Cloth, Ancient Egyptian Artifact:
The art of creating textiles from plant and animal fibers has been
celebrated from ancient times to the present. Now that
slowfashionoctober is upon us, it has been fascinating to read
the proliferation of blog posts, books and articles on the subject
of disposable versus durable fashion. Along the way, I discovered
this amazing treasure: Alabama Stitch Book, which provides
detailed patterns and explanations of how to sew your own projects
and hand-embellish them using beads, stencils, and embroidery.
The explanation of sewing tools alone was worth the purchase.
This appliquéd corset in cotton jersey is my favorite piece in the book.
But there are wonderful patterns for household linens as well. Best of
all, the instructions are all tailored to hand-embellishments on jersey
fabrics, which have a fair amount of stretch, so I imagine they would
translate well to hand-knits also. I discovered Chenin by reading
through the comments and blogs linked to this post, and "Fringe
Association's" slowfashionoctober post from 2015. Fringe
Association also introduced me to a hilarious and touching GQ
article, in which a bemused father reflects on his teenage son's
fashion choices and how the thirteen-year-old free spirit uses
his clothes to define himself here. It includes a first person account
of Fall Fashion week in Paris!!!!!
Best of all, these articles and posts have encouraged me to reflect
more on my own choices around knitting, purchasing knitting
supplies, and clothing. So I decided to set some simple rules to
prevent my crafting from being overtaken by "productionitis."
For those of you who haven't read my post:
"Productionitis" is brought on by overexposure to glamorous
patterns, scrumptious yarns and the continuous uploads
of ravishing knitting images from the two million plus
members of Ravelry. Every day how many more stunning
finished objects appear before our eyes? ..It is hardly surprising
that we frown at our fingers, wondering how to make them move
faster, as if we were manipulating a mechanical device! It seems
that all of the excitement has created a brain inflammation and
Productionitis has set in!" Hah! I wrote that post back when
there were only two million ravelry members!
Now, however, my featured finished objects include a
variety of children's toys as my life has expanded to
include many wonderful new friends and family!
What hasn't changed is that the online knitting
community keeps exposing me to different viewpoints
about crafting and consumption, ranging from the
ladies who work an extra job just to support their yarn
buying habit or sneak skeins into the house in grocery
bags to the frugal shoppers who toil for months over
pieces knitted out of cast-offs or bargain basement thread,
only to see their projects fall apart and fade due to
the inferior quality of their materials. This leads me to
rule number one:
Rule 1. Use durable, high-quality yarns for adult-sized
clothing projects in colors that harmonize with my
wardrobe. Use hand-dyed specialty yarns for shawl
and other small accessory projects. Use cheaper,
lower quality yarns for baby & toddler projects.
Although this rule seems like plain common-sense,
it is not as easy to follow as you might think. How
many times do we "die" for a certain prism of hand-
dyed yarn that looks gorgeous in the skein, but
proves to be totally impractical for a work sweater?
As a color person, I am always drawn to buy garment-
size yarn lots in deep purples, blues, reds and greens,
which, while lovely in themselves, are not particularly
versatile colors to blend with everything else in my
wardrobe. Note to self: buy more neutrals in future!
random cross-section of my stash
Then there is the whole issue of yarn durability. But with
experience, comes wisdom, and the selection of a handful
of yarns that perform well again and again. Here are my
top five: Rowan Felted Tweed, Rowan Calmer, Rowan
Kidsilk Haze, Cascade 220, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.
"But Calmer has been discontinued for years," you say.
"Girl, haven't you ever heard of thrifting?" I reply.
There are so many wonderful sources of second-hand yarn,
ranging from the stashes of other ravelers to ebay, etsy and
shopping & swapping the stashes of your friends! And what
a great way to avoid the "disposable" yarn problem! Then
again, I am enormously attached to my local yarn store, so
I try to be generous in supporting its offerings as well.
Rule 2: Stick to a Yarn Diet this month!
So far, so good. Rather than yielding to the shopping
instinct, I am focusing on a teeshirt in Calmer, one in
Felted Tweed (my projects in this yarn have lasted 20
years and more!), and a shawl in two Handmaiden Sea
Lace and Anzula Breeze, 2 novelty, impulse buys.
Rule 3: Ask for input when choosing patterns!
I am going to be knitting "Leah" next month to
complete my knitted suit because my blog
readers voted for that pattern unanimously! In
retrospect, I realize it is a much more versatile
garment than the other pattern choices. The
more versatile the garment, the more I will wear
it, and the less "disposable" it becomes.
Rule 4: Recycle your Knits!
It's been enormous fun gifting my younger,
"girlier" tops and cardigans to actual girls in
my family and circle who look appropriate
wearing them! Which brings me to another rule:
Rule #5: Knit what Flatters YOU!
For years, I typed and doodled drafts of
chapters about the importance of knitting
designs that flatter the maker in terms of
shape, color, and design. Luckily, Amy
Herzog came out with her "Knit to Flatter"
book, saving me the work of trying to write one!
But all of us know people who parade around in
tent-like or shrink-wrapped garments, so proud of that
cable or color scheme that they never bother to glance at
themselves, the wearer, to evaluate the fit. Which brings me
to my last rule in knitting for durability:
Rule #6: Swatch Early and Often!!!
Take that new lot of yarn home from your local boutique and
swatch one ball of it right away for your pattern! That way,
if it doesn't work out, you are still in the time window to return
it for something else! So many of us lose the thrill of the excitement
of the buy and put it away, only to pull it out months later and
gaze at a cluster of alien balls of yarn in utter astonishment. Now
you have to buy a new pattern in order to use up this weird-ass
yarn that you have already outgrown, while the pattern you really
liked calls for another purchase! And so the crafter's stockpile
Speaking of which, I am not going to even attempt to quantify
my own stash. But perhaps I should work on organizing it
better this month. What if any resolutions are you setting
for yourself, readers, this month?