Make Your Own Basics: The camisole

Make Your Own Basics: The camisole

You may remember last Summer I cranked out a bunch of adorable little camisole tops by modifying the back panel of Grainline’s Lakeside Pajamas pattern (above, bottom), and had a ton of fun doing playing around with it. Around the same time, True Bias released their Odgen Cami pattern (top), and I absolutely love this one. The neckline is so elegant, and suitable for dressed-up or dressed-down fabrics. And look how pretty it looks on everyone. So those are both great options for filling your camisole top needs. For slip/dress ideas, see the Little Black Dress installment.

And have you heard about the Summer of Basics make-along? I hope you’re planning to join in! There are already some plans emerging on the #summerofbasics hashtag.

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PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The trench coat

Origin Stories: Upcycled Wool and the Gang

Origin Stories: Wool and the Gang

BY HANNAH THIESSEN // I truly believe that most people have a passion for the environment. Regardless of how you feel about climate change or the politics of going green, I would wager that most humans around the world have had at least one outdoor experience they found enjoyable. Whether this means long hikes and biking on deserted trails, a car trip through the mountains, a summer camp memory in your childhood or a long day at the beach, people find intrinsic value in beautiful landscapes. We find solace in the reality of ever-present nature around us: We look for homes nestled in greenery, are delighted at the appearance of a rare, bright bird each Spring, and dream of vacations that often feature unknown-to-us plants and locations. If you have ever experienced the loss of a place you’ve loved (perhaps through a tourism boom, construction or natural disaster), you know all too well the importance of preservation: In your own way, your heart has urged you towards making small changes in your own life in order to affect larger changes in the lives of others.

One of the ways that Karen discusses preservation here on the Fringe Association blog is through sustainable garment choices. There are endless ways to apply preservation principles: mending, thrifting, upcycling, hand-making and sharing are just a few. As a knitter, one of my favorite ways to support sustainable garment making is through buying traceable fibers. While I have fallen in love (madly, madly in love) with many beautiful yarns in my decades of knitting, I have recently committed to the idea that if the maker of these yarns will not (or cannot) tell me where they come from, I should not keep buying them. My dollars instead will go to companies willing to be transparent about their supply chain and how their products are impacting the environment — knowledge is power in the hands of knitters.

This doesn’t mean that I knit exclusively with “farm yarns.” While I adore a wonderfully rustic, sheepy wool, I also often find myself craving the sleek and fashionable, comfortable and soft. When a company can combine fashion with transparency, I feel that they’ve hit the “sweet spot.” Such is the case with Wool and the Gang, a fashion knitting company that supports uncomplicated, accessible making, and has made a splash, bringing new knitters into the fold with fun, fast projects and a variety of squishy yarns. Packed in trendy, branded kits and wrapped with recycled paper labels, their goods are the gateway drug of knitting. I cannot count how many kits walk out the door of our local shop in hands that eagerly return, ready to try a new project a few weeks later. While bulky yarns and quick projects have overtones of fast fashion, the reality of Wool and the Gang’s yarn line is based on the idea that by understanding how things are made, we can see more intrinsic value in those made by others.

Jade Harwood, one of the co-founders of Wool in the Gang, is the perfect example of this idea. She learned to knit as many other knitters do, from a relative at a young age. In making miniature outfits for her toys, she embraced her love of making, specifically garment-making, and set herself on the path towards becoming a fashion designer. At 14, inspired by fellow British designers Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, she focused her attention on the dream of someday attending Central St. Martins, a London-based college with a world-renowned fashion program. While in attendance years later, she met Aurelie Popper working for a summer at Balmain. (Yes, the Balmain!) After finishing school, they combined efforts with Lisa Sabrier. The three shared a mutual love for building a fashion brand with a soul, a message that could make knitting accessible for a new generation.

The kit concept developed out of breaking down what was hard about learning: super simple introductions, chunky wool and large stitches, paired with online video tutorials. By slowing down and making your basics, they worked to counteract fast fashion by helping people learn new skills. They created a community, the ‘Gang’ part of their name, to support, encourage and connect knitters of all skill levels and ages. They believed that the first step to sustainable fashion was helping people identify with the person behind their garments: in this case, themselves. By pulling back the glossy, magazine layers of fashion, they revealed the truth below — people make things, and it’s possible for all people to make things.

Of course, sustainable goes so far beyond just the act of making. It is about materials. Since day one, the team of Wool and the Gang worked to be conscientious of the environmental issues being caused by mass-produced fashion. While wool is intrinsically considered a sustainable fiber, they wanted to break the mold and introduced yarns that could make even more of an impact on consumer waste.

Heal the Wool expands upon the sustainability of wool by utilizing the leftovers from their existing yarn mill in Peru. 100% recycled wool, it began with the process of gathering six tons of waste fiber that would otherwise have gone into a landfill. Through careful blending and sorting to create colors, they avoided the use of dyes, saving 48,000 liters of water and giving these leftovers a second life. Billie Jean, a denim yarn, is made using upcycled, pre-consumer denim waste — leftovers from denim production in the fashion industry. The waste is ground into fiber and woven into yarn without chemicals or dyes, saving 20,000 liters of water per kilogram of upcycled material. Wool and the Gang will also introduce a new sustainable yarn this summer, using eucalyptus tree fibers.

Origin Stories: Wool and the Gang

One of the toughest questions I ask of any yarn company is about outsourcing. A delicate subject in this industry, outsourcing is often about cost, and comes with a variety of concerning environmental impacts all its own: shipping, exports and questionable mill standards for workers. Often, our views of international fiber production are colored by the horror stories of sweatshop factories and child labor in developing countries. I was worried that this British based company was making a sustainable product, but at the cost of their own domestic wool production (in case you aren’t aware, the UK is having a seriously exciting moment right now with native wools — more on that in a future column!) I was pleasantly surprised by Jade’s answer to my questions about why they’ve chosen to take their production overseas: It is more environmentally sound to have a yarn milled where it is grown.

Peru is the source of the highland wool and alpaca used in Wool and the Gang’s yarns. With ample farming land and a mill partner who is actively involved in the sourcing and invested in the success of Peruvian farmers, it was not a stretch to work within the country to create yarns that embraced the history and tradition of South American wools. Beyond this, the mill they work with can handle the scale of their production, but is also passionate about offering innovative choices, as evidenced by the unique yarns Wool and the Gang is able to commission. That said, Jade and her partners are exploring the possibilities of adding a ‘Brit Wool’ to the pack, and are already dreaming up pun-based names!

In the spirit of this fresh-faced, exciting company, I asked how Wool and the Gang encourages knitters to make a start on the path of sustainable making. Jade suggests recycling yarns that you have, and points towards a recent blog post for the Gang’s top tips on how to help the environment – I am particularly interested in The Uniform Project

As for my own thoughts on the subject? I’m going to continue on my mission to share sustainable, accessible, interesting and affordable yarns with you here. In the same way that preserved nature is available to all, I believe that it’s possible to find knit-worthy yarns at all price points and preferences, from the hands of farmers or behind the sleek label of a fashion brand.

Hannah Thiessen is a freelance creative & social media strategist who specializes in yarn and fiber. She knits and dabbles in other crafty pursuits on her blog, www.handmadebyhannahbelle.com, and you can follow her on Instagram as @hannahbelleknits

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PREVIOUSLY in Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

Photos © Wool and the Gang; used with permission

New Favorites: Marmor

New Favorites: Marmor

This might sound funny but I’ve always wanted a garter-stitch sweater. It’s one of those things that is forever rolling around in the back of my mind. Just about every time there’s some yarn I’m planning to knit with and trying to figure out what, I ask myself “Is this the garter-stitch sweater?” Part of the reason it’s never happened is I can’t decide whether I want it to be a pullover or a cardigan. But this new cardigan pattern, Marmor by Regina Moessmer, could maybe be the thing to scratch that itch. Like all things truly beautiful, it’s super super simple, but “God is in the details.”

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: The Twigs

Q for You: What makes a garment “slow fashion”?

Q for You: What makes a garment "slow fashion"?
Q for You: What makes a garment "slow fashion"?
Q for You: What makes a garment "slow fashion"?
Q for You: What makes a garment "slow fashion"?

Hopefully you’ve all seen the piece I wrote for the current issue of KnitWit about my weird life spent thinking publicly about my clothes, and about how I came to be pursuing a “slow fashion” wardrobe in the first place. For the photos, I was asked to put together outfits that demonstrate the point — what I mean by slow fashion — and unfortunately the descriptions of those outfits didn’t make it into print. I’ve been wanting to share them for that reason (they’re at the bottom of this post), but they also feed into a larger conversation I’m always having in my head and would like to have with you. So here at the start of Fashion Revolution Week, I’m putting the question into Q for You form, the question being: What makes a garment “slow fashion”?

I feel like I can make a case that my wardrobe is slow fashion at this point because I say so, in a sense. Hear me out: I think if you’ve educated yourself about the issues (The True Cost is a great place to start), made a conscious and genuine vow not to acquire clothes indiscriminately henceforth, and you take full responsibility for the contents of your closet, then that is a slow-fashion closet. By take responsibility, I mean commit to wearing each item (whatever it is, wherever it came from) for as long as it lasts, extending the lives of things through care and mending, and re-homing anything that doesn’t work for you. (Hopefully not just dropping it into a charity bin — remember no one wants your old clothes — but literally finding it a new home.) So perhaps I can say “my clothes are slow fashion because they’re my clothes” and because I’m committed to these principles, but when it comes to adding anything, I’m constantly asking myself what I’m ok with — where do I draw lines?

There are three underlying considerations or motivations to slow fashion, in my view:

1. The environmental cost — seeking clothes that don’t contribute to the inordinate damage the fashion industry is doing to rivers, village(r)s and the planet; and generally opting out of the escalating fashion churn cycle
2. The human cost — seeking clothes that aren’t made by slave labor or child labor or in unsafe conditions
3. The actual monetary price — seeking to get the most out of whatever money we spend on our clothes; better quality/value and longevity

And then there’s also simply seeking to support companies that are making goods or materials in laudable ways. Grainline recently included this definition of slow fashion in a blog post, and it’s pretty good — “the practice of creating and buying garments for quality and longevity, ideally minimizing waste and supporting fair labor” — except if your concern is the environment, the only truly responsible approach is to not make or buy anything new in the first place, but rather to use what already exists. So first and foremost, there’s simply wearing what you already own or get second-hand. When adding new clothes, the surest way to avoid anything made by slave labor is to make it yourself, but then of course there’s still the question of the fabric or yarn. With store-bought or manufactured clothes, there are all the questions: both about where and how the garment was made, and where the materials came from.

I feel like there should be some kind of slow-fashion credentials scorecard, but even that gets complicated. Still, here’s one way we might put it:

“This item before me …”

IS NOT NEW
[ ] I’ve owned it for years and will wear it for years
[ ] it was a hand-me-down
[ ] it was bought secondhand (thrift store, consignment, eBay, whatever)
[ ] it was acquired through a clothing swap

IS HOMEMADE (no factory labor involved)
[ ] I made it myself
[ ] someone I know (or hired) made it for me
[ ] it’s made from 100% natural fibers
[ ] the fabric/yarn is of known, reputable, transparent origins
[ ] the fabric/yarn has upcycled or recycled content
[ ] the fiber was organically grown and/or processed
[ ] the fiber/fabric/yarn is undyed and/or minimally processed
[ ] environmentally safe dyes and dyeing processes were used

IS NEW, BUT
[ ] it was made locally to me
[ ] i bought it directly from the designer-maker
[ ] it was produced in-house (or at a company-owned facility) with full transparency
[ ] it was produced in conjunction with acknowledged artisans/craftspeople in their endemic location
[ ] it was produced in a country that has meaningful labor laws, and I believe they were adhered to
[ ] the company has a central mission or founding policy of only working with reputable factories
[ ] the company has environmentally friendly business and manufacturing practices
[ ] the company has socially beneficial business practices
[ ] it’s made from 100% natural fibers
[ ] the fabric/yarn is of known, reputable, transparent origins
[ ] the fabric/yarn has upcycled or recycled content
[ ] the fabric/yarn has organic content
[ ] environmentally safe dyes and dyeing processes were used

That’s arguably hierarchical: wearing what already exists is better than making something new, is better than buying something new — very broadly speaking. But within all of that, the checkboxes aren’t necessarily of equal weight, and how many need to be checked for a garment to really rank?

I make a lot of my clothes, and almost entirely from new fabric or newly spun, virgin yarn. I’ve challenged myself to work harder on that aspect. The only fast-fashion garments that have moved into my closet in the past year or so are jeans and a button-down shirt that I rescued from my husband’s Goodwill pile, so they’re basically secondhand and I’ll see to it they get worn instead of dumped. But then there are conundrums. I’m apparently content to buy a garment from someone like Elizabeth Suzann, feeling good about knowing exactly where and how it was made (and supporting a company with deeply felt principles) but without knowing anything about the fabric’s origins. So what about a case like this J.Crew shirt, which is the opposite: it’s Baird McNutt Irish linen, pure of origin, but I don’t know anything about who/how/where it was sewn into this garment. Are those cases equal? (Can I bring myself to buy the linen shirt??) If a thing is made in this country, so it at least didn’t get shipped across the Atlantic, is that inherently one tiny notch better than made in Bangladesh? There’s no guarantee the US factory is abiding by labor laws just because the laws exist, so how much weight do I give whatever increase in good odds that represents? I trust that Imogene+Willie is working very closely with their LA factory and can be trusted; can I say the same for J.Crew’s made-in-LA goods? What about a company like Everlane that says they only work with the good factories? Isn’t that what every brand says if you ask them? How do we know who’s telling the truth (or not being deceived by their factory)?

Ultimately, everyone’s definitions and comfort levels are different, and everyone has to follow their own gut. I want a garment to check more than one box if I’m going to have it in my closet, but how many, and which do I give the most weight to?

What about you? And what would you add to the checklist?

See also: Why I make my own clothes

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THE KNITWIT OUTFITS (pictured top to bottom)

  1. Elizabeth Suzann wool cocoon coat (made locally, no longer available); handknit grey vest in Hole & Sons farm yarn; homemade plaid top in French cotton (never blogged); J.Crew Point Sur made-in-LA jeans
  2. Handknit black cardigan and beloved 10-year-old t-shirt (with I+W jeans, below)
  3. Handknit turtleneck sweater in US wool; embroidered cotton Katayone Adeli skirt c.1998
  4. Handknit Cowichan-style vest in US wool; homemade black muscle tee in organic hemp jersey; Imogene+Willie jeans in undyed Japanese cotton denim (made in LA)

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PREVIOUSLY: Why I make my own clothes

Photos by Zachary Gray for KnitWit/Fringe Association

Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and Monday marks the start of Fashion Revolution Week, so it seems apt that today’s Elsewhere is even heavier than usual on slow fashion food for thought!

• “Georgia O’Keeffe was an expert seamstress who made her own clothes and altered or otherwise preserved them herself; she kept some of her dresses for as long as sixty years.” I’m dying to see this exhibit (And there’s some lovely resonance between that and Sara Berman’s Closet)

Praise hands for the Kentucky Cloth Project (photo, top left)

Imagine if there were more companies like Nisolo (See also: CEO Patrick Woodyard’s TED talk on fast fashion) (bottom right)

Great Q&As with 3 brands striving for sustainable fashion

Plastic Fashion — a data story (thx, Anie) (top right)

Love this “Hand-me-up shop” idea from Jussara Lee (thx, Lori)

Plus:

In. Awe.

Llama pinata!

• Has anyone knitted with this unusual cotton yarn, Loop? I’m so curious

And these are some serious cute kid knits (bottom left)

I’ll be working this weekend, trying to get caught up, and in particular working on a super meaty discussion starter — a conversation I can’t wait for us to have! But here’s wishing you a relaxing weekend in the meantime—

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

As I noted last week, I started working on this post the day after we got back, yet before what turned out to be several days all-but-unconscious with a fever. I’m so glad I had written this through before that happened, because at this point it all seems like a figment of my fevered imagination …

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue
The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

Under the heading of “blessings in disguise”: Our flight to Paris got postponed a day. We arrived at the airport that Monday afternoon just moments before the airline texted me to say that our flight to Atlanta was delayed several hours. Since we had a very brief layover, that meant we wouldn’t make our connecting flight. After an hour standing at the counter getting rebooked onto new flights the following day, we put our suitcases back in the car and went home. Dejected, sure, but that allowed me to do three things I hadn’t had time for: 1. sew pockets on my last-minute travel pants (see below), 2. sit down on my couch with a glass of wine and the guidebooks (most notably this priceless little gem) I had ordered with such good Type-A intentions yet hadn’t cracked open, and 3. run to Target for some Zyrtec D1, as it was becoming clear I was on a collision course with a sinus infection. And so, the next morning we headed back to the airport with me feeling much calmer and better prepared than I had the day before.

It was a dream of a trip and I’ve gotten a lot of requests for three things: Channel pics, Paris tips and a recap on how the ol’ slow-fashion/capsule travel wardrobe packing plans turned out. And of course I want at least a cursory record of the trip for myself. So I’m going to attempt to cover all of that here in the most manageable way I can think of, which is to break it down day by day, outfit by outfit, with most of the related tips and whatnot relegated to footnotes so you can further investigate whichever bits are of interest. Regardless, it’s a REALLY long post! Lots of photos. And I’m happy to answer any and all questions, so please ask away!

THE FINAL PACKING LIST

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

So in the end, I took 12 garments (3 on my person, 9 in my carry-on suitcase) and 3 pairs of shoes.

camel Channel cardigan
black cropped cardigan
– “secondhand” chambray shirt (rescued from Bob’s goodwill pile)
– black silk Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock (locally made)
– plaid top (me-made, never blogged)
black sleeveless top
– visually mended linen chambray Madewell popover (c.2013, fast fashion but I’m making it last!)
– black Imogene+Willie tee (made in LA, no longer available)
– best-friend/safety-blanket Part Wolf t-shirt (no slow cred, but I’ve had and will wear it for years)
natural Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (made in LA)
rigid Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (made in LA)
– black linen Elizabeth Suzann Florence Pant (made locally, personalized by me)
black Vayarta slip-ons (handmade in Mexico)
– faux snake J.Crew ballet flats (“made in Italy,” hopefully; no longer available)
– silver Solid State flats (handmade in LA for local purveyor Goodwin)

And I ultimately decided on my trench coat (J.Crew c.2009-10) over my hooded rain jacket, based on the forecast.

If you compare to the draft list, I pulled out the striped sweater (it was clearly going to be a warm week and even the two cardigans seemed a tad excessive), scored a pair of black linen, elastic-waist, photoshoot-sample Florence Pants from my friends over at Elizabeth Suzann, and added my favorite old t-shirt for sleeping/lounging. Also in the suitcase were two other things intended for the hotel room: a pair of thin black leggings and some flipflops I bought during a footwear emergency in DC last summer.

Most days (every day?) involved a wardrobe change, as we would come back to the hotel in the late afternoon, tired/hot/dusty, put our feet up for a bit, take a shower, then venture back out for dinner, and I never came close to exhausting all of the combinatory possibilities of these 12 garments. Here’s how it all played out …

. . .

TRAVEL DAY-AND-A-HALF (Tues into Weds)

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

On the plane, I wore the black linen linen pants (now with pockets!), the beloved t-shirt and the chambray shirt, along with my omnipresent grey scarf for scarf-slash-blanket usage, and the ballet flats. I had a pair of black footie socks in my backpack2 for in flight (and my trench was also wadded up in the backpack). Verdict: perfect 24-hour-travel clothes — thumbs up.

. . .

DAY 1 (Or half-day, Weds eve)
me to La Bien Aimee/L’Oisive Thé; Bob wandering the Rue du Montmartre

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

We wound up landing in Paris on Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday morning as originally planned, and it took us several hours to get out of the airport and to the Hotel Panache3 via a series of trains. Which means we got to the hotel after lunchtime on Wednesday, and I was scheduled to visit our lovely Fringe Supply Co. stockist La Bien Aimée around 6pm and stay for dinner and knit night at L’Oisive Thé4. We tried and failed to nap (both of us ill at this point, Bob having beaten me there by about two weeks but me quickly catching up), and of course we were totally exhausted by the travel and also hadn’t eaten. By the time I sat up and had a little chat with myself about how I was ever going to stand up off the bed, much less get showered and dressed, into a cab, and enjoy the company of a roomful of knitters for four hours … I honestly didn’t know. And I honestly don’t know for sure if this is what I wore! That’s how messed up I was. But I’m pretty sure I pulled the comfy linen pants back on, and definitely the black sleeveless top and black cardigan, my trench coat and ballet flats. What I absolutely know for certain is I had a lovely time, and even perked up a bit once I got some food in me. I’m so thankful to everyone there for welcoming me, and only sorry I didn’t get to mingle more!

. . .

DAY 2 (Thurs – first full day in France)
walk from hotel down through 2nd and 1st arrondissements to and around Louvre courtyard (where we did what tourists apparently do: stand on the stone blocks for pictures) / crossed the Seine into the 6th and wandered down Rue de Seine to the Luxembourg Gardens / croques-madames for lunch at Angelina / westward, popping into the famed Bon Marché (Bob needed a scarf5 and Aimée had said the store is worth a visit) and the Conran Shop, to the Eiffel Tower

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

Thursday was the coolest day of the forecast — likely my only chance to wear the Channel Cardigan I had finished knitting in time and imagined wearing throughout — so we knew it had to be sweater picture day. It turned out to be the only chance I got to wear it, but I’m so happy to have gotten to wear it that once (that place) before putting it away till Fall.

For photo purposes, I had planned to wear it with the sleeveless chambray top and the natural jeans, but wound up putting the black shell back on instead, plus my slip-ons that were meant to be my main walking shoes. These things are better than sneakers: soft-soled, SUPER cushy insoles, and no laces and flaps to potentially rough up your feet. I’d been wearing them to work nonstop for a couple weeks (where I stand for 8 hours a day and do a lot of moving around and manual labor and stuff) without any problem. And I had put blister guards on the backs of my feet for good measure. But a tiny catch in the seam at the back of the left one, imperceptible up till then, dug a hole right through the blister guard and into the back of my foot. So this was their only outing.

I don’t remember whether I changed for dinner that night, although I must have. (This was my worst sick day, before I started taking the drugs, so it’s foggy.) Certainly I did change shoes. After dinner, we took up a perch in the lobby with a view out onto the street and ordered champagne from the little hotel restaurant.

. . .

DAY 3 (Fri)
walked to and across the Ile de la Cité to legendary Shakespeare and Co / cabbed over to the Musée D’Orsay to see the Impressionists et al / walked across the Seine and through the Tuileries / did some shopping in the 1st: WHSmith for magazines, Colette (a longtime fixture on my wishlist that graciously scheduled a Christoph Niemann6 show for while we were in town!), Cos and A.P.C. / walked back toward hotel along Rue Richlieu and stumbled into this amazing exhibit at Drawing Lab

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue
The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

Friday was a day for layers — fluctuating temperatures, but with a cool breeze. I wore the black shell and black cardigan again, with the dark Willies and the ballet flats, plus my trench coat — perfect for a day of art and shopping. It warmed up in the afternoon, so by then the sweater was in my backpack and I was happy in my little top and trench.

dinner at Ademi / drinks at Le Brébant / dessert at Floquifil 

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

For dinner that night, in a super casual mood, we ventured into a new little woodfired pizza place near the hotel called Ademi, which I liked both the look and smell of from having passed it a few times. Lovely people and good food, turns out. I think I went in my black tee, dark jeans, flats and trench.

. . .

DAY 4 (Sat)
cabbed to the flea market, or the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, a lifelong dream of mine / from there to Sacré Couer and did the wander-through / walked down through Montmartre and the upper 9th back to the hotel, stopping at KB for chai (me) and juice (Bob), and at Sebastien Gaudard for pastries / cabbed to Pont Neuf and hopped on one of the bateaux mouches7 tour boats, then walked back

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue
The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

We covered more far-flung ground on Saturday, as we wanted to go up into the 18th to the world-famous flea market8 — which was heaven even I couldn’t fit any of the beautiful things into my suitcase — and to Sacré Couer and Montmartre and to the bateau, so we sort of alternated between cabs and walks that beautiful, warm day. I wore the black shell AGAIN, with the linen pants, chambray shirt and ballet flats, which was my ideal outfit for all of the above and for the weather. The scarf definitely came out of the backpack while we were out on the river.

dinner at Floquifil

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

Dinner that night was probably the most “dressed up” I got on this trip, for dinner in a rustic neighborhood hole-in-the-wall,  and I love this outfit so much: my Elizabeth Suzann silk top I’d been saving for the trip, black cardigan around my neck, dark Willies and silver flats. After dinner, we drank champagne in the lobby again and then went upstairs and ate the pastries9 we’d bought in the afternoon.

. . .

DAY 5 (Sun)
wandered around the 3rd and 4th / cappuccino for Bob at Boot Café and breakfast at Rachel’s / into the Picasso Museum / down through Marais to the Seine again and over to the Tuileries

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue
The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

It was SO HOT so of course we walked for miles and miles and miles again. I had saved my list of hotspots in the 3rd and 4th for Sunday, having heard the Marais is open while the rest of the city is closed10. Every single shop and restaurant on my list though (save the micro and adorable Boot Café coffee shop) was closed! But as we wandered from one locked door to another, we passed a sign for the Picasso Museum11 and took it as, well, a sign that we should have had it on our agenda. (I’ll never forget this tiny little kid who was sketching in one of the galleries.) I had it in my head that I wanted to get back to the Tuileries and actually sit down in the bois and hang out with knitting and magazines. So after the Picasso, and a brief rest in the little park down the block, we rattled a few more locked doors in the 4th and then did something of a death march along the full-sun river walkway in the heat, feet screaming to be liberated, and arrived at the Tuileries to find all of Paris already occupying every last chair and bench. Brutal day, really, and I was overdressed. I’d worn my dark Willies again with the plaid top, ballet flats, and the Channel slung over my shoulders in an act of extreme optimism. It wound up in the backpack all day, and the plaid shirt was unwearable again after the sweating that went on. But I looked cute!

dinner at Mersea

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

For dinner, we knew our options would be limited to the neighborhood brasseries (always open) and a few other random casual dining spots. We wound up at a fish-and-chips place called Mersea that we walked past multiple times a day on Rue du Montmartre going to and from the hotel, with me commenting every time that the place was adorable and the name amusing and who doesn’t love fish and chips. We had the best time and the *best* fish and chips. It’s a new place owned by two really charming young guys who worked with a 2-Michelin-star chef on their small menu, and I so hope they do well. If you’re near there, please eat there. I went in just my black tee, linen pants and the flip-flops, totally appropriate for the laid-back joint.

. . .

DAY 6 (Mon)
breakfast at Bob’s Kitchen / acquired assorted bread products at Huré / strolled down past the Centre Pompidou (even more of an eyeful than I ever imagined) to Notre Dame for a closer look, then over to and through Ile St Louis / cabbed back to hotel for the afternoon / one last walk up to KB for chai and juice before dinner

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue
The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

We weren’t meant to be in Paris on Monday — we were planning a daytrip to Reims — but we couldn’t sleep Sunday night and decided to turn off the alarm we had set. So instead, we had a super leisurely last day in the city, which was cool and breezy again after the brick oven of the previous day. For our morning wander, I wore my beloved t-shirt and natural Willies with my trench, my black cardigan as a scarf, and the unflappable flats. This is the outfit that’s probably the most purely me, and that pic of me alongside the Seine across from Notre Dame is also my favorite photo I’ve ever had the good luck to appear in, and a perfect memento of the trip. I loved this quiet day.

dinner at the Panache

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

Bob had dined alone in the hotel restaurant that first night while I was out with the knitters, and kept raving about his meal, so I was determined to eat there before we left. (We’d had breakfast there most mornings, and it was perfection, but we’re talking croissants, cheese, fruit, juice, etc., and I wanted the full dining experience.) I wore my silk Artist Smock again with the black pants — full Elizabeth Suzann — and the silver shoes. Hilariously, this hasty bathroom selfie is the only photo of any of my eveningwear. I felt great in this outfit, and enjoyed my favorite meal in Paris and maybe one of my favorite of all time, actually. If you have a chance to dine there, please have the asparagus and monkfish dish for me.

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TRAVEL DAY (Tues)
one last breakfast at the Panache / cabbed to CDG and flew home

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

For the long flight home, I put on my most comfortable things: the linen pants, the black t-shirt, the black sweater (which spent most of the day around my neck and shoulders) and — feeling my feet could use a change of pace — the silver shoes. I had to laugh when we got to the AirFrance terminal, which is basically the fanciest mall I’ve ever set foot in (need a little Prada or Burberry before you go?), so I felt like my silver shoes were totally in order. Bedhead notwithstanding.

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All told, only 1 garment went unworn — the chambray sleeveless popover — which is absolutely a record for me and packing. As is taking only 12 garments in the first place. (My usual MO is to throw at least 6-8 random tees/tops/tanks into any given suitcase as backups, on top of whatever I already packed.) The workhorses of the trip were clearly the black cardigan, shell and pants, and the ballet flats. It’s a shame the Vayartas didn’t work out for this particular purpose, but I’ll still get a ton of wear out of them, and I actually felt cuter in the ballerinas every day anyway. My feet would not have objected to more cushion, but Dr. Scholls got me through!

This tiny but extremely versatile wardrobe was a vivid reminder to me of how much happier I really am with a small assortment of hardworking clothes, the resulting reduced need to think about getting dressed, and knowing I’ll look good no matter which way I combine them. It’s motivation to keep my closet from ballooning again, for sure. And one of the most striking things about the trip was how different it would have been before my slow-fashion conversion. We went into a few of my longtime favorite shops (most notably A.P.C.) and I fingered things and admired the design and walked away empty-handed, with no regrets, because all of it was made in China/Tunisia/Romania. So I’ve become a contented window-shopper at this stage of my life.

It’s funny to give such a sketchy and clothing-centric outline of this trip that I’ve longed for since my 8th-grade French 1 class, but it also makes it very visual and memorable for me. I could write another 8000 words about how and why I loved it, but all that really matters is we were there, and we loved it.

The Paris review and wardrobe travelogue

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THE FOOTNOTES

1. A few years ago, I had a sinus infection so bad — like someone had walled off my head, nothing getting in or out! — that one night Bob dragged me to the ER in search of help. A nurse gave me this tip: Zyrtec D. The key detail is the “D” — it’s a semi-controlled substance. You don’t need a prescription, but you do have to ask the pharmacist for it, and sign for it. (It kept me alive through the week in Paris, but apparently was no match for whatever I came home with.)

2. My trusty backpack is one I got from SF company Alite Designs at West Coast Craft in October 2013 — they were sewing them right there in their booth. It’s been everywhere with me the past four years.

3. We stayed at the pretty little Hotel Panache, in the lower 9th, and it was perfect for us — affordable, conveniently located between the arrondissements we wanted to visit, etc. Everyone was lovely and helpful, and the restaurant was terrific. It is a European hotel, not an American one, so if you book a room be prepared for small, and pay attention when booking as not all rooms have their own bathroom.

4. If you’re ever in Paris on a Wednesday night, definitely try to reserve a seat for dinner-and-knitting night at L’Oisive Thé.

5. We found the perfect thing and realized we were in the J.Crew dept, LOL.

6. Christoph Niemann is an illustrator-artist I admire tremendously. If you haven’t seen the first episode of the Netflix series Abstract, it’s a must-watch. And I was rendered speechless when I saw, just before I left, that his Colette show included this.

7. Several people told me the bateaux mouches — the tourist boats that run up and down the Seine — are worth doing, and they were totally right. It’s a good way to get the lay of the museum-and-monument land, especially at the start of your trip.

8. I never imagined quite how vast the flea market could be, and would have been lost were it not for Katariina Lambert’s note in her gorgeous guidebook that the best of the mid-century antique vendors are in the Marché Paul Bert section in the center of it all.

9. I know this is blasphemy, but I’ve now had macarons in Paris, from both Gaudard and Ladurée: both delicious but neither beats Miette in San Francisco.

10. Seriously, if you’re in Paris on Sunday and/or Monday plan to do the museums and monuments on those days, and save your shopping or smaller destinations for the other days of the week.

11. The Picasso museum had a show up that centered around his wife, Olga, and how she factored into his work as their marriage disintegrated over the years. I loved how biographical the show wound up being, which was more interesting to me than any particular period of his work or whatever. But what I really loved was the building! A work of art unto itself.

(Field Bag and Lykke needles from Fringe Supply Co.)

Slow Fashion Citizen: Tom Van Deijnen

Slow Fashion Citizen: Tom Van Deijnen

BY KATRINA RODABAUGH | It’s a true honor to share this interview with today’s Slow Fashion Citizen, Tom Van Deijnen otherwise known as Tom of Holland (and @tomofholland). Tom is a crafter, knitter and teacher based in Brighton, England, and he is also one of my Slow Fashion heroes for his work founding The Visible Mending Programme. (That’s right, heroes — and I don’t use that word lightly.) Soon after I started my slow fashion project, Make Thrift Mend, in 2013 I stumbled upon Tom’s images of high-contrasted handknit sweaters and my heart ached with how much I loved them.

You know that feeling? You ache a little. You might stumble. You might lose your breath. You might have to sit on that impossibly small bench in the center of the gallery and stare a little bit longer at what just leapt off the wall and tried to crawl under your coat. Because now it’s burrowing under your skin and it’s heading for your heart folds and suddenly you gasp at the sensation of this thing crawling into your heart but also at this incredible experience of seeing something so beautiful and necessary and relevant and absolutely new. There’s just one word for it and that word is YES.

This was my reaction in stumbling over Tom’s work with the Visible Mending Programme. I had to sit down on that figurative tiny bench and catch my breath. The colorful darning filling in the missing sections of yarn brought visual interest to an otherwise beautiful garment but the repairs were also arresting, defiant, edgy and demanding all at once. “Look at me, there was a hole here and now it’s even more beautiful.” I was instantly drawn to the interplay of craftsmanship and color — the required knitting skills and knowledge of darning necessary to technically repair the garment, but Tom’s artful approach to celebrating the repair and adding visual interest through high-contrast stitches. YES. And thank you. And swoon.

Tom’s work with the Visible Mending Programme has absolutely influenced my work in sashiko mending and I’m confident saying he’s influenced the work of many contemporary repairs around the globe. Tom’s work lends a rich voice to the conversation about Slow Fashion, textile arts, homemade wardrobes, knitting and repairing garments because of the invention of the Visible Mending Programme. It’s as if there is an international conversation about mending through images and repaired articles of clothing and imperfect stitches meant to celebrate the most beloved garments that naturally breakdown, but through our mending we can make them even more meaningful. And certainly Tom is one of the most distinctive voices in this ongoing conversation. Let’s welcome this month’s friend from the UK, Tom of Holland.

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Tom, thank you so much for joining us today. I adore your work and you’ve been such a huge inspiration for me in my own mending, repairing, and rejuvenating garments. Can you start by telling us about the Visible Mending Programme? How did it begin and how has it evolved?

Hi Katrina, many thanks for having me! I’m so pleased to hear that you find my work inspirational, as that’s exactly why I share my work. The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme reinforces the relationship between the wearer and garment, leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour.

By writing my blog, running darning workshops and taking repair work commissions I provide mending inspiration, skills and services to people and hopefully persuade them that shop-bought clothes deserve care and attention too, just like a precious handknit. Even as a teenager I was always interested in buying clothes with the aim to wear them for a long time, even if they were cheap. As I’ve always enjoyed needlecrafts, I naturally started embellishing and repairing them when I felt the need. This has grown very slowly and organically into the Visible Mending Programme as it stands today.

I always credit you as the founder of the term (and the hashtag) “visible mending” — it’s really the perfect phrase. How did you invent the term? Why did that phrase feel so important when you started this work?

The term Visible Mending has very simple roots: when I first started repairing, I attempted to make my repairs invisible. As this requires a lot of skill to achieve, I never quite managed it, and over time I have come to accept that my repairs can be visible, and now I positively celebrate a visible repair and have started to use the term Visible Mending. By repairing in a visible way, I can add to the story of the garment, and show it has a history. I like things that look used, as it gives them character and makes them more individual. And when it comes to shop-bought clothes, adding a Visible Mend is also a chance to add some of your own creativity.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Tom Van Deijnen

One of the things I absolutely adore about your work is that you have this very developed craftsmanship through knitting that you apply in this completely original and inspired way through high contrast darning and mending. It’s as if you are honoring the tradition of the craft while simultaneously pushing it forward into a contemporary and more innovative space. I know this an impossible question but I’m going to ask it anyway: Do you think a crafter needs to first learn the rules before he/ she breaks them?

This is indeed a difficult question! My initial reaction was: Absolutely! Learning the rules allows you to understand how things fit together, but it will also allow you to start questioning tradition and see whether you can push yourself in new directions. However, it can be very liberating to start playing with a craft without knowing anything about the baggage that may come with it. It is a completely different way of pushing boundaries, and you’d soon learn whether certain things work or not. For me personally though, I enjoy researching how things are done traditionally, and compare and contrast techniques. It’s like having a discussion with the past, and on some things we’d agree, and others we wouldn’t.

I see your work as central to the Slow Fashion movement because it forces us to reconsider usage. But then it goes beyond usage and basic repair to embrace the creative opportunities in darning through basic design elements like color, scale, texture and composition. I find this really pushes the work to the intersection of fine art and craft. You not only repair the garment but you celebrate the usage and the opportunity for design. Can you talk about this embrace and the importance of this angle in Slow Fashion?

As my practice has grown so organically, I have developed my creative language at an equally slow pace. I’ve always been drawn to the used and imperfect, as opposed to the new and perfect. Clothes that you like wearing rarely stay looking new and perfect for long, so it makes sense to me to embrace and celebrate the fact that garments have a history, and to use a repair opportunity as a way to be creative. If we can make a change in what people find acceptable to wear, and are happy to wear something that no longer looks pristine, then that removes a reason why some people feel they need to replace their clothes so frequently.

When did you learn how to knit? Was it love at first stitch or did your knitting evolve more slowly or labored over time?

I was originally taught to knit at primary school, and also by my mum, although I remember not enjoying it much when I first started out. I made a little scarf for a teddy bear. It had brown and cream stripes and a cable. The tension was way too tight, so every stitch was a struggle. I then didn’t knit until I was an adult, and things went surprisingly easy for the beginning. I never looked back since!

Slow Fashion Citizen: Tom Van Deijnen

Who do you consider to be the most exciting makers in the Slow Fashion movement today? Why?

There are a few exciting makers I’d like to mention, although some of them you may not consider a maker as such, but each and every one of them provides me with lots of inspiration and food for thought, hoping to be able to implement some of their practices into my own:

Manonik (Yoshiyuki Minami): Manonik makes amazing clothes, the cloth for which he weaves himself, and sometimes also spins the threads. His weaving is shaped according to the pattern pieces required, which reduces waste considerably. All materials seem to be sourced from small, independent producers such as Sally Fox’s beautiful cotton, or made especially by or for him.

Gridjunky (Jerome Sevilla): Jerome recycles a lot of old clothes, and documents his processes meticulously. Sweaters are unraveled and the yarn reknit into new garments; jeans are carefully picked apart, and every bit, including the sewing thread, will be used again. I like his considered and mathematical approach to creating new items from the old and undervalued. [ED NOTE: More on Jerome here]

Logo Removal Services (Miriam Dym): I first met Miriam at the first MENDERS symposium in 2012, and we got on really well. She does a variety of slow textile related things, but I picked Logo Removal Services because I love the subtle subversive message of excising unwanted brand names, logos, tags, stains and marks, and replacing them with new shapes in fresh colours and contrasting threads. It makes a mass-produced item completely individual.

Bridget Harvey: Bridget is another person I first met at the MENDERS symposium, and we’ve worked on a few things together since. Bridget makes me think about the interventional act of repairing, and what that means for the object repaired: by repairing similar objects in many different ways (for instance, a series of broken plates are repaired by using glue, plasters, wire, tape, etc) the use and function of the object is questioned and re-contextualised.

Craftivist Collective (Sarah Corbett): Sarah might not be considered a maker as such, although she’s definitely making waves as the founder of the Craftivist Collective. Through this collective, Sarah shows people how they can use craft as a tool for gentle activism aimed at influencing long-term change.

I’ve noticed that lately you seem to be collaborating with larger brands, institutions, or shops. Was this an intentional step for you to move into darning in a more public space or was this just a natural extension of your work teaching, exhibiting, and knitting? I love that you’re taking the work to a larger audience through your collaborations, particularly the work with The New Craftsmen.

Although not an intentional next step, in the back of my mind it’s something I have dreamt about doing for a while. By being able to work at “the next level” I hope I can share my way of looking at the world with a wider audience, and make repaired clothes and other items something acceptable and normal. Working with, for example, The New Craftsmen, let’s me lure people into my world, which allows me to show them that repairs can be beautiful, thoughtful, and made with great skill and integrity.

If you could identify one most important aspect about Visible Mending what would it be? What’s the most single most important aspect of this work for you personally?

I think the most important aspect about Visible Mending is to inspire others, and be inspired by others. This is why I write blog posts, run workshops and take repair commissions. In this way it’s possible to strike up a conversation, and explain to people why I want to repair things, and at the same time I can learn from others, hear their stories and concerns around slow and fast fashion. I love it when people share their visibly mended items on social media, and I would encourage everybody to do so, and use the hashtag #visiblemending. This way you can inspire others, and be inspired by others.

What’s your advice for folks who are just starting to darn or mend? Any tips or encouragement you’d offer?

I think you need to give yourself some time to learn the skills needed to darn, and don’t be too critical of your own work. Start with something manageable, and if you’re not sure, do a little practice run on a scrap of fabric. Look at other visible mending examples. See if there’s a Repair Café or other communal mending groups and join in, either as a volunteer, or to learn how to repair.

Three favorite tools for knitting or darning that you cannot live without?

Apart from the obvious such as the tools needed to do the job: My notebook to write down how I’ve done something, makes notes and sketches and keep track of things (I’ve started using the Bullet Journal method); my library of mending and knitting books, which are mostly about techniques. I have relatively few books with actual knitting patterns in them. A large stash of wool yarns and threads for making and mending!

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Thank you SO MUCH, Tom. I have this daydream that we’ll get to teach together someday so I’m going to cross my fingers that will actually happen. Until then, I’ll keep applauding your work from across the Atlantic.

Katrina Rodabaugh is an author, artist and slow-fashion advocate. Visit her website www.katrinarodabaugh.com or follow her on Instagram at @katrinarodabaugh

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Photos © Tom Van Deijnen, used with permission