Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 2

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

More highlights from the great discussion—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


– Knitting for victory (thx, Kelbournes)

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

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


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


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: My week in the Craftlands

21st-Century Thrifting: On the Hunt for Dries Van Noten

Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner — the Mason-Dixon ladies — are two of my favorite people in the yarn world, and I’m really happy they now have a webshop and warehouse because it means Ann now works in the same building as me, which means I get to have lunch with her from time to time! A couple of weeks ago, she told me about her idiosyncratic take on thrifting, and I thought it was the perfect way to kick off Long-Worn Week of Slow Fashion October. So here’s Ann—

21st-Century Thrifting: On the Hunt for Dries Van Noten

I have a very specific way of approaching slow fashion: I buy old clothes on the Internet.

One very specific kind of old clothes: anything by Dries Van Noten, the Belgian designer.

A decade ago, I discovered Dries Van Noten when I was lying flat on my back in bed with a cold. It was late, and the Nyquil was kicking in. The Style channel was on, and Elsa Klensch was recapping fashion shows. Willowy women floated into my bedroom, wearing Japanese-inspired fabrics and shapes, and Elsa talked about how this Dries Van Noten person was drawing on paintings by Whistler for inspiration.

Sublime. I thought I was hallucinating. I was a goner.

And I was really gone when I found that his clothes came with astronomical price tags.

That was in 2006. I began to follow Dries the way some people follow the Green Bay Packers. I await each new season, curious to see what will happen next. His fashion shows in Paris — here’s the most recent one — are ten-minute dream worlds where his explosions of color and pattern and texture and shape can bring me to tears.

I do not typically cry about a pair of pants, just saying.

I sense in him something rare: a combination of patience, curiosity, discipline and refinement that should be held up as an ideal for anybody who creates things. The energy necessary to create four collections of this quality each year — two for men, two for women, for 25 years — is hard to imagine.

This is my favorite Dries video because it shows him talking, filmed in his gorgeous Antwerp studio.

21st-Century Thrifting: On the Hunt for Dries Van Noten


Dries Van Noten runs his fashion empire in an unorthodox way. He owns his company, meaning that he answers only to himself, not to a corporation pushing him to improve profits, expand The Brand, or create bedsheets or beach towels or derivative crap. He preserves a pure vision this way.

The Independent writes:

Van Noten isn’t interested in keeping up with his competitors. In fact, he refers to them as “colleagues” – an indication, perhaps, of a magnanimous spirit that is rare in an industry transfixed as much with the bottom line as it is with hemlines. “Style-wise I do the things that I want to do,” he says. “But organisation-wise you have to run a company, you have responsibilities.”

Those responsibilities include to his stockists, his staff, and his suppliers. “I try to see that every season we have prints, so that we can work with our six printers. In India we have a cottage industry involving 3,000 people working on many techniques of embroidery, so for me it’s important that in every collection we have embroideries. Sometimes they’re very in-your-face and visible, sometimes they’re subtle. But they’re always there, so that I can give work to these people.”

The Financial Times writes:

Dries Van Noten, the Belgian designer for whom embroidery is a part of his signature, has been working with the same family-owned business in Calcutta for the past 25 years. “A lot of people assume that if you are going to do embroidery in India, it’s ipso facto ethnic,” says Patrick Scallon, a spokesman for the designer. “But it’s a very respectful creative process. He has his designs, they have their views, and they both inform each other.”

Dries Van Noten’s relationship with the Indian embroiderers has been carefully nurtured, with one full-time member of his staff essentially splitting time between the workshop in India and the designer’s base in Antwerp, as choices are made about beads and fibres.

“It demands investment,” Mr Scallon said. “You can’t just phone it in. Maybe some companies send the work off through an agent but it is worth it to invest in this relationship.”

Most extraordinary: Dries buys no advertising. You will never see an ad in Vogue from Dries Van Noten. But you will see him in the editorial pages, because the editors can’t deny the quality of his work.

21st-Century Thrifting: On the Hunt for Dries Van Noten


My first piece of Dries was a skirt I found in London, 60% off. It was by far the most I’d ever paid for a skirt. Ten years later, it’s my favorite skirt, a dark jacquard with asymmetrical tucks that make no sense except that they shape the skirt in a fantastically tidy way.

I found a few pieces on sale here and there: A coat with a deep brocade border; a quilted skirt; a jacket with Japanese fabrics; a shirt with crewelwork all over it. For the most part, and for many years, my fascination was abstract. I couldn’t see how to justify spending so much on clothes, no matter how much I admired them.

Technology, as has so often happened in my life and work, changed the whole Dries situation.

Clever shoppers have shopped thrift stores for ages, but I never had the focus for them. Too much randomness for me. Now, the Internet has revolutionized the market for clothes sold by consignment. Sophisticated technology allows you to find exactly what you’re looking for. The online consignment business has exploded, and it’s possible to buy the most exquisite clothes in the world for a fraction of their original price.

The Dries I used to dream of is now something I can collect without any pain to my pocketbook. It is indulgent in its way, sartorial ice fishing. You never know what you’ll catch. And often, you come up empty. But I’m telling you about this because this new consignment technology means that beautiful, well-made, enduring clothes are available to us in a way they really weren’t, even a few years ago. Yes, eBay has been doing this for years. But eBay is the Model T of this technology.

If the goal is to find clothes that last, that are made by designers who care about the people making their clothing, that inspire you every time you wear them, then sites like The RealReal and Poshmark are doing something of real value.

And something that is a lot of fun, too.
Ann Shayne


Thank you, Ann! For my part, although I’m a devout garage saler and flea marketer when it comes to furniture and home goods, I’ve never been a clothes thrifter. But over the past couple of decades, I have managed to hold on to some things so long they’re actually vintage — it’s just they’ve been in my closet the whole time! That’s what I crave now, as I said last year: clothes with long lives and legacies. What about you — is thrifting part of your wardrobe, and how so?


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 1

Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 1

Before we dive into this week’s links, I want to note that it was five years ago today, while we were visiting Nashville from Berkeley, that my friend Meg Strong cast on a hat, handed me the needles, and began to walk me through it, step by step. (A few mornings later, she and her mother, my friend Jo, taught me to purl — and then Jo did a little drill sergeant routine while we ate lunch that I credit for my never having had a problem with yarnovers in my work.) I could never have imagined the ways in which that small act could change my entire life, but here I am five years hence, spending my days — and nights! — engaged with this incredible community in so many ways. I recently wrote an essay for the BigCartel blog (that happened to post this week) about how your support of Fringe Supply Co. makes it possible for me to put food on my table, but that it’s the community that enriches my life. Corny maybe, but 100% true. I’ve never liked my life more than I do right now, and I owe it all to Meg and to Jo and to you. I can never say thank-you enough.

And also, before I forget once I dive in here, we’ve got two new pattern books in the shop this week: Within by Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook, and the first of the new Mason-Dixon Field Guides, Stripes, from Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner. And yes, we have Field Bags today!

. . . . .

SO! Slow Fashion October is off to an exceptional start. It pains me that there’s more conversation on the #slowfashionoctober feed than I can possibly keep up with, and also thrills me that you don’t really need me! You guys are knocking it out of the park, bringing up so many important points of discussion all over the spectrum. If you want  to get a sense of the remarks but can’t take it all in, I recommend these three tactics:

1) Read the comments on the Master Plan blog post, the kickoff post, and/or my blog post from Monday.

2) Check out my posts and the corresponding comments on the @slowfashionoctober account, where I’m highlighting a couple of things per day.

3) Read whatever is under Top Posts on the #slowfashionoctober feed at any given moment in time, along with the comments on those posts.


That’s already a lot to take in, so I’m keeping this to two SFO-ish links today, both relating to natural indigo, synthetic indigo and our jeans:

River Blue — a film about the destruction of rivers around the globe (and the people who depend on them) by the fashion industry, and specifically the blue-jeans industry. It’s not clear where/when we might be able to watch the full film, but the trailer is quite compelling (via @catherineruddell)

Tobacco farmers see green in indigo — a creative a effort to boost natural indigo farming, for the benefit of the farmers and our jeans  (thx, Bristol)

Plus an article that is simply one of the best pieces of writing I’ve come across in a long time, by novelist Michael Chabon:

My son, the prince of fashion

Thanks for being such amazing company this week, everyone — see you on the hashtag!

NOTE: The images above coincide with posts I’ve regrammed this week; click through for the originals — top left, top right, middle left, middle right, bottom left, bottom right.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: My Slotober project for 2016

My Slotober project for 2016

My Slotober project for 2016

I’m sure there are a lot of you dying to point out to me that I have yet to sew anything out of the fabric that Allison custom-wove for me last year. Trust me: I KNOW! (By the way, have you seen what Allison is up to these days?) I’m secretly hoping to do something about that this month, but it’s not my official plan and I’m trying to be realistic. My official plan is to focus on making things wearable again. Part of why I keep urging everyone to read NO ONE WANTS YOUR OLD CLOTHES is that I’m increasingly troubled by every post and plan on the interwebs about how to streamline your wardrobe — be it in the context of a capsule wardrobe or a slow-fashion wardrobe (which are not the same thing) — starting with, “first, clean out your closet.” I’m guilty of promoting this — and a major closet clean-out in 2014 happens to have played into my enlightenment about what I really wanted in my closet — but as that article so adeptly covers in one single read, it’s not good.

Trash is one of my lifelong fascinations — I read about and think about waste management more than the average human — but for a long time I was among those who believed that giving clothes to Goodwill, etc., meant it would find a new home, not a spot in the dump or on a cargo ship or any number of other troublesome fates. I’ve come to the realization that a truly conscientious wardrobe starts with owning what you own — taking responsibility for it. So I’m upping my commitment on that front.

There are ways to re-home or repurpose things, and we’ll talk more about this during Long-Worn week next week, but for my Slotober project this year, my goal is to get four unworn garments back to wearability:

1) Bob’s rollneck. Bob loves this sweater and would love to wear it, but the neck is just too big, and the stockinette roll might not have been the best approach with this particular yarn. So my first job will be to pull out the neck and redo it, picking up fewer stitches this time to cinch up the hole a bit, and either try again with the stockinette but less of it, or go straight to replacing it with a regular ribbed foldover crewneck. I’ll leave that up to Bob.

2) Linen chambray top. I bought this popover at Madewell about three years ago and loved the fabric and the fit except, as usual, it was too small for me in the shoulders. So I cut off the sleeves and wore it — a ton — under things. The linen got paper-thin pretty quickly, and there are significant holes at the corners of the pockets. I was planning to harvest the buttons and put it in Bob’s rag bin, but I put it on the other day and I still really love and could use it! So I’m mending those holes and keeping it alive as long as it’s willing. I only wish I still had the sleeves to take fabric from.

3) Amanda. I know, I’m as pained to see this here as you are, but I’ve confessed before that I’ve always been unhappy about how large I left the neck, and I just don’t wear it. If there’s anything I learned from you all during the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 (and last year’s SFO, and everyone’s general willingness to rip and fix), it’s that it really is pointless to have a sweater in your closet you don’t wear, so it’s time for me to do something about this. I may have to face the fact that I chose the wrong yarn and this will never hang on me the way I want it to, even with a modified neck. But I’m not conceding without first attempting to fix the neck. Like Bob’s, my first try will be simply to pull it out, pick up fewer stitches and see what effect that has. Then I’ll made any further decisions based on those results — possibly major neck surgery or major ripping. <hiding eyes emoji>

4) My favorite jeans. These are another regrettable fast-fashion purchase I’m trying to do right by. They are, in fact, my favorite jeans to wear — the most easygoing — and I only own three pair of blue jeans to begin with. There’s these, my other already holey/mended jeans (much older than these and still in better shape) and a newer pair of J.Crew jeans from their Made in L.A. line, Point Sur, which are my dress-up jeans, since the other two both have holes now. (Plus my new natural-denim I+W’s.) These are only a few years old but have gotten so threadbare all over that they shred somewhere every time I move — they tear like a Kleenex — so they’re not currently being worn at all. Because I love the fit and don’t want to buy more jeans — and because I love the idea of it — I’m thinking of doing an allover saskiko treatment, so they’ll practically be hand-quilted. It’s a longer-term project, if it even works, but I’m going to get it started and see!

I’d like to say I’ll tackle one of these per week, but this is a nutty month for me, so I’ll tackle them as I’m able!

If you have set out a Slotober project for yourself, I’d love to hear about it! And I hope you’ve read the comments on the master plan and the kickoff post, as well as on the #slowfashionoctober — such good stuff already. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to respond to every comment, but I am reading them all, appreciate them so much, and am also attempting to read every post to the hashtag! You guys are endlessly amazing.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October 2016: Week 1, Introductions

Slow Fashion October, Week 1: INTRODUCTIONS

Slow Fashion October, Week 1: INTRODUCTIONS

Today’s the official start of Slow Fashion October 2016, and I’m even more excited than I was last year. My closet and my thoughts have both evolved considerably over the past year, and I’ll be sharing about that in assorted ways throughout the month. But today I just want to get us going!

In my outline for the month, I set out for this first week to be about INTRODUCTIONS — of ourselves and ideas — whether you post once or many times, here and/or @slowfashionoctober, or on your own blog or Instagram feed:

Who are you, and what does slow fashion mean to you. What got you started thinking about it — people, books, films, etc. Are your concerns environmental, humanitarian, financial? Most important: How does your thinking factor into your life and closet. Also, any special plans or projects for Slotober, and what are you hoping to get out of it?

In the weeks ahead, we’ll delve into the environmental and humanitarian crises around fast fashion, how to do right by the clothes and materials in our possession, the joys and perils of handmade, and the challenge of getting to the bottom of where things really come from. But the overarching question for the moment is what are we even talking about when we talk about “slow fashion,” and why are we talking about it at all?

I don’t believe there is any one true definition of (or path toward) a slow fashion wardrobe. It can mean a million different things to a million different people. But I believe the core of it is simply mindfulness. Educating ourselves about the problems of fast fashion, then learning to ask ourselves about any garment we intend to make or buy, or otherwise acquire:

– How much do I know about where it came from and what it’s made of?
– And do I care about it enough to take responsibility for its existence on this planet?

There’s so much more I want to say about what slow fashion maybe is or isn’t, and if I try to pack any of it into this post, I’m aware that each sentence is really a post or day or week of its own. So I’m going to leave it there for the moment, because in my view that’s really the nut of the thing. Being mindful. Asking questions. Making conscious choices.


As far as why this squishy term has even come into existence, there is so much out there about what’s wrong with fast fashion — the human and environmental costs of our gluttony — that it’s hard to know where to begin. But if you haven’t seen them, I recommend these two for starters:

1) No one wants your old clothes — the best standalone article I’ve seen about the problems with the glut of clothing already on this planet.

2) Unravel — an incredibly thought-provoking short video about one shredding-recycling plant in India and the workers’ attempts to understand where all of these clothes are coming from.


The main thing I want to say at the outset about me personally and my outlook on all of this is that for me it’s a joyful thing, building a slow fashion wardrobe. It’s about appreciation, not deprivation. About the thrill of making my own clothes, supporting small businesses and contributing to the resurgence of the garment industry in the US in numerous ways. Does it mean the world to me that, in doing these things, I also avoid supporting slave labor and environmental waste as much as possible? Yes, it absolutely means the world to me. As I’m fond of saying, I want to feel good in my clothes — and that doesn’t just mean feeling cute. It means feeling proud of my part in them, and free of concern (again, “as much as possible”) that any humans were harmed in their making. It’s not easy, and it definitely is a slow process, but I find it rewarding beyond words.


So this a month to talk about the choices we all face. It’s a long road from first awareness of the issues to a slow fashion wardrobe (however we define it!), and we’re all at very different places on that road. So I’m asking again that everyone keep that in mind, as well. We have different resources and outlooks and skills and demands on our time. What’s possible for one person will not be for another, and nobody should feel judged — by themselves or anyone else in the conversation. Mindfulness above all as we head into a world-bending month of conversation, yeah?

So here we go! See you in the comments, on the @slowfashionoctober page, and as much as possible on the whole of the #slowfashionoctober feed*. If you post to your own blog throughout the month, please include a link to the Slow Fashion October outline, and feel free to leave a comment here with a link to your post so others can see!


*I know I said on IG before that we should use #slowfashionoctober2016 but I take it back. People will wind up using both and then nobody will know which one to pay the most attention to, and it will make my job harder. So let’s just stick with #slowfashionoctober.


PREVIOUSLY: Slow Fashion October 2016 (master plan)

Slow Fashion October 2016 (master plan)

Slow Fashion October 2016

If there’s one thing I learned from the incredible experience that was Slow Fashion October last year (barely glimpsed in the pics above), it’s that it’s an even more complicated conversation than I realized — and I knew it was complicated! But it is, plainly, a hard one to talk about. It’s hard even to say what “slow fashion” is, as it’s different for every person. I don’t think it’s at all important to agree on either a definition or a list of shoulds or musts or don’ts. What’s important is having the big messy beautiful discussion — right out in public — and getting each other thinking. So, difficult or not, bring it on! I couldn’t be more excited for season two.

Last year I set up a framework of loose weekly themes to give the discussion a tiny bit of structure (Small, Loved, Worn and Known). I liked the theme approach, and think you all did too, but I feel like they were so loose that some of what seemed obvious to me actually seemed non-existent to others. Such as the fact that the conversation is not just about handmade — it’s about all the ways (and reasons!) we can approach a slow-fashion wardrobe. When I first created the @slowfashionoctober Instagram account last year and had to reduce the idea to one sentence for the profile, I wrote:

A celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.

I thought that was pretty good! And I still think looking at it from all of those angles is key. So for this year’s themes, I’m making them slightly more specific to (what I see as) the primary facets of slow fashion. Here goes:

Week 1, Oct 1-9: INTRODUCTIONS
Who are you, and what does slow fashion mean to you. What got you started thinking about it — people, books, films, etc. Are your concerns environmental, humanitarian, financial? Most important: How does your thinking factor into your life and closet. Also, any special plans or projects for Slotober, and what are you hoping to get out of it?
+ My Slotober project for 2016
+ Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 1

Week 2, Oct 10-16: LONG-WORN
How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning.
+ 21st-century thrifting: On the hunt for Dries Van Noten
+ My week in the Craftlands
+ Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2

Week 3, Oct 17-23: HANDMADE
How do you understand your style, choose projects well, advance your skills, get the right fit, and keep things interesting and long-lasting at the same time. What are your go-to patterns and most successful garments. How do you avoid mindless acquisition of yarn and fabric, or making “too much.” How do you make time and space for making — and why?
+ Why I make my clothes
+ Walking a mile in self-made shoes
+ Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 3

Week 4, Oct 24-31: KNOWN ORIGINS
Good (especially good and affordable) sources of yarn and fabric with traceable origins. And for the things we buy, favorite sources: from small-batch designer-producers to fashion companies trying to do the right thing in a transparent way.
+ How much can we know about where clothes come from?
+ Is it more expensive to make your own clothes?

Two issues came up in the past few days’ discussion on IG that I especially want to encourage anyone with knowledge or advice to weigh in on along the way: 1) the challenge of kids and fast fashion, and 2) plus-size options, both in terms of patterns and ready-to-wear.

So, just like last year, this is a framework that you can choose to use or ignore as you like, but it’s here if it’s helpful. I think this year I’m also going to post regular (daily?) questions along the way that you can either respond to in the comments or use as a prompt for a post of your own. Maybe you respond to one a week or maybe all of them — totally and completely up to you.

There is no right or expected way to participate — chime in wherever and however and as frequently or infrequently as suits you. If you’re posting on your blog, use pingbacks or leave links in the comments on my posts here so people can see what you’re writing. On social media, use hashtag #slowfashionoctober to contribute and follow along. And I hope you’ll also strike up the conversation in your 3-dimensional world throughout the month.

The most important thing I can emphasize is this isn’t about judgment. We all have different opinions and resources and time and wishes and skills — we are each on our own path. Like I said at the start of this post, what matters is just to be talking and thinking about it, and doing whatever is desirable and possible for you.

I can’t wait to hear from you!


PREVIOUSLY: Slow Fashion October 2015

Pictured are some of the contributions from last year that got highlighted in the @slowfashionoctober feed: top left, top right, middle left, middle right, bottom left, bottom right