slow fashion reading

#slowfashionoctober 2016: or why not to put stones in the washing machine.

this post has been a draft since october last year. if this isn’t slow, i don’t know :)

GOING SLOW FASHION OCTOBER

it is the second year of slow fashion october, a month of raising awareness about the clothes in our closets. or the clothes that are not in our closet. and why. if you want to know more about the hashtag and project go check out karens blog. she is the initiator of the hashtag  #slowfashionoctober and paved the way for a discussion with great wingspan! and i finally muster up my thoughts to contribute. feel free to chime in in the comments, i’d love to hear what you think.

every week has been assigned a theme to guide through the month, albeit loosely. which is great, to me, open questions are better for thinking! i already introduced myself here on instagram for week 1.  since we are now approaching the end of october, last weeks themes were ‘long worn’ and ‘handmade’, and this week is all about the origins of the materials we wear; yarn, fabric, thread… smallish independent labels (that are more likely to produce under fair conditions).

KNOWN ORIGINS: WOMEN

Disclaimer: I regard it as a privilege to discuss slow fashion. It is neither possible for everyone to sew for themselves nor is it what everyone should aim for.  It is both therapeutical and political for me. You can save money but this is not the sole purpose of a handmade wardrobe. For me is about the gut feeling, mental health (craft as creative outlet) and being able to decide what I want to wear instead of buying into an image. It is about feminism and empowerment.

So lets dive into it. I will scratch on the surface, digress and ramble!

to my mind, known origins is also A LOT about the people involved. it is a lot about environment and the usage of chemicals/wasting of resources in production (did you know stonewash jeans are the epitome of evil?)* – which, in turn affect the living beings (people!). in brief, it is a circle.

most of the people working in the garment trade, and by those i mean workers that actually touch the garments, are women. there are men, of course, but (stereo-)typically they are owners of factories or stores. in fact, only a small percentage earns money with sewing.

garment trade does not exclusively entail sewing, it is also weaving, knitting, dying, embroidery, design, patternmaking, cutting, retail, marketing, models. a lot of tasks need to be performed until a garment is ready-to-wear (from now on rtw). most of these tasks are performed by women.  in the majority of countries, even here in germany, women still earn a lower wage than men (the gender pay gap). thus making women ‘better workforce’ if costs must be held low. and with pressure from big companys like inditex, which owns brands like zara, factories cannot afford to pay their workers better. or take measures for safety in factories.  i think we all know about this problem since april 2013. from there, the fashionrevolution movement is has grown, questions like #whomademyclothes are asked more frequently.

GENDERED GARMENT TRADE IN FRONT OF US

problems are not all relegated to the women in the global south, however. models, commercials and sexism, anyone? another example. i inititally came across in the book Threadbare, but which is also the topic of clothing poverty: second hand clothing. non profit second hand stores are rare. most of them benefit from fast fashion: they make profit with selling used clothes (a cheap resource!) and they often have female volunteers that will keep the racks in check. this is worker exploitation, too. we need be honest with ourselves, who needs/wants our old clothes, no one really! it doesn’t sound comforting, but we should really just BUY LESS. the problem of having nothing to wear is often a reaction to too many (poor quality) choices. this is common sense already. thus the hype of marie kondo-ism, basically it is applied minimalism: cleaning out what doesn’t make you happy (a bestseller, haven’t read it though) i am wondering, is it all about making room for new stuff, consuming again, with a little bit more mindfulness.* sorry if this sounds cynic. i am just trying to think some steps ahead, including my own ‘shopping experience’ (fabric stash i’m looking at you!).

DELIBERATE CHOICES

what can be done. deliberate choices. i used to think about series like ‘wardrobe architect’ on the colette blog – nice, but isn’t it somewhat superficial (i.e. narcisstic) to spend so much time thinking about personal style? now it does make so much sense to me from another angle – sewing something i do not wear is clearly a waste of time and resources. it is a bad ecological footprint, in environmental terms. it is not superficial this way, it may be a bit narcisstic at first glance. it really is an exercise in self-care and mindfulness. i’ve never been one to follow fashion like crazy, i was the one cursing in the store that i cannot find a decent black longsleeve. while i do not have much time to sew – have been on maternal leave the last year – i have time to think about what i want to sew. and with sparse time on hand, i want to use that time effectivley. don’t get me wrong here, sewing doesn’t only fulfil a need for a garment that my wardrobe lacks asap, it does also fulfil a need to slow down mentally. that means, i don’t want to rush. i want to enjoy making something for myself. it is an activity i cherish. nobody forced me into it, not even a bad conscience (which you can get when you think about the consequences of the fashion industry nowadays). i’m trying to make more informed choices as of late, the origins of most of the fabric in my stash are unknown to me, for instance.

SEWING IS SEWING IS SEWING. NOT.

what i really wanted to add to the discussion is the role of women. maybe we forget that this is a gendered issue. interestingly, being a tailor is valued differently throughout different spheres. i’m not saying you have to be a man (tailor) to be valued in your work rather than a women (seamstress). rather i find it a curious thing why sewing (for a living) as a women means you cannot pay your bills. it is the same task, there are only so many ways a seam is constructed. a shirt made in bangladesh requires the same set of skills like a designer shirt. the difference is in the price tag and, sadly, in the appreciation of the consumer. today you often pay for labels, not for quality. often they come from the same factory.

the difference: if a shirt costs 10 dollar, you are able to buy more. i believe no one actually saves money with cheap clothing, people will always just buy more – at least the majority. if you have more shirts, every single one is worth and worn less. this is what i think. if we, ourselves, are breaking in the jeans we made, even if it takes a year to achieve that fashionable used look – we will be more likely to mend them if they tear. they live a longer life. instead of ruining the health of people breathing toxic gases, or breaking tumble dryers with stones, i rather actually wear my jeans until they bleed out. this way they feel more organic to me, they become a second skin (that is why this blog is called cutikula*, btw!).

isn’t it absurd what the fast fashion industry does to compete with long worn/loved garments – like aging them artificially by stone washing?  are there any other ways fast fahion mocks slow fashion? i’m curious!

thanks for reading! it does makes me happy to read/reply to your comments. i’m off to read your contributions on the interwebs now…

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footnotes:

*there’s a lot to hate: acid dye or rotating drums with stones are used to acieve the ‘used-look’ – which is not only a look –  those jeans will rip sooner, or are already torn in places. jeans are long wearing items, due to the rigidity of denim. it takes time for them to break in, time that can be undone with the stone washing method. #fastfashion acid dye is toxic (workers touch it/breath it in), and would you put stones in your tumble dryer/washing machine? right.

*this does apply to fabric shopping as well, the ‘future garment imagined’ is bought, never sewn. fabric is sold (de-stashing) and new fabric can be bought with a better conscience. no offense!

*a biological term i adopted from the latin word ‘cuticula’ which is, simplified, a second skin layered on top of a plant’s epidermis. humans do not have a cuticula, but we have garments to layer on top of our skin, so basically clothes are our version of cuticula ;)

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sources:

anne elizabeth moore: threadbare. clothes, sex, trafficking (genre: academic comic strips)

anne theresia wanders: slow fashion.

andrew brooks: clothing poverty: the hidden world of fast fashion and second-hand clothes. (a dissertation)

marie kondo: the life changing magic of cleaning up.

(other sources are linked in the text)

cecilia-from-a-tree

Cecilia in Red: Yoga Bag from Lotta Everyday Style

this is the second thing i’ve made from LOTTA EVERYDAY STYLE (book by lotta jansdotter).* and the third is already cut out (her name’s wilma). the simplicity is lovely and smart at the same time.

CECILIA is made from only two pattern pieces, and roughly a meter of canvas. my choice of red canvas is not very original (the sample in the book is red, too) but, well, red is just a nice color i guess! i bound the edges on the inside in baby blue instead of zigzagging them, but that’s the only thing i’ve changed construction-wise. i like the things to be made to last and if i’ve got the time i enjoy finishing them properly.

closeup_cecilia

ahh and topstitching is such a pleasure (nice long straps!).

cecilia_inaction

very basic, very bright and very useful. now i just have to ease back into practising yoga (hey, baby).

let me add that i am of average height, not tall but fairly average. this bag is big, ok!

DETAILS:

pattern: CECILIA YOGA BAG from LOTTA EVERYDAY STYLE

fabric: about 1m of red cotton canvas

* the first thing i made was the patchwork scarf. i made it for jana (instagram @janavalach) , my secret valentine this year. i mostly used leftovers from shirtmaking, so here’s a bonus picture! i made the tag based on the hashtag #2016sve.

lottas-patchwork-scarf

thank you for stopping by!

backview_hemlock

colorblocked: hemlock tee

almost everyone has made a hemlock tee! for a reason. the hemlock was actually one of the first knit projects i tackled when i got my serger two years ago. the fact that there are only straight seams (except for the neckband, that is) made it the perfect project to practise sewing with an engaged knife. man, that knife can be scary at first, considering the speed! i’ve made several hemlocks within the last 2 years and except for one of them, i wear them constantly. the rejected one is a bold cherry flower print in red, which i only wore during pregnancy when i ran out of clothes that fit. otherwise, well.. it’s too bold for me, i can’t take that print on a daily basis.

solids are my jam! so, i’m afraid colorblocking is as crazy as it gets. both fabrics are lightweight (albeit not thin, see-through or tissue weight) rayon knits. they are similar in weight and feel and i had some of that grey fabric left over. i’m glad i paired them together, because the orangey red is the epitome of vivid and the gray mitigates that a bit. the red rayon has some elasthane to it so it is a bit more drapey, which makes it oh so comfy, too.

front_hemlock

while i don’t feel the urge to share my other hemlocks on their own, this one deserves its own post. i’ve been wearing it a ton since i finished it in fall.

i’ve made some more alterations other than slashing the pattern for colorblocking. i lowered the neckline, added wide cuffs and folded out some width from the body and the sleeves. unfortunately i can’t remember how much, since i use the altered pattern since my first tee and did not trace it either since this is a one size pattern.

cuff_hemlock

here’s a close-up of the color block seam lines. you’ll notice that i didn’t finish the hem, the knit fabric does’nt fray and folding it up for a hem would have added too much weight and bulk. like this, it’s nice and flowy (and an easy serger-only-sew).

sideseams_hemlock

i’ve been a fan of slim tops and wide leg pants once, but have been wearing wide tops and slimmer pants recently (though i don’t like too skinny or jeggings!) the hemlock might be one of the reasons i am a convert now. how many hemlocks have you made?  do you have a favorite silhouette? i still like a wide/flared leg but none of mine fit anymore :/

details/sources:

hemlock – a free pattern by grainline studio

full-blanket

upcycling: a patchwork blanket from scraps

i used to have a moving box under my cutting table to throw all the scraps and remnants in, pieces that would be too small to use for a garment. that’s where it all started with this blanket. once this box started overflowing with fabric remnants – anticipate: real quick! – i felt i had to do something about it. honestly, what keeps me interested in sewing is certainly not home deco, like pillows, blankets, curtains.. however, sometimes you do need those things and sometimes you happen to have the material right before you. in this case, both was true. and it was january, a time of year where it’s nice to have it warm, and that is what a blanket does: keeps you warm!

wrapped up

as you can see, i did not finish this blanket during wintertime. spring passed by and then, the prospect of summer was not incentive. at least, i had the pieces cut out and sewn together in february. just to give you an idea what i used, besides project scraps: a skirt from my boyfriends’ grandma, old jeans and pants, a plaid flannel shirt that never got worn, corduroy from an old skirt, a scarf from ukraine (interfaced for  a bit more stability), a corny tablecloth, a vintage pillow case (also used for this project), duvet covers, a polka-dot shirt from the thrift store, wool remnants from a skirt… and so the list goes on. i’m telling you about this in detail because i love that you can use basically everything. if it’s too lightweight – just interface it (you could even interface knits, so they won’t stretch)! upcycling is easy, you just have to get started. i’ve read a tip somewhere to sew together a bunch of scraps in every sewing session, it’s not as overwhelming as setting the goal to sew a big blanket in a handful of neverending sessions (which is what i did eventually) – on the contrary, it’s magically done at some point.

now for the details:

i cut 15x15cm (6×6″) squares and sewed them together in rows with a 1/4″ SA (using my presser foot as a guide). for warmth and structure, i used 100% cotton batting which i bought from ‘frau tulpe’ at 11,50€/m (volumenvlies 277). that’s the only thing i spend money on! it’s just right for a blanket and a bit sticky so sandwiching becomes much easier because the layers don’t shift around. you still have to pin or baste all layers together, though. i decided to pin, much faster! i’m not all about speed in general, but why would i want to crawl around on the floor for longer than necessary? i certainly thought this was a smart move… however, i cannot recommed that. the pins took vengeance on me as i quilted the layers in rows. next time i’ll be hand basting the layers together. for quilting i set the stitch length to 3,0.

backview-blanket

for the backing i used plain muslin of which i had bought about 6 metres (6 1/2 yard) at the scandinavian ages ago to use for, guess what, making muslins. it was a bit softer than i’d remembered and when i looked through my stash i was happy to find it. i cut 2,5 m and prewashed it. then i remembered a mispurchase of mine: textile color which you can use in your washing machine, in a 60°C easy-care programm. it was a mispurchase because i do never wash my cotton garments at 60°C…  NO! to shrinked pants. anyway, the color (navy) was perfect for the backing cotton. now, although the color was said to suffice for up to 600g and my fabric actually weigh lighter (around 550g), the outcome is a soft blue that is very similar to light blue denim. or heaven. i’m not complaining, i like it. but navy is a bit far fetched.

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for the binding i used a quilting cotton from my stash, it’s an art gallery fabric and was an impulse-purchase last year. seriously, why would i buy quilting cotton, i never had any endeavour to sew a quilt before. my buying habits have changed a lot in a short time, meaning i’m much more considerate about what i buy and what i plan to make with it. as of late, i really cannot justify to buy fabric if there’s no specific project in the back of my mind. i like that development! by the way, have you heard of #slowfashionoctober? maybe you take part in it already. i’d like to pay tribute to the idea with this project. it’s clear that you do not always have to buy something new and shiny to create something new that – as in case of this blanket – will be used for ages. all the time and effort that went into making it make it even more precious to me. something i could never buy in a store. something i would never buy in a store just because of that!

back to topic: i cut seven strips along the widthwise grain, 6cm (approx. 2 3/8″) wide. i sewed them together diagonally, folded and pressed the loooong strip in half and sewed it on at a 1/4″. then, i folded it around the edges and sewed the binding on by hand. that took forever (4 -5 hours?).  i do enjoy handstitching because i can sit wherever i want (armchair, anyone?). if you want to save time this is not the way to go. if you find hand sewing relaxing or even rewarding, like me, go ahead!

embroidery-stitches1

applique-phone

there it is, a patchwork blanket from scraps, from old garments and duvets. i added some appliqué and embroidery stitches where it called for some spice. this barely cost me anything and it is now worth so much to me! upcycling rules.

desmond-pack-roll-top-bench

an autumnal desmond roll top backpack

when Taylor from tailortaylor.com announced he was looking for testers, i immediately jumped at the chance without thinking about it too much really. i knew his blog and thus had seen first versions of the backpack that he planned to release. have you noticed there aren’t any back pack patterns out there or at least, there are no patterns with a simple yet sophisticated design? i’ve never sewn a back pack before and as far as anything ‘bag’ is concerned.. there is one i’ve made two years ago, which happens to be a free pattern by Novita from verypurpleperson.com (coincidently also one of the testers for the desmond pack, see her superb version here!). That being said, I’m a total bag making amateur, but i was confident i could make it work. and i could – the instructions were thorough and helpful!

luckily, the testing period fit in with my calendar, otherwise i would have felt intimidated to sew with a deadline. my result of pattern testing the desmond roll top is a seriously quirky pack due to my ‘choice’ of fabric. choice is relative, since i didn’t want to spent more than neccessary on supplies and this is what i had on hand. my boyfriend bought this fabric in tehran last winter. maybe because it’s orange? i guess the color was the critical factor. i seriously do not know what’s the content of this fabric… pretty sure it has nothing to do with natural fibres! at first i was afraid it would melt under the iron. fortunately, it didn’t. so, that and it’s weight meant it qualified for being used! and the orange is really quite nice, isn’t it? now that the leaves turn into all the colors and – first and foremost: orange! – i get really excited about its vibrant color.

autumnal-desmond-pack

desmond-pack-side-view

for the lining i used slippery but rather sturdy lining fabric made from black polyester. i got a bag full of fabric from my boyfriend’s mom when she found out about my sewing. there was a lot of poly lining fabric in there. so i’m glad some of that is processed and doesn’t take up space anymore. (my approach here was pragmatic!) i have to admit though, black fabric is not a thought-out choice to use as a lining. there’s this black hole-syndrome when searching for something. it doesn’t bother me too much, it does match the webbing and the black thread in the weave of my main fabric, a good thing.

bag-lining

apart from the fabric, which cost me nothing, i spent some money on the other notions. these included the metal hardware you can see in the front (zip, hooks, sliders, D-rings) and the plastic thingies that help fastening and adjusting the length of the shoulder straps (are they called buckles?). somehow, i could not find O-rings, which the pattern suggests. there are some online shops but i didn’t want to order online. honestly, living in berlin you can basically get everything around some corner. the plastic surrogate you can see below works in the same manner and is also attached the same way. easy as pie. all these things are relatively cheap to buy, especially if you buy larger quantities (if you are a passionate bag maker you might do that, i didn’t!). here are some detail shots of the installed hardware:

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all in all, the backpack is comfortable to wear (as long as i don’t carry around bricks, that is!) in everyday life. the straps are great for support and have a nice width so they do not ‘cut’ into the shoulders, if you carry something heavier. what i really like about it is the size, it doesn’t look to huge and is not too small for a broad back either. there are four inside pockets and three on the outside, which gives plenty of room for small things that would be lost on the bottom otherwise. which is crucial with roll top bags i think, in standard backpacks you have a zip going all around to the bottom.

desmond-ribbon-detaillast but not least, i added something special to my bag with a beautiful vintage zig zag ribbon (from the 60s or 70s), which i got as a birthday present from a good friend of mine. she bought it at a flea market in mainz/germany. isn’t it just great when friends, who do not sew themselves, gift you sewing related things? i’m really happy to have found such a good place and project to finally use it!

 

more info about the pattern:

the pattern comes as a two-file-pdf with 28 pages (actual pattern), plus 12 pages (illustrated instructions)

the desmond roll top backpack by taylortailor.com

the sewalong  has just started out!

…and i also really liked the color combination in Allie’s testers’ version!