Craftlands: Slow Fashion retreats

Craftlands: Slow Fashion retreats

One of the sure signs that the Slow Fashion movement is growing all the time is the number of slow-fashion-focused retreats that have been cropping up. At present, I’m aware of 4 that are happening in the coming months, and no doubt you’ll know of others — please do mention them in the comments! Some of these are sold out while others still have openings, but I believe all of them have wait lists and will also be repeated. So make your interest known to them!

Slow Fashion Retreat / Saco, Maine / July 22-27, 2018
Launched by Samantha Lindgren of A Gathering of Stitches last summer, this was the first one I heard of. Sam organizes 30 students into smaller groups that rotate between in-depth classes taught by Cal Patch (garment sewing), Katrina Rodabaugh (mending) and Jessica Lewis Stevens (dyeing), so everyone gets to learn everything. There’s also a clothing swap, guest speakers and more. Katrina says, “It’s held in a summer camp venue in Saco, Maine … we have a private classroom that’s literally across the street from the ocean.”

Slow Textiles Retreat / Hudson Valley, New York / September 21-23, 2018
Katrina and fellow dyer Sasha Duerr hosted a retreat last fall, which they’re repeating this year in Katrina’s own barn-studio. This one is more intimate, at 12 guests, and the focus is on foraging for and working with natural dye plants as well as incorporating dyeing and stitching/mending into a slow-fashion practice. In other words, a serious consideration of our relationship to the textiles we wear and how to make it as meaningful and long-lasting as possible.

A Study in Slow Fashion / Oceana County, Michigan / August 23-27, 2018
This will be the first retreat from newly formed Kinship, and will explore various aspects of building a handmade wardrobe, all in a gorgeous yurt in rustic Western Michigan.

New England Fiber Arts Summit / Wing & A Prayer Farm, Vermont / Spring 2019
Tammy White has been hosting small-scale gatherings on her beautiful Vermont fiber farm the past few seasons and has one in the works for next year that’s slow-fashion-centric, with an incredible lineup of teachers, but that’s not quite public knowledge yet. So I’m just giving you a heads-up on this one! Watch @wingandaprayerfarm for further news.

I’ve been invited to attend or guest/speak/teach at a few of these and have yet to be able to make it, but I hope one day my schedule and a gem of a retreat like this will line up!

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PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Lost and found at Stitches West

Photos courtesy of Katrina Rodabaugh

Lost and found at Stitches West

Lost and found at Stitches West

My whirlwind trip to Stitches West was a punch in the gut and a slap on the back. Flying into Oakland — looking out the airplane window across the whole of the bay — was more emotional than I expected. And then it was like Old Home Week being back in that convention hall, at the first knitting convention I ever attended as a knitter, the first I ever sold at as a vendor. It was a joy to see so many of my industry friends, longtime customers, new faces, IG acquaintances, former students, well-loved totes and Field Bags, and so on and so on. I can’t say thank-you enough to everyone who stopped to say hello to me. It can be a weirdly isolating thing, writing a blog and/or running an online business, and to have people with actual faces take the time to stop and tell me what they like about what I’m doing is the just the sort of encouragement a girl needs sometimes, you know? So thank you from the bottom of my heart — and of course thanks also to everyone who bought off the Fringe shelf in Verb’s beautiful booth. And to the Verb crew for making me feel like part of the family,

This might come as a two-part surprise to you, but A) I knitted some log cabin mitts and B) I bought some yarn. The California Rambouillet, Range, that Verb has used for their pretty Log Cabin Mitts kits, which is what I was knitting in the booth, was such a beautiful and surprising yarn that I had to have a few little skeins. And sitting next to the indigo-marl Pioneer of theirs that I’ve been coveting from afar left me incapable of leaving without any. I couldn’t decide what I might want to make of it, garment-wise, so I was a good girl and bought a single skein. For now. From my dear friend Brooke of Sincere Sheep, I bought naturally dyed US Cormo, special stuff, for my niece’s hat. And I also couldn’t resist buying a skein of Plucky Knitter’s new Yakpaka. (If Susan Anderson hadn’t been cleaned out of the worsted weight of her Wisconsin Woolen Spun by the time I got there, some of that would likely have followed me home as well.)

On Preview Night, in YOTH’s booth, I went straight to the display of Veronika’s project for the #fringeandfriendslogalong (FO post coming soon) and the yarn she’d used for it. Dubbed “Neighbor,” it’s a collaboration between YOTH and Abundant Earth Fiber mill in Washington state. I have a couple of skeins of Abundant Earth yarns in my stash — one I purchased at Tolt long ago, and one I kept from that time I sold a tiny batch of Wensleydale she’d milled. In this case, YOTH had dyed the wool and Abundant Lydia had milled it, and it was completely irresistible to me, in a slubby, true faded-denim blue. So I bought a SQ (I know!) plus one skein of the marl. And on the way out of the hall after the show that night, along with so many other vendors, learned of the terrible news about Abundant’s booth. On their drive down for the show, their entire trailer had been stolen off the back of their truck, with all of their yarn inside. It was so heartbreaking to read the sign posted in their otherwise empty booth explaining the situation. But it ended with “we’ll be back tomorrow” and I’m so impressed with how they handled it. Rather than letting the booth sit empty and licking their wounds, they filled the display panels with photos and text, spent the time telling people about what they do (from the mill to their new Wool Tinctures) and taking online orders. Such a brilliant show of resilience — my hat’s off to them.

It’s never possible to sum up a thing like a weekend among knitters (and there’s never enough time to see everyone!), but suffice to say I’m grateful for the experience. I only wish I had taken more photos!

p.s. If you’re the lovely woman who embroidered the Woollelujah! tote pictured above, please raise your hand — I didn’t catch your name!

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PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Scene at bought at Rhinebeck

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Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

Got back from Rhinebeck late Monday night — more properly known as New York State Sheep and Wool Festival — exhausted from the fun of seeing so many beloved people and meeting so many new ones. I know I say this a lot, but it’s always a pleasure to get to put faces to some of the many names I see on comments, orders and Instagram accounts, and to hear from you what it is you enjoy about this blog, so thank you to everyone who stopped to introduce themselves! And also to everyone who shopped the Fringe Supply Co. shelves in the Harrisville booth — it was such a mob scene I never even got to take a picture of it!

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

My housemates* and I arrived a day early this year, which gave us a chance to hike up Overlook Mountain (amazing) and wander the streets of Hudson (adorable). The festival, for me, was pretty much just like last time: totally overwhelming on Saturday, relaxing and lovely on Sunday. It was quite warm — I was sleeveless both days — but no complaints, after I nearly froze last time. I bought a spectacular sheepskin from Sawkill Farm after having been close to getting one from her newsletter awhile back, and a sweater quantity of Harrisville’s denim-y blue wool heather they made special for the show. And in Germantown Sunday eve, I bought a gigantic vintage colorwork cardigan that was hanging on a rack on the sidewalk at Luddite Antiques, which I plan to bundle up in for porch knitting now that the weather in Nashville seems to have finally turned a corner. (Knock wood.) All in all, a most excellent trip.

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

The same heartfelt thank-you goes to everyone who stopped by our booth at Fiber in the ’Boro on Saturday, which I’m so sad I had to miss! I love that sweet festival so much. As lovely as Rhinebeck is, I can’t say this often enough: There are wonderfully charming sheep and wool festivals all over this country and around the globe. Clara Parkes keeps a sizable list but I’m sure not even that is comprehensive! So please seek them out, have a blast, pet some sheep, and support your local/regional farmers and fiber folk.

p.s. Bravo to this gentlemen who was spotted carefully guarding his partner’s Field Bag at the festival while he napped and she shopped—

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

*Pictured left to right in the group photo: @fancyamber, me, @knitknotes, @jen_beeman, @kategagnonosborn, @fancyjaime, @courtneykelley

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PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: What I Know About Rhinebeck

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What I Know About: Rhinebeck (with Kay Gardiner)

What I Know About: Rhinebeck (with Kay Gardiner)

I’m cross-posting this lively interview to both Craftlands and What I Know About. You see, I’ll soon be making my second pilgrimage to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck NY for the knitterati-packed New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, and rather than telling you what I know about it, I asked Kay Gardiner — mover and shaker, knower of things — to give us her much more informed perspective on how it has come to be the most famous fiber festival in the US, as well as her tips for how to get the most out of the event. I’m already wishing I’d had this advice before going my first time!*

You can find Kay’s wit and wisdom on the regular at Mason-Dixon Knitting and on Instagram @kaygardiner.

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How long have you been attending the NY Sheep and Wool Festival, aka “Rhinebeck”? What was it like in your earlier years?

I tried to figure out the correct factual answer to this question, but the archives of Mason-Dixon Knitting did not yield it up. The oldest Rhinebeck post I could find was in 2007, which was certainly not my first or even second Rhinebeck. I think my first Rhinebeck must have been 2004 or 2005. I remember my husband dropping me off with my daughter, who was a little girl then (wearing a Rowan Denim pullover that was very long on her), and that I was surprised and a little worried that a few people recognized her from the blog. The power of the Internet! Husband (who had a shockingly low interest in sheep) gave us something like a two-hour time limit before picking us up again, but I was hooked. I have missed very few Rhinebecks since that first one, and I’ve generally stayed two days instead of two hours.

What was it like? The early 2000s were the heyday of knitting blogs, which were the first blossoming of the rich, deep and wide Internet knitting community that we know today. Rhinebeck, a country livestock show, was inundated with roving packs of very excited knitters from all over the region and country. People would run into each other and start jumping up and down and squealing when they recognized each other. Many virtual connections became real-life friendships on the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.

How would you describe the difference between Rhinebeck then and now? Better/worse? Anything you miss or feel has been lost along the way?

The crowds seem to grow every year, but otherwise the fair retains its character as a sheep-centered event, despite the knitters thronging the yarn stalls. The fleece sale thrives, farmers and their kids still show their sheep, and the sheepdog trials are as lively as ever. We continue to mourn the tragic loss of the chicken pot pie stand, but we still have the Artichokes French and the apple cider donuts. I miss the Culinary Institute of America (based in nearby Hyde Park, New York) doing a big food tent. I can’t remember if that was for just a year or for several, or if I just dreamed it.

One fun event that did not exist for my early Rhinebecks is the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, of which Mason-Dixon Knitting is a proud sponsor. Now in its fourth year, the Trunk Show takes place on Friday evening from 4-8 at the Best Western in Kingston, New York. Independent yarnmakers and dyers, from all over, are gathered in one place to discover.

Of all the fiber festivals all over the country, how did this one come to be the Mecca for the entire knitting world? Do you have a theory?

Timing is everything, and the third weekend in October is Peak Autumn in the Hudson River Valley. The show hits the exact moment when one most wants to be outdoors, breathing country air, looking at animals and wool, buying yarn, and checking out spinning wheels and looms. Winter lies just ahead, and we have to eat a bunch of kettle corn and get ready to hunker down for the duration.

I cannot remember a single Rhinebeck that was not beautiful, with the trees glowing orange. (OK, it may have been blustery and overcast in 2009.) On a few occasions the weather has been too warm for sweaters, but the knitters still manage to pile on the handknits. One of my lifetime goals is to knit a special-purpose Rhinebeck Sweater, as many knitters do (they’re frantically trying to finish them right this minute), but that would require planning ahead.

Do you remember that time I had a sweater photo contest? My way of living vicariously that year. For those who might be contemplating their first Rhinebeck visit, what’s your advice?

I’ve given this some thought! Rhinebeck is a whirl of sensory and social stimulation, and it’s also seven-hour days on your feet, exposed to the elements. Here are my tips for having a good time.

1. Make a plan. Before you get there, spend a little time with the new-and-improved vendor list. Jot down the sellers you absolutely must see, and see them first. Or, do as I do, and just walk through the barns in order, ready to be surprised and amazed by what you find. Popular vendors get hit hard very early, so if there is a yarn that you will be disappointed not to take home, get to that booth right at the start of the day.

2. Keep your strength up. Carry a bottle of water and some energy bars so you don’t get woozy. I’m not kidding! When you’re in the Rhinebeck Zone, two or three hours can go by without your noticing it until you need to lie down on the bleachers at the dog trials and look up at the sky. The Artichoke French and cider donuts lines are very long, and they are not going to get any shorter over the course of the day, so just get in line and enjoy the experience. You are going to meet lots of people and see lots of handknits while you wait. I like to save the kettle corn for last, and pick up a big bag of it on my way out of the fairgrounds, “for the kids.”

3. Take care of your feet. This is no time to break in a pair of new shoes, or for sandals of any description. The fairgrounds are dusty and uneven when dry, and sloppy when wet. Ideally you want to be wearing old Frye boots, Blundstones or the like. If it’s been raining, you are going to want full-on rubber boots, like the farmer in Babe wore.

4. Handknits: more is more. Rhinebeck is a feast of knitwear. Wear as many handknits as you can fit, visibly, on your body. Compliment the beautiful handknits you see passing by — that’s why people are wearing them!

5. Buy stuff. Don’t get so overwhelmed by the amazing range of goods on offer that you forget to buy a few skeins of something beautiful. Rhinebeck is an opportunity to support people who have dedicated their lives to making beautiful, authentic yarns, tools and supplies for us. We didn’t always have so many choices, and we have them now because these craftspeople are able to make a living doing what they love, and what we love.

6. Make friends. Stop by the book barn (in building B, not far from the picnic tables) to meet authors who will be more than happy to sign their books. Ann and I will be there on both Saturday and Sunday from 11-2, hoping to say hi to as many people as we can.

7. Parties! On Saturday night, there are two fun events that I know of. One is the first-ever Mason-Dixon Knitting Rhinebeck Pie Party, in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s free; for details and to RSVP, go here. Stop by for a few minutes, or stay a while, have a cup of hot cider and a slice of pie from a great local baker. We’ll be there from 5-8.

Also on Saturday night, from 6-9 across the river in Kingston, is Jill Draper’s legendary open studio night, a great event of food and people and an incredible selection of her beautiful yarns for sale. Here’s her Eventbrite to RSVP.

And who are you especially keen to spot in the crowd this year?

You, of course!

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I did not pay her to say that. Thank you, Kay! See you there—

As fun as Rhinebeck is, it’s important to note that there are amazing fiber festivals all over this country. If you’re not familiar with your own state’s (or region’s) offerings, definitely Google it. And please share your favorites in the comments below! Fringe Supply Co. will have a presence in the Harrisville Designs booth at Rhinebeck this year, and that same weekend we’ll have our own booth at our favorite Tennessee festival, Fiber in the ‘Boro. Mark your calendars!

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*Please forgive me for reusing the images from my 2015 Rhinebeck recap here — the rest of my photos from that trip were all lost! I’ll take new ones this year.

PREVIOUSLY in What I Know About: Natural indigo (with Kristine Vejar)
PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: My week in the Craftlands

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

I have a lot of Deep Thoughts coming away from this year’s Squam Art Workshops, but that’s sort of what Squam does to you. Some of those might find their way into this post in one form or another — I’ll see what happens as I write — but if you really just want to know what I wore, feel free to scroll on down, that’s cool! “Whatever makes you happy” is sort of the number one rule of Squam, so go with it.

(Bob came in and started talking to me just then. I said, in apologies for shushing him, “I’m trying to write about what I’ve learned about myself in the last five years.” He said, “Wow. It’s a good thing you got a nap.”)

The simple summary of the trip is: I had the best, most peaceful time imaginable. I flew to Boston the night before and met my longtime online friend Felicia Semple for the first time at the picturesque Squam Lake Inn in Holderness, NH, near the old camp where Squam takes place. We had dinner and talked each other’s ears off, and the next day we drove an hour and a half to visit the Harrisville Designs mill and take the tour — my first time watching yarn being made. (I couldn’t get a cell signal there, so I’ll be belatedly putting all the images and videos into my Instagram Story today.) New Hampshire is so pretty it feels like you’re in a movie set: Every little general store and fire station is picture-perfectly adorable, and Harrisville is definitely no exception. But even without the scenery and the mill tour, I cherish that chunk of time I got to spend with Felicia, yammering like mad and making observations about the ways we talk about ourselves or our endeavors. As they say, it felt like I’d known her forever, but she’s that sort.

Wednesday evening we checked in at camp and got our cabin assignments. I had the good fortune to be bunk mates with my hilarious sprite of a friend Mary Jane Mucklestone (who I first met taking this class from her four years ago) and two people I’d not met before: the warm-hearted dynamo Anne Weill (who I’ve admired since her graciousness in the face of this snooty post I wrote in 2015) and Camille DeAngelis, who was teaching the writing workshop and is a lovely, gentle soul. We were assigned a fantastic cabin on the tip of the spit of land with the widest view of the lake I’ve seen so far — we couldn’t see another cabin from our dock, just water and trees and the greenest hills — and my teaching cabin was right next door. So yeah, off to a great start.

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

The dining hall that night was full of old friends, heroes and new faces, and my hermit heart was racing a bit, in a good way. Everyone was asking me how I felt about being there to teach for the first time, and honestly I was feeling pretty chill about it. I had what I thought was a solid plan and good notes, plus I was already under the lake’s spell and still high from the whole Harrisville adventure. I was a little shy at dinner with my class that night, but by breakfast felt entirely relaxed and ready. Then I ran into our fearless leader Elizabeth on the way to the wooded path toward class and she gave me such an intense pep talk that it got my heart pounding! But that gave me a funny anecdote to open with, so thank you, Elizabeth, in a million ways.

I could go on for days, but what I want to say is it went fine. Better than fine. My students were lovely and relaxed and determined, and nearly all of them even finished their hats! (Note to beloved students: the Debutant pattern is listed on Ravelry, please link your projects!) On the whole, I got to spend several days surrounded by so many people I already loved, so many more I loved getting to know, and many moments just sitting quietly on the dock, gathering energy to rejoin the happy-noisy crowd or teach the next session.

What this all has to do with what I’ve learned about myself in the last five years is this: I’ve spent my whole life telling myself I’m inept at making conversation with people I don’t know. That I’m better in writing than in person. That I prefer solitude to crowds. All of that is true of me, but it’s not the whole story. Since starting Fringe, I’ve forced myself to challenge those notions. I showed up at the trade show the first time without knowing a soul, and now each year it’s a sort of homecoming. Likewise, I’ve traveled to events and workshops and retreats (Squam included) with a few friends and come away with new ones every time. I’m part of a community I value so much, and am so honored to be involved in, and I’m blessed with these friendships and opportunities because I’ve dared to show up and to not sit in the corner. (At least, not the whole time.) I’ve learned that yes, it will take a lot out of me, but it’s beyond worth it and I’ll sleep that part off when I get home. Somehow all of this was amplified in those woods last week. And discovering that I’m perhaps not a half-bad teacher was a whole new level of the process.

There’s more in my head, but that’s the part I feel is important to share here: Please don’t believe all the things you tell yourself about yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of.

So this is a love letter and thank-you note to everyone I’ve met, been befriended and/or challenged by these last five years. I’m awash in gratitude. And yes I got that Dottie Angel “I am a W.I.P.” shirt (and tote bag!) at the fair Saturday night and feel it more strongly and proudly than ever.

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So what did I wear? Here’s what was either on me or in my little carry-on suitcase, along with a box of teaching materials, an umbrella, two headlamps, my travel dryer and toiletries:

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

white linen shell
black hemp muscle tee
– grey Everlane linen knit muscle tee
– black silk Elizabeth Suzann artist smock, which I LOVED wearing with jeans and sneaks
– secondhand chambray shirt
– old flannel
– purple J.Crew boiled wool pullover from a few years ago, which I finally got around to taking the waist elastic out of and newly adore, wish I’d gotten to wear it more
black linen-wool cardigan
camel cardigan
– J.Crew made-in-LA jeans
– black linen Elizabeth Suzann pants (with added pockets)
– old cutoffs
– my heaviest/warmest LL Bean tights for cold nights
– dirty old Chucks for tromping along wooded paths
grey Orlane shawl

And here are all the ways it went together, from travel day through return-travel day:

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

In addition to Squam life calling for a lot of changing of clothes (for example, Saturday was teaching in the morning, knitting on the dock in the afternoon, boiling hot art fair setup, the fair itself, and a chilly night back at the cabin), the NH woods in early June are an unpredictable place, weather-wise (e.g., Friday morning we were on the dock before breakfast, basking in the early warmth, but were huddled around a fire in the living room by mid-morning). So it requires versatility and layers.

Not pictured are the rain boots I wore only the first day (on the plane and the drive up) thanks to the predicted rain being replaced by mostly unseasonably warm weather, and the sandals that never came out of the suitcase. My grey shawl also stayed in my bag the whole time, since I flung my black cardigan around my neck when needed. Pretty much everything else got worn more than once, but I could have gotten away with just the sneakers, one cardigan, the pullover, and I believe in having both the flannel and the chambray. Notes for next year, as I’m hoping there will be one!

Squam 2017: Reflections and outfits

PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: The summer 2017 plan

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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 …

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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.

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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!

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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.

. . .

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.

. . .

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

. . .

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.)

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!

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