Slow Fashion October: Slow Whenever, Loving Change, and Uniform Goals

I think something in my last post flipped a switch inside me that made me reconsider blogging. This is something that you always think is going to happen but never does. And in all honestly, I'd imagine my newfound enthusiasm will probably be short lived. But who knows? Let's go for it.

A few years ago, Karen Templer (of Fringe Supply Co.) started up an 'event'* called Slow Fashion October. It's easy to get wrapped up into an entire paradigm shift in terms of your wardrobe for the sake of participation, but I also know that in general my process is slow and calculated, sometimes too slow for even a slow fashion month. I think I live a slow fashion life. However, I think having an opportunity to highlight my slow fashion pursuits for a month is a good opportunity to share my experiences (and challenges!) with others.

* while the verdict's out for me on these social media based 'events', I do love a collective call to action. It creates a sense of community in a realm (the digital one) where it's easy to feel alone or isolated.

constantly scribbling wardrobe plans and ideas in notebooks.

constantly scribbling wardrobe plans and ideas in notebooks.

My Slow Fashion October 2017

I've been a slow fashion (and a slow most things, really) advocate for many years. From conversations about the issues within manufacturing supply chains to the psychology of the American fashion consumer, it's rare that my mind isn't contemplating a more thoughtful, meaningful way of interacting with soft goods.

So in many ways, every time 'Slow Fashion October' comes around, I get a rush of excitement and concern that I should reign back in my business pursuits and focus on these greater issues.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm a deep thinker. I love to analyze and evaluate and think about the why and how of our current situation. When it comes to slow fashion, I feel like my mind is always asking, "how can I sew more thoughtfully, have a wardrobe that works better, and find the answers to big questions about fast fashion."

I've come to realize that for me, it's sort of Slow Fashion whenever. The idea of pushing aside projects to dig my heels feels weird when my mind is always steadily pushing in this direction. My slow fashion project for last year is still not finished (though I made some good progress!) but I've decided that's okay. It's all part of a life that revolves around clothing and fiber. So instead, I'm going to declare two big, continuous goals for whenever.

The ever evolving practice of evaluating and curating my clothing collection.

and

Being a champion of, creator of, or facilitator of thoughtful fashion in whatever shape and form it has and will continue to take.

In this blog post, I'm going to focus on the first goal. Can you tell I love making lists and setting intentions? I'll save part II for a later blog post.

I wish I could pinpoint a specific turning point or 'wardrobe epiphany' over the last few months, but the reality is less glamorous. I feel like I've been considering and re-considering and evaluating and troubleshooting my wardrobe for years.

One thing that really strikes me after all this thinking is that I still periodically have trouble getting dressed in the morning and putting together outfits. And, though I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, I haven't quite figured out why. I'm still searching for the formula that will give me a magical pantry of wardrobe staples that allow me to effortlessly throw outfits together with panache and sophistication. Does it exist? I don't know, but I enjoy trying to find it.

Part of the equation that makes this a never ending pursuit is that humans are always changing, myself included. I've heard tales of women who come up with the perfect 'uniform' which satisfies them for the rest of their life. I think this is something I could achieve, or at least approximate in my own way. I think the recipe has two main ingredients that take time to source:

1. You have to not get bored easily.

OR

2. You have to have a certain level of life experience that has either crystallized your visual identity via presentation and/or made you give less fucks about how you look.

While I feel like I'm slowly getting closer to the later (Hi houseplant earrings!), the former is the issue. I go through phases with clothing. I also love to sew and that itself presents a problem for the 'capsule uniform'.

On having a uniform

Even though I'm perhaps not a good candidate for the 'uniform' approach, I do have the knowledge and ability to make my wardrobe (evolving as it is) as thoughtful, low impact, and effective as possible. But the allure of the uniform still lingers. Efficiency is so wildly appealing to me, but so is looking fab on a regular basis and sewing for pleasure. The three often seem at odds, especially when you throw a politically minded aversion to waste, excess, and consumption into the mix.

So far, I've figured out a lot of things that form the basis of a uniform, like the fact that I love wearing earth tones, that I have specific shapes that I like. I also know that generally, I go through phases of loving particular garments and wearing them over and over. I also have found that, though having a sewing business cuts into my personal sewing time to an unpleasant degree, there is something to gain from having to wait.

I've started making tiny sketches of hopefully future projects and storing them with my fabrics.

I've started making tiny sketches of hopefully future projects and storing them with my fabrics.

Time is a great editor.

Doing sewing and design for work is a blessing and a curse. While it leaves me with very little time to actually sew for myself, it provides TONS of time for wardrobe additions to ripen and percolate and age. What starts out as an epic dress project turns into a simple (more wearable) shift. What starts out as an impulse fabric purchase becomes a practical brown bottom weight fabric for a skirt I know I'll wear all the time and will make me happier in the long run. It's less sexy, but it's practical and comforting (I'll avoid the relationship analogies, though the comparison is spot on)

I've started to notice that either having a smaller wardrobe or cycling out items makes for a clearer vision for me in terms of how I want to dress and feel good. Many people put this same idea into practice very successful, including Karen herself as part her Slow Fashion October project this year.

How to deal with change and turnover in an equally thoughtful way.

So, if we've come to terms with the fact that our style WILL change and, as a result, necessitate the relinquishment of unworn items, we can start to approach the issue of 'what to do with what you don't want' in a thoughtful manner. You all know my love for clothing swaps. That's one option. I've also realized that, since I only wear natural fibers, I can compost my old & damaged clothing or scraps! (Clothing company Elizabeth Suzann did a field test, composting scraps from their garment production, and was quite successful!) There are also many more impactful places to donate your clothing than your usual thrift store, like groups who provide free professional clothing to folks applying for jobs or relief organizations who need clothing (because our climate is in a crisis and many have lost everything to natural disasters). I outline some other uses for discarded clothes and fabric in my post about clothing swaps too, if you're interested.

One of my favorite ways to recycle old clothes and scraps etc is by quilting.

One of my favorite ways to recycle old clothes and scraps etc is by quilting.

If I can cultivate a sustainable clothing practice, it will allow me to sew to my hearts content, follow the winds of my changing style, and not feel like I'm having a negative impact on the world around me.

Next time, more on bringing thoughtfulness outside of your personal sewing/dressing practices and into your community!

Do you have methods for (or struggle with) how to negotiate a love for fashion/changing style and being responsible about how you consume/dispose of items in the process? Do you constantly think about slow fashion or do you take the opportunity to do so during Slow Fashion October (or other social media calls to action like Me Made May)?

Geodesic Addition: Solid Back Piece & Cuffed Short Sleeves

One of the suggestions from my intrepid Geodesic pattern testers was the option for a solid back piece, as an alternative to having both a pieced back and front. So I decided to make one! To be honest, it's been drafted for quite a bit, but I've been reformatting Geodesic for print and decided to update the PDF version and tidy up the back piece pattern in the process.

So, at long last, here it is! **Updated 1/6 to fix error**

Geodesic Back Piece
 

Today, in honor of this pattern addition, I thought it would be fun to make another Geodesic using the solid back piece and a bunch of knit scraps that were taking up real estate in my stash. Geodesic is an awesome scrap buster and gives you an opportunity to get a little wild and wacky with color & fabric combos. I've seen some amazing scrappy Geodesics popping up on the #blueprintsgeodesic hashtag on Instagram. Be sure to check them out if you need some inspiration!

When I finished it, snow was falling. So I ventured outside in the flurry to get a few pictures for y'all. Hopefully the charm of these snowy pics will make up for the fact that they're a little slapdash and underexposed.

Here's the solid back piece in action!

After taking these shots, I promptly ran back upstairs to sit in front of the fire. Though being out in the snow in short sleeves was a bit refreshing, my hands were freezing! Any other sewists have constantly cold hands? My hands are icy even when it's mild out.

This is the 3rd Geodesic top I've made with short, cuffed sleeves, a look I really dig. Each time, I've experimented with a different method of cuffing the sleeves. While I'm not sure this one is my favorite, I think it does the job well and is a bit fancier than simply turning up the hem. This method also allows you to do a contrast cuff. For this version, I thought I'd include some pictures of what I did in case you'd like the do the same!

First, shorten your sleeve to however short you want the final sleeve to be. Cut a piece of contrasting fabric that is as wide as the hem pattern piece and as long as your armhole opening. Sew one side closed.

Fold the cuff over along the edge so the raw edges meet. Press lightly, but avoid creating a major crease.

Put the cuff inside the sleeve, raw edges together. We're going to attach it in the opposite way of the pattern instructions, so that the serged seam is on the outside. Sew and press the seam up towards the sleeve.

Fold the cuff up along the seam line.

Here's the tricky part: roll down the cuff slightly, so that the seam attaching the cuff to the sleeve is about 1/2" from the bottom edge of the cuff. Then, from the inside where seam is, pull out the excess fabric, creating a new fold for the top of the cuff.

In the picture below, you can see how the cuff has been shifted up by looking for the shadow of the original seam. This is right after pressing...when worn, the shadow/outline is not very visible. Part of the lumpiness of the seam is from the serger. If working with a thick knit, you could probably avoid this by straight stitching and trimming down to 1/8" or pressing the seam open.

I decided to do a small tack at the top of the sleeve as well, to keep it from unrolling. You could also do a second tack at the underarm.

I'm pretty excited about how this guy turned out! Looking forward to wearing it this week.

I hope you enjoy these additional options for Geodesic. If you ever have an idea for a pattern renovation or addition, please feel free to share!

Geodesic Renovation: Woven Geodesic Top

Though the seam lines look quite nice on a solid fabric or with one or two pops of contrast thrown in, I also envisioned Geodesic as a great pattern for using up scraps. I'm glad to say I finally made just that! I also used wovens, a super easy substitution with Geodesic (and paired it with a really wrinkly skirt... forgive me, it's nearly 100 degrees and humid today!)

 

While I don't have tons of large, coordinating jersey scraps, I do have lots of woven scraps just sitting in boxes languishing and waiting for their day to shine. As I've become more and more interested in quilting, these scraps which had previously been out of sight and out of mind have come to the forefront of my consciousness.

What can I use the scraps from this project for? Do these scraps work together? I've even started bundling like scraps together for future projects, quilting or otherwise. I may have a quilt all in earthone linen scraps next up in the queue.

I have a box labeled 'Large Special Scraps' on my shelf, which includes mostly the substantial side part of many cut-on-the-fold sewing projects. Cutting pattern pieces out on the grain is important, but certainly not the most economical in terms of cutting. With the goal of making a woven geodesic from scraps only, I dug into this box of goodies and pulled together a palette of lovely scraps.

I chose 4 fabrics that went together: An old nani iro print, a stripe/solid double cloth, some essex linen, and some vintage mauve percale. I cut a few triangles of each and started playing around with them on my 'design wall' (which is a felt back vinyl table cloth clamped onto a folded up ping pong table) I did this for the front and back, playing around with color and pattern placement.

While this isn't in my usual color palette (quite the opposite) I LOVE it. I also feel like it goes with things that are 'my colors' quite well! It has a bit of a Miami beach 1991 vibe.

In the original pattern, I wanted to include instructions for using wovens, but I decided to nix them to keep things nice and concise and consistent. The good news is that the process is actually quite simple and straightforward! Here is what you need to know when making Geodesic from wovens:

  • Size: Geodesic is pretty roomy, but if your jersey version is snug in the chest, you might want to go up a size or do an FBA (instructions for this are provided in the pattern!)
  • Cutting: While it can be tempting to cut triangles willy nilly out of scrap fabric, trying to cut them on grain is fairly important. You can cheat a bit if you're using stable fabrics, as I did for one of the stripes. Just something to be aware of, but not a 100% must if you're feeling experimental and extra recycle-y :)
  • Fabric: If you're using multiple fabrics, try to keep them in the same family in terms of weight and drape. I cheated a little as the nani iro and essex are on the stiffer side and the double gauze is a little drapier. For the most part, it's okay, but I can also see it starting to sag a bit as the day goes by.
  • Construction: Geodesic uses 1/4" seams and you can keep this for the woven version. I assembled my top entirely on my serger, but you can also finish your edges with a zigzag or over edge stitch. Since there's so many seams, I wouldn't leave them raw or you'll have a tangly mess inside your top in no time.
  • Neckline: I cut the neck band using the same pattern piece, but cut on the bias. I made this neckband slightly narrower than the original. My fabric was a very loosely woven chambray and stretched well on the bias. I folded the strip in half and attached just like the knit band is attached in the pattern.
  • Hem: You can do the hem in the same way as in the pattern, though you may want to add a bit of extra fabric since the knit hem band is slightly smaller than the shirt hem. I decided to serge and turn under 3/8" and do a blind hem, but I may go back and add a band of the essex. I like the look, but it's definitely very cropped.
  • Pressing & point matching: So much easier than with knits! Hurrah!

I also changed the sleeve length to short sleeves (easy, just crop the sleeve pattern piece wherever you desire and cuff, or not.) which has been one of my favorite Geodesic mods to date! Plus, it's been a million degrees lately.

While this may not be an everyday piece, I do really love it! It makes me happy. I hope if you try it, that it will make you happy too :)

I love it when my shirt matches my beverage! We just started getting this La Croix things here in MA and I <3 them.

Do you like sewing with scraps? Are you always searching for the perfect way to use them up? Any favorite patterns that are scrap busters?

Findings: Inventory and making the most of things

In the throws of pattern testing, I haven't had much exciting news to report aside from the fact that the new pattern will be ready this month.

But so as to not shirk my blogging responsibilities, here's another edition of Findings!

Precious Plastic is an open source program designed to allow anybody to build their own plastic recycling and fabrication studio. I can imagine all sorts of cool objects you could make with this stuff...all their examples are awesome.

I'm always thinking about the disposability of things like seam rippers and plastic spools (and, honestly, disposable culture in general) and this project has me dreaming about a line of recycled sewing tools and notions. Now if only somebody could invent a consumer level machine that could quickly process scraps of fabric into raw material to be woven/spun/etc.

While we're on the topic of 'stuff'...

I recently came across this piece by artist Simon Evans (well, artist duo really, as his wife has been his collaborator for years under his name...a discussion for another time) that got me thinking about inventory. As I work through my wardrobe revamping and thinking about living with less, slow everything, Marie Kondo, etc, the idea of creating an inventory is extremely appealing to me.

Simon Evans  Everything I Have

Simon Evans Everything I Have

This Evans piece is more than just a visual inventory of course...if you examine the text below each item you'll find a variety of odd references and social commentaries, which is typical of their work. For the purposes of this blog post, I'm thinking about the work in a visual and loosely conceptual context.

I've tried to do projects like this in the past...making a visual catalog of all my clothing & accessories. I've actually helped other people do this as well, with varying success and levels of commitment. I'm such a visual person in terms of thought processes and organization, that I think seeing all my clothing at once would allow me to better curate. I could think of the collection as a whole. But the daunting process of photographing everything leaves me uninspired. If I were more of an illustrator, I might do drawings of everything, but that would take time I don't have. However, I think creating a visual wardrobe lexicon is a nice long term goal to have. Maybe on a long weekend...

Detail: Simon Evans  Everything I Have

Detail: Simon Evans Everything I Have

It gets me thinking though...how will people in the future remember us and what our lives were like? Will they examine our culture through facebook updates and vine videos?

That brings me to my next finding....

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I'm currently reading a book called The Making of Home by Judith Flanders. The book examines how our idea of 'home' in America & Europe was conjured over the course of the last few centuries, through developments in technology, practice, and culture. I'm only half way through it (I'm a slow reader, especially when I'm not taking public transportation: my preferred reading scenario) and in each chapter I've already discovered some wonderful thought seeds about women & work, homesteading, the social power of furniture, etc. I'm a total nerd about the history of domestic experience.

A detail from  The Arnolfini Portrait  by Jan Van Eyck

A detail from The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck

Archaeologists and historians often rely on legal documents from the time (such as probate inventories taken at the time of death to value an estate) to figure out what kinds of items people had and draw inferences about how they lived. Part of this is because paintings, though reflective of their times in a variety of ways, are not always direct representations of 'the real life'. Things change a bit when photography is invented.

Inventory from 1792, including 1 pair leather shoes, 1 yard black gauze, 1 oz white thread, and a thimble.

Inventory from 1792, including 1 pair leather shoes, 1 yard black gauze, 1 oz white thread, and a thimble.

So, how would future cultures interpret our lives by watching episodes of the Kardashians and reading an Ikea catalog VS. looking at a collection of photos of everything somebody owned? Or reading a sewing blog? Or looking at your amazon purchase history? Of course, all of this relies on our technology surviving us ;)

Anyway, a bit of a rambling of what my brain is doing when it's not thinking about pattern layouts. I like thinking about the future in relationship to history...it gets me thinking.

Do you have any creative methods for recycling your sewing leftovers? Have you ever created an inventory of your clothes or anything else?