The cost (and payoff) of handmade

The cost (and payoff) of handmade

Once again, in light of Slow Fashion October, I’ve been tracking costs on my handmade clothes this year because I wanted to see how it held up over last year’s tally. And again, it’s a weird thing to talk about publicly (at least if you’re a born-and-raised Midwesterner like me), but I think it’s really illuminating in terms of the impact of acquiring less and making what you can, even when some of the handmades are an investment—

SEWN
$18.00 : White linen shell
6.00 : Grey wool pullover
20.00 : Striped muscle tee
54.25 : Blue button-up shirt
12.00 : Olive pants
73.00 : Blue jeans
17.50 : Denim pants
21.25 : Camo pants
——
$222.00 — average cost of $27.75 per garment

KNITTED
$175.00 : Black yoke sweater
213.50 : Camel Channel cardigan
110.00 : Linen Sloper
112.00 : Fisherman sweater
38.50 : Purple lopi pullover
——
$649.00 — average cost of $129.80 per sweater

So even with the top-shelf denim (for my jeans) and a couple of comparatively pricey sweaters in there, I’ve spent a combined average of $87.10 per month on my handmade clothes. If those were the only clothes I had added to my closet this year, and I had spent less than $100 per month, I’d be utterly floored and perfectly satisfied.

However, that’s not all I’ve spent or acquired. Since $87/month represents a savings for me, I’ve been able to invest in some coveted pieces from companies I feel good about supporting, such as my natural Willie jeans, my Elizabeth Suzann silk top, and my State smocks.

Far and away the most astonishing thing to me is I’ve added only about 2-2.5 garments per month to my closet. In my past life, 2 garments would have been a slow day at the mall, not a month’s total, yet in no way do I feel deprived or like I’m making do. Just the opposite: My wardrobe has never been better looking or higher functioning. So my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has inspired and encouraged me in this endeavor.

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Slow Fashion Citizen Jen Hewett

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Elsewhere and then some

Elsewhere and then some

First things first:

1) I’m in Rhinebeck this weekend, where our lovely stockist Harrisville Designs will have a nice juicy Fringe Supply Co. display in their booth. (That’s building 39, booth 3!) I will also be hanging out in their booth on Saturday morning, from gates-open until falafel time, so come say hello if you’re there! After that, I’ll be roaming the fairgrounds, and I have a The Future is Female pin for anyone who is carrying any Fringe bag around the festival (while they last), so if you see me, show me!

2) Meanwhile, back at the ranch, DG will be holding down the fort at Fiber in the ‘Boro, our favorite show of the year. This is a fantastic little Middle Tennessee fiber festival, and if you’re in the area, don’t miss it! That’s all day Saturday.

3) I’m seriously dying to tell you what we’re cooking up for the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong, but it’ll have to wait until I’m back at my desk, so look for that on Tuesday!

4) The Slow Fashion October topic for the final 10 days — is WHERE. As in, share your sources, people! Clothing and shoe brands, services, fabric retailers, yarns, whatever it may be … where do you get the stuff you feel good about? Share it on #slowfashionoctober.

And with that, a fully Slotober edition of Elsewhere:

– The warm and wonderful Sandi Hazlewood interviewed me for her Crafty Planner podcast this week and asked me a bunch of good questions nobody has asked me before! (Let me know if I said anything stupid.)

– Samantha Lindgren has posted the full details of the big fabric swap she’s organizing — I’m so excited about this!

– Coincidentally, Sam referenced the very next link I wanted to share this week, which is Felicia’s post Enough is as good as a feast — have you read it?

– Seamwork on personalizing vintage clothing to give it new life

– “In April, 2017, Markham became the first municipality in North America to support textile diversion by banning textile waste from curbside collection service” (thx, Erin)

– “Of course I want to make every new pattern I see, and to buy all the beautiful yarn and fabric I can get my hands on, but then I’m just back to fast fashioning my slow fashion — and how many of those projects will I actually finish?”

– “We could argue all day about relative merits of recycled polyester versus organic cotton, or how much you’re benefiting the environment by paying more for organic cotton, but it’s hard to argue with a mother getting paid a fair wage in safe working conditions.” (thx, Leila)

Wherever you are, I hope you have a fantastic weekend! Thank you for reading—

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

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New Favorites: (Holiday) hat mania!

New Favorites: (Holiday) hat mania!

I’ve been favoriting hat patterns like crazy at Ravelry lately, and have printed out no less than threeHuck, Lancet and No. 1 below — as my just-in-case alternate travel project for later this week. (How will I pick one?!) Since I know a lot of you are gearing up (or already in the midst of) holiday knitting, I thought this would be a good chance to update the ever-popular Holiday hat knitting cheat sheet, this time organized by what kind of knitting you’re in the mood for. Note that most of them are unisex, and a couple include kids’ sizes—

1.) Simple knits and purls: Anker’s Hat by PetiteKnit (See also: the sweater version)

2.) A little colorwork: Luzerne Hat by Whitney Hayward

3.) A lot of colorwork: Miguel Hat by Rosa Pomar

4.) A little cabling: Parallelogram Hat by Angela Hahn

5.) A bit more cabling: Kagome Beanie by Veera Välimäki

6.) Teeny-tiny cables: Sumburgh Hat by Jen Arnall-Culliford

7.) Whole big bunch o’ cables: Brackett by Whitney Hayward

8.) Stockinette plus: Top-down Ear Flap Hat by Purl Soho (free pattern)

9.) Little bonnets: Animal Bonnet by Jenny Gordy

10.) Big bonnet: Diana Hat by Martha Wissing

New Favorites: (Holiday) hat mania!

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2017 FO-13 : The purple lopi pullover

Finished: Purple lopi pullover

After a year and a half, I finally knitted the second sleeve of the top-down tutorial sweater and seamed them both up, and the sweater is — more or less — finished! And I do adore it. As it’s fully documented in the tutorial, all I really need to tell you about it is the finished counts and measurements, below. But what I mean by “more or less” is A) I need to take a second pass at the neckband and seam up the basting stitches in the raglans, but B) I think it might become a cardigan! (Which would obviate redoing the neckband.) I knitted this in Lettlopi for the sake of the tutorial because it knits up so quickly at this gauge, and I absolutely love the color, but I don’t have a lot of cause to wear an Icelandic-wool pullover in Tennessee! (I only get away with the black one because it’s short-sleeved and cropped.) Plus ever since taking the elastic out of the waistband of that older J.Crew boiled-wool pullover, I don’t really need another purple pullover, either. So I think it would get more wear if it were vented — i.e., if I turn it into a deep V-neck cardigan, which would then be some semblance of that purple cardigan I saw a few years ago and have still never gotten out of my head.

It would be good fun to do, since at this point the only way to go about it would be to machine-stitch along the contours of where I want to cut it, and then add the button band. I can’t imagine trying something like that (for the first time!) with any other garment than this, as there’s less than forty bucks’ worth of yarn in this sweater. On the other hand, I do already have a purple cardigan, albeit quite different. So I’m pondering.

Pattern: Improv
Yarn: Lettlopi by Istex in Color 1413 (purchased at Tolt)
Cost: free pattern + 7 balls of lopi at $5.50 each = $38.50 (I know!)

Finished: Purple lopi pullover

GAUGE

3.75 sts and 5.5 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 15/22) knitted on US10; ribbing on US9

TARGET MEASUREMENTS

39″ chest = 148 sts
12.5″ upper arm circumference = 50 sts (10 at underarm)
9″ yoke/armhole depth (50 rounds)
13.5″ body length (2.5″ hem ribbing)
22.5″ total length
16″ sleeve length (3.5″ cuff ribbing)
7.5″ cuff circumference = 40 sts

DETAILS

— CO 51 sts, divided with markers as follows ( 1 | 2 | 9 | 2 | 23 | 2 | 9 | 2 | 1 )

— Increased for a basting stitch in the center of each 2-st raglan

– Planned on 10 sts cast on at each underarm, and divided the raglan stitches evenly between sections when separating sleeves from body

— Worked raglan increases as kfb on either side of the raglan stitches

— Increased at the front neck and all raglans on 1st RS row then every other row until 14 sts each front, 37 back sts. Cast on 9 sts and joined in the round (front sts at 14 each + the 9 cast on = 37 front). Neck depth approx 3.5″

— Increased the front and back until 64 sts each (counting 2 from the raglans at separation, plus 10 per underarm cast-on = 74; front + back + underarms = 148)

— Increased the sleeve-side raglans until 39 sts (counting 2 from the raglans at separation, plus 10 underarm cast-on = 49); work-even till separation at 9″ depth (adjusted to 50 sts when starting sleeves)

— Sleeves were knitted flat, decreased 5x (40 sts), every 8th row after the first couple of inches, then switched to US9 needles and worked 1×1 ribbing for 3.5″

— Worked body even for 10.5″ (with a basting stitch at each side seam, to be mattress stitched later), then switched to US9 needles and worked 1×1 ribbing for 2.5″

— Worked the neckband as 1×1 ribbing for 2.5″ and did folded neckband

— Seamed chest circumference is approx 39″, for about 4.5″ positive ease

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Slow Fashion Citizen: Jen Hewett

EDITOR’S NOTE: After three years of collaborating with Jen for Fringe Supply Co. (and taking her online class), I’m thrilled to have her on the blog today!
—Karen

Slow Fashion Citizen: Jen Hewett

BY KATRINA RODABAUGH // It’s an honor to share the work of talented printmaker, fiber artist and surface designer Jen Hewett in this week’s interview. I adore Jen’s use of color and shape in her bold and wildly inspired prints but I was also smitten with her Print, Pattern, Sew project where she printed her own fabric to make into garments. This allowed her to fuse her abilities as a surface designer and a sewer — rendering her garments unique and also imprinting her aesthetic not just in the silhouettes or combination of color and fibers, but in the bold and beautiful graphics of the garments, too.

I’ve known Jen for several years through the San Francisco Bay Area arts community, and while I loved her work from the very beginning, I always appreciated her candor, commitment and critical eye, too. Also, several years ago she brought champagne to my birthday brunch with a silver spoon because it’s known to keep the bubbly from going flat, and I fell for her then and there. Who knew silver spoons keep champagne from going flat? Jen did.

It’s that grace, humor and thoughtful nature that she brings to her work and her community. Watching Jen continue to push herself in her prints and in her technical skill is something that makes my heart race — she’s always inventing new projects, experimenting with new color palettes, and pushing outside of her comfort zone to make work that is simultaneously refined and absolutely alive. Welcome, Jen!

. . .

Your printmaking work is sublime. I adore your graphic prints, choice of fabrics, and the particular way you combine shapes and color to create bold and beautiful prints. Can you talk about what inspired you to start printmaking?

I’ve always been creative, and had started a stationery company in my twenties. I ran that until 2004 when, carrying a lot of credit card debt from the business, I sold the stationery company and started working a corporate job. My job was very uncreative (although I worked with a lot of designers and writers), but it allowed me to pay off my debt, and it gave me the time to figure out what to do next.

I needed a creative outlet, so I took a screenprinting class on a whim in – I think – January 2007. I was quickly hooked, and spent a lot of my free time in the screenprinting studio. I was laid off from my corporate job in December 2008, at the peak of the Great Recession. No one was hiring. I went to the studio as often as I could, and began selling my prints. My art career grew from there.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Jen Hewett

I remember when you launched your Print, Pattern, Sew project and it was thrilling to see your printmaking work applied to your wardrobe. This was a beautiful moment in slow fashion when your craft was transferred to your wardrobe and resulted in unique and meaningful garments. What led you to start Print, Pattern, Sew?

In 2014 I had a weekly project called 52 Weeks of Printmaking. Every week I’d create a different print, and would share it on my blog and social media. Halfway through the year I decided I wanted to do something more complex in 2015.

I took Jess Swift’s class, Pattern Camp, which is an online class about creating digital repeat patterns. It wasn’t much of a leap to figure out how to do this manually. At that point, I had been sewing my own clothes for a couple of years, and thought it would be fun to merge my love of sewing (and clothing) with my love of printmaking.

Every month in 2015, I hand printed yardage, then sewed that fabric into a different garment using either a self-drafted pattern or one from an independent pattern designer. At the end of the year, I had twelve truly custom garments, as well as a book proposal based on the project.

So many folks are intimidated to begin making their own clothing. Fear of imperfection, clothes that won’t fit, poor craftsmanship or somehow getting it wrong. Of course, we all have to start somewhere but were there any specific classes, patterns or tutorials you adored when you first started making your own garments?

As a working artist, I’m used to starting things that are just beyond my abilities and then figuring out solutions along the way. I approach sewing in this manner, too. Of course, I started with simple garments – April Rhodes’ Staple Dress was the first garment I sewed, quickly followed by Sonya Philip’s Dress No.1 and Dress No.2. None of those garments were perfect. Nothing I sew now is perfect.

Really, the best advice I can give anyone is “practice.” You can spend a lot of money on a good machine and nice fabric, but none of those things will make up for lack of skill. The only way to build your skills is to work on increasingly more complex garments, learning from (and fixing) your mistakes along the way.

Printing your own clothing is really a beautiful act in reclaiming fashion and making the garment truly your own. Designers talk about emotional attachment or why we keep certain garments forever even if they might be more sentimental than practical — the wedding dress is the typical example. Your printed clothing has the added emotional attachment of being designed and printed by you. Do you feel a certain attachment to these garments that you haven’t experienced in a store bought garment? Would you think twice before sending one to the Goodwill?

I don’t really treat any of my clothes as precious. I believe that clothes are meant to be worn, and not to be stored away in a closet for a special occasion (except for true special-occasion clothing). Wearing a garment regularly means honoring the time and money that went into its creation. And I tend to wear my clothes until they fall apart, so that by the time I’m ready to discard an item, I feel that I’ve gotten full use from it.

I probably won’t ever discard garments made with my hand-printed fabric, though. I do have an archive of my printed fabric, and will likely just add the garments to that archive.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Jen Hewett

It seems we’re craving connection and that’s one driving force in Slow Fashion. We’re exhausted by mass production and want something special or something valuable that can’t be so easily replicated in fast fashion. We often equate value with money but it’s also that triad of money, time and craftsmanship. Do you think making your garments for Print, Pattern, Sew altered your concept of the value of your garments?

I have always valued quality over quantity when it comes to clothing. I grew up wearing a uniform to school. I had five white blouses, two skirts, a sweater and a blazer. I got two pairs of school shoes each year, and they were meant to last the year. These were unexciting but durable clothes, and I had to take good care of them. But because I didn’t have to have a different outfit every day, my parents allowed me to splurge a bit on non-school clothes, buying a few pieces of well-made clothing that would hold up under repeated wearing. I didn’t have a lot of “free dress” clothes, but what I did have was of a good quality.

Sewing has changed how I shop for clothes, though, breaking my occasional impulse shopping habit. I rarely go to the mall or shop in boutiques anymore, unless I have a very specific purchase in mind. But the real excitement for me in making clothing is less a desire to opt out of fast fashion (partly because I never really bought into it in the first place, except for a couple of years in college) and more in the ability to create something that fits me and my style.

Any tips you might have for someone just starting to sew their own garments? Maybe tools you particularly love or something else that you learned through your project that inspired you to continue?

Always make a muslin when you’re trying a new pattern. It may seem like extra work to do so, but it saves so much work down the line. From my muslins, I’ve figured out that I’ve cut the wrong size, or that I need to make bust or dart adjustments. It’s much better to discover this before you’ve cut into your good fabric and have started sewing.

Also, buy good fabric. Your garment is only as good as the time and materials you put into it. Why spend all that time making something with shoddy fabric?

And finally, invest in a serger and an invisible zipper foot. I spent so much time making French seams before I had a serger. That was time I could have spent on something else! And I used to avoid anything that required an invisible zipper because I found them so intimidating. Once I had an invisible zipper foot, a whole new world of sewing opened up to me.

Lastly, your first book is underway. Congratulations! When can we expect it to be published? And could you tell us maybe just one thing about the book that you’re particularly excited about?

My book, Print, Pattern, Sew, will be published by Roost Books in May 2018. I’ve just reviewed the final, pre-press layouts. I think it’s such a beautiful book. I worked with the best team, and I’m excited for us to finally have it in our hands. I’ve been teaching some of the practices that are included in the book both in person and through my online classes, and I’m also thrilled that I’ll be able to reach so many more people through this book!

Slow Fashion Citizen: Jen Hewett

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

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Photos © Jen Hewett, used with permission

Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

There’s one tiny side-effect of knitting things seamlessly that have appendages — as in, a mitten with a thumb or a top-down sweater with two sleeves. There’s a moment where you set aside those thumb/sleeve stitches on waste yarn, carry on with the hand/body, and then come back to do the appendage. You put those live stitches back onto needles, pick up a few stitches around the top of the thumb or the underarm of the sleeve (pictured above) to complete the circle, and then knit the rest of the appendage. The side effect being that you will inevitably have a little hole at either end of the picked-up stitches. This isn’t a flaw of your knitting or of the pattern — it’s just a fact of life. Patterns will often tell you to simply take the yarn tail from where you reattached yarn at that point, and weave them closed. But there is also a simple way to minimize them, which is to pick up an extra stitch in that spot — in the gap between the live stitches and the picked-up ones — and then knit it together with the adjacent stitch on the next round, so you haven’t thrown off your stitch count.

There’s still a chance you might need to do a little refining with your yarn tail at the end, but the holes will be noticeably minimized.

EXAMPLE:
For the sleeves of the sweater pictured, I have 40 stitches on waste yarn and need to pick up another 10 along the edge of the underarm, starting at the center of the underarm stitches. So I’m picking up 5, then knitting the 40, then picking up another 5. However, to help bridge the gap, I’ll actually pick up 6.
Top photo: You can see the live sleeve stitches that have been hanging out on waste yarn, placed back onto a needle, and to the right is the cast-on edge of the underarm.
Middle photo: I’ve picked up my designated 5 stitches along the underarm edge, but you can see there’s a good 3/4″ between the underarm stitches and the sleeve stitches — that’s your future hole.
Bottom photo: I’ve plunged my needle behind both legs of the stitch right at the corner, halfway between the underarm and sleeve stitches, and picked up one extra stitch, which I’ll knit together with the adjacent sleeve stitch on the next round.

p.s. Like I love to say: A top-down sweater is a giant fingerless mitt with two thumbs instead of one — same process, just more of it. If you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Knit all the parts at once

Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

First off, a little apology: I know I told you the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong announcement was coming this week. Unfortunately, there’s a been a little snafu and change of plans. So I’ll let you know when I’m re-ready to announce!

Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

One thing we talk about all the time, and that has come up a lot in the #slowfashionoctober discussion, is that we’ve all made things that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out and go unworn. It’s a hard thing to face: all that time and yarn, just sitting the closet. Coming to accept that this happens — learning how to learn from it — is a big part of becoming a maker, I think. As is coming up with a strategy for dealing with it. I have so much admiration for those of you who frog things and reclaim the yarn and give it new life. For me, if it’s a perfectly successful garment that just doesn’t fit or suit me, I’d rather it went to a new home where it will be appreciated. (I have frogged things that hadn’t reached completion, for sure.) The only thing I’ve ever made that I couldn’t imagine giving to anyone else was my very first sweater, so I took it to a thrift store where I hoped some knitter would find it and feel wonderfully righteous and scornful about it! (I sort of hoped it might turn up on IG someday or something.)

There have been several things I’ve given to family and close friends. The one garment I couldn’t accept defeat on, or let go of, for such a long time was my Amanda cardigan up there. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t sit right on me and wasn’t getting worn, but it has so much history! And I’m so proud of the knitting, which is why I didn’t want to frog it. When it finally occurred to me I could use it to raise money to help people, that’s what it took for me to finally let it go — and to feel great about it. And I’ve put some other handknits up for adoption as well.

In every instance above, I love how excited the new owners are to have these garments — the very opposite of knitting something for someone and having them yawn. That said, I would love to someday find out what it feels like to frog a whole sweater. I imagine it’s the same kind of fun as sitting down in the stylist’s chair and saying “Cut it all off!” (One of my favorite experiences.) But it’s all got me wondering about different attitudes and approaches to the problem, so that’s my Q for You today: What do you do with your unworn FOs? And what about your muslins? Which is a whole ’nother ball of wax …

ASSORTED DELIGHTFUL TIDBITS:

– The Slow Fashion October topic for this next week is: HOW. Let’s talk about your how-to skills and where they stand (from how to knit/sew, to thrifting strategies, to caring for your wardrobe, etc); how you acquired and improve on those skills; how you make time for making your wardrobe (however you go about it) …

– Tomorrow is I Love Yarn Day, so how might you pass those skills along?

– Ash Gremel has announced she’s hosting a clothes swap and has created a shared map so others can add theirs! Will you host one?

– And we’re here for you at Fringe Supply Co. with freshly restocked Bento Bag shelves (all colors and sizes) and so much more!

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?

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