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

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

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

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

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

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

ASSORTED DELIGHTFUL TIDBITS:

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

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

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

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

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—

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Books lately

Books lately

I know I normally let books stack up for six months or a year before I tell you about them, but there are two new releases that are too good to let sit!

Above is Slow Knitting: A journey from sheep to skein to stitch by Hannah Thiessen, who defines “slow knitting” as “a conscientious choice to respect our materials and the people who make them, but also to respect ourselves and time we devote to the hobby we adore.” Hannah asked me two years ago if I’d be willing to write a little essay for this book, and I was inspired by the way she framed the question she wanted me to answer. I think it’s been about a year and a half since I actually wrote it, and I’m happy that it’s finally out in the world, because it’s my favorite thing I’ve written about what handmade clothes mean to me. But that’s just one page of the meaty book Hannah has put together! It’s broken down into five chapters: Source carefully, Produce thoughtfully, Think environmentally, Experiment fearlessly and Explore openly. Each chapter expounds on what that means, and each includes two patterns plus the stories of the yarns used. The 10 patterns are designed by Pam Allen, Veronik Avery, Julia Farwell-Clay, Carol Feller, Meghan Ferdandes, Norah Gaughan, Bristol Ivy, Kirsten Kapur, Michele Wang and Jennifer Wood. And it’s a gorgeously designed hardcover with lush photos by Katie Meek. I look forward to reading it!

Books lately

Also, my friend Andrea Rangel’s second book just hit the shelves and it’s a doozy. Alterknit Stitch Dictionary contains 200 punchy, graphic colorwork motifs, along with guidance on how to use them in projects and/or designs, followed by a handful of fun patterns by Andrea. It’s given me itch to do some colorwork, quick!

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Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

BY KATRINA RODABAUGH // A Verb for Keeping Warm is one of the loveliest fabric and yarn shops I’ve ever visited and yet it’s so much more than a supply store for San Francisco Bay Area fiber enthusiasts. This space also hosts community events, book launches, classes, fiber clubs, an outdoor dye studio, a full range of materials for knitting, sewing, weaving, and regular appearances by the knitting world’s luminaries. Yet it’s also just a friendly place to buy fabric. To browse craft books. To trail your fingers gently across naturally dyed yarns and find some respite from the bustling pace of urban life.

Kristine Vejar (@avfkw) is the owner of “Verb” and she’s also an avid researcher, dyer, maker, author and teacher. Her passion for creating connections in the natural dye world, inspiration for a homemade wardrobe, and dedication to supporting the handmade community all spill over into the aesthetics, energy and attitude of her beautiful shop. When you enter Verb it’s like you’ve entered Kristine’s auxiliary living room. It’s difficult to summarize Kristine’s contributions to the Slow Fashion community because they are so wide, wonderful and heartfelt. She’s a savvy businesswoman, an artist and author, and she’s just so good at making folks feel welcome in her space.

Her book The Modern Natural Dyer is iconic in the natural dye world. It’s exquisitely designed, highly informative, and chock-full of gorgeously styled photos. Yet I get the sense that all of this is just the beginning of Kristine’s offerings.

. . .

A Verb for Keeping Warm is so much more than a shop. Was it always your intention to create a community gathering space when you opened?

Yes! Absolutely! The times in my life when I have felt most connected to others, and most understood, was through the act of stitching and making textiles.

I grew up within my grandmother’s knitting and sewing circles in rural Illinois. My grandma’s best friend, Doris, owned a yarn and gift shop named The Black Sheep. It was in a little house on the town square, across from the amphitheater where the local orchestra played Sunday evenings in the summer. Women were always gathered knitting and stitching. I adored going there as a child and still, in my memory, it is the epitome of a knitting store.

Years later, I went to school in India to study art and architecture. I found myself gravitating to a specific collection of bright, colorful textiles created by nomadic herders named Rabari. I traveled to the desert and found myself feeling at home amongst large groups of women stitching. Upon returning to the US, I learned to spin yarn and joined a spinning group. Again, in the circle of spinners, I felt at home. Oakland and the Bay Area have a lot going on. It can be overwhelming and exciting. I found that having a group to spin and knit with have helped me turn this big town into a small town. I felt I had a sense of place.

When I opened my first natural dyeing studio in Berkeley, I had studio sales and began to meet lots of people. By the end of the year, I rented another space, turned it into a little store, and more people began to gather for events and classes. Finally, I was at the crux of needing to decide the next direction for Verb. Would we move into a warehouse and cultivate a wholesale business, or would we go the community route and open a shop and school?

Due to my memories of stitch circles, I decided to go the community route and opened in our current location on San Pablo Avenue in 2011. I wanted to teach people how to use fiber, yarn, fabric and natural dyes. I wanted people to meet one another who share this same interest. And I hoped others would experience a sense of belonging brought on by textiles and community.

I think of others who make products similar in ethics to Verb as my community. So I felt that by creating a shop, I could support this community and carry their products — like Brooklyn Tweed, Quince and Co, Stone Wool, Spincycle, Manos, and Twirl yarn, as well as Merchant & Mills fabric, Fringe Supply Co. goods, etc. This year, we have traveled a lot to study natural dyeing and have brought a lot of materials and dyes home to Verb. It has been great to be able to support these independent artisans and farmers.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

Verb focuses on sustainable, handmade, independently designed, small batch, or otherwise ethically produced fibers. Was sustainability always at the forefront in your work?

When I went to school in India, we traveled way out into the country. I stayed with a family and farmed. To be honest, it was hell. They had one cow, a plow and a mud hut. (There is absolutely nothing wrong with having only three things in life, if it is a choice and if there is a safety net – security that if your crop fails, you will not starve.) I spent my time there on my haunches in over 100-degree weather, weeding. I had already been pondering the differences in socio-economic conditions between people: why and how such disparity existed, and why it is acceptable. And in that experience on the farm, my world and perspective broke open. In the following days, everything I saw – t-shirts, pants, rice, flour, vegetables – I saw those farmers bent over, for endless hours and days. I thought if I am paying only 5 cents for a bag of rice (or even in the case of the $10 t-shirt in the US), given how many hands all of these products must have travelled through, what must the farmer earn?

Meanwhile, still in India, I wandered into a shop one day. There was a man behind the counter wearing clothing which in my mind looked traditional – or what I had seen in photos – a kind of cloth pill-box hat, and a shirt which had a short collar and 4 buttons along the chest. Behind him in glass cases were stacks of cloth and clothing. I asked to see these pieces. There was a rustic quality to them – although sometimes the fabric was very fine – there was an irregularity to the threads. I looked above him and there was a photo of Gandhi. I felt confused. He gave me a book to read. I had known that Gandhi led India’s fight for independence from Britain in 1947, but what I learned is that Gandhi encouraged people to spin their own cotton and weave it into cloth, in their homes, as a way to boycott their British colonizers. The action of making cloth undermined Britain’s financial hold on India. The cloth in that shop was handspun and handwoven. It is called khadi cloth. And to this day, the government subsidizes these shops. I found this incredibly inspiring on so many levels. Cloth having the power to either indenture someone or free them. Individuals taking the power back by creating their own cloth. And the fact that each person, in their own small way, can make a difference. Cloth was and can be a medium for social justice.

About a year later, when I was again in India, I was working with dyers. There were chemical dyes in puddles. I began looking into what these dyes were made of. And again, I questioned how the choices I was making through my consumption were altering the lives of others in negative ways. And how does the health of the Earth impact the health of humans? How can we co-exist with the Earth, work with our hands, and be healthy and financially stable? Why do we value and are willing to pay programmers or CEOs millions of dollars but not the people who grow our food and fiber? How can I redistribute this money to those whose work I believe in – those who treat people, the Earth, and their animals kindly. People who are purely profit-driven are behemoths. So how do I focus my attention and energy on all the “little people” whose work resonates with me.

I began to think about equality. No one should work so hard and have to suffer. And I certainly did not want to contribute to this suffering. In that moment, I wanted to make things better. I wanted to help increase the value of these everyday objects that are so easily taken for granted. Life is complex and complicated. I was stunned by what to do. I felt judgmental to insert what I believed should or could be done in a country that was not my own. So I returned home to the United States, where I thought that possibly I could engage in a conversation and/or create a product which could increase value for the work of those around the world. That said, I was really young and lost. I got a 9-5 job. It was a good job but not my passion. This came as another life lesson: There have to be others like me for which corporate culture makes them unhappy. I began thinking about the possibility of being able to create a company that could employ others, like me, interested in textiles and people.

And then the conversation about global warming began to be more widely discussed. I went to school for Art and Art History so I had a lot to learn (still do). I began to learn terms and theories – like thinking about my carbon footprint. Of course, from living in the Bay Area I was aware of Alice Waters’ work and growing food locally in order to reduce one’s carbon footprint and to support local farmers. So as I began my yarn line, I desperately wanted to have yarn made from local farmers’ wool. But it was a puzzle. Every time I could find local wool, it was really scratchy. I liked it but I knew it would not sell well. Natural dyeing is labor intensive and the dyes can be expensive. Every time I found soft wool, it was very expensive and available in small supply. I pushed forward using imported yarn.

Also, something to note is that investing in local fiber typically means investing a lot more money up front. In most cases, there would be a distributor who would make that initial investment and order thousands of pounds of yarn at once, and we would receive the opportunity to order small quantities of yarn on demand. As we have moved towards more local fibers, we oftentimes pay thousands of dollars for wool, which we will not see in yarn form for 6-9 months. Once we receive the yarn, we still need to dye it, so it could be a full year before that yarn hits the shelves. So before we could fulfill my mind’s eye, we had to have enough financial (and emotional!) stability to feel confident enough to take the plunge.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

In 2012, I met Sally Fox, the notoriously independent, organic, colored-cotton breeder, and we hit it off. She lives about 90 miles from me. With her guidance, I made my first local yarn from the wool of her sheep and named it after her: Pioneer. We are now on our 4th batch of Pioneer and have made at least a half dozen other yarns composed of California and/or US wool.

There are more people now who care if my yarn is made of US wool, but for many years, and somewhat still to this day, there are other things of greater importance to customers – like color or price point. So using US wool is something that I care more about, and intend to supply, than the current demand. This is a risky place to be in — most business advisors recommend seeing where demand is and filling it. You know, give people what they want. I guess I am stubborn. For instance, we are in the process of shifting our yarn called Annapurna, which is made of imported superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon (an extremely popular blend industry-wide) to California Rambouillet wool. While it is soft, it is most definitely not going to be as soft as Annapurna and the hand is going to change slightly. We might really upset our long-term customers. So the question becomes: When might people alter the expectations (softness/color/hand), to support wool with a lower carbon footprint that will help the environment and which will support a local farmer? Or who knows – maybe the stars will align, everyone will love the new yarn and I will have spent many nights worrying for nothing.

I’ve come to learn that my days of working in 100-degree-plus weather on a farm are far from over as I’ve helped Sally over the years with her farm: planting cotton, dye plants, skirting fleece and lots of weeding. And still, as I’ve spent hours, and look out and see how much is left to do, or how there’s been too little or too much rain, needing to surrender to what is, I think of those farmers in India – and of the thousands of other farmers around the world growing fiber and food. And once again become committed to leveling the playing field, education and uplifting the value of farming.

There’s such an incredible community of textile artists, knitters, crafters, makers and otherwise insanely talented people in the Bay Area. Are there particular ways that you proactively engage community through the shop or through your work with teaching and dyeing?

We hold a monthly meeting called Seam Allowance that is essentially a support group for people who have pledged to make at least 25% of the clothing they wear on a daily basis. People share what they have been making, perhaps where they are stuck, and what they hope to make in the future. It’s been amazing to watch people’s progress. We have had people who just learned to knit make sweaters, and eventually learn to sew, and make dresses and shirts. And there is a sector of this group that has become really involved in learning about materials and is focusing on farm-raised, local materials.

We also host many teachers from around the world. It is wonderful to have the community come together to take class from these teachers. And then, like you said, we have very talented local artists and makers in this area and they teach at Verb as well. I love being able to support their work and to offer their products to other makers. We also offer a series of free knitting and sewing demos.

This year is different than prior years. Since June 2016, we have traveled to Iceland, Oaxaca, Indonesia and Japan to research natural dyeing. Usually, I am home nearly the whole year and teach natural dyeing about once a month and classes focused upon the work of Natalie Chanin and Alabama Chanin. Then, about three times a year, I host a community indigo dip, where people are invited into the studio to dip a piece of fabric and try their hand at indigo dyeing. Seeing first-hand dyeing of fabric in India was so life-changing for me that I try to expose people to the process of dyeing, spinning, weaving, knitting and sewing so they may be drawn into the process and engage! In 2018, I am planning to travel less, so we will be able to resume more of these community-specific events.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

There’s been so much interest in natural dyes lately and it is so exciting to see a wider audience taking interest in plants dyes. Can you talk about the opportunity natural dyeing creates for you to connect with your garments or fibers?

It is so exciting! I don’t think a day goes by when I’m not in awe that color can come from plants and attach to cloth. The more I learn about natural dyeing, the more I realize I have only scratched the surface. For example, although I work with plants on a daily basis, I know .5% (maybe less, there is that much to know) about plants. There is SO much to learn regarding the different plant families and the properties of those families, and how their relationship to soil affects pigment.

Even scientists, such as botanists, are discovering new plants and learning more about plants on a daily basis – especially as it becomes easier to test genetics. In the past five years, a type of indigo grown in Japan shifted in name from Polygonum tinctoria to Persicaria tinctoria. Sometimes I find this overwhelming. I crave an answer. The answer. I want to understand. I don’t want the answer to change. For me, natural dyeing symbolizes the ability to surrender to the unknown, but finding beauty along the way, staying curious, being a student, and feeling uncomfortable because I am stretching my knowledge and understanding of nature.

I am most calm when I am in the woods. Natural dyeing is a way to bring the woods with me in the form of my clothing. Natural dyeing is a challenge. How can a rich, beautiful palette, possibly consisting of 100 colorways, be made with 7-10 plants? How have people around the world used materials found within 100 miles of their homes to create clothing, embedded with color and motifs, which upheld their culture and community through the cultivation of their distinct local fashion, where the clothing is worn with pride of place, as a signifier of connection to the land upon which they live and work for survival?

The Slow Fashion movement is so exciting right now for the multiple ways it’s engaging makers — dyeing, mending, sewing, knitting, weaving — but I always try to consider the way folks might engage if they aren’t at a technical place to make their own garments. What do you suggest for folks who are truly beginning or not yet making clothing?

There are so many points of possible engagement. Anything from purchasing clothing secondhand to purchasing clothing from a local designer, possibly one who is manufacturing their clothing locally, and possibly also looking closely at the materials chosen to make the clothing. Learning to thread a needle and take a few stitches. Dropping into a yarn shop and acquiring yarn and needles to make a simple garter stitch scarf. Try dyeing a piece of clothing.

Have a few extra hours? Perhaps a local farmer, small yarn producer, or designer needs an extra set of hands. Maybe you are a writer, and can lend your voice. (If I have to read one more New Yorker article about the dawn of time, and not have textiles mentioned as an incredibly influencing factor over just about everything, I am going to scream.) Or an artist, who could create a piece of art reflecting the images and portraits of things you find inspiring and motivational. A song would be great!

People might laugh at my answer, but I truly think for this movement to take root, we have to explore the natural affinities clothing shares with other pillars of our culture – like food, shelter, art, literature, music and dance. Plus, that crossover can be so interesting, and draw in more people who have not previously thought of clothing as more than something to just cover one’s self. And sometimes, from the inside, it is hard to see. So having someone new come to the table and add to the experience is a wonderful thing.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

You have a beautifully handmade wardrobe ranging from knitted garments to sewn garments, dyed garments and so much more. What have you learned to be the best combination for patterns, fibers and colors? We’re all looking for that magical combination in a homemade garment that we can wear over and over again. Do you have a formula like, say, neutral colors in natural fibers that are loose fitting? Or is it more serendipitous?

Aw, thanks Katrina! You know, funny enough, I have a long history of making things that wouldn’t be called basics. I do have a history of following fashion, i.e. making things that go out of style. The first time I sewed my entire wardrobe was when I was going to work in Washington D.C. at the Textile Museum in 2001. It was January. I had been working at Poppy Fabrics (R.I.P.) and I made my pants, blouses, dresses and coat. I loved everything I sewed but it was made solely for that experience. I was there to work as a consultant for about two months. None of that clothing transitioned back into my life in Oakland.

The same thing happened when I returned to D.C. that summer. And again, when I went back to India to live. And now it continues: I find myself most apt to sew when I am about to go somewhere. I make these little collections. The geographic location and climate cultivates the restraint around what design I choose and the materials I use. Otherwise, I find the process can feel too open-ended. Some of these pieces do make it into my daily wardrobe. Currently, this tends to be a collection of linen dresses which I mainly wear to keep cool.

I am what some might call boring. I tend to like all neutrals and indigo blue, and all natural fibers, especially linen, cotton and wool. The focus of my clothing is more where the fiber is grown and what it is dyed with than a high level of technical sewing skill. My knitting tends to be more technically adept. Although because I find myself dialed in so much to my dyeing, which can be quite fussy, I will fully admit to wimping out and forgoing a sweater pattern because it is written to be knit in pieces (rather than seamless). So in other words, I am most satisfied when I enjoy the process of making, the materials I am using, and then feel comfortable wearing once complete.

Lastly, tell us three tools you personally cannot live without.

My Addi Turbos! Specifically the super sharp Rockets and the interchangeable lace needles with long handles. I love that these are made in Germany and are traceable. They are smooth and help me knit very fast!

My camera, as it helps me to record a visual journey of my time traveling, researching and creating.

My dye journal so I can understand how I have achieved specific colors and to learn more about plants.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Kristine Vejar

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 © Kristine Vejar, 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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Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

BY KATRINA RODABAUGH // It’s a special day when I get to interview the creator of this gorgeous blog, Karen Templer. When I first conceived of this monthly series Karen was one of the people at the top of my list to feature. Now that we’re entering Slow Fashion October I’m thrilled to turn the spotlight on our beloved Karen.

Karen’s approach to slow fashion is one of my favorites from all the slow-fashion folks out there — and there are so many talented and dedicated folks. But Karen gives permission, she makes space, she grows community, and she’s not shy about the challenges or shortcomings either. Let’s be honest, she makes some stunning garments, knits sublime sweaters and curates a gorgeous corner of the Internet, so her down-to-earth attitude combined with her swoon-worthy aesthetic make her a true inspiration.

Karen creates space for all of us — all of our criticisms and concerns and somehow we can show up here in our flannel shirts and mended jeans or our fashionable indie dresses, and we can join in this community together as we are right now today. She cheers for the handmade, the indie designed, the sustainably purchased but also applauds the mended, dyed, dusted, darned, beloved and otherwise decade-old factory fashion garment that’s still hanging on. It’s that sense of community, that permission for different perspectives, that interest in widening the access points and truly fostering slow fashion into a more welcoming movement that makes me excited to show up for this series every month.

Lastly, it makes me a bit giddy to feature Karen’s thoughts today because she so often sits behind the scenes and orchestrates her magic without hopping up on that stool and sitting in the limelight. So, Karen, thank you for creating this space for us and for agreeing to sit in the figurative light for this post. And, of course, thank you for organizing Slow Fashion October!

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What inspired you to start Slow Fashion October or “Slotober” as it’s been called?

I published the proposal for it in May of 2015, which was a pivotal time for me. I’d been knitting for a little over 3 years, which had rekindled my interest in sewing and had brought me into the orbit of a lot of people who were really putting a lot of thought into how they clothed themselves. I guess you could say I’d been going through a very slow awakening to the various issues and considerations that were already so central for many of these people. But then I had emptied out my closet just before deciding to move across the country, where I wound up living out of a suitcase for two months … all of which had me really thinking about my own fashion over-consumerism and how to make good choices as I rebuilt my wardrobe. Meanwhile, I’d been watching #memademay for a couple of years, feeling a little left out because I had only a couple of sewn garments in my closet and May isn’t exactly sweater season. But also, at that time there was a portion of MMM that was people frantically making things and taking daily selfies and lamenting some imagined imperative to not repeat a garment in those selfies, and so on. And it really struck me that there this dichotomy in the handmade wardrobe community — people making and buying clothes more thoughtfully than I had ever witnessed, and people making things with the same kind of unconsidered fervor as the shoppers of the world.

I had long been one of those shoppers, and had also been having the all-too-common experience of knitters and sewers where you are just making the wrong things — things that don’t ultimately become productive members of your wardrobe. (For the record, paying attention to what gets worn and how to make better choices was, as I understand it, the original impulse of Me Made May.) So your question caused me to go back and look at my original proposal and see what I actually said at the time about what kind of conversation I was craving:

“… the world doesn’t need another me-made month, per se [but] I’d like the scope of this to be different and broader. I’d like us to be able to celebrate not only our own makes (although definitely that!) but clothes that have been made for us by others; worn over the course of years or decades; handed down or rescued from thrift shops or attics; mended; handcrafted in the small studios of slow fashion designers and/or from ethical fabrics; and so on. I want it to be about responsible and sustainable fashion in all its splendor, in other words. An opportunity to discuss and explore the wide range of topics that are at the core of slow fashion.”

I’d been reading a lot and thinking a lot, following people who were so far ahead of me in all of this, and just really wanting to be able to have a larger conversation about it — to learn from others, think through some thoughts, have my preconceptions challenged. It’s such a complicated conversation — sometimes I think it’s harder than discussing politics — but so worth having, as I learn so much from everyone. Speaking of which, I’m surprised to see the word “ethical” in there, which is a word I try to avoid, but that must be one of the things I’ve grown more sensitive to over the course of the conversations.

Sustainability seems to be embedded in the ethos of your shop and your personal work with growing a homemade wardrobe. From heirloom tools to wool from small farms, support of indie makers and shops, supporting community and initiating conversation — it all circles around a larger concept of sustainable making or sustainable living. Was this intentional when you launched Fringe Supply Co?

Not on such a conscious level, but I think all of it has evolved in parallel. There’s an extent to which I’ve always been an environmentally conscious person (child of the ’70s) and a lover of quality goods and natural materials — things that are built to last — and that has informed my whole life and so of course was there from the beginning with the blog (which started in December of 2011) and the shop (November 2012), but it has deepened — or maybe come to the forefront more — over time as result of these explorations and conversations.

The part about supporting farms and indie makers and other small businesses is huge for me. It really matters to me whose pocket I put money into when I shop for myself (whether it’s yarn or a pair of pants or whatever) or when I place orders for the shop. It means the world to me to be able to help people get to do what they do, because it’s very difficult if you want to have an existence that’s outside of our increasingly corporatized system. And I love getting to know and talk about where things come from as much as that’s possible, so it’s win/win.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

For many of us, general stewardship for the environment and a desire to deepen our relationship to the environment might have been present for a long time but there’s often a pivotal shift in mindset when we realize “I can go so much deeper,” and that often results in a shift in habits. Was there a light bulb moment when sustainability came to the forefront in your life or work?

It’s funny to me that my clothing habits were such an anomaly and blindspot in my life for so long. I have always furnished my homes chiefly from flea markets and antique malls, loving the hunt and the fact that everything has character and a history. All the years we were living the Bay Area, a lot of our food came from farmers’ markets or local fish markets or our backyard, and it’s taken time to re-establish those habits in Nashville, but we’re now in a CSA and have a winter’s worth of local meat in the freezer. (We don’t have the luxury of our own vegetable garden here.) I care about my carbon footprint. I drove the same car for 19 years until it would go no farther, and still it had very low mileage for its age — even though it was our only car for most of those years — because we walked or took public transportation more often than not. I never turn on an overhead light until it’s absolutely necessary; use heat and air conditioning as little as I can get away with. On and on. So you’d think I would have been thrifting and hand-making and dyeing all along, right? But no, I was a devout and fervent mall shopper. Total clothes junkie.

I don’t think there was a lightbulb moment as far as wanting to do things differently in that regard — really more of that slow awakening or gradual transition. There was a tipping point that I wrote about just a couple of months before proposing Slotober. And there was a very vivid moment, later, where I realized I had again crossed over into new territory. I was in my once-favorite store with my husband, looking at the vast racks of clearance clothes. And where before I would have been piling things onto my left arm to try on, I was left completely cold by all of it. It just couldn’t compete with the handmade and known-origins clothes I’d been slowly collecting, and the stories those clothes contain. So whereas in the beginning of all of this, fast fashion felt like a hard habit to break — like I’d really really want something and have to remind myself why I didn’t want to buy it — I realized I had reached a point where I was completely void of the want. There was no more need to talk myself out of it — it had simply lost its appeal. It’s a process.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

I love how you are so relatable as a sustainable fashion leader—I don’t feel like I have to make every garment of clothing for myself when I read your blog. I feel permission to make some things, buy some things secondhand, buy some things ethically made, and still hold on to those factory fashion garments I’ve had forever but still love and wear so much. Can you talk about access in sustainable fashion? Or about various entry points to a more sustainable wardrobe?

I don’t feel like a leader, but thank you. I’m just a person who’s thinking and trying and learning and doing what I can; I just happen to be doing it in public and sharing my progress, but I certainly don’t think of myself as an expert or role model or anything of that sort. And I think that’s an important point to make, because one of the most interesting and difficult things about these conversations is how much we all feel judged, or judge ourselves against others. The frequency with which people have said “I can’t make all of my own clothes” is really striking, as if anything less than that is sub-par somehow. Or “I can’t afford slow fashion — all of my clothes come from the thrift store.” That, to me, is the epitome of slow fashion.

I love knowing where my clothes come from — whether it’s that I made them myself or I bought them directly from the people who made them. Both of those things are unattainable for a lot of people. For me, I wish I were a better thrifter — I’m just not — but I am lucky to have access to a lot of remnant fabric because I live in a town where there are a lot of small fashion companies. If I were still in the Bay Area, I’d be shopping at the remnant store, but we don’t have one here. I can’t know where all of my fabric comes from (as much as I would like to) but I like knowing at least that some of it is me keeping remnants out of the landfill. So that’s something I can do, even if it’s not 100% of the time. (And I could also stand to buy less fabric — I’ve gotten a bit gluttonous about that lately!)

I mentioned before that I have local meat in my freezer. Sometimes we can also get a loaf of bread from a local baker, and lettuce from our CSA. It’s wonderful — it’s more nutritious and delicious than factory food, and I’ve supported small-scale farmers and bakers in the process. I also often get a perfectly tasty turkey sandwich for lunch at the deli near my work, and that’s factory turkey and factory bread. It’s a reality of life, and it doesn’t make the local stuff any less wonderful — in fact, it makes me appreciate it even more, because it’s not something I can do for every meal.

I feel like this is a really common way of thinking where food is concerned. Like people might go to a farmers’ market now and then, and appreciate the food and the experience, or even grow some vegetables in the backyard. But nobody says “I can’t grow or raise 100% of my own food!” as if they should or could. We don’t put that unreasonable expectation on ourselves, and yet so many people do where slow fashion is concerned.

Certainly some of it is plain old, unavoidable envy — I remember what it felt like to see other people’s handmade or traceable wardrobes and look at my J.Crew-stuffed closet and feel envious or think “I’ll never get there.” I get it. So I think we have to keep in mind that it’s not about trying to achieve some mythical goal of pureness or traceability, or comparing yourself against anyone else. We all have different wishes and circumstances and budgets and time constraints and skill sets. But also: You never know what will happen once you start. Three years ago, I would never have imagined as much of my wardrobe would be homemade as it currently is, but that’s what happens when you make a few garments a year. It takes time, but they add up. Same if you’re thrifting or sourcing responsibly or whatever it is that you can do and enjoy doing.

So my feeling is do whatever feels right and good and doable to you, cherish that, and don’t beat yourself up about the rest.

What’s one beloved homemade garment of yours that’s become a staple in your wardrobe? Why do you think that one garment is so successful for you?

I can make all the showstoppers I want, but it’s the simplest things that get worn the most and are therefore my favorites, because they just make getting dressed in the morning easier. Especially the little sleeveless tops like this and this, which can be worn on their own or layered under everything else. Although I’m expecting to wear my jeans and my fisherman sweater for years and years to come. So there are the inconspicuous workhorses and the treasures.

You’re embedded in the knitting and maker community but I’m curious if you might share some inspirations from outside this community that have inspired your work with sustainable fashion. Could you share a few authors, artists, activists, or other thinkers outside of the craft world that have inspired your work?

I’ve definitely been more steeped and for a longer time in the slow food movement than slow fashion. I’ve read most of Michael Pollan’s books over the years as they came out, but I was especially influenced by This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow when I read it in the early aughts. I find farmer-innovator Sally Fox hugely inspirational on so many levels. And the same goes for my friend Molly DeVries of Ambatalia (maker of the beloved Bento Bags), who is one of many striving for both conscientious production and a nondisposable life. To name just a few!

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion Citizen: Sasha Duerr

Top photo by Zachary Gray, remaining photos © Karen Templer

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!

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first jeans