Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 3

Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 3

So I have some terrific links for you guys this week, but what I also would really like to do is hear from YOU! There’s been so much shared all over the web throughout Slow Fashion October — in comments on the posts here and on the @slowfashionoctober highlights at IG, on blogs all over, and of course the entirety of the #slowfashionoctober feed. What have been your favorite posts and moments and ideas so far? Please link to your favorites in the comments below!

– I’ve read this post three times it’s so good: “This is what I’ll carry with me when I wear my sweater in the wide world. Secret, humming power.” (photo above, left)

– Felicia Semple on trying to define Slow Fashion from the consumers’ point of view: “All we can do is our best; to be informed and make choices that make the most sense on any given day. We need to accept that often we will make those choices in uncertainty, but strive to take responsibility for them regardless.”

– “I want to talk about what I sometimes feel is the elephant in the room when it comes to Slow Fashion. Not the longevity of the garments but the longevity of Slow Fashion as a movement.”

– “Apparently I paid a lot for marketing

– “Every day I do just one thing before bed — press a seam, sew a block, mend. I make tiny progress and I end my day with what I love.”

– “To others it’s just a white shirt but to me it represents what can be achieved in small steps and finding focus in a chaotic season.”

– “A thing I know is that making for my favorite people is a way to take care of them.”

– “Sewing has given me a lot: a mental capacity for new skills … an appreciation of quality work … and a moral sense of responsibility for all people the world over who make clothes — because some of us do it in our homes for ourselves and some of us do it in unsafe factories for other people. Sewing taught me to care about that as more than just an idle worry.” (photo above, right)

– “Hoard your clothes, kids!!!

– “Even if you only make one garment in one year, that’s something. And even if you knit one scarf, that’s something too. No shame if you cannot make your entire wardrobe; you still have a place in slow fashion.”


Hey, if you’re in Middle Tennessee, I hope we’ll see you at Fiber in the ‘Boro tomorrow. And I hope you have a marvelous weekend no matter where you are!


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Walking a mile in self-made shoes


New Favorites: Hoods

New Favorites: Hoods

Eventually it will cool off, right? I’m not actually complaining — don’t get me wrong — this Indian Summer suits me just fine. It looks like Fall but feels like the sort of summer weather I can get behind, and because it’s October I can get away with boots if I feel like it. But it does feel very faraway to think about needing a hat. Here’s the thing: As much as I love to knit hats, I have trouble wearing them. I’ve only ever had one that didn’t leave my hair destroyed, so once I put on a hat, there’s no taking it off. Which is why I’ve always wondered if I wouldn’t prefer a hood, which has the added benefit of protecting your neck at the same time! Norah Gaughan’s pattern from her new book (Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook, which is now out, by the way) got me mulling it again, and brought me to the others I’ve saved in the past:

TOP: Sourcebook Balaclava by Norah Gaughan is the coolest dickey in history

MIDDLE: Icicle Hood by Kari-Helene Rane has an Amelia Earhart vibe about it and I especially like it worn unbuttoned

BOTTOM: F627 Hooded Neckwarmer by Vanessa Ewing (free pattern) is a little more Hunger Games


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

Walking a mile in self-made shoes

EDITOR’S NOTE: Back in June, I posted a link to an interview on the Big Cartel blog with a staffer, Mollie Silva, who was using her art grant to learn shoemaking. It’s a subject many, many slow fashion advocates and Slow Fashion October participants have expressed interest in, so I asked Mollie if she would write a bit for us about her experience learning the craft. I hope to score a pair of Mollie’s turquoise oxfords one of these days, and to someday follow in her footsteps. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) Meanwhile, here’s Mollie—

Walking a mile in self-made shoes

Ten months ago I walked in to a handmade boot shop in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, and asked a seventy-seven-year-old bootmaker if he’d be willing to take an apprentice under his wings. Ten months and one cross-country flight later, I walked in to Brooklyn Shoe Space in New York for a shoe patternmaking class with some of the most talented young handmade shoemakers in the country. But this time I walked in wearing my own handmade shoes.

By day I work for a scrappy independent ecommerce company called Big Cartel. And for almost a year now my nights and weekends have been spent learning the craft of handmade shoes. A year ago, I could have told you I loved shoes and that I’d always had an interest in learning to design and make them. I couldn’t have told you that I’d now have made ten pairs for myself and am on my way to making them for others too. Growing up on a farm, I learned at an early age the importance of knowing where and how the things you consume in your life are made. I’ve always had a respect and awareness around that, and as a result, a love for handmade and as often as possible locally sourced goods. It’s what fuels my passion for my work at Big Cartel, supporting artists and independent makers, and what led to my seeking out a better way to shop for shoes.

For years I had looked for a way to learn the craft of shoemaking. There are traditional routes like fashion-focused design schools and footwear schools. But they’re expensive, a huge time commitment, and just never felt like quite the right fit for me. I learn best by doing. So when I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my employee art grant, a perk all employees at Big Cartel get, I started to rethink about my path to shoemaking. I searched for a local cobbler on Yelp that might be able to get me started and found Stewart Boot, a handmade western boot shop just a couple miles from me in South Tucson. Victor Borg, the owner, and all the other talented craftsmen at Stewart know boots. It’s what they’ve spent the majority of their lives doing, as it takes a lifetime to do the work they’re able to do. They are truly artisans.

I felt way in over my head on day one. And honestly, I still feel that way often. But along the way I’ve learned an enormous respect for having a craft, the patience it takes to learn it, and the humbling experience of undertaking learning a trade that takes a lifetime. I have questions every day and I expect to for as long as I continue to make shoes. And from the people I’ve met along the way I’ve learned that everyone else always has those questions too. The important part is to start, and once you start, to keep going.

The challenges to learning shoemaking are many. First, there is no easy way to learn. The information you need to know isn’t widely available online or even in traditional learning environments. The old way of apprenticeship has slowly died off and along with it people that are able to teach. It’s why I’m in Brooklyn this week learning patternmaking. It won’t be the last time I have to seek out resources beyond my hometown either. Second, components are hard to find. Manufacturing is still shrouded in a cloud of mystery and secrecy that makes it tough for a newcomer to know where to go to get the materials they need. Luckily, there are people working to change that. More and more resources are becoming available almost every day and veteran shoemakers and young shoemakers passionate about the craft are working to share knowledge, make it accessible, and ultimately share the love of handmade shoes with as many people as possible.

There’s a new garnered interest in shoppers as well around knowing where their things come from and an even greater appreciation for knowing the maker. It’s a personal connection that makes having or wearing that item that much more special. And that’s what keeps us, as makers, not only in business but passionate about what we do. The feeling of wearing my own handmade shoes and being asked where I got them never gets old. Nor does the feeling of making something that is so treasured for someone else. There’s a personal story in every pair — even if that story was having to pick stitching out by hand and start over because you forgot to rethread your machine with the right color before starting.

Despite the challenges, I can tell you it’s worth it. I am just as passionate about making shoes today as I was on day one. More passionate. If you really love something, you will find people willing to help you along the way. Just start somewhere, anywhere. In ten months you might find yourself flying across the country with wonderful people, sharing, learning, and being just as excited as you are about what started as your weekend handmade hobby.
Mollie Silva

Shoes and Craft — a shoemaker’s blog about shoemaking
Shoemaking Tutorials — video channel
Brooklyn Shoe Space — in-person classes and co-working space + blog
Bespoke Shoemaking — a comprehensive guidebook


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Why I make my own clothes

Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

In all honesty, Make Your Own Basics is my favorite series I’ve done so far on the blog. (Scroll through the whole collection here.) I have a deep and abiding love of basics, but I also increasingly find basics to be the most rewarding things to make. As proud as I am of my trophy sweaters, it makes me really happy to wear clothes so classic and hardworking that nobody would ever think to ask me if I made them. (The new black cardigan is the epitome.) My number one goal in life is to someday be wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt and have made them both.

I just wanted to say all of that at the outset of this installment because we’re in the midst of Slow Fashion October and I think it’s an important point! So with that said …

I’m of the mind that every good wardrobe requires a good shawl-collar cardigan, the coziest of garments and useful even for warm-climate people who find themselves at a beach bonfire on occasion. It’s just a thing you have to have! My love for big slouchy cable cardigans is well documented — my beloved Bellows, which I wear multiple times a week in my studio; the incomparable Channel Cardigan, which I’m currently knitting after more than two years of yarn deliberations for what I expect to be a lifelong companion; in fact, a whole raft of shawl-collar standouts from BT. But this is Basics, and so while I think you could argue that any of those would actually qualify, let’s talk about these simple stockinette gems today:

TOP: Georgetown by Hannah Fettig is equally appropriate at work or with pj’s in front of the fire

BOTTOM: Fredericton by Kiyomi Burgin, with it’s two-strand marl and contrast edge, has that classic professorial flair; leather buttons recommended!

See also the previously noted Fable and Killybegs.


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

Why I make my own clothes

Why I make my own clothes

To kick off Handmade week of Slow Fashion October — being as we’re nearing the five-year anniversary of this blog and with so many new people reading all the time — I thought it might be good to take a step back, reintroduce myself, and talk about why I make my own clothes. Or why I make as many of my own clothes as I do, and why I care where the rest of them come from. It’s a subject I’ve talked about in a lot of essays and interviews and podcasts elsewhere, and that I write about as a gradual and omnipresent matter-of-course on this blog, but I don’t know if I’ve ever tried to put it into a single blog post before. It’s really, really long but I hope you’ll find it worth your time, and I look forward to your thoughts! So here goes—

I come to this naturally — you’ll see it’s been an evolutionary process for me, but one that has everything to do with how I’ve lived my whole life, and that I trace back to my roots. My parents both grew up on the farm. My mom and her sisters made their own clothes, and she made ours when we were little. She raised me the way she was raised, passing along all of the domestic skills she had learned and used in her daily life on the farm — from hand-stitching to canning to whatever. But as I was a child of the suburbs, I didn’t use it much. Other than sewing. I was obsessed with clothes from the time I was a toddler (I still remember the day I told her that after careful consideration I had decided I no longer wanted to wear patent-leather maryjanes) and in the ’80s, we were all about tampering with our clothing. Between “Pretty in Pink” and Madonna, cutting, recombining, embellishing and otherwise personalizing one’s clothes was all the rage. I’ll spare you the tales of the pegged men’s 501s and hospital scrubs turned into Hammer pants, but I also had proper sewing skills, and wowed my 8th-grade sewing teacher by showing up with a pattern and fabric to make a popover anorak with a front placket and hood. (It was navy blue duck, well-made, as I remember it, and I wore it so proudly!)

But before that, I was a little kid in and of the ’70s — when Earth Day was invented and community recycling began with newspaper drives at the elementary schools. Watching Saturday morning television meant being treated not just to Schoolhouse Rock, but the crying Indian and “give a hoot, don’t pollute.” We were raised to be environmentalists, and that has never felt like a passing fad to me. A constant uphill battle, yes, with some eras more in tune than others, but not something anyone who believes in it ever stops believing or caring about.

There are countless ways in which this informs my life. As a print designer in my first years out of school, I would never have considered using anything other than recycled papers. At Fringe Supply Co., we almost never use paper bags — 95% of orders are packaged in muslin bags which I count on you to reuse, and you won’t find any promotional trash in there either. I’m not perfect, by any stretch — and I never mean to preach when talking about these things. I’m just offering a few small examples in an attempt to describe who I am.

Interior design is another lifelong fascination, and for a time I was editing and writing books on the subject, but I’ve never liked store-bought furniture. Every home of mine has been chiefly furnished from garage sales, flea markets and hand-me-downs (or pass-arounds between my sister and me and some of our friends), with just a little bit of Ikea thrown in here and there. I buy couches and mattresses new, and have recently bought two small pieces directly from local makers, but just about everything else comes with its own past life and stories to tell.

And yet until a few years ago, I hadn’t found a way to approach my closet with the same mindset as the rest of my life. I’ve never had the patience for thrifting — although Ann has me thinking — and my love of fashion made me gluttonous for store-bought clothes … as it does. (The very opposite of how I feel about furniture.) When I learned to knit, it made me want to sew again, and I also started following or hanging around with some extremely thoughtful makers for whom making their clothes was about more than just the clothes. I’ve written an ode to some of them here, and I am so indebted to them and the rest of this community that opened my eyes to the rewards of the effort. It’s been a slow and gradual evolution in my brain and in my closet these last five years, but at this point there’s rarely a day where I’m not wearing at least one item I made — something that seemed inconceivable to me only a couple of years ago — and I’m working on the “directly from local makers” part, as well.

It might have taken me a lot longer to get here, but for me, there’s no going back.

I make my clothes for many reasons:

1) It’s fun. I love the entire process: hunting for inspiration and/or patterns, choosing yarn or fabric, plotting out my garment … and I love the time spent doing the actual sewing or knitting. I work very long hours, usually seven days a week, and have very little free time — so that time is precious. I snatch an hour to knit before bed when I can, or a few hours to sew on a Saturday once in awhile, and it’s that time that feeds my soul — and where I feel the most like myself.

2) It fills me with pride and satisfaction. I love learning, and love being capable of things. Knitting and sewing provide endless opportunities to expand and explore new skills, and the feeling of finishing a garment and putting it on defies description. It’s an awesome experience — and one no purchased garment can ever hold a candle to.

3) I’m a control freak. I’ve spent my whole life with ideas in my head about how I want to dress, and an inability to match it with what’s available in stores. I’m also, like pretty much every human alive, not a perfect match for the standardized measurements that mass-market clothes are made to. I have broad shoulders and a small chest, a long torso and arms for my height. It was great in the ’80s when everything was giant on top anyway, but otherwise challenging. And I loathe plastics and synthetics, which are taking over the world. Literally. By making my own clothes, I have control not only over the color and fiber content of my clothes, but the fit as well. It takes time to develop the skills to modify things to one’s liking, to understand how a yarn will behave, and so on, but exploring all of that is part of the joy — and again, the payoff is beyond worth it.

4) I know who made my clothes. When I was first hoarding store-bought clothes as a teenager, they were at least made in the USA. My mother taught me to look for that on labels when I was a child, and in those days 80% or 90% of the clothes sold in the US were made here, so it wasn’t that difficult. But as the entire garment industry moved offshore in recent decades, it became nearly impossible. The best of the big brands who have overseas factories cranking out crappy clothes at earth-damaging rates of production might insist on working only with factories that abide by local labor laws, but the whole point of manufacturing in those countries is they don’t really have much in the way of labor laws. And they also can’t know if the factory is subcontracting behind their back. The fact is, when you buy a garment in a chain store, you don’t have any way of knowing where it was really made, by whom, in what kind of conditions, and how poorly they may have been paid. When I’ve made something myself, I know nobody was harmed in its making. (We’ll talk a lot more about all of this next week, as well as the challenge of knowing where your fabric and yarn come from.)

5) I value every garment. It’s not just about pride — although, again, there is that. When you’re making clothes yourself, you (learn to) take your time in deciding what to make and with what fabric or yarn, and consider how it will fit into your wardrobe and your life. You may spend hours or months in the process of making a single garment, and you don’t think of it as disposable. Each garment is a treasure and a time capsule — a record of where you were literally/physically and skill-wise as you were making it. Just like growing your own food changes your feelings about what you eat, making your own clothes changes your relationship to getting dressed.

6) I no longer have a taste for store-bought clothes. The end result of all of the above — of having a closet full of clothes that each have a story to tell — is that what I once spent so much time and money pursuing, I no longer have any interest in. Store-bought clothes feel as soulless to me as store-bought furniture always has. For that — and for the fact that I no longer ever set foot in a mall — I am so grateful.

A few years in, my closet is not 100% handmade or known-origins — maybe more like 50%. I have clothes left over from my shopping days that I will wear as long as they last, and then find ways to repurpose. There are still times at present (although rarer all the time) where I buy a garment that’s the equivalent of an Ikea piece in my house. But it’s called Slow Fashion for a reason. Nobody’s closet was built in a day, and rebuilding takes years. Fortunately, it’s a ton of fun getting there.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 2

We’ve still got the weekend to talk about the Long-Worn theme for Slow Fashion October this week, which is a good thing because I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! Hopefully everyone saw the two related posts here this week — 21st-century thrifting and My week in the Craftlands — and both have loads of great comments on them at this point, so click back and take a look at those, as well as the contributions I’ve featured on @slowfashionoctober so far this week, and my post about how to wear worn clothes without looking shabby.

More highlights from the great discussion—

– So many amazing heirlooms and hand-me-downs have been shared on the #slowfashionoctober feed throughout the week. I want to mention that the aran sweater Jess’s grandmother knitted is from a 1967 Bernat pattern book called The Bernat Book of Irish Knits and has made two separate appearances on this blog – here (top right in the bottom photo grouping) and here (no. 5). It’s always amazing how many people say “I had that book” or “I had that sweater.” I have the sense it was the Boxy of its time! And it’s fun to imagine a single pattern being such a huge hit in a pre-Ravelry world.

– I’ve been falling down on the job with the My First Sweater series, so I especially loved Dianna’s blog post about hers, in the Long-Worn context.

– “It’s amazing to put on a piece of clothing that was made decades ago, worn by a woman I love and respect so much, and passed on to me.”

– “My involvement with slow fashion is organic to the way I’m trying to live my life – in a way that reflects my values and ethics and is mindful.  It is also a way to assert individuality in an increasingly homogenized world.” (Don’t miss @proper_tension on IG — I love her style!)

– “I’m not sure how precisely I define ‘slow fashion,’ but for me a big part of it is about being thoughtful — thinking through what I need, being willing to wait for it (either because of the time it takes to make it or the time it takes to save for it), and then committing to keep it for a long time.

– “Last night I started Kate Fletcher’s new book Craft of Use, and I’m excited, amazed, emboldened, and more. …” — omg I’ve lost track of who posted this! Please raise your hand if it was you!

– “However, don’t wash your clothes unless they need it.”


– “I often hang on to quality pieces that still fit me well once I get tired of them. More often than not, I’ve found the item gets resurrected after a break in the back of the closet and becomes an oft-worn favourite all over again. … I’ve been thankful so many times that I didn’t pitch great clothes in a fit of closet purging.”

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about and would love to discuss is the question of whether SMALL matters. This was actually one of my themes last year, and I’ve said already I feel a bit repentant for having suggested — as is so often done — that a closet clean-out is an important starting point. I’ve long felt that, especially with anything that was potentially sweatshop goods, the best way to honor that sewers work is to not banish it but to put it to use. The more I think about it, and the more I know about what happens to donated clothes, the more I see the capsule concept conflated with slow fashion (there are lots of people making fast-fashion capsule wardrobes — they may overlap, but they’re not the same thing), the more I wonder about this. There’s no question that simply buying less — participating less in the fast-fashion marketplace — is a good thing. But what about our obligation to those clothes we already own? What if — IDEALISTIC RHETORICAL SCENARIO ALERT — all you buy is small-batch, locally woven, organically-grown fiber clothes made by lovely people whose small business you’re supporting with your purchase? What if — EXTREME EXAMPLE TO PROVE A POINT —  you’re stylist-designer Rachel Zoe out buying up and preserving decades of significant vintage garments and preserving them in your immense closets, thereby honoring them and keeping them from the landfill. What I’m saying is buying less is critical, absolutely, and what we buy is critical, but a smaller wardrobe isn’t automatically a more virtuous one, is it? Who was it that made the great point on IG about having more clothes to choose from meant each garment got worn less often and lasted longer. Fair point? Discuss!


– Knitting for victory (thx, Kelbournes)

– If you loved Jane Richmond’s sweater from the Cowichan Knitalong last year, it’s now a pattern!

Thanks for all the incredible input this week, everyone — have a fantastic weekend!


The images up top coincide with links above or posts I’ve regrammed this week; click through for the originals — top lefttop rightmiddle leftmiddle rightbottom leftbottom right.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: My week in the Craftlands

My week in the Craftlands

My week in the Craftlands

I got home from my weeklong, double-header trip Tuesday night, planning to write a bit about it for yesterday’s post. But in addition to being exhausted and wanting to hang out with my husband, my mind was just too full from the trip. I needed a minute.

I wrote a very short Craftlands post about Knitting With Company back in June, when I was first invited to be a featured guest at their October event in Minnesota. It overlapped with the Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle — an every-other-year occurrence that I had planned on attending since missing the 2014 event — and I decided to do both, because I’m a crazy person. But sometimes crazy pays off, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss either of these events — especially because both wound up feeding my Slow Fashion October brain in various ways.

Knitting With Company is ostensibly just an opportunity to hang out in a lodge setting and knit with some well-known designers — and a bunch of other wonderful knitters — for a few days. While there are no classes, though, there are talks by each of the four headliners (for lack of a better word), which are always Julie Hoover and Catherine Lowe plus two special guests. At this one, that was me and Norah Gaughan, who is as delightful as can be. I absolutely loved hearing Julie, Catherine and Norah’s talks. Each discussed their path as a designer, showed examples of their work and talked about their motivation and their process — each of them so different as designers and presenters, but so exceptional when it comes to the thoughtfulness and knowledge and experience they pour into their patterns. For my part, this being October, I wanted to find a way to talk about slow fashion and Slotober without it being a “lecture” in any sense. So I decided to show slides of 12 garments from my wardrobe (knitted, sewn and mended) and talk about the lessons I’ve learned from them — skills, sentimental value, longevity — that variously highlighted slow fashion principles while also, hopefully, maybe, giving everyone something to think about with regard to choosing projects and yarns well. (Mostly a learning-from-my-mistakes scenario!) So for me, those few days were casual and relaxing yet thought-provoking and inspiring.

And of course, I like knitters and enjoy being surrounded by them — and especially enjoy being a curiosity to the other guests in an establishment. I witnessed one of my favorite knitterly moments ever, too. A woman named Tammi, who I was instantly fond of, had just finished Julie’s Ludlow scarf  pattern and wanted to know if Julie would be in a photo with her and her scarf. Julie hates being in pictures but is one of the best photographers around, and so she offered to take Tammi’s FO photos down by the water. Not only was it amazing — the very idea of the photgraphically gifted designer shooting a knitter’s FO photos — but Tammi owned that little impromptu photo shoot like nothing I’ve ever seen. She was striking poses and smiling radiantly and my heart fell out in a puddle as I watched from the balcony. And yes, Julie also submitted to the joint selfie. Everyone was just lovely, and if any of the attendees are reading this: I loved meeting you.

My week in the Craftlands

Nordic Knitting Conference was the opposite of Knitting With Company. Held at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, it’s a tightly packed schedule of classes and lectures, and I definitely nerded out on how focused and academic it was. Arriving late, I only got to take three classes: one on the Skolt Sami* people and their unique style of colorwork; one on a specific Sami woman named Skaite-Maria who was something of a minimalist going her own way; and a looser survey of Nordic styles and traditions and their influences. I ate up every minute of it and can’t wait to go again in 2018.

My week in the Craftlands

But here’s the thing — between the two events, I found myself in the midst of multiple tangential conversations about how, historically, much of one’s wealth was tied up (no pun intended) in the textiles one owned. Think of pirates stealing people’s chests of cloth and clothing, or of the traditions of trousseaus and hope chests. We talk a lot about how many fewer items of clothing people used to have in their closets (in, say, the first half of the 20th century), but long before that people spun and wove and tatted and knitted and crocheted. Farm folk pored over their lace borders and collars, tucking the finest of them away for their future lives, and rich people invested in brocades and tapestries and bespoke clothing. What we take for granted and amass thoughtlessly and toss off without a care, our ancestors placed incredible value on.

In the Nordic survey class, the teacher, Susan Strawn, talked a lot about museum collections — how they are built and cataloged and viewed. She mentioned that what gets donated tend to be special occasion clothes, worn once and not all that descriptive — wedding gowns, christening garments. What academics and researchers and curators long for are the everyday clothes that were worn and darned and have stories to tell. (I could talk about that green child’s sweater up there for hours.) Isn’t that what we keep saying in #slowfashionoctober? What I’ve learned from my clothes these past few years — what I was driving at in my talk and have written about so often — is I want every article of clothing in my closet to have a story to tell.

I also got to thinking, over the course of those three classes, about mending — and the fact that people not only made their clothes, historically, but that they were conceived with wear and mending in mind. The Sami mittens are one great example among many: The teacher of my two Sami classes, Laura Ricketts, was talking about the braided cord that hangs from each Sami mitten, which is used to secure them (to your waistband, your reindeer, whatever!) when you need to take them off for any reason. When she first began knitting replicas of mittens she’d seen in museums, for teaching purposes, she thought it would be clever to use her cast-on tail for the braid, to save time and yarn. No no, the locals told her — it’s attached separately, because if the braid gets damaged or worn, you want to be able to replace it without compromising the mitten itself.

There was an older Norwegian woman in the Nordic traditions class — a museum volunteer, who was dynamic and saucy and had the most awesome voice and accent. She was a child in Nazi-occupied Norway and had heart-wrenching stories to tell about life during the war, including the ways people had of removing the lower part of a sleeve to re-knit it when the cuffs wore bare, sewing clothes for the children from the worn or outgrown garments of the grown-ups, her father’s suit that was “so shiny and so thin” from wear. We, the general public, do not know how to darn our socks or elbows, or re-knit our cuffs. Store-bought clothes rarely even come with extra buttons stitched inconspicuously to the front placket or side seam anymore, because who ever replaces them? A shirt with a lost or broken button is one for the donation bin — where, ironically, the lost or broken button will likely get it sorted into the landfill pile rather than resold in the charity shop.

I feel this more intensely all the time: It’s not just knitting, what we’re doing. Not just sewing. Not just mending. It runs so much deeper than that.

Also: I got a lot of knitting done. ;)

My week in the Craftlands

*You may know the Sami as Laplanders, but that’s apparently considered a pejorative term. The things you learn!

PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska