Saturday, October 24, 2015

October in beeswax

As much as I find myself clinging to the last weeks of my son's infancy, I am already throwing myself forward into his childhood. I will see a craft or a project and think: I want to do that with Hosea! How can I manage to remember this 3 (5, 10,15...) years from now??
When I just can't wait, I sometimes do it anyway, telling myself that modeling a life of handwork is important too ;)

And sometimes the perfect time to do a craft is when your baby has been sick for a week and a half and your haven't slept in just as long and none of the dishes are done and you are really behind on Being An Adult. Yes, that is the perfect time for a messy project.

Because in the midst of exhaustion and tending to the crankiest, clingiest baby on the planet, sometimes you need to feel like a person again... and doing laundry, much as it needs to be done, never helps me feel like a person. So? Messy crafting it is.

 It is the perfect time of year for this sort of thing, after all.

With Amanda's and Jessica's recent craft projects on my mind and a bar of local beeswax waiting in my apothecary, I strapped my sickypoo on my  back and set about collecting things to dip in beeswax.

Before I get into the process, I feel I should make a social media parenting disclaimer: my cranky baby who refuses sleep did not sit serenely by me as I did this. I had my wife put him in the car and drive him around for an hour so he would sleep!

So, I invited J* to join me for craft hour and he begrudgingly agreed (oh, he doea humor me and my hairbrained ideas).

I had chopped up a pound of beeswax the day before and put it in an old, irregularly sized cake pan that I rarely use. I put it in a 400 degree oven, stirring occasionally, until it was all melted. I carried this OUTSIDE (because I didn't want to spend all night scraping wax off the floor) and placed it ontop of clean newspaper.

Leaves are easy and J enjoyed using a clothes pin to dip the leaves into the hot wax. We shook them gently as we pulled them out, to keep wax from hardening into drops on the leaves.

The other thing I wanted to make was un-plastic wrap. You know, waxed cloth to wrap sandwiches or cheese in to keep it fresh. This was trickier. I don't have photos of this part because it required more attention to timing and a faster pace. J was bored with me by this point, so I was on my own.

 It's a simple concept, dip fabric in wax, wax hardens. But, you want to ensure the wax doesn't cake on too thickly, or it will crumble off and the fabric won't be as malleable. This mean, you want to pull it out fast and try to shake the wax off before it hardens, while making sure the fabric doesn't fold over and stick to itself.

The bees wanted their wax back!

You can see that I wasn't super successful with this. The wax hardens quickly, once out in the air, which meant that it kind of pooled at the edges. I think a larger vessel would have helped this because I wouldn't have had to scrunch the fabric up. For the larger squares, I actually put the pan back into the oven, which kept the wax totally liquefied until the fabric was saturated and ready to be removed.

A little stiffer than I'd like, but it still works!

I let the leftover wax dry in the pan and I'm saving it for future projects. No prep needed, just throw it right in the oven!

Now, what to do with the leaves? I love the mobile that Jessica did with painted oak leaves, so I went about making a ring for the frame.

We live in the shadow of some big black walnut trees and, when they drop their leaves, the leaf decomposes faster than the petiole, leaving them littering our yard. I wrapped them in bunches to make a ring (and Hosea "helped").
The rest is pretty self-explanatory. I used the same hemp twine to make a make the hoop into a hanger. Then, I strung the leaves onto thread and tied them to the hoop.

It now hangs in the bay window in our bedroom and makes me supremely happy. Of course, this did not use all of the leaves, so maybe J will need one for his bedroom too. And maybe one in the kitchen? Maybe if I just dip the month of October in besswax, I can keep it in my house year round.

*My partner and I are "Alternative Family Living Home" providers. This means that our family, under State supervision, provides a non-institutional home and care for a member of our community who is unable to live independently. "J" has lived with us for 2 years now. While I have his parents' permission to share photos and stories on social media, I feel I am always walking a difficult line of wanting to respect his right to privacy while also wanting to include him in the depictions of our life. He is a big part of it, after all.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

(un)LOVED and (un)WORN: working with what I have.

Have you seen this? I came across this a few weeks ago and it was that moment when someone takes all the things that swim around in my mind and makes a really simple graphic of it and I realize that nothing I think about is very complicated at all. ::insert laughing emoji::

Do you need to hang this over your workspace? You can.

When I think about Slow Fashion October, I think buying small and making intentionally. I think of quality materials and wearing things for a long time and finding A Look that can work for me for a long time, so I am not constantly having to "update it". I also realize that it is really easy for me to turn this into an excuse to buy new clothes, buy new yarn, buy new fabric.

Have you seen Georgetown by Hannah Fetting? I need it. Have you seen this new tunic from Samantha Lamb? I need it. And oh! I just remembered SewLiberated... the Clara Dress... the Schoolhouse Tunic... all classic shapes that look good on me that are also nursing-friendly. Yes, yes, I need them all. Quickly. Now, even. Can I knit and sew them fast enough that I won't grow bored with them when the next new pattern book comes out? Oh, consumerism. You insidious beast.

It seems that I need to mash up Slow Fashion October with Stashless. They are sister-ideas, are they not? (and I know I have already mentioned the Woolful podcast where these two come together in one glorious podcast).

The thing is, I have noticed that, as I learn more about the impact of the fashion/clothing industry (<-- a great intro to this topic), my tastes change. Much in the same way my tastes changed when I learned that a tomato fresh off my neighbor's vine in August will taste way better than the one wrapped in plastic in my grocery store in February, my taste for material has been changing. The squooshy, slippery, bright superwash yarn I used to pet longingly just doesn't catch my eye in the same way, likewise for fabrics. I think ultimately, this is a good thing because I am less tempted by the walls of fabric at Jo-Ann's when I go to buy thread, in the same way that I am not particularly tempted by the clothing section at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, it also means that the small stash of craft supplies that I have accumulated over the past 10 years falls a little short of inspiring me also. It's not just that the materials aren't what I would maybe pick now- I can still appreciate the beauty in a skein of Madelinetosh yarn, it's more that, as I think more about what I am willing to spend money on, I am starting to understand the difference between the things I like and the things that fit me (physically and in terms of my style). Shopping has always been hard for me because, once in the store, with all the well-dressed mannequins in front of me, I have trouble deciphering between what things I actually like for me, and what things I can appreciate as being presented well to me (that's what marketing is supposed to do- right?). Thanks to many people who give structure to the way one might think about these things, I am getting better at parsing these things out. I am also seeing that a lot of my stash is actually things that I just like or things that were a good deal, not things that really fit me.

My Taos Cardigan: something that seems like it should work, but doesn't quite. Maybe because my boobs outgrew it.

I am thinking of a few different ways to clear out my stash in the coming months, and one of those things is to figure out how to turn things that aren't me into things that are.

I think you see where I am going with this

Enter: natural dyeing.

Black walnuts sitting in water for a few days before putting them in the dye pot.

I know, everyone is doing it these days, and I sure am glad for that because it just isn't my thing. I WANT to love natural dyeing. I love plants and yarn, so why wouldn't I love taking plants and dyeing yarn with them? I think I am too much of a control freak. The idea of taking something known and voluntarily throwing it into a pot of unknown... some people call that magic, but I call it TERRIFYING. What if I hate it? What if it's unsalvageable? What if I took something perfectly fine and ruin it? BUT, the land we live on is littered with black walnuts, and I have 2 skeins of perfectly good undyed fingering weight yarn and it IS Slow Fashion October after all.... I challenged myself to try something new.

I simmered the walnuts, in their hulls, in the water for 30 minutes or so, strained the dye bath and added yarn to lukewarm water before slowly reheating it.

And while I was cooking up this dye bath, I came across this old sweater of mine. The yarn is some Debbie Bliss something that I found on megaclearance and I SWEAR in the store, it was brown. I don't know what Deal-Induced-Delusion I was under, or if the lighting in that store was really THAT bad, because this yarn is clearly, decidedly, aggressively PINK, which I quickly discovered upon taking it home. Unreturnable, and determined to salvage this purchase, I knit it into a Sibella Pullover, something sweet and feminine that could handle the pink. And it did! But, it didn't fit and I was not savvy enough of a knitter to know how to alter it to make it fit. So, I took on my first gauge modification and made it a Tea Leaves. I forced myself to wear it a few times, but... oh, it is so pink.

No, really, it was brown in the store

So, with just a little wincing and breath-holding, into the dye bath it went.

Guess what? Natural dyeing IS magic.

Fresh out of the rinse bath and onto the line to dry
 I had originally set into this thinking I would try to get a specific color, a rosy tan, perhaps. But, I realized that, if I didn't want to be disappointed in my first dye project, I should probably approach this with a curious heart. I should see what the thing the land was offering me had... to offer! Turns out, a lot.
Hosea is also impressed


I'm quite pleased with the results and I actually spent the whole day giddy about it. I took some things I didn't like and turned them into things I like better! I salvaged some of my stash!

Sweater post-die bath shown with a bonnet I knit in the same yarn, for contrast

sweater and bonnet again. the sweater is a darker brown than this washed out photo shoes.

Funny thing about the sweater: it turned out pretty much exactly the color I thought I was buying in the first place. Definitely brown, but a warm, pinky brown. A brown with a blush. And I'm quite sure it doesn't want to be this cardigan anymore. I applaud my first attempt at altering a pattern to fit my gauge, but there are a lot of things about it that make it one of the less likely things I will grab. I will frog it and it will become something more... fitting. The current top contender? A Sibella. Oh, how funny.

All The Brown (also pictured: some formerly white woolens I threw in at the last minute because, really, toddlers in white? I don't think so).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LOVED: creating beloved garments for a changing body

I was not raised to value clothes. My mother believed that interest in fashion and appearances was vain and a big waste of money. My mother was not one to waste money. After a few years of losing arguments about why I should be able to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch instead of the thrift store or K-Mart, I Discovered Feminism. And, like so many adolescents discovering something, I pretty much decided I invented it. I shaved my head and stopped shaving my legs and my disdain for spending money on clothing was NOT the same as my mother's. It was a radical anti-consumerist statement. Except For Sometimes when maybe I didn't care about that and wanted A Thing from The Mall. I shopped mostly at thrift stores and, as mentioned in my introduction, fashioned some pretty strange garments out of quilters cotton. There may have been a pair of paisley flannel overalls in there... who can say for sure (and for the love of all that is good, if someone has pictures, please let's hide them). Ok, you can have one:

14 year old Kirsten. Pre-head-shaving, post discovery-of-hemp-necklaces, in the First Knitting Era.
As an adult, I find that I am often in circles that "reject fashion". People are quick to tell me how much they don't care about what they wear or how they look and how little they are willing to pay for clothes. I did this too, until my love of knitting and my preference for quality materials meant that I really had to question what "not caring" meant. I don't go shopping as a hobby and I don't troll the malls to ensure I am perfectly in style, but knitting meant I was spending good money and good time on what I wore. Clearly I DO care what I look like, how I dress myself, how I present myself. The way I care isn't always the same and perhaps I don't give it the same weight in my life that the media wants me to, but to say that I Don't Care would be a blatant lie. I care about feeling good in my clothes and I care about what they are made of and where they come from and how they look. Maybe I even want to "look good", desiring clothes that don't make me aware of how tightly I'm holding my core muscles at every moment.
Beside looking good, what does it mean to be someone who tries to be conscious of oppression, who refuses to consider where my clothes are made and what that process does to bodies and the land those bodies live in? Sweat shop activism of the 90s is not "hip" anymore, so it likewise doesn't seem "hip" to think too hard about where our clothes come from, but it is interesting to me how dismissed it is. Fashion is so intertwined with vanity and shame and excess that we are unable to weigh our choices, our financial investments, our consumer votes, without the stigma of caring "too much" about what we wear.

Knitting Era 2? 3? Me in my Lila Pullover, him in his Odette Hoodie. Our dear friend lookin' fly in the background.

For Mother's Day, my lovely wife bought me a copy of Women In Clothes, thinking it would be something I would like. Smart woman she is, I felt like it was a look into exactly the kinds of conversations I was wanting to have. I particularly savored the conversations with queer individuals in the book, which led me to start my first blog project: Queer Closets (which, despite having several surveys waiting in the wings, hasn't seen an update in a while. Turns out, managing such a project is a LOT of work with an infant). I read this book not long after savoring this Woolful Podcast with Felicia and Karen about small wardrobes and I felt the gears in my head turning anew. Though I had been knitting garments for myself for several years, I had been hesitant to sew my own clothes. I remembered my awkward, ill-fitting and blatantly un-cool garments from high school and assumed I wasn't capable of more than that.With the passion of these women, and several more (like Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing) propelling me forward, I started tentatively sewing adult-sized clothing again.

Riva dress, improvised snap tank, 2 wiksten tanks, tunic no. 1

Sewing big feels like a much big commitment to me. Knitting is pretty noncommittal. If I don't like something, I can just rip it out and try again. If I sew something I don't like or doesn't fit, it is all that material wasted. Also, while I am aware that I want to start shifting my wardrobe to more handmade items, I am conscious that I am doing this at kind of a weird time in my life. My body if shifting.. often and a lot. I wasn't a dainty pregnant lady. I carried big and now my body, which is mostly back to its pre-baby weight, is a very different shape. Many of my old clothes don't fit like they used to and I don't know that they ever will again. I want to say that I love my body just as much as I always have, but truthfully, I'm a little self-conscious. I feel like I have two options: fight my body and the way it is now, trying to force it into a shape it never was and doesn't want to be, or explore the way my body is shaped now, learn how it feels best and looks best. The latter feels more respectful of a body that worked for over 100 hours to bring the baby that stretched it all out into this world.

Just sustaining some life in my favorite dress

Unfortunately, the sudden shift of motherhood means I have to replace a lot of my wardrobe at once, but I want to do it in a way that feels good to me. I am also nursing all-the-friggin-time, which means that I can't wear tops or dresses that make it difficult for me to whip out my breasts... all-the-friggin-time. AND, which I hope to enjoy a long and healthy breastfeeding realtionship with our son (and any subsequent children we may be blessed with), I am aware that my need in this regard is temporary. The idea of replacing my entire wardrobe with "Nursing Wear" is impractical, so I feel like I constantly have my eyes peeled for clothing that makes nursing easy, but that I would gladly wear when I no longer have a nursling (and that will hopefully still fit after my breasts change again, post-weaning).

My biggest sewing triumph so far is creating two such pieces without any pattern. I had some grey linen laying around and after mashing up several patterns with some clothes I already owned, I came up with a snap-down tunic and a snap-down tank top that I love. They are cool enough for the summer, but easy to throw a sweater over in the winter. I could wear them every day.
Snap down tunic over leggings with my beloved Antler Cardigan (by tincanknits). This is my staple outfit.

My other favorite thing to wear right now is this amazing dress from Conscious Clothing. It snaps down the front!!! And it is made of really soft organic linen. Maybe others wouldn't consider it an "investment piece", but for me, it felt like it. It was the first time I spent that much money of a piece of clothing that wasn't shoes OR that didn't start off as a pile of yarn in my lap. It is a simple cut and I am sure that I could make something similar, but I felt good about supporting a small producer at a time in my life when I don't have time or money to spare on fiddling with sewing patterns. I love this dress.
Riva snap dress with my wedding shawl

I realized that I save these three items for the days that I leave the house and pretty much wear PJs the rest of the time! At a different stage in my life, I might be able to get away with having 3 or 4 garments that I wear over and over, but as it is, I don't escape a day without berries or yogurt being smeared down my sleeve at best, and the, ahem... "processed result" of those things getting on me at worst. I generally have to wash whatever I wear after only one day, which means that, unless I am going to commit to hermitage, I need a few more staples. So, with the new-found proof that I really AM ok with wearing the same few things... in the same few colors...  over and over and over, I splurged and begged my inspiring instafriend, Jessica, to dye me some linen to make myself another garment. And, of course, when she showed me my approximate options for color (natural dyeing is always something of a gamble), I selected one very close to the color of the blue linen dress I already own and love. Ha! A woman of great risk, I am not... At least I know how the color will look on me!

And now I have some decisions to make: what to do with it? Here are my top contenders:

The Alder Shirt Dress by Grainline Studios
The Maya Dress by Marilla Walker (button down version with tie)
The Endless Summer Tunic by AVFKW (with an improvised button band)

Any votes?

What are other folks' favorite button-down patterns? Any long sleeved ones? I'd love to experiment more with sleeves!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

S M A L L : clothing small people

The theme for this week of Slow Fashion October is SMALL, and while I know Karen and many others are discussing how to craft a small and sustainable adult wardrobe, I want to take a moment to talk about wardrobes for small people.
Tip #1: Baby knits are a great use for leftover yarn! Tip #2: Don't dress your offspring in Mama-baby matchy knits, unless you want everyone to make fun of you. It's really cheesy. Do it anyway and show me a picture.
Children's clothing has a special place in my heart, first and foremost: because it is SO dang cute. Everything is tiny and therefore cuter. It was also the thing, as I mentioned in my introduction, that brought me back to garment making. Children's clothes are a great way to build skill without risking as much in the way of time and materials when the inevitable "mistake" part of learning happens. Children's clothes also feel sort of political to me. As someone who pushes back against the idea of gender binary and needs to raise a child who understands and appreciates the spectrum of genders and gender presentations that our community holds, it seems counter intuitive to resign myself to dressing my own child in the strangely "hyper gendered" clothing offered by major retailers from the beginning. While there are large companies that design and sell unoffensive and mostly gender-neutral clothing (let me just throw this article out there, while we are on the topic of "gender-neutral": why does gender neutral clothing always mean boys clothes for girls?), I am generally disgusted when I walk into large retailers and see such limited options for children: neon pink or navy blue are our two color pallets that are always emblazoned with words that ensure that every literate person will know which of the "two" sexes this baby belongs to (and for the illiterate, we have color coded them in the aforementioned color pallets) and OH MY, how many of them strangely sexualize small children and make them into sexual aggressors or objects. I want more for my kid.
"I wonder what James will be when he grows up: a doctor? a lawyer? a rapist?"
"So many choices! I just hope I can raise my Ella to internalize the way the media polices women's bodies!"

I want clothes that are simple, comfortable, breathable, allow for movement, and will keep a tiny body warm or cool, depending on the weather. I don't want to brand my children with logos or stereotypes. I would also like to clothe my children without child labor or other horrible labor practices. And wouldn't it be great if the clothes I put on my child didn't poison the earth that he will have to live on? Great! No problem! There are a few small companies that make clothing that fit the bill for...... a couple hundred bucks an outfit. Is it worth it? Sure. Is it possible for a middle/low income person to clothe their child every season in these products? No way. I think it is important, to model our ethics to our children. If I teach my child about caring for the earth and valuing human life over consumption, what does it mean if I keep buying him brand new clothes from Target? That he isn't valuable enough for my ethics? That I don't really believe in my ethics? But I also value good food and having a roof over our heads and not working 120 hours per week. The reality is that I don't have the resources to live a life of complete integrity with my choices. I have to make compromises. Sometimes, I compromise out of need and sometimes I compromise out of laziness and sometimes out of desire.  Making things isn't always the answer. Making things can be just as consumption-driven as buying things. It often is for me. Still, making clothes or upcycling clothes can be a part of lessening the burden of consumerism on my clothing. And, I really enjoy it.
My "studio", and by "studio", I mean messiest corner of the hallway

I have been clothing a tiny person for almost a year (*sniff sniff*) now and so while I am no expert and have many years of epic clothing battles ahead of me, I'm sure, I want to share how I have gone about doing just this. What has worked, and what hasn't. What I would do differently.

First, I want to talk about the amount of clothing we have for our son: Too Much.

As a first time parent, everyone warns you that you will go through approximately 10 zillion outfits per day, so you better get used to laundry. As a first time parent nursing a major love of baby clothes, I sewed, knit, thrifted, inhereted, and shopped with relish. I admit that I bought things from Baby Gap (my major retailer soft spot), Target, and Old Navy. Mostly, though, his clothes came as hand-me-downs from friends (I am VERY lucky to have a friend with similar baby-clothes-snobbery who had a son exactly one year before me) and consignment stores. I knit a lot of his winter stuff, and this spring I delved into figuring out what I could sew for an infant. The first thing I learned about clothing my kid was: he doesn't actually need so many clothes. He typically went through 2-3 outfits per day, including PJs. I don't hate washing clothes, but I sure do hate putting them away. I realized that my son had so many clothes that many of them were never worn. I never put him in the stuff I didn't like (but felt obligated to keep) and I found myself "saving" the clothes I LOVED for "special occasions"... like leaving the house... which we pretty much never did. This meant that he wore a lot of clothes that I didn't hate but didn't love and I had to put SO MANY clothes away ALL THE TIME. I am realizing that I would way rather wash the same 10 beloved outfits twice a week than wash 40 outfits every week and a half.

Second, I want to talk about practicality. We know that warmth is especially important to children yet, so many winter clothes are made out of thin jersey cotton and don't keep children warm at all. I am ALL ABOUT WOOL for kids. And, yes, I handwash it. My hand knits maybe got washed once or twice this past year (not including spot treating spit up), which was way less than anything else needed to get washed. Wool just doesn't need to be washed that often and, when it does, it usually means throwing it in some cool soapy water and then taking five minutes to strain the excess water out and block it overnight. No big whoop. While I am no purist, I do believe that children should be surrounded by natural materials when possible and this goes for clothing too. Not only do they perform well and offer the most comfort, I think it also teaches children to expect and value natural materials, which will carry over into adulthood. Studies show that part of the reason McDonald's is so successful in gaining life-long customers is that it evokes nostalgia, comfort. We smell McDonald's and it smells like being a kid again. And we want to share it with our kids. Taking this same psychology, let's apply this to how we provide for our children. What will feel comforting and nostalgic? Pilled polyester PJs and wandering the isles of Old Navy? Or cotton and wool and eagerly anticipating the last stitches of this winter's sweater? (Or, arguing with your mom about why she just won't buy you the cool PJs from Old Navy already! haha)

Odette Hoodie... turns out he hates hoods....

Practicality also means that I just never put my son in the 10 short sleeved shirts I had for him over the winter and I didn't put him in that really cute sweater I knit a couple years ago and ONLY fit him from June-August. I held onto them because I loved them (or kept believing that I would Really Need Them), but they just sat in his drawers. It may be precious, but I'm not going to put anything uncomfortable on my baby (that goes for scratchy, tight, cumbersome... whatever). Kid's gotta move.
A particularly bad hair phase. A particularly good shirt.

Practicality means affordable. I admit that, as a new parent who likes clothes, I spent more money than necessary. It's actually just not sustainable and it is going to have to shift in the coming months/years. Ideally, I would create a wardrobe out of all used clothing, with special items handmade or, occasionally, bought from small producers. While there is legitimate debate about whether our used clothing system is sustainable, I do believe used clothing is THE way to clothe children. Children grow fast and most kids do not go through well-made clothing in one season. Buying used, or trading among parents keeps us from having to find new materials and pay more labor. It saves time and money. Melanie (Gosh, I am really repping her blog in this post) talks about how she recycles adult clothes into children's clothes in this post. I often find I can get nice fabric from giant ugly dresses or sweaters at Goodwill. Knitting for babies is easy with random skeins leftover from bigger projects. As he grows, this will become less and less possible and I will have to do some better budgeting.

So, without further ado, I will skip over the piles of laundry, and get straight to the handmade:

What Worked For Us:

Vests are great because sweaters kind of engulf small babies, making it hard for them to move. Vests keep the core warm without restricting the arms or covering hands.
Pattern credit from left to right: felipe vest, pepple vest, magic troll vest

Some examples of "didn't work": The vest of the left, Harold, is SO sweet, but didn't actually keep his tummy warm, so I only put it on him once. The vest on the right was my first attempt at lining a handknit and I LOVED it. He had so many other clothes that by the time I tried it on him, he had outgrown it.

Specifically: high waisted and wool
high waisted pants do the same thing as a vest on top, and keeps legs warm also. Melanie has a great tutorial for making wool longies out of old sweaters (that I pick up at thrift stores for $3). I do something similar, but I eliminated elastic by using the bottom ribbing of the sweaters as my (high) waist. This worked well for an infant, but probably won't for a walking child.

Patterns from left to right: improvised design of my own, High Waisted Baby Overalls

The quintessential onesie is actually not my favorite. The long sleeved ones are nice in the winter, when we want to make sure baby's core is warm, but generally I find them a hassle. My son HATES having things pulled over his head and our diaper changing "routine" (um, battle) could always do with fewer snaps. I made these snap-down tunics (short sleeved and sleeveless) to make dressing a bit easier. Plus: cute. These I improvised out of fabric from my stash (a lot of cotton made in china, at least the stripes are organic?)
please excuse all the wrinkles, they are fresh from the dresser. A good blogger would press before photographing.

How has this informed the way I think about my son's FW2015/16 wardrobe? Well, not much, because I was a crazy pregnant person and hoarded away hand me downs to last until he's 18 months old... maybe 2 years. He still has a LOT of clothes, including more handknits than he needs. I imagine that I will still find holes in his wardrobe and, while I want to say that I will fill them with handmade things from the stash of things I already have, I imagine there will be thrifting, buying new materials, probably even gettin' grabby in the aisles of Target. I'm really going to work on this last one.

But, for the sake of the exercise, here is what I imagine he might need:
Long sleeved shirts: Maybe 5-7? I'd love to find some good patterns for long sleeved shirts, as drafting sleeves on the fly seems a little beyond my skill level at the moment.
Pants:2-3 wool pants and 2-3 lighter weight (cotton, linen, hemp) pants
Handknits: 2 vests and 2-3 sweaters. 1-2 hats (bonnets because if they don't tie on, he pulls them off)
Clockwise from top left: a vest of my own creation in the works, an altered milo vest (cables on the sides, tiny pockets in the front), Simply Pants by Paelas, recycled woolen pants.

So, that is my long rant (could have been longer, I could talk about it all day!) about dressing small people. I would love to hear from other, more seasoned parents on this subject.


-How did stocking a wardrobe change with the toddler years? Am I totally unrealistic about how many clothes my child needs?

-How do you balance your values and your budget? How has this worked over the long haul, with more children, as they continue to grow (and grow and grow...)?

-How do you talk to children about the choices you make? How do you explain and engage the inevitability of falling short of your values and ideals? Of the process of making hard choices? Saying no to something you love vs. sacrificing to have something valuable?

-How do you talk to children about valuing used clothes over new clothes?

-How do you combat the allure of marketing to children/teens? (my parents tried with me and it didn't work until I became Too Cool For School and thought I had discovered it myself)

-Really, how long did your kids let you dress them in handmade things? Just be honest. I can take it. Like, 21, right?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Slow Fashion October

Once upon a time, I thought I would start a blog, because that seems to be the thing to do. But I never got around to it because, realistically, it's not the kind of thing I make time for. Since the start of Slow Fashion October (check it out at Karen Templar's blog: Fringe Association), I've found that I have more to say than can be said in an instagram post. I think about clothes a lot and I make things a lot and I have a lot of questions and tensions and things I ponder about all of this stuff. If it important? Is it vain? Is it ethical? Can it be ethical? Is it possible to feel justified in spending this much time (making, pondering) on what I wear? Is it possible to feel justified in spending this much money on what I wear? Is it possible to justify spending any less money and time on it, especially when we compromise our world's resources and the bodies of thousands (millions?) of people? How does my religion lead me to engage with what I wear and how it is made? Is it possible to do any of this as a middle class or poor person, or is this lifestyle only available to the wealthy? How can we we afford to clothe children in a sustainable and ethical way? What about teenagers?

I don't have answers to these questions, but I want to think about them this month. Please join me. I would love to hear how others answer these questions.

Let's jump off with my introduction:
 My name is Kirsten and I live with my partner and son in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I started making my own clothing in high school, where a thriving technical vocation program allowed me to "major" in clothing construction during the four years I was there. I fancied myself much "too cool" for something as vapid and mainstream as "fashion design", so while my classmates prepared portfolios to go to design school, I made dresses out of quilting cotton, sewed Righteous Babe Records patches to my handmade tote bags, and knit scarves with acrylic yarn. "Too cool" mostly meant I made things that no one else would wear! I abandoned these skills when I went off to college to do More Important Things, like go to parties and maybe major in Spanish.
Well, neither of those things lasted very long, and a few years later, a new-found passion for birthwork and supporting new families threw me into nannying young children whose parents wanted me to learn about Waldorf and Montessori and attachment parenting. This led me into the rabbit hole of Mama Bloggers, where I discovered a world of people that really resonated with me, despite being in a completely different stage of life (late teens/early 20s, childless, urban, low income, queer) than most of the people writing these blogs. Still, their commitment to making, creating, cooking, raising children at home, off the land, it appealed to my anti-establishment, anti-capitalist agenda. Sewing, cooking, raising our own children... the young queer feminist in me thought I had to abandon these joys and desires for More Important Things, but here I was being drawn back to them in a way I had not considered before. I started sewing and knitting for the children in my life, mostly my charges and for friends' children. This developed my skills enough to be able to venture into making clothes for myself.
It has only been the past couple of years, though, that I am beginning to see through the facade I sold myself. Making my own clothing justifies the cost of it, I considered, because it is both entertainment and a living requirement. But, I started to wonder, buying new cloth off the rack and new superwash wool, was that really more ethical than buying new clothes from the store? I was not participating in the labor market (and abuse of bodies) that constructed my garments, but what about how the material is produced? These questions led me to others in this "making community" who are asking similar questions. I am learning a lot from them, and learning a lot means more questions. This brings me to the beginning of this post and those list of questions that I still turn over in my mind as I knit my stitches and sit at my humming machine. I hope this month will allow me time to reflect on these things with others and maybe find ways of creating answers together.