Blog Crush: Into Mind

Blog Crush: Into Mind

Late Friday afternoon I was feeling slightly hooky-ish and also desperate to finish my seemingly endless waistcoat button band. So when I saw an Instagram remark from @ashmhiggs about wardrobe planning with the aid of a site called Into Mind (“set a few hours aside,” she said) I decided to take a look. Before I knew it, I had my knitting in my hands, the blog on my screen, and a pile of Fashionary panels spread out in front of me — reading, thinking, knitting, sketching, reading, sketching, knitting, sketching, reading. It was exactly the site my brain needed at that particular moment, and I felt immensely inspired. And in the case of this post, highly amused. (I am dying to get my hands on that book!)

As you know, along with attempting to gradually build an almost entirely handmade wardrobe, I’m trying to be incredibly thoughtful about what I knit and sew, choosing colors, fabric/yarn and patterns that not only suit me and my lifestyle but that will work together to form a small but hard-working wardrobe. It’s a lot to think about, and — apart from the handmade aspect — that’s exactly what Into Mind is all about. Similar to Sarai Mitnick’s Wardrobe Architect series last year, Into Mind’s Anuschka challenges you to think hard about every aspect of your ideal wardrobe: color, proportion, style, etc. Nothing about what she’s suggesting is particularly new — this is advice I’ve been reading since I was a teenager (decades ago, in other words) and have long felt like I no longer needed. I’ve got a pretty good handle on what I like and what works for me, generally speaking. But in the past I was only spending money. Now, in addition to the money, I’m spending a lot of time making my own clothes. And I’m more determined than ever to have them span years and seasons, so it feels that much more important to get it right. Anuschka really did make me want to take a step back and make a conscious list (or set of drawings, actually) of the basic proportions or outfit combinations that work for me — to establish a specific framework so that, going forward, I can make sure the things I intend to make will really fit into that framework before I cast on or cut fabric. So that it all adds up to something brilliant instead of a collection of beautiful things that don’t necessarily work together or for me.

Between Friday afternoon and the weekend, I’ve spent a couple of hours going through the posts — this one is a good jumping-off point if you don’t want to just go from the reverse-chron scroll — and have probably only made a dent in it. But I have to tell you, it’s really got my mind — and my pencil — racing.

Don’t worry — I’ll have lots more to share about that. Thanks a billion for the tip-off, Ash!

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PREVIOUSLY in Blog Crush: The Craft Sessions

My handmade wardrobe role models

My handmade wardrobe role models

Ever since my Woolful interview first hit the airwaves, I’ve heard from a lot of people who say they were inspired by my views on the concept of a handmade wardrobe, which is really wonderful to hear. But I also owe a lot of my thinking to a lot of other people. On the podcast, beyond the sheer joy and satisfaction of making one’s own clothes, I talked mostly (as I recall) about wanting to exercise more control over my wardrobe — to not be at the mercy of what’s in stores — and about having some lovely handmade clothes in my closet that made me think less of mass-market stuff. Of course, there’s so much more to it. Way more than I could address in that conversation — or in this post, for that matter. But I want to at least scrape the surface—

There’s my general dislike of mass-produced goods and preference for things with character, patina and “presence of hand.” (I’ve always preferred second-hand or handmade furniture, for instance, but the same did not always go for my clothes.) There’s my distress at our culture of endless, needless manufacturing and (again, other than in my closet) desire to tread lightly on the earth — from turning off the light when I leave a room to driving the same car for as long as it agrees to run. There’s the issue of overseas factory working conditions, which I’ve read a lot more about in the past couple of years. (One of the most thought-provoking comments I read somewhere was that a conscientious company working with a foreign factory might make them sign an agreement saying they will use only non-slave, legal-age, local-minimum-wage compensated workers — as if having to stipulate this is not alarming enough — and that they will not subcontract the work. But it’s not uncommon for these factories to subcontract behind that company’s back, and there’s no way of knowing what the conditions might be like in those secret second-tier sites. In other words, we really have no idea where our mass-market clothes might have been made, or what we may have contributed to.) There’s the aesthetic and economical fact that store-bought clothes are generally not well-made, increasingly synthetic, and either overpriced as compared to the quality and material, or unsustainably cheap. Like I’ve said before, I don’t want to eat a hamburger anyone can afford to sell me for $1, and the same goes for shockingly cheap clothes. Where is the meat/fabric coming from, and who’s processing/making it under what conditions? There’s that epiphany I had last spring about wanting to be more connected to — and more responsible for — my clothes. That really is just scraping the surface. But more than anything else, what influenced me was a lot of other makers, in a variety of ways. These are just a few of the people who got me thinking:

TOP LEFT: Kristine Vejar. When I took up knitting, it also reignited my interest in sewing. My local yarn and fabric shop at that time was A Verb for Keeping Warm, owned by Kristine. The following year, Kristine launched Seam Allowance, a community of customers/followers who would each pledge to make at least 25% of their wardrobe — roughly one out of four things one might be wearing on any given day. I never took the pledge, and only made it to one meeting before moving away, but the idea has definitely stuck with me. (ICYMI: Kristine in Our Tools, Ourselves)
(pictured in a Fancy Tiger Sailor Top sewn from linen she dyed with cutch)

TOP RIGHT: Sonya Philip. It was at the Seam Allowance launch party that I first met (very briefly) Sonya Philip, who was then in the first year of her 100 Acts of Sewing project. Read this statement, if you haven’t before, but it’s also her very personal style and zest for what she’s up to that draw me in.
(pictured in layered garments sewn from her own patterns; the shawl pattern is Earth & Sky)

MIDDLE LEFT: Felicia Semple. I no longer remember how Craft Sessions founder Felicia and I first became online friends (she lives Down Under), only know that we’ve had a little mutual admiration society going on for a couple of years, and so I loved being paired with her on the Woolful episode. If by some chance you stopped listening at the end of my segment, go back and listen to hers tout de suite. Her enthusiasm, attitude and outlook on crafting amaze me. (And of course, I love her blog.) My favorite part of her Woolful interview was when she talked about being mindful not only that we make, but of not making in a way that’s as gluttonous and unsustainable as other forms of consumerism.  That’s my paraphrase, mind — go listen.
(pictured in her smartly modified Vitamin D cardigan; more pics/details on her blog)

MIDDLE RIGHT: Alyssa Minadeo. Alyssa is a good friend and invaluable collaborator of mine, and an amazingly talented sewer. (If you have one of the first-edition Fringe Supply Project Bags, Alyssa sewed it … after having worked with me on getting that bag out of my head and into three dimensions. More news on that soon, I hope.) She’s another person who is nearly always wearing something handmade — even her coat! — which seemed astonishing to me when I first met her. Her skill and output both made me want to sew more for myself, but in the meantime she made me some of the best clothes in my closet.
(pictured in a Kelly Skirt sewn from a Nani Iro fabric)

BOTTOM LEFT: Z. When I wrote about her on the blog in May 2013, she asked that I identify her only as “Z,” but she’s the one person whose handmade wardrobe I would take over any store shopping spree. She makes the most beautiful, wearable basics, and her pattern and fabric choices are right up my alley. Nobody would take a look at her closet full of impeccable clothes and think they were homemade. It’s the epitome of a handmade wardrobe, in my opinion.
(pictured in her Ondawa sweater; details/pics on her blog)

BOTTOM RIGHT: Me Made May/Fancy Ladies. A blogger named Zoe launched a campaign a couple of years ago called Me Made May, which I only really know of through Instagram. As with Seam Allowance, I believe it’s up to each participant how they define their participation, but the past two months-of-May I’ve followed the hashtag and been stunned and amazed at all of the people who have sufficient amounts of handmade clothes in their closets to be able to take a meaningful number of selfies in those clothes over the course of the month. None more so, though, than Fancy Jaime and Fancy Amber, the owners of Fancy Tiger Crafts (now friends of mine), whose handmade wardrobes are jaw-dropping in their skill and depth, as they’ve been building them over the course of many years.
(pictured in their Perkins Cove variations; details/pics on their former blog)

One other is a more indirect influence. I can already hear many of you asking where it is that I read what I’ve read in recent years about the socio-political costs of mass-market fashion, and honestly a lot of it has just been links from Sarai Mitnick’s Weekend Reading posts on her Coletterie blog (another Blog Crush of mine). I promise to make it a point to pass more of them along! (Just as soon as I figure out why her blog stopped showing up in my feed reader some time ago …)

Them’s my thoughts — in a nutshell. I’d love to hear yours—

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CORRECTION: The original version of this post featured a photo of the Fancy Tiger ladies wearing Gudrun Johnston’s Northdale sample sweaters — my mistake! The photo was updated to one of the many of them wearing their own work.

Q for You: What thrills you?

Q for You: What's your favorite little knitting thrill?

The three pieces of my Spiral-Spun Waistcoat mod are on the blocking board as I type, drying in the freakishly summer-like breeze blowing through the windows. There’s a lot of finishing yet to do, but it’s been a joy of a project — from the dreamy yarn to the challenges I inadvertently set for myself with my modifications, to the chance to knit my first inset pockets. You know I love to do something new with every project, if at all possible, and I don’t know how I made it this long without knitting an inset pocket, but it’s now officially my favorite thing to do. Just like cables: so simple and yet so magical!

Knitting affords a world of cheap thrills — for some people it’s the magic of mattress stitch, for others turning a heel, for me right now it is knitting an inset pocket. So that’s my Q for You today: What’s your favorite little knitting thrill?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you close out a project?

New Favorites: the perfect Summer aran

New Favorites: the perfect Summer aran sweater

One night last week, we went out for ice cream at the local hotspot in my sister’s tiny coastal Florida town. Bob and I were enjoying the warmth, but the temperature must have dipped below 80 or something — the locals were all wearing jean jackets or sweaters, and you could tell they were savoring the chance. It brought to mind this Martin Storey sweater I ran across recently and can’t stop thinking about: Naxos. It’s perfectly unisex and would also work beautifully as a woolly winter sweater, but I love it in this ivory cotton, pictured in a dreamy boatscape. Because, you know, heaven forbid there should ever be a time or a place where some form of fisherman sweater isn’t part of the equation.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Linda

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Knit skirts

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Knit skirts

Among the surprising items to make repeat appearances on the Fall 2015 runways is the knit skirt. I’ve already sung the praises of the amazing cable skirt and white top combo at A Détacher. Then there’s this lovely duo, above, from Michael Kors — a swingy cable skirt shown in camel and charcoal, one paired with a matching cable sweater and the other with a chunky rib-knit sweater. (As with nearly all of the sweaters in the Kors show, both have ultra-long sleeves folded into forearm-length cuffs.)

Then there’s the pair below, which remind of those nail-biting (<— that’s sarcasam) episodes of Project Runway where two designers emerge from Mood with the same or similar fabric. Who’ll use it best? The upper image is from Mulberry, and the lower one is Opening Ceremony, both looks built around a grey knit skirt cut sideways. (Both textiles look like cut-and-sew sweater knits to me, but someone will correct me if I’m wrong.) I love them equally — would happily live in either outfit — but all of the oversized work jackets and exaggerated chamois shirts in the Opening Ceremony collection make me swoon. That they’ve paired them with sweater tunics and dresses only makes me love them that much more.

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Knit skirts

PREVIOUSLY in Fall 2015: A Détacher forever

Elsewhere

Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

I, my friends, am elsewhere this week. I fly to Florida today for a few days of much-needed sun and fun with my family. Under normal conditions, I would have made the week before my trip as stressful as humanly possible by trying to do two weeks’ worth of blog posts in one, making the vacation that much more necessary! But last week was already off-the-charts busy/stressful, so it just wasn’t an option. All of which is to say, apologetically, this may be my only blog post for the week. I’ll almost certainly turn up on Instagram (as both @karentempler and @fringesupplyco) and I can’t swear another blog post or two won’t happen, but right now it seems highly unlikely. So I leave you with some tasty links to chew on—

— Felicia on Simple Sewing 101, part 1 and part 2 (with more to come)

— And to go with that, Tilly outlines a basic toolkit for new sewers

These books are rather tempting

“Yarnkraft” = love

— Did you know BBC Radio has a Knitting show? Neither did I till my friend Sarah alerted me — I hope to give it a listen one of these days

Australia’s oldest man (109!) is still knitting (via Rebekka)

— I’m eager to see what Bristol gets up to

— And this made me laugh my arse off — love that Anna Maltz

Ok, I’m off — see you when I see you. Oh! And don’t worry about Fringe Supply Co. — DG will be here every day shipping orders just as fast as you can place them. Business as usual!

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PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere

A shawl for my granny

A shawl for my granny

It’s funny how I’m always looking for shawl patterns that aren’t granny-looking, and now I’m looking for a shawl pattern for my granny. She’s turning 90 in exactly one month and — please don’t tell her! — I’m planning to knit her a shawl. The thing is, I’ve been planning it for at least a month and haven’t cast on a stitch yet because I’m hung up on what it should be. I feel like it should be lace — or at least lace-edged or something — but I don’t want to give her anything that requires really precise blocking every time it’s soaked. Ditto the yarn selection: Not only am I hesitant about giving her anything hand-wash-only, she lives in Texas! So wool is out of the question. Size-wise, she’s not a very large person, plus there’s that whole Texas aspect (this is really something to toss on in over-air-conditioned spaces), plus I need to be able to complete it in a month. So basically I’m looking for a simple, small-scale, decorative-edged shawl. For the yarn, I think I’ve settled on the dark purple Shibui Heichi in my stash (her entire wardrobe is shades of purple), which is 100% silk. Still hand-wash, but not wool. Right? So I’ve narrowed it down to the smaller Lola (top), a scaled-down Palmyre (middle) and the lace-less but still really pretty Marin (bottom), which I’ve wanted to knit for a long time. I haven’t knitted with 100% silk before and really don’t know what that will look or behave like, so it seems like my best bet is to swatch all three and see.

Still have never managed to pick the right shawl for my mom. :(