slow fashion october

doing the work

sorry for the poor photo
sorry for the poor photo

I didn’t really do all that much during Slow Fashion October, but I did unpick the ribbing at the neck of my grey shell to reknit it tighter. It really didn’t take all that long. I unpicked and crocheted a slip stitch into about 1/2 of the bound off stitches. Then I chose a smaller needle, and picked up directly from the slip stitches. I’ve noticed that Japanese patterns tell you to pick up every stitch at the neckhole, but that tends to make a very loose neckhole. I didn’t know that at the time though.

The shell fits a lot better on top now! It’s like night and day. Before, I had to pin the v-neck closed if I didn’t want to spend the whole day adjusting it back on my shoulders. Now, I didn’t even have to think about it. It sits pretty perfectly…on the neck. It’s still an awkward garment – I can’t lift my arms very high without taking the whole bottom hem with it. But it should work better with outfits I paired it with in the past. I’m glad that I had Slow Fashion October to give me the motivation to spend one afternoon doing such a simple fix. I may someday rip out the whole thing, but for now, I’ll love and cherish this – the first real sweater I ever knit!

slow fashion october

slow fashion october: making pieces that i love – and will use – and not too many at that

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How do I make sure I’m knitting a versatile piece of clothing, rather than just knitting to knit something?

I’m only about 4 years into my knitting career, so I haven’t had to actually think much about this yet. It took me about two years to start knitting garments to begin with, as I mostly stuck to accessories while slowly ramping up the difficulty. You know, the tale as old as time: start with a scarf, move on to hats, mitts, then to socks. After socks, you feel like you can knit anything after all, so of course I got started with my true love: sweaters.

When I first started knitting sweaters, I was going crazy with all the things I wanted to knit. I patiently worked through those items until … my queue pretty much dried up. After my Bohus sweater is done, I have nothing left on my MUST KNIT list. It makes sense that my desires would change over the massive amount of time it takes to knit things. I got a little bit more discerning over patterns I want to knit. I want to knit things that spark something in me. I do want to balance that by choosing things I “need”, but I don’t want to ignore it either. I want to love it, rather than knit something because I feel I should be knitting it, to patch up some hole in a wardrobe. Ideally, it would be both something I love and need.

There are some other rules I’ve been trying to follow to reduce my conspicious consumption of yarn/knit things that I’ll get a lot of wear out of.

A) Keep my stash small.
Luckily, I’m fairly limited in space, being in Japan. I will NEVER have “a yarn room” and honestly? I’m glad. I see how some are burdened by the weight of yarn that they will never be able to knit through. I’m also lucky in a way that my LYS doesn’t carry a lot of eye-catching yarn. That sounds bad, but I just mean that their selection is mostly practical yarn in solid colors…or ugly variegated yarn. (Hand-painted superwash yarns are non-existent outside of Tokyo, *sniff*). I’m also a mostly monogomous knitter, and I try to only buy yarn that is earmarked for soon-to-knit projects.

Not that I’m immune to the pleasures of buying a beautiful skein of yarn! I’ve certainly done that… but then I hate the feeling of having to knit through yarn without a clear purpose. What do I use this for? Do I even want that object, or did I just want the pleasure of buying a pretty hank of yarn? No project seems good enough, and I can’t really afford to have yarn sitting in my stash for years. It’s not worth the stress.

Of course, a stash is inevitable, especially since most projects end with leftovers. It’s a challenge to go through it all, to be honest, and I still have balls of yarn from my first year of knitting. It’s nice to have when knitting up amigurumi, though.

B) Keep my queue small
As I said above – I’m trying to practice restraint in selecting patterns for the future. There are a few things I’m thinking of knitting after Bohus is done, but nothing is set in stone yet. I really like this feeling – I feel free! I kind of want to continue on this way, not thinking years into the future with my knitting. After all, tastes and desires change, and recently there haven’t been many patterns that scream “KNIT ME.” It could be that I’ve begun to see it all… Cabled sweaters, striped sequences, lacy tunics – it’s hard to be really original with them.

I feel like I want to move onto something very new to me – like a skirt or a jacket – something that I have to line with fabric (so I can practice hand-lining a knit). If I had a ton of gorgeous sweaters in the queue, it would be hard to choose a more intimidating, technical, practical knit like that.

(I lied that I’m totally queue free, as I’m planning on knitting Alina’s Journey in the future, maybe with some modifications. But I’m actually interested in knitting this with some Iwate Homespun yarn. The issue is that “Homespun” signifies the woven products, and I’m not sure if the original yarn actually exists for purchase…I’ve seen pictures of it in skeins, but it’s not sold online or anywhere in person near me. I’m waiting for a friend to get back to me about this. It would be yarn spun in Iwate by local people, dyed in gorgeous colors with natural dyes. It would be a wonderful representation of my own journey… but it’s on the backburner.)

C) Try some new technique with each project – but also fall in love with stockinette

Progression
Progression

I haven’t consciously been choosing patterns according to difficulty or anything, but I have tried to do something new with each project. This way each knit is “fun” to get through, but is not overly ornate so that it doesn’t go with anything. For example…

  1. Grey shell – This was my first real garment, but it’s mostly just a long scarf sewn together! Pretty easy.
  2. Red vest – My first sweater sewn from pieces, with some fun cables thrown in. Being a vest, it was a lot easier to try, seeing as it doesn’t have any sleeves to deal with. (But this one is kind of a failure, because while I do love it, I have mostly nothing that goes with it)
  3. Bulky sweater – My first “complete” sweater sewn from pieces. Also a saddle shoulder. The bulky yarn made it a quick knit.
  4. Linen striped shirt – My first completely stockinette project, to see if I could deal with the boredom of stockinette. Honestly, this is my most-worn handmade garment.
  5. Cardigan for my husband – First men’s pattern, first time dealing with a project of such monstrosity. Also, first time with raglans, and first time making a vertical button band. (He loves it, but it’s way too big for him)
  6. Snowflake sweater – First seamless sweater knit in the round, first lace sweater.

Then from earlier this year, my smocked linen top was my first experiment with embroidery (and majorly changing a pattern), my Fleurette was my first completely-lace pattern (with decreases in lace that killed me!), and the Bohus sweater is my first yoke sweater. I didn’t include the tank top in this list, mostly because I was pretty confident of every aspect of this one! But even then, I guess it was my first bottom-up tank top in the round, and some tricky bits in the construction.

(Dang, I’ve been prolific this year)

Honestly, plain stockinette produces the most versatile garments. Cables are gorgeous but chunky – you don’t always want a chunky look. Colorwork is also beautiful, but can be unforgiving… and can give too much of a casual look for work (says the woman who fully intends to wear that rainbow-ass Bohus to work). And lace is beautiful and feminine, but you always have to wear something underneath so you’re not flashing someone. So while I really want to knit interesting projects, I’ve also tried to embrace the boring, staid stockinette…and I have fallen in love with the plain knit stitch. It is the best for TV knitting after all.

SO, yeah! I try to be practical, but also cherish that spark that goes off whenever I see a pattern that makes me go -ME LIKEY!- But I definitely would like to be more careful in selecting patterns, because I can’t fit an infinite amount of sweaters in this apartment. Maybe when I get bored of things I can unravel and use the yarn again >:)

slow fashion october

slow fashion october: longworn – casual clothes vs work clothes

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When I thought about my most well-worn clothing, I had assumed that I’d be thinking mostly about my casual clothing. My wardrobe is pretty clearly divided into casual and work clothing, as my style starkly changes between them. My work style can be defined as rather – dresses, skirts, cardigans, flouncy blouses. My casual wardrobe is on the opposite end, as it’s pretty boyish. The goal is as much comfort possible, with a bit of coolness thrown in. So I thought that most of my older clothing would be on the casual side.

I mean, the oldest piece of clothing in my wardrobe sure is casual! This hoodie is about ten years old now, and I still love it so so much. It’s all faded and pilled now, but the fit has always been perfect. It’s loose but the fabric drapes enough so it doesn’t look all sloppy. The color goes with everything. There’s some weird writing on the back, but having strange English phrases on your clothing has always been hip in Japan. It’s a part of Victoria’s Secret PINK line, and it was a gift, which is funny because I probably never would have thought to buy a hoodie from Victoria’s Secret. But it ended up being perfect. Also reasonably well-made too, as there’s no holes or loose seams, and I haven’t exactly been gentle with it.

But as I looked through my clothing, I was surprised to realize that the rest of my older clothing is mostly work clothing. I have a lot of stuff that’s about four or five years old, which is just mind-bogglingly to me, because wow? Has it really been five years? It all still looks pretty good, which is why I still wear it.

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I wore this outfit to my first date with my husband, and I loved this outfit so much! I still wear it, but I’m pretty bored with it to be honest – which is the hardest part of keeping clothes for a long time, I find. Plus, while I love floral prints, but I’m trying to move away from them, because I’m almost thirty and I’ve been wearing floral for almost 7 years now to work. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to dress differently just because you’ve entered into a new decade of life, butttttt… Floral does make one look young. I kind of want to move towards a more sophisticated look at work. But I don’t want to get rid of this dress, even if it doesn’t fit my casual style either.

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This skirt is about five years old, and it still looks amazing, mainly because it was pretty expensive. I bought this skirt with a silk shirt and blue blazer for a work presentation, and spent a lot on the outfit as a confidence booster. I still have all the pieces, but I don’t wear them together anymore (it looks a little… bank teller-ish?). This skirt has gotten a lot of rotation in the last year or so. It’s pretty tight at the waist, so it’s tough to wear stuff tucked in – I tend to wear sweaters over it. Here it is with my favorite hand-knit sweater. It’s only about a year old, but I have certainly worn it to death already. It goes well with the print on the bottom. But…it’s already getting really pilly at the sides where my arms rub against it a lot. So while I can fix that up, there’s only so much I can do to have it look “presentable” for work. For casual stuff, things can look a little bit worn and still look good. But at work you have to worry about your image …

While I love the idea of mending older clothes to give them new life, I’m having difficulty figuring out how the same can (easily) be done with clothes I wear to the office. I think it’s a great idea to “visibly” mend things, to add your own touch, but adding a whimsical patch to a blazer would … give off the wrong impressiong. I know nobody is recommending you do some crazy embroidering with neon thread over a hole in your black skirt – if you have a hole in fancy clothing, you should probably mend it as invisibly as possible. Which is possible. I’ve mended the hem of that skirt above three or four times, because it keeps ripping, and it’s still a beautiful skirt! But at a certain point, the fabric on older clothes gets too… shabby for the office.

It’s a challenge – wearing clothing as long as you can doesn’t quite jive with a sharp, work-ready wardrobe, no? I want to be responsible and get a few years out of my clothing, but I also understand that you need a certain Look when at work, and that image means a lot. One of the problems with my clothing is that I never spent too much on it, so it only looks good for a short amount of time. Maybe the solution for a work wardrobe is to just spend more money on the original pieces + the money on tailoring, and whatnot. The good thing about work clothes is that the trends don’t move all that quickly.

slow fashion october

slow fashion october: hello

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My Snowflake sweater, which I would love even more so if it didn’t stretch out during the course of the day.

Once I started knitting, I stopped buying clothes for myself.

Well, that’s a lie. I still buy clothes. Hell, I can’t even sew, so replacing my whole warddrobe with handmade pieces would be impossible. But when I was in my early twenties, single, and in my first job with disposable income, I got in the habit of buying a lot of clothes. All around me were stylish women in cute feminine clothes. I had never been a clotheshorse, but suddenly I wanted to be a fashionable working girl.

The issue is that Japanese clothes never fit quite right. In those days, I was little smaller, so things theoretically went over my body, but they fit strangely. Too tight around my waist. Way too tight around my bust. Constricting at my shoulders. The only thing that was right was the length on things (yeah, short girl in Japan!).  But cheap clothes are just as ubiquitous here as they are in the United States, and I didn’t feel bad for buying stuff that wasn’t right. Even if they didn’t fit perfectly, the price was right for close-enough.

(close-enough, if I sucked everything in, didn’t raise my arms, remained motionless, etc)

So I bought a lot of clothes. There are a lot of things that I adore and that have gotten lots of wear. But other things would stretch out after a couple wears. Or they were uncomfortable. Or they just weren’t right. So I donated clothes to the secondhand shops, bought more clothes, and donated them again within a year or two. Wasteful. In the end, I didn’t get a lot of pleasure out of most of those clothes. I was trying to reach an ideal that is impossible for me.

Cut to a few years later. I started knitting, mainly because I liked the idea of creating scarves for people I love (now I’m mostly a selfish knitter who only really knits garments). I didn’t set out to create a handmade warddrobe, but once I discovered the joy of creating clothes – real clothes! – I stopped yearning to buy so much. I’m also about ten pounds heavier than I was, and that ten pounds put me over the top as far as finding clothes in the cheap-o shops. Except for maybe Uniqlo, but Uniqlo has its own issues. I also found a work “uniform” that I really love, which is a sweater over a crisp shirt over a skirt, tights, and boots. So I wanted to make sweaters that fit well and looked wonderful, rather than cheap acrylic stretched out sweaters.

My favorite outfit this past winter - with a sweater I made. (Hi, I also like to doodle and share that here as well!)
My favorite outfit this past winter – with a sweater I made. (Hi, I also like to doodle and draw myself 300% cuter than reality)

For me, I’d say the biggest impetus in making my own clothes is to get things that actually fit me (not that I’ve been all that successful at that). But creating my own clothes has taught me how much better care I take of those clothes. How much more I cherish them. I want to feel that way about all my clothes. So I don’t think I’ll learn to sew any time soon, but I’d like to buy better-made clothing that really really fits.

I’m new to thinking about sustainable fashion, so I think my goal for this month will mostly be to pay attention what other people are saying, and to learn a bit more about the situation with the Japanese clothing industry, and its stances on ethical clothing. I’ve also got a bag of clothing that I never took to the secondhand shop, so I’d like to pick through it to see if there’s some way to salvage some of that. Then also, I’d just like to properly iron and layout my clothes, come up with a few different outfit ideas, and just generally think about the stuff I have in my closet rather than going out and buying lots of new stuff for autumn.

Last, and a bit removed from the concept of fashion, is just to get out and exercise a little bit more. The Craft Sessions post a few months ago on weight stablization and a sustainable warddrobe stuck a cord with me. If you don’t fluctuate too much in weight over the years, you won’t have to buy as many clothes. Simple enough – my own size really hasn’t changed much since high school. However, I used to run a lot, and have fallen out of the habit since getting married. On the scale, I’ve only gained a few pounds, but it’s all gone to my shoulders and upper body, making a lot of my blazers and jackets horrible snug. I like those jackets, and I want to be able to wear them, not buy new ones. If I shaped up a little bit, I’d be able to better fit into clothes that I still like but are just a bit too tight right now, rather than buying all new clothes.

(Weight and body size and dieting are all such sensitive topics, and I largely deal with my own hangups by just … not thinking about it. But I recognize that’s a privileged position, and am interested in what others have to say)

Anyway, I’m excited to learn more during Slow Fashion October, and hope to make some new friends (and teach you all more about my beloved Ihatov, and the joy I experience knitting here).