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—



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).


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Pre-fall Outfits!

2017 Remake 2 + Slotober wardrobe challenge

2017 Remake 2 + Slotober wardrobe challenge

It was my intention for today to post October outfits and a fun little wardrobe challenge, but I got caught up in my own challenge and didn’t get the outfits done! Here’s the idea: Have you ever seen Lee Vosburgh’s 10×10 challenge or similar sorts of things? Lee routinely challenges herself to pick out 10 garments and make 10 days of outfits out of them. I’ve never actually done it, but it’s fun to watch! Jess Daniels suggested to me last year that it would be fun to include something similar as part of Slow Fashion October and I didn’t manage to pull it off. During Slotober last year, Jess set a challenge for herself of picking 1 garment per week and wearing it 6 different ways (documenting each day on Instagram), and there have been a couple of people the last two years who wore 1 dress 30 different ways for the month. I don’t know if I could do any of that, but I love all of those ideas and, as you know, my quarterly wardrobe planning thing this past several seasons has boiled down to me picking out 20 or 30 garments that will form the core of the season for me, and putting them together any variety of ways. I also really loved my Paris packing list (and my Squam one, for that matter) and how many outfits I got out of those very few garments.

So I decided that for my October wardrobe planning, I would challenge myself to pick 20 garments (including shoes??) and make 30 outfits out of them. It’s a 20×30. And I’m wondering if you might want to play along — with this idea or any of the above, or any variation you might cook up for yourself. It’s a parlor game, sure, but it can also be pretty amazing to see how far some pieces will go. And it’s also a great way to make sure things get worn that you keep meaning to wear but somehow don’t. That’s the challenge part!

And then here’s what happened: I had plans to make more of my beloved toddler pants (like my olive ones) and knew I wanted them to factor heavily into my October, so have been head-down at the sewing machine since Friday night. Plus there’s a refashion I’ve had in mind for three years that I decided to do yesterday — live in my Story on Instagram — in honor of the first day of Slotober, after finishing the second pair of pants (which I’ll show you soon). So instead of putting together my 20×30 this weekend, I was sewing for it! But it was extremely productive, and it’s not like I can’t get dressed in the meantime, so I’ll have my 20×30 plan to share on Wednesday (after tomorrow’s Slow Fashion Citizen interview with yours truly).

Meanwhile, what about this remake? This is an army-green men’s shirt I got off the clearance rack at the J.Crew outlet three summers ago, when we had just moved to Nashville, our stuff was in storage, and I was living out of a suitcase for two months. It’s perfect in a lot of ways, but in addition to being a little too mannish and a little too military, even for me, it was weirdly high-cut on the sides, awkward. From the beginning, I’ve had the urge to lop it off and make it into a cute little cropped shirtjacket. So yesterday I cut off the bottom, sliced those scraps into 2.75″ wide strips, sewed them together into two long strips (deliberately not caring where the seams wound up — I love random piecework), assembled them into a waistband and reattached it all. It took me a couple of hours, as I was making it up as I went, but I had a blast doing it. And now instead of a regrettable unworn thing taunting me from the end of the clothes rail, I have this awesome new little layering piece! You’ll be seeing more of it.

The only thing I really debated was the button tab on the new waistband. That’s how I’d always pictured it, for some reason, but when it came time to commit, I wavered. In the end, I’m glad I went with it. “First thought, best thought.”

This is just the sort of thing I used to do all the time as a teenager — cutting stuff up and hoping for the best. This one worked out better than most of those high-school experiments, and I hope to be doing it more often!


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first jeans

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!


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.


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

Can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion?

How can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion?

There’s a corollary to my post on why I make my own clothes, which I think is an important point on which to end the month (aka Slow Fashion October). That is: I don’t make all of my own clothes, nor will I. Not only do I think it’s not necessary to make 100%, and not only do I not want to restrict myself in that way, I believe it’s critically important to support the companies that are trying to make a difference in our messed-up clothing industry. In other words, opting out of fast fashion is a good step, but so is opting in to better alternatives.

If there’s one thing that’s become crystal clear to me in these past four years owning a small business, it’s that it really does matter where you spend your money. For one thing, every dollar you spend is a vote. When you give money to a business, you’re encouraging them to do more of whatever they’re doing, whether those practices are harmful or beneficial. More so, money is fluid — handing it to a company isn’t the end of it. I’ve come to see myself as a caretaker of people’s money. When you buy something from me, you’re supporting me and my business and my two part-timers, of course. (And thank you!). But more important, you’re entrusting money to me, and I consider it my duty to re-spend it responsibly. I spend it on product that creates jobs in Nashville and New Hampshire, where our Field Bags and totes are sewn. I place orders that support the businesses of small producers like Ambatalia and Bookhou and Little Seed Farm who do quality, conscientious, beautiful work. And I give a percentage of it to charity — specifically to Heifer, who in turn provide fiber animals to impoverished families, where those animals represent milk and fiber and income. My point being not to pat myself on the back at all, but simply to say that I know first-hand, feel it daily, and understand quite deeply that how you spend your money matters — whether that’s a farm or a small business or a corporation. And that informs my view of all of this.

As for me and my closet, I love pulling on handmade garments, and yes feel quite humming on those rare occasions when I’m dressed entirely in handmade (apart from my underwear and shoes). But what actually feels best to me is any outfit that’s a blend of all the things we’ve talked about this month — long-worn/mended, second-hand, handmade and small-batch/known-origins. Say, a handknit vest and homemade top with local jeans. Or a locally made tunic with my ancient mended camo pants. Or even a ten-year-old t-shirt (from who knows where) with a handmade sweater and jeans from J.Crew’s made-in-L.A. line, Point Sur. I like knowing that I’m not just opting out of the ready-to-wear industry altogether and hoping the situation will improve without me, but that I’m using what purchases I do make as a way to support sustainable small-batch makers and even big companies that have done something I want to encourage, like J.Crew making jeans in L.A.

On those occasions when I’m able to buy a piece from Elizabeth Suzann or Lauren Winter or Han Starnes (because I’ve shopped less, saved by making, and then waited for a sale!) I feel like the purchase is the message — I’ve supported their business and cast a vote for them to do more of what they’re doing. But when deciding to buy from a mega-company like J.Crew because they did a thing I support, I feel like I need to go beyond just making the purchase and actually tell them that I bought those jeans as a result of that choice they made, that it’s not incidental. And to add that it would be even better if they’d use North Carolina denim.

And what about those overseas factory workers? I’ve heard so many people say that we’re doing them a favor — that the jobs created by our spending are better than what they had available to them before. Maybe that’s true — I have no way of knowing. I agree that people in other countries need jobs, too, but I also see that our corporations don’t have to insist on impossibly cheap price tags on our behalf. They don’t have to pocket enormous profits after telling the factory they won’t pay enough for the goods that the factory can afford to pay the workers a decent wage. We’re keeping people in poverty with our insistence on $6 t-shirts and $15 button-downs. So I’m raising again that I want to find a way to communicate to these companies that there are a lot of us who want another option — to pay a fair price and know the workers were fairly paid as well. If you have any specific ideas about that, please share them!

The conversation we’ve been having this month has been amazing and meaningful and I know for real that it impacts people’s thinking and choices. But we have to make ourselves heard in the marketplace. Consumer demand is the only way change happens, and financial support is the only way new things are possible.

. . . . .

As I’m always saying, there’s no such thing as a pure closet. Everything we make and buy will have some element of trade-off; the point is to maximize the good and minimize the problematic as much as we can, to be thoughtful about our choices, and to do whatever is possible and affordable within our own circumstances. Even the smallest steps add up when enough people take them.

Here are just some of the possible steps to consider:

– Wear the things you already own for as long as possible. Using what you have (rather than discarding it and/or acquiring anything new) is the most environmentally responsible act there is. (And don’t forget: No one wants your old clothes)

– Additionally on the long-worn front, acquire things second-hand — either via thrift stores, online consignment or clothing swaps. Thrift stores can also be a great source for fabric, as well as sweaters for unraveling into yarn.

– Make as many of your own clothes as makes sense for you. For every garment you make, you can be sure no factory worker was exploited in its making. If you can also use traceable yarn or fabric, and avoid materials that may have been produced in damaging ways, so much the better.

– If you have a fabric outlet in your area that sells remnants and overstocks, support them. Even if the fabrics weren’t sustainably produced, you’ll be putting them to use and keeping them out of the landfill. (And saving money!)

– Buy directly from small, sustainable brands if that’s within your reach. Help them survive, thrive and multiply.

– If you shop in small boutiques in your area, ask them what they have that’s from sustainable brands. Let them know you want that. The same with your local yarn and fabric store — make a point of asking what’s local/sustainable/traceable, and support what you can afford to.

– If you see “import” on a product page in lieu of where something was actually made, ask them to be more specific. If they aren’t willing to say “Made in Bangladesh” or “Made in Cambodia” they shouldn’t be manufacturing there in the first place, and we (the consumer public) shouldn’t let them get away with not disclosing that.

– And the hundred things I’ve overlooked that I hope you’ll make up for in the comments. ;)

. . . . .

I can’t thank you all enough for the amazing conversation this month. I always think I’m hyper-aware that I don’t have all the answers — far from it — and you still always challenge me in ways I didn’t see coming. The discussion on #slowfashionoctober this month has been smart and introspective and inspiring on so many levels. I know everyone will carry it forward throughout the year, but today I’d love to hear from you what your most important takeaway is, how your thinking has changed, or what you plan to do differently.

And if you missed anything here on the blog, the full batch of posts from this year can be scrolled through here.


top left: 10-y-o J.Crew cardigan, even older and very mended J.Crew jeans, homemade plaid top
top right: homemade wool gauze pullover, J.Crew striped top, Point Sur jeans (made in US)
middle left: handknit vest, Fischer wool button-down (made in US), old J.Crew ponte pants
middle right: homemade linen dress and handknit vest
bottom left: very old and mended Gap camo pants, homemade top
bottom right: Elizabeth Suzann sample-sale tunic, same ancient J.Crew mended jeans
[Gap boots from a few years ago (China), very old tan J.Crew sandals (Italy), Salt Water sandals (China)]

PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Slow Fashion resources

Slow Fashion resources

Slow Fashion resources

This final week of Slow Fashion October, “Known Origins,” has been amazing so far — the comments on my last two posts alone are so fantastic; go take a look here and here if you haven’t read them — and then there’s the wealth of great contributions on the #slowfashionoctober feed, which will continue through the weekend. As always, I’m calling out a few on @slowfashionoctober, but it’s impossible to do such a rich conversation justice.

For today’s links, I had this grand idea that I was going to put together an extensive, categorized resource guide for us all to lean on and build over time, and got completely overwhelmed just trying to get it started! It’s a deeply daunting task. So I’m just going to share a few links that either I personally know and believe in or that came from you guys and I’m particularly excited about. And I’m going to ask that you leave more suggestions in the comments below. Even (or especially) if you’ve left them already on other posts or on Instagram, I would love to have them all on one page, so please repeat yourself!

What’s below barely even qualifies as a scratch in the surface, but it’s what I can do at this moment — I hope it’s of some use.

Please note that it is not my intention to imply that “made in USA” is automatically a clean bill of health — it’s not. The following are all companies with a stated mission of sustainable practices. Most of the “made in USA” ones actually do in-house production, but some are simply sustainable brands doing domestic factory production.

. . . . .


Made in USA:

Alabama Chanin – one-of-a-kind garments hand-stitched by a network of independent sewers, using organic cotton jersey
Han Starnes – clothes made the in the south (sweaters in Peru), with an emphasis on traceable materials
Elizabeth Suzann — clothes made-to-order in their Nashville studio, plus transparency about many of the fabrics
Imogene+Willie — jeans made in Los Angeles, generally of Japanese or North Carolina denim
Jamie and the Jones – clothes made in their Nashville studio, many with locally loomed fabrics
Lauren Winter – clothes made in their Portland OR studio with an emphasis on sustainable materials
Pansy – organic cotton undies and bras, made in California
State – upcycled smocks and garments sewn in GA and NYC of sustainable materials
Tradlands – menswear-inspired clothes sewn in Chicago, emphasis on quality/longevity and timelessness
Zady – garments with every detail of the supply chain spelled out on the product page

Responsibly made elsewhere:

Ace & Jig — work directly with Indian weavers to develop their woven fabrics (top photo)
Blockshop Textiles — work directly with Indian blockprinters to develop their printed fabrics
Everlane – claim to use only the best overseas factories, less concerned about materials
Patagonia – activewear with an emphasis on sustainable sourcing and fair-trade sewing
Rêve en Vert – designer goods, limited to brands with sustainability at their core

. . . . .


Made in USA:

• Bryr – handmade in San Francisco of US leathers (European bases) (bottom photo)
Cobra Rock Boot Company – handmade-to-order in Marfa TX
Sven Clogs – made of US leather and sheepskin (bases from Austria and Sweden)
L.L. Bean – their famous duck boots are still made in Maine

Responsibly made elsewhere:

Jane Sews – work with artisans in South Africa (also small-batch clothing)
Nisolo – work closely with artisans in Peru, offering above-fair-trade wages and job training

Really looking forward to what you guys will add to this batch, especially.

. . . . .


Hellgate Fabrics – natural-fiber fabrics from countries with fair labor practices
Huston Textile – fabrics loomed in their Rancho Cordova CA mill
Organic Cotton Plus – organic cotton plus hemp, wool and more
TN Textile Mill – fabrics loomed in their Nashville TN mill
Vreseis – fabrics woven from Sally Fox’s organic color-grown cotton

. . . . .


The thrilling thing is there are WAY TOO MANY great traceable/sustainable yarn options to even begin to list — which I don’t think I could have said even a couple of years ago. (Here’s hoping the same can be said of fabrics a few years from now!) I covered some ground in this yarn resources post last year, so please take a look at that — and at the comments on it for even more. And again, please mention your favorites in the comments below! We’re blessed that there are so many …



PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Is it more expensive to make your own clothes?