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!

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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

Elsewhere

Bento Bags in recycled grey or pink

Happy Friday, friends! #slowfashionoctober is off to such a strong start that I’m struggling to keep up with all the introductions! Which is awesome, and I look forward to catching up over the weekend. On that subject, first up for today is next week’s topic, which is: WHAT. As in: What are you doing differently than you have in the past; what shape does “slow fashion” take in your closet; what are the items in your closet (0r your stash or your project bag) that you feel the strongest about … and why?

And with that, an extremely meaty Elsewhere:

– Knitter, programmer and DIY community member Kelsey Leftwich has been working on a wardrobe-planning iPhone app for the past year or more, and it’s now available in the App Store: it’s called Capsule Wardrobe and it’s on sale this month in honor of Slotober— huge congrats, Kelsey! I haven’t downloaded it yet, but if you beat me to it, please report back!

– Great advice from Heather on how to boost your sewing (or knitting) confidence: Just make it already!

– Charity knitting drives to consider: Knit Big for Little Lungs and multiple Warm Up America! intiatives

– Have you heard? Squam lives on!

– Incredibly beautiful NYT piece about Mexican weavers and natural dyes (thx, Holly)

– I’m Fascinated by Solidwool

– One of many alarming notes in this bit of guidance for companies manufacturing in Asia: “… figures compiled in 2013 found that there was more than one factory fire per week in Bangladesh.”  (thx, Angela)

What do synthetic fibers and shellfish have to do with each other? “Outdoor gear manufacturer Patagonia found that the average synthetic jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfibers per load of laundry. Each load may generate hundreds of thousands of fibers, which can slip through filters on washing machines and wastewater treatment plants and eventually make their way into ocean waters.” (thx, Dania)

– How come no one ever told me you can make a rug out of finger-knitted chains?

– Ella Gordon’s vest from the Cowichan-style Knitalong is now a pattern!

Free yoke inspiration

I would knit with Alan Cumming (thx, DG)

These vintage sweaters

This beautiful little story from Katrina

Stunning socks

New smock pattern alert

Carina’s lace shawl tattoo is the coolest (thx, Tunet)

Top 100 Knitting Blogs — what are your favorites?

Sweetness overload

– And why didn’t I think of that?

IN SHOP NEWS: There are two new colors of Bento Bags available! Pictured up top, the fabric is a 100% recycled hemp/organic cotton blend with a lovely slubby tweediness to it, and it’s available in grey or pink (aka light red). Conscientiously made in California.

AND IN OTHER NEWS: I’m SUPER excited for next week because I finally get to reveal the details of the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong! So have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week—

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

So! Here it is: My big 20×30 outfit plan for October (aka Slow Fashion October). Except I picked out my twenty pieces (above, not counting the shoes), started playing closet rummy and quickly made thirty-five outfits without exhausting all the possibilities. Which is a good thing, because this is October and any plan is going to have to have some wiggle room in it. We’re still in the lower-mid 80s right now (and loving it, honestly — the humidity finally broke) but with any luck we’ll be down into the 70s or upper 60s by the end of the month, but there’s really no predicting it. I’m being necessarily flex about the shoes, too: the black huaraches will give way to black ankle boots; the tan sandals will become tan flats. And somewhere in there I’ll need to make a separate packing list for Rhinebeck, where it will be colder than this.

An increasingly crystalline truth is that I can get by in any situation with this combination of shoes: one black, one tan, and a wildcard or two.

There are a few issues here, mind you. Ten of these outfits are based on a natural version of my “toddler pants” (I’ve told you this is what I call my olive pants and their descendents, yes?) which aren’t done. I, uh, had a little mishap. So that’s why they look funny in the photos: They’re wrong and not done. Also, some of those outfits are sleeveless. Will the pants be fixed before the temperature drops? We shall see. Likewise, the dark jeans pictured are my Willies because my me-made jeans don’t have a hem yet, but in reality I could be wearing either pair. And the striped sweater needs one of its raglan seams redone before it gets cool enough to wear it. Hopefully it will get cool enough to wear the sweaters I’ve included — at least once! But I’ll be winging it if not.

So I’m not being a slave to this, BUT (weather permitting) I can get dressed all month from the following without giving it another moment’s thought … unless of course I want to.

I’ll be attempting to document my outfits every day for #slowfashionoctober either in my main @karentempler feed or my Story (those are my Monday and Tuesday outfits up top), and will post a wrap-up at the end of the month — but I can tell you right now this is my favorite array of outfits I’ve put together yet.

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

For details on all of the garments pictured, see my Fall Closet Inventory + Refashioned army jacket + toddler pants post coming as soon as the natural ones are fixed, but they’re all basically the same as the olive pair (with assorted variations).

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Pre-fall Outfits!

Slow Fashion October is upon us!

Slow Fashion October is upon us!

In under 48 hours, depending what time zone you’re in, it will officially be the 3rd Slow Fashion October. I still think the best description I’ve ever given of this event is the one in the @slowfashionoctober profile: “A celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.” Slow fashion, to me, is all of those things — from the thrift-store find to the me-made to the special purchase, and everything in between. Slotober is meant to be fun, thoughtful, enlightening and challenging, and has been for the past two years, so I’m looking forward to this year’s conversation.

How and how much you participate is completely up to you. If you want to weigh in daily/weekly/just once for the month; here, on the #slowfashionoctober feed or elsewhere; in brief or at great length, I applaud that. I’ll be posting on my @karentempler account and trying to share highlights on the @slowfashionoctober account as in years past. And here’s what you can expect to see here on the blog:

1) Katrina is doing four Slow Fashion Citizen interviews for this month (essentially one per week), and she asked if I would be one of the interviewees, which is a little weird for me but also a great way to organize my current thinking on all of this. So I agreed, and that will appear here on Tuesday. But in the meantime, I do want to offer up some links to past posts for those who might be new to the conversation or the subject, and I hope you’ll share your favorites (from wherever) in the comments:

How much can we know about where clothes come from?
Why I make (most of) my own clothes
Can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion? (Or why I don’t make all of my clothes)
What makes a garment slow fashion?

2) Tomorrow (hopefully, or soon thereafter) I’m going to post some further thoughts and details following our chat about the idea of a clothing swap.

3) I mentioned before that I’m going to do outfit lineups one-month-at-a-time for the foreseeable future, and my October outfit plans will be up on Monday — along with a little wardrobe challenge for anyone who’s up for it.

4) And since a lot of people feel strongly about the conversation starters, I’m going to give you/us a topic each Friday for the next few weeks, starting today — a question or thought to respond to wherever/however you like. (Or simply to ponder for yourself!)

THE WEEK ONE TOPIC IS: WHO. As in not only who are you (i.e. introductions) but who has influenced or inspired you to think or do differently with regard to clothing yourself, and in what way? And if you’ve set any goals or plans for yourself this month, include them in your introduction!

ALSO: If you are hosting or aware of any tie-in events or promotions, are posting on your own blog, or have anything else to point to or share, please do include a note and relevant links below!

And with that, we’re off. See you in the comments and on the #slowfashionoctober feed — have fun and happy weekend!

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion?

Photos above from 2016 via @repair_revolution, @whistlinggirlknits, @anloubroen, @clairemadeit, @mollieelle, @stitchinschmitz, @ecoage, @romidesigns, @thecharmofit

 

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

Want to have a clothing swap?

I’m planning to kick off Slow Fashion October this year on September 29th, since the 1st of October falls on the weekend — and somehow that’s this Friday! I know a lot of you have already been thinking about projects, goals or challenges for yourselves, and I look forward to hearing them as we approach the starting line next week, but I’ve also been mulling the notion of organizing some sort of worldwide clothing swap, and my Q for You today is: Do you want to swap — and/or host or help?

I’ve never hosted a clothing swap (so hey, why not attempt a worldwide one?!) but there are two basic possibilities—

ONLINE: I know lots of people use Instagram for swaps and sales in various ways — either posting on their regular feed or creating a separate one for listings. Anyone who wants to could go about it however they like, or we could try to come up with some sort of standardized system that would help people find those who are listing stuff as available. (Maybe #SlotoberSwap hashtag, at least?) Thoughts?

IN PERSON: Likewise, I could just say “Hey, why not think about hosting a clothing swap!” and hope a bunch of people will do so. Or we could try to put together some sort of best-practices guidance and a calendar of events. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people with a shop or studio space where they’d be willing to host, and any thoughts on how to make it logistically manageable for people who are interested. (Does there need to be an RSVP and max # of people in attandance? Is it a free-for-all, or 1 “token” for each garment you bring, take turns picking …?)

Please share any and all tips and thoughts in the comments, below, and I’ll post a follow-up with an action plan if one takes shape in the conversation. And if anyone would like to volunteer to take charge of this initiative, please raise your hand!

Also, again, please consider donating workplace appropriate clothing to an organization like Dress for Success, or other very targeted donation opportunities where your clothes are most likely to be adopted, and not discarded. Anyone who knows of other great organizations with specific needs — especially any relating to all of the current disaster relief efforts — please share them below.

Also, Samantha of @agatheringofstitches is planning to organize a fabric swap, so follow her and be on the lookout for news on that.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You (one of my all-time favorites!) : What stitch are you?