I’ve been following the Fringe Association blog for years, where Karen Templer writes about knitting, sewing, and fashion from a conscious base of values: sustainability, beauty, craftsmanship, and ethics. She’s certainly helped me develop my knitting skills and interests, but she’s also led me to think more deeply about my choices in the clothes that I purchase, make, and wear. Now she’s organizing Slow Fashion October:
“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.”
My current life doesn’t seem to offer much scope for fashion. I dress for practicality, in a combination of well-worn clothing that I’ve owned since I lived at Reevis and thrifted items purchased more recently for specific needs. Currently time and money are not commodities that are available to me in abundance. I have bills to pay, a house to build, a writing career to establish. Fashion wouldn’t seem to rate attention just now.
Yet somehow it does. Fashion – I mean the choices that I make daily in what, and how, I choose to wear, purchase, discard, mend, or make – connects intimately to the reasons why I’ve taken my current direction in life.
When I left my first husband fifteen years ago, moved to Arizona, and lived alone for practically the first time in my life, I began to learn to live frugally. Among many other beautiful lessons, I learned that when I had to consider every purchase carefully, I truly appreciated every item that I owned. I took care of my possessions, and I felt connected to them – I knew why I owned them, how they served me, and what they needed from me. I had a relationship with them. I also was aware of taking responsibility for myself by being careful and conscious in my choices and in the care of my things. I felt healthier in my soul, and happier.
When I moved to the farm I began to learn the pleasures of making, mending, and repurposing. I learned that everything comes from somewhere, everything has a story, and when I come into possession of an object I become part of its story. From Peter Bigfoot I learned better how to make practical choices, including in clothing myself – to be aware of what I was choosing to wear and why, from a practical point of view. During my time at Reevis I also began to develop ethical values and became more concerned about the consequences of my choices.
When I left the farm eighteen or so months ago, I began to learn to take direct personal responsibility for all of the choices in my life. I graduated into a more adult role in my own life, into awareness of being my own primary authority. I take this responsibility very seriously. I am struggling to be vegan, working hard to build an ethical and beautiful shelter, and similarly giving serious soulful attention to the way I clothe myself.
When I left the farm I also began to respect myself more and to see how much I had suppressed enjoyment and self-expression in the name of practicality. Last year I “did my colors” and am loving the process of creating a wardrobe that is not only practical but also right and attractive for me.
Karen and many of her readers are blogging and commenting about questions of sustainability, skills, beauty and craftsmanship, ethics and responsibility, the connection we have to our clothes and other belongings, and the pleasure we can find in all the choices and activities around fashion. These are things I’ve been musing about for a good while, and now I’m taking the opportunity of Slow Fashion October and Karen’s prompts to focus my thoughts – as well as to give serious attention to my wardrobe.
Where are you at with all this? I’m aware of many of my values relative to how I clothe myself – I love clothing that is useful for its purpose, beautiful, made in a loving way, and expressive. I want to give more attention to the aspects of how my clothing is a way of caring for myself and expressing myself. I want to work more into the ethics and morality of clothing choices. I’d like to set a direction for myself – meaning, to get a better feel for what I’d like to include in my life in terms of making, what kinds of clothing I would like to own, what skills I’d like to develop.
What first got you interested in Slow Fashion? I’ve always been amazed by creative people who make lovely, expressive things from salvaged or natural materials. While living at Reevis I observed how Peter made many of the things we needed, from shoes to pot handles, and his creations were usually beautiful, well made and durable, perfectly suited to their purpose, and expressive of his personality. At Reevis I also met many more amazing, creative people – felters, spinners, tanners, leatherworkers, and so on. I developed a desire to find pleasure, play, and connection in making, modifying, or acquiring my own belongings, including my clothing.
What are your skills? I learned to sew as a child and to knit in my 20s but didn’t use those skills much until I moved to Reevis. There, I knit sweaters for Peter and myself, and also made hats, gloves, and socks. I’ve read Knitting in the Old Way and Elizabeth Zimmerman. I’ve dabbled in dyeing, weaving, and leatherwork. I’d like to sew more but don’t have a place for it for the present.
What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October? To give careful thought to my clothing needs and desires, currently and for the future. To set goals and plans for projects and skill building for the next year or so. To work out the answers to – or at least make decisions about – some questions about ethics and morality. To discover makers and inspiration on the internet and in my area. To start to participate more in the online and local communities.
What are your personal goals for the month? 1) Evaluate my wardrobe and decide what I need and how I will create or obtain it. 2) Post about Karen’s prompts each week. 3) Read and journal about my “philosophical” questions. 4) Read posts from other FA readers. There’s so much inspiration and so much to learn from, out there!
Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month? I want to plan, and find yarn for, what I hope will become a beloved cardigan. It will probably be a modified Stonecutters Cardigan, and I’m looking for the perfect yarn – an aran-weight wool in a medium taupe, not too gray and not too brown but right in between, with a rustic, homespun texture, from sheep that are treated well. I’d like to be ready to start knitting in November.
I’m on Ravelry as PatriciaAZ.