self-publish - no more designing just for the sake of it. 

However, I do want to make clear that aesthetics can be a high motivator for me. Function is important, but I view fashion and home design within an artistic framework - so if a design idea really speaks to me along aesthetic lines, it might very well get made, irrespective of whether it is the uptheenth bag in my accessories repertoire. It is, for me, always balanced by the fact that I will never make a sock, so at least I know which rabbit holes I can easily and successfully avoid.

What is animating my personal making, as well as my closet, leads me back to my opening update. When I first started making things in earnest back in mid-2009 (when I joined Ravelry), it was all shawls all the time. I look back on that introduction to making fondly. I met many fellow shawl makers (some of whom are now my fellow designers), and I learned a lot about color, fiber, and finishing. But I am mostly (although not completely) over my shawl making phase. I am slowly but inexorably going down the sweater and skirt paths. I have not yet attempted a dress, but I am certain it is on the design and making horizon. As I am making more and more of my clothing that makes my everyday wardrobe rotation, this is a natural progression. This is also an area in which I still have a fair amount of curiosity - both with designs I may devise, as well as those of other designers. Heck, I have three + decades of Vogue Knitting designs to work through, my favorites of which inhabit a Ravelry working queue that will, quite literally, outlive me. However, each of the designs in my queue speaks to me (and trust me, that queue has gone through several rounds of editing over the last few years!), so making any amount of them would satisfy me on many levels. I am working on those designs for which I have yarn already put aside. That, along with my regular designing activities, will keep me busy for quite a while.

I design for myself, and hope that what animates me is also animating other publishers and makers. I take this approach for a particular reason - I am not willing to blindly feed the consumerism monster. I absolutely do not see my design activities as merely an extension or tool of those who need to sell magazines and yarn. Of course, I've written about this extensively with regards to advertising and content on this blog. I take a public broadcasting approach to advertising, and by extension, designing ... like Ken Burns' approach to documentary film making (in a far, far bush league sort of way). One can design and make with purpose, and still be prolific, but do so based on what deeply animates. That will necessarily mean that choices are limited and edited, but in the best possible way. 

However, once the editing occurs ... then all bets are off. If I want to make 5 of the same sweater in many colors, I will do so. 



Friday, October 6, 2017

Receiving a Little Piece of History

A copy of correspondence in de Laroche's own
handwriting circa November, 1912, along with
the beginnings of the front of my own Aviatrix
Pullover, my design included with the article
about the Baroness in the 2017 issue
of Knitting Traditions Magazine.
Yesterday was a good mail day. As you may (or may not!) know, I authored an article in the recent Knitting Traditions Magazine about the first lady of licensed flight, Raymonde de Laroche. This in-depth piece is an extension of my overview of her story in the self-published book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. 

The process of writing the Knitting Traditions article was a real treat, as it allowed me to dig deeper into the Baroness's story. I wanted, however, to unearth bits of history in her own voice which, almost two centuries after her death, with an ocean separating me from much of the scant source material, made that somewhat of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I managed to uncover articles not found in my original research for the book, and I continue to receive copies of research materials from sources not local to me. Much of those research results can be read in today's blog entry over at the Interweave Knitting blog entitled "Take Flight with Baroness Elise Raymonde de Laroche and Knitting Traditions."

However, yesterday's mail packet from The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was a real gem, as it contained a copy of the Baroness's own correspondence from a Reims hotel dated November 19, 1912. Not incredibly long, yet in it she wrote of her eye on the Coupe Femina as a distraction from her sadness at the death of Charles Voisin. The Baroness would win the coveted European racing competition the very next year. Seeing her handwritten note, complete with signature, made her grief and flying focus all the more palpable.

I hope everyone will read the Interweave blog entry as well as the article in Knitting Traditions. Of course, making your own version of the pullover would be great, too, during Slow Fashion October. Just sayin'.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wardrobe Wednesday - Slow Fashion Edition

On Monday, Karen Templer threw down her slow fashion wardrobe challenge for the month: 20 pieces yielding 30 outfits for October. As you'll see here, she's done a fantastic job with her 20 x 30. I, on the other hand, am taking a slightly different approach. In October, I plan to highlight outfits that I've actually worn utilizing handmade in the rotation. Since I plan on finishing up a bunch of projects this month, I think I may plan a 20 x 30 for November. Right now, all that wardrobe planning is a little too daunting.

However, I am pretty pleased to show off an outfit that I have actually, really, honest-to-goodness worn, since we are getting some cooler weather now interspersed with sun and 70s (it is turning into a really lovely autumn here in the Pacific Northwest). The cotton/linen striped sweater is this one from Vogue Knitting, circa 1987, that I completed this summer for a 35th anniversary challenge a bunch of us are participating in on Ravelry. Easy-peasy design and a great completed piece.The black velvet pants I have had forever, and the hem on both legs has been mended. The scarf is my crocheted Colorblocked Scarf I originally designed in 2014, and the necklace was a gift in a swap package from France. I wore a pale pink cami underneath, and I was mighty pleased with the comfort and ease of this outfit. 

This cotton/linen tee has already gotten good rotation with these pants, as well as with jeans and sandals.  I will probably make another next year, in different colors obviously, and probably a different size. 

Handmade love.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slow Fashion October: Take 3

Ladies and gentlemen, start your maker engines, because it is once again time for that month dedicated to all things wardrobe which are “small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, and known-origins.” The brain behind Slow Fashion October is Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co. and karentempler.com, and much thanks to her for once again spearheading this mammoth 31 day social media event.

I plan on posting blog entries throughout the entire month here on the blog, definitely in response to each weekly prompt, and perhaps beyond and/or ancillary to them. This initial week's prompt is the "who" - obvious and not so much. Obvious in the introducing of oneself; not so much in the who/what has influenced my personal clothing path.

To answer the obvious, I am a handknit- and crochet-wear designer. I’ve been at this now for six amazing years; I’ve self-published a first book of designs based on the early females of flight – Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. I currently continue designing and publishing utilizing that same inspirational material with the Aviatrix Pullover (and an accompanying in-depth article on Raymonde de Laroche) in the current Knitting Traditions Magazine, as well as my own fall mini-remix of knit designs in the Flying Sticks remix e-book.

As anyone who has read this interview or this blog post (from last year's Slow Fashion October) or the acknowledgement to Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace knows, my initial wardrobe influencer was my maternal grandmother. Her clothes shopping trips, and their related purchase reveals to an audience of one (yours truly) when I was barely a tween, left an indelible mark in my fashion memory. The fact that she was a New England textile worker (which I learned only many years later) provides such context to those reveals, in which she would tell me the alterations she planned for each piece. My grandmother used her sewing machine regularly well into her mid-70s, and while I had no desire to use the sewing machine, her willingness to share what she had in mind absolutely had an impact on my approach to clothes and wardrobe.
Just a few of the many Vogue
Knitting editions in my
personal library

Of course, initially I had no desire to alter my off-the-rack purchases beyond a hemming here and there. However, handmade has had a long, slow simmer on my clothes’ making back burner, as well-thumbed and much traveled issues of Vogue Knitting, purchased when originally published over the almost last 30 years, can attest.

It wasn’t until the middle to late 2000s, coinciding with my time instructing ethics to design school students, that I started to really focus on handmade and DIY with some semblance of mindfulness. The back and forth with students really helped to bring my own thoughts into focus. It doesn’t hurt that I also have a fair amount of curiosity about how things work, some natural mechanical and spatial abilities, and a deep love of color. I am currently a huge follower of all things Sonya Philip. We may have very different styles, but the breadth and depth of her handmade wardrobe is so damn impressive, not to mention her awesome way with color and pattern. Katrina Rodabaugh and Tom Holland have made me reimagine mending across all the textiles of my world (and found via Slow Fashion October Take 1); designer Veronik Avery remains a design and pattern grading inspiration. Oh, and let me not forget Norah Gaughan - because in addition to the designs, she's an amazing human being.

I do have wardrobe goals for the month, and they feature me actually completing several handmade pieces, a few of which are part of my Ravelry group’s maker event which started in September and ends mid-October. I have two pullovers, a cardigan, and a cover-up in various stages of completion that, if I can manage to get them off my making plate, are perfect fall weather wearables. I also have a few long-overdue model thank-you’s to complete; my regularly scheduled original design life continues behind the scenes.

It’s a good thing I like this hand-making stuff.