Elsewhere: Slotober edition 4

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 4

I know I keep saying this, but the conversation that has taken place over the course of Slow Fashion October has knocked my socks off. It’s obviously a subject I care about 365 days of the year, and hope that everyone will carry on with the conversation in all sorts of ways, but I think there’s clearly value in making it such a focus for a month of time. I haven’t managed to do even a fraction* of what I hoped to do with it this year, so I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year. Thank you so much to everyone who has participated in so many different ways. If you haven’t spent much time reading through the #slowfashionoctober feed on Instagram, I highly recommend it, as well as my assorted thoughts that have been posted on the @slowfashionoctober account.

Here are final links:

– Thanks to the copious comments added to my Monday post, that has turned into a killer list of conscientious yarn sources and some fabric options, too — please take time to read through those suggestions

– Great roundups of traceable fabrics here and here and here

And more here, along with links to ethical fashion brands for finished goods

– Concise roundup of the most referenced educational resources here

– I’m particularly happy to have learned about Offset Warehouse and want to pass on this link of theirs about where and how some of their fabric is made

– Loved hearing every detail about how the wool is handled at Blacker Yarns

– And I love this Atlantic article about L.L. Bean boots, still made in Maine (thx, Liesl)

For those who don’t want the conversation to end, it doesn’t have to and won’t! I’ll still be posting thoughts and links regularly, as always, and there are lots of IG hashtags to keep an eye on: #slowfashion, #slowfashionmovement, #fashrev, #knowyoursource, #handmadewardrobe, #memadeeveryday and many more.

Thank you again, and have a great weekend!

*My one regret is not having finished my Slotober Frock. It feels like a bathetic ending, but rushing it seemed wrong — and I will obviously post about whatever happens next, regardless.

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere, Slotober edition 3

Photos left to right: Offset Warehouse, Blacker Yarns/A Playful Day, The Atlantic

Slow Fashion October, Week 5: KNOWN — and a roundup of yarn resources

Slow Fashion October, Week 5: KNOWN — and a roundup of yarn resources

It’s Week 5 of Slow Fashion October already, our final week (such as it is), and our theme is KNOWN. Let’s talk about favorite sustainable resources / the changing concept of “local” / traceable fabric and yarn origins / traceable garment origins / reference books, films, videos. How much do we know, where did we find or learn it, and how can we share both the resources and the knowledge?

At the core of “slow” anything — slow food or slow fashion — is knowing (i.e, asking) where things come from. Buying meat from a nearby farmer that was butchered just down the road is a whole different exercise from buying meat in a chain grocery store and having no idea who raised it, under what conditions; what factory it was processed in, and when; how it was handled between that factory and you. No way of knowing what exactly it is you’re buying or who and what you’re supporting with your money, other than the grocery chain’s CEO. Same thing goes for clothes. Once you start asking where your shirt or your fabric or your yarn comes from, you become more aware of the entire chain of farmers and mills and factories and global shipping companies and distributors and retailers that all have a role in getting fleece or plant fiber from the farm to your closet or your stash. And you start to make more thoughtful decisions about what you put your money into. Or you try to, anyway.

The fact is, knowing is hard — both the finding things out and the knowing what to do about what you know or don’t know. I’m exhausted and limp-brained right now trying to formulate thoughts about it. Buying clothing from a small-batch designer with in-house production instead of a mall store cuts out a lot questions and middlemen to wonder about, but they’re still sewing with fabric they probably can’t tell you much about. Fabric is the hardest, which you know if you sew. Maybe you know something about the fabric company, maybe they’ll tell you what country the fabric was made in, and you can take their word (or not) for whether that distant factory operates in ethical ways, paying their workers a living wage and providing a safe working environment. But even then, where did the fiber come from? How was it dyed? Once you start pulling that thread (no pun intended) you realize how long and tangled it is.

Yarn is the easiest. Not all yarns are transparent — not by a long shot — but a lot of them are, and listing some of those is a thing I can do! I’m focusing on the US because that’s where I am, but what I would love to see this week is a whole lot of listing and sharing. So here’s my sliding-scale overview of some conscientious yarn options, which I truly hope you’ll build on:

Farm yarns: As I mentioned last week, farm yarns — yarns sold by the farmers who raised the animals — can be found at farmers’ markets and fiber festivals everywhere. When you buy directly from a farmer (especially a local one whose farm you might even visit), you not only support the farmer directly, but you can get to know basically everything about that yarn, from the specific breed of animal/fiber to how and where the yarn was milled. Farm yarns vary greatly in terms of how big the batches are and what the price is, depending on how big their flock is, how far the fleece has to travel (round-trip) to be processed, and whether they’re only selling it themselves or whether there’s distribution involved. You’ve got tiny little enterprises like Sawkill Farm or Green Bow Farm (or those without even a website) at one end of the spectrum and Imperial Ranch Yarns at the other end, where they’re producing significant amounts of yarn and distributing it through yarn stores everywhere, but it’s still ultimately farm yarn, bearing the label of the ranch it comes from.

Boutique yarns (for lack of a better term): I’m thinking mainly about a breed of yarn store owners who’ve developed their own small-batch yarn, working with farmers and/or a mill. Examples: 1) Heirloom from Fancy Tiger Crafts, who developed their all-Romney yarn in conjunction with Elemental Affects. Jaime and Amber can tell you anything you want to know about the two farms where the sheep are raised and the mill where it’s spun.  2) Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, which Anna at Tolt Yarn and Wool had spun from the previously unused fleece of a neighbor farmer’s BFL–Clun Forest sheep. 3) Several yarns, at this point, from Kristine Vejar at A Verb for Keeping Warm, who likewise is gathering fleece from a variety of compelling sources and having these site- and breed-specific yarns milled, which she then naturally dyes. These include Pioneer, Big Sky, Clover and Flock. 4) She’s not a yarn store owner, but I would also put wool guru Clara Parkes’ Clara Yarn in this category, among many others.

Mill yarns: Just like a lot of farms produce and sell their own yarn, so do some mills. Harrisville and Green Mountain Spinnery are two prominent examples of mills that spin yarn for other well-known brands as well as for their own line. Mill yarns can be a little more affordable than smaller-batch farm and boutique yarns because there’s one less link in the supply chain. Mini-mills do tiny batches of yarn from a wide variety of fleeces and farms because they don’t require the same volume of fleece in order to spin a batch. For instance, you never know what Abundant Earth Fiber might have on offer at any given time.

Brooklyn Tweed: An example of a small yarn company with a little bit higher volume leading to a more affordable yarn but still with lots of transparency. BT discloses the entire supply chain of the yarn — from the scouring plant in Texas to the dye house in Pennsylvania to the mill in New Hampshire. We also know that the fleece is a mix of Columbia and Targhee from sheep raised in Wyoming — the only thing we don’t know is exactly what farms the fleece comes from.

Quince and Co: A little further down the transparency spectrum, Quince yarns are a great and very well-priced option for anyone wanting to know that what they’re buying was subject to US laws and restrictions, and not shipped in from around the globe. Bigger yarn companies buy fleece from brokers. The wool comes from all over the world and is sorted by color and diameter and other qualities, as opposed to by breed or point of origin. So when you see “100% wool” on a yarn label, that’s really all you know — it could come from anywhere or be from any number of kinds of sheep. Quince, on the other hand, uses only US-raised fleece for their wool yarns, so while we don’t know the specific breed, much less the specific farm(s) raising it, we do know it’s all sourced and processed in the US.

Obviously, these yarns are a drop in the bucket. I’m leaving out dozens of great, affordable, transparent options. I would love it if you would enumerate them in the comments! Especially those specific to other parts of the world.

And will someone PLEASE do a similar roundup of conscientious, traceable fabric options? I’m begging you.

EDITED TO ADD: I realized this morning I left out the entire category of hand-dyers. It wasn’t an intentional omission but I admit it may have subconsciously been due to the fact that the hand-dyeing subset of the yarn business is complicated. Not a lot of dyers are developing their own yarns or even particularly mindful of origin. When asked, many or most couldn’t tell you where the fleece came from — they’re buying finished, undyed yarn from mills or brokers based on a huge variety of factors and preferences, and origin may or may not be one of them. On top of that, many hand-dyers use primarily superwash wools, which are very heavily processed. Hand-dyers are lovely people who adore yarn — some of my best friends are dyers! — and when you buy from them, you’re supporting small/local businesses, and that’s all good. Several dyers focus on natural (non-superwash) fibers, and there are some that offer known-origins yarns but the ones that spring to mind did so in the past and have moved away from that level of specificity. So if you want to buy from a hand-dyer and you have questions about their yarns or their process, check their websites for details and/or ask them.

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: I’ve highlighted four dyers on Instagram this afternoon.

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Elsewhere, Slotober edition 3

Photos © Anna Dianich / @toltyarnandwool

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 3

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 3

The discussion around Slow Fashion October has gotten so meaty, and I just continue to be so inspired and in awe of it all, and so thankful to everyone who has contributed. This week’s links are genuinely important, taken on the whole, so I hope you’ll take some time with them. And also with the few things I’ve shared on the @slowfashionoctober feed, if not the entirety of the #slowfashionoctober hashtag this week. So much to think about—

– “The next time you’re about to buy something, ask yourself this: Where will this piece of clothing go after I no longer want it?<— If you read nothing else this weekend, please read this (And if you haven’t watched this beautiful and eye-opening video, do that next)

– “I’m slowly but surely drifting away from the idea that once the last loose end has been woven in, a garment is finished.”

– “One thing he talks about is taking time to fully have an experience, just focusing on what you’re doing instead of already planning the next thing you’re going to do after it. I want to do craft like that.

– “I like the idea of this shirt getting worn, loved and stitched as the years go by … growing better, stronger and more loved with each stitch and adventure.”

– “That’s what makes a good sweater great … knitting it for someone you love.”

– In the absence of my sashiko tutorial, I give you this looser one that posted on Design Sponge earlier this month: Three easy ways to mend fabric, inspired by Japanese textiles. (thx, ashima71) (I did manage to restock the sashiko thread, at least, so you can find all of the colors, minus navy, back in the webshop. Along with some other quality, handcrafted gems.)

– And speaking of not-quite-tutorials, upcycling, and hand-stitched denim, don’t miss Gridjunky’s notes on his drawstring bag

Happy weekend, everyone! I hope we’ll be seeing some of you at Fiber in the ’Boro!

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

Photos left to right: Design Sponge, Project Stash, Gridjunky

Slow Fashion October, Week 4: WORN

Slow Fashion October, Week 4: WORN

Happy Week 4 of Slow Fashion October, where our theme is WORN — i.e. heirlooms / second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity (bucking trends, quality materials …). Longevity is an overarching theme of the slow fashion discussion, but it’s not just about choosing well-made goods over cheap ones, it’s also about how to care for those things or extend the life of those you already own. There have already been so many great stories shared about treasured garments and their long lives, and I’m hoping to hear lots more, along with lots of thoughts on how to make things last.

My hope had been to have that previously-promised sashiko tutorial for you today, but sometimes I bite off a bit more than I can chew and I’ve definitely done that this month. With everything going on, I haven’t been able to photograph and write that yet, but I will get to it as soon as it’s feasible, I swear.

Meanwhile, I want to point you to my essay from last spring, Make, Knit, Mend, if you haven’t already read it. And I also want to direct your attention to some people who are specifically influential to me and/or in the larger community when it comes to this week’s theme. Images clockwise from top left, this group leans very heavily on the mending end of things, which is just one facet of the week’s theme—

Tom van Deijnen (aka @tomofholland) runs the Visible Mending Programme and launched the #visiblemending hashtag on Instagram

Luke Deverell of Darn and Dusted is another huge influence, doing beautiful things to worn-out garments and working to change people’s perceptions of mended clothing — also on IG as @darnanddusted

Katrina Rodabaugh of Make, Thrift, Mend was mentioned in my Make, Knit, Mend post above — I met her at the embroidermending workshop that inspired that post (and where I did my first patch to those jeans everyone asks about). She’s been making especially great contributions to the #slowfashionoctober feed; see her @katrinarodabaugh page for that

Molly de Vries, my good friend at Ambatalia (who makes the indispensable Bento Bags) has “the non-disposable life” as her personal mantra and posts a lot on her Instagram feed about her strategies for everything from avoiding take-out waste to laundering her clothes so they’ll last

I can’t wait to hear from you all this week!

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Slotober Frock step 2: What will it be?

Elsewhere: SFO edition 2

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 2

Slow Fashion October rages on, to my great delight. Here are some highlights and related links for this week—

– Best, funniest slow fashion-y tale of all time: the conclusion of Eight Yarns, One Sweater (and yay! Kay and Anne are blogging again)

– Lots of people discussing/questioning the kids’ clothing aspect of all of this; I wanted to highlight this blog post of Wilfumina’s ; see also @brienne_moody’s great IG post as well as @xilary’s

– Loved this personal history from Fancy Jaime, one of my handmade heroes

– and seeing the Kollabora team jump in

– Thoughts on slow fashion from a fast-fashion employee

– An episode of Craft in America (recommended by Karin Marie in comments), which I haven’t had a chance to watch but sounds fascinating, Threads

– Same goes for this podcast interview with the founder of Zady (recommended by Beatrice)

– And I’m eager to catch up on the latest contributions on this topic from A Playful Day and Curious Handmade (I need to figure out to work podcast time into my life somehow)

– Favorites from the #slowfashionoctober feed this week include Bristol’s hand-me-down sweater and this extremely dapper fellow (and so many more — please check out the full feed!)

– Two newly launched ventures I want to mention: Sifted aspires to be a slow-fashion directory/resource, and Martha McQuade’s @fiberdestash will help you re-home your stash. I’ve also seen talk of attempts to put together a fabric stash exchange of some kind. Will you all please note any and all resources like this in the comments below?

I also want to congratulate my friends Sam Lamb and Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam fame on the collaboration that’s resulted in their first sewing pattern, the West Water tunic — which felt especially sweet to me since I met Sam at my first Squam (which was also her first Squam) and my cabin (and Anna’s) was West Water. Love all these ladies. Also brand-new are the Fancies’ Fen Pattern, which I’ve been impatiently awaiting for  months, and Jen’s Tamarack Jacket. Can I please have a week to do nothing but sew all day and knit all night??

Bookhou large pocket pouches from Fringe Supply Co.

OK, speaking of known-origin, artisan-made goods, I’m happy to announce that these beloved Bookhou large pocket pouches are finally back in stock at Fringe Supply Co., in a couple of new print variations. Arounna of Bookhou is one of my heroes. She draws her designs, screenprints her fabric, and does all of the cutting, sewing and leatherwork, all in her Toronto studio with the help of her mother on the production end. Beauty, quality, utility and artistry — the whole package. I love being able to say that your support of Fringe Supply Co. not only makes it and this blog possible but also helps to support small maker businesses like Bookhou. Thank you so incredibly much to everyone for that.

I’m off to my very first Rhinebeck!! Have a great weekend, wherever you are.

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere, SFO edition 1

Photos left to right: @brienne_moody, Anne Shayne, @bristolivy

Slotober Frock step 2: What will it be?

Slotober Frock step 2: What will it be?

Where this fabric Allison made is concerned, there are two of me:

One me thinks this is very special fabric and that I need to think long and hard about what it wants to be. I don’t want to rush into anything, cut it hastily, risk wasting it by sewing it into the Wrong Thing. The extreme version of this me thinks the wisest thing to do — especially given how Spring-y the fabric feels to me — is to say, you know what, I’m going to learn the lessons of Slow Fashion October and not try to crank out a dress this month after all, because that would be rushing it and making for the sake of making (to meet my own arbitrarily set goal) rather than being certain I’m spending my time and energy making something I’ll truly get a lot of use out of.

The other me thinks, yes, this is indeed special fabric, but it’s not actually spun from GOLD! I don’t want to overthink it and risk paralyzing myself out of fear of getting it wrong. This is also supposed to be fun, right? The extreme version of this me wants to sew it up into a floor-length Anna gown and pray for just one occasion in my life where a dress that dramatic could go. It would be the most beautiful dress ever. And I would wear it with my biker boots.

Here’s the thing about this fabric that’s stumping me a bit, if I’m being 100% honest: I’m not sure it’s me. I think it’s gorgeous and amazing and I could happily stare at it for hours on end. But how much does it have to do with the rest of my wardrobe? What do I layer it with? Can I make a single outfit with other things I own, or is it only worn one way: on its own.

The best word for it is pretty — it is insanely pretty — and that’s not a trait I relate to much. It would be very simple to sew it into a very pretty dress for someone else. (I see all those hands shooting up right now.) What’s harder is figuring out what it can be that’s me. I have to be able to imagine getting up in the morning and putting it on. It’s also quite a statement, and like I was saying the other day, that tends to limit frequency of wear. I feel like whatever it is needs to be fairly spare and simple — I don’t want to be drowned by the pattern or to feel like the dress is wearing me, but a simpler shape will also allow the fabric to shine.

So I’ve sketched a bit. I’ve piled the fabric onto my dress form. I’ve started a Pinterest board. For now, I’m just going to think about it. But not too hard.

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Week 3, LOVED

Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

Week 3 of Slow Fashion October is upon us, and this week’s theme is LOVED, as in your proudest accomplishment / most loved item / most frequently worn item / thing you saved up for / investment pieces / thing you worked a long time on / oldest thing that’s still in rotation. (I just noticed that’s seven suggested prompts and I might literally do one per day on Instagram this week.) What is it about those items that makes them so cherished?

I wrote last week about some of my most-loved and most-worn pieces, but in anticipation of this week I’ve been thinking about the times in my life where I put on an outfit and thought, man, this is it. This is what it feels like to put on clothes that are me. The first time it ever happened I think I must have been 11 or 12 years old. My mom told me she’d heard about a new children’s boutique one suburb south of us and she thought we should check it out. I was old enough to be mortified at the idea of being taken to a children’s boutique, but shopping was also something of a difficulty with my mother and me, and I was not about to turn her down. It turned out to be full of things that made me drool, but the defining moment was when I tried on a burgundy velvet pantsuit that fit as if it had been custom made for me, and was the coolest outfit I’d ever been near, much less in. My mom or the shoplady, I don’t know, had picked out a dusty pink blouse to go under it, and there happened to be a matching pink “silk” (who knows) scarf with Karen written on it in burgundy caligraphy. Which of course got tucked under the collar, ends dangling so you could see the name. It sounds horrific, I know — it must have been 1979-ish? — but I’m telling you, I felt like I could rule the world. I’m sure it was expensive, by our standards, but my mom agreed it had to be mine.

I’m pretty sure I felt the same thrill every time I put that outfit on, and it was definitely a lesson in how good clothes could and should be, but I think that was also the outfit that ultimately taught to me to steer clear of statement outfits. When something is that much of a standout, and thus memorable, you don’t get to wear it very often. People will definitely recall that you had it on the last time you saw them. And I either didn’t yet have the hang of mixing and matching, or I didn’t have other pieces in my closet that would work with just the pants or just the jacket. I’m not sure how often I wore it or what ever became of it, but it was the garment love of my life at that stage. And probably also the birth of my love of a good blazer.

Flash forward to 1994. I’m 25 years old, going through one of my biggest hardships, and had been briefly and tumultuously dating an older man named Bob. We’d decided to stop dating, having found it impossible to get through an evening without having a massive fight about something ridiculous. But before the break-up, I had bought two tickets to a Counting Crows show and made a date with him, and it turned out he still expected to go. Obviously, I needed to look amazing. I was broke but an excellent bargain hunter, so I hit the mall, and I came away with these two items that together gave me all the confidence I needed to go on this awkward non-date. The natural linen tunic came off a clearance rack at The Limited (made in Hong Kong — I just checked) and black linen mini skirt off another clearance rack at The Gap (made in Malaysia). I already had the perfect black sandals. It was the summer of the best tan of my life, and it was also blazing hot in Kansas City — the year all those people died in the Midwest. So the outfit would help keep me cool (physically, anyway) in addition to boosting my confidence.

Bob and I have been together 21 years now. I don’t credit this outfit for it — it was a trouble-filled evening, and we definitely did not get back together that night — but at least I felt amazing in uncomfortable circumstances. And I knew he noticed.

I loved both these garments and, as you can see, have never been able to part with them. For years, they were in an underbed box with some other souvenir clothes, almost all of which I finally parted with when we were packing up for our cross-country move last year. But these two remain. The tunic went back into my closet — I figured it would be useful in the Tennessee heat, and I’ve wound up wearing it multiple times a week since we got here, including through the winter under sweaters. At this point, it’s threadbare and a little discolored around the edges, and I’m glad I have the sewing skills now to make a pattern for its successors. The skirt is a little too small and a lot too short for me now, but it’s still one of the best-designed pieces I’ve ever owned and I think of it all the time. (In fact, there’s a bag in my sewing WIP basket right now that’s black linen with contrast stitching, inspired by this skirt.) It has the perfect shape, perfect pockets, perfect amount of detail. I apologize for not ironing it, but it’s a garment I’m studying and thinking about how to translate it into something that will work for me now. Garments with long lives and legacies, that’s what I crave.

I just realized the most recent instance of pulling on an outfit and having that magical feeling has a lot in common with the linen combo above — it’s the linen and wool combo below, which I don’t apologize for posting again! Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind it reminded me of my Counting Crows clothes, or maybe it’s a coincidence. But it’s nice to feel that old feeling again, this time in clothes knitted and sewn with my own two hands.

Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Elsewhere