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—
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.