Friday, April 14, 2017

the handmade year

I'm not going to preach at anyone here. The world we live in is hard: even when you have access to necessities and enough to spare for all of the bills, and the food, and the things you need, I myself often feel as if I'm coming up a bit short. I have credit card debt I'm trying to pay off. A mountain of student debt. I work a forty hour week, from home, which means that sometimes I work a sixty hour week. I think that I'm pretty lucky to get to work with so many amazing people and do something that I love. It wasn't always this way, but I worked to get here, and here I am. I've been on food stamps. I've worked six jobs at once and had a breakdown in the moments I wasn't working. It could be harder. I don't have any children. I'm at a place now where I make time for time off on the weekends. I had to learn to say no and not to apologize for not wanting to work jobs I didn't have to (to the people hiring me and also to myself.)

So, the point is, that it would be easier to take a path of less resistance with clothing. It would be easy to hop over to one of the amazing shopping places we have here in Nashville, Tennessee, and pick up some new outfits at Forever 21. I love retail therapy. In middle and high school, shopping was something I was really good at. As in, good enough that sometimes people hired me to do it. I thought I would go into fashion. I can go to a rack of clothes and run my hands over the fabrics and pull out the winning pieces. The pieces nobody sees -- and I love doing it. That said, lately, I haven't been doing it at all. In fact, I have only bought one new garment this year. Last year I bought five.

Partially, this is because it's harder to buy things that are poorly made when you see how well something can be made. Spending time among people who make their own things has that effect on you: it makes you think about what you could be doing with your own clothes that you aren't. Also, doing a lot of research for a book on taking things slow, slow fashion, makes you think long and hard about how you're living your own lifestyle and how you could change it. Writing the book changed me more than a little bit. It made me passionate about taking my time with things. About not needing so much of everything, and preferring quality over quantity. About where things come from.

We're getting closer to Me Made May, and there's the 100 Acts of Sewing Project, and Fibershed's focus on textiles, and I just feel like everything in my world is pointing towards making rather than buying. I do social media for a magazine focused on it. I work for yarn companies that care deeply about supporting the fiber industry around the world. I spend a few hours a week at a shop that teaches the skills needed to create your own. Brushing against all of these worlds makes me feel like everything else lacks soul. Handmade clothing is full color and light and sound, where fast fashion is this soul-less, consuming being. It's hard to convince myself to spend money on something that doesn't benefit very many people in the process, myself included.

Last year, I bought less clothing, but more fabric. I've been hunting trims for years at antique stores and flea markets, and collecting some of the most lovely yarns. Now it's time to use them, and I couldn't be more excited about it.

I'm going to start by listing three simple steps I'm taking to prep myself for what I'm hoping will be a very productive year of making, and I look forward to hopefully sharing a lot of it here. It won't all be knitting, but some of it will be.

Step 1: Make my own slopers so that I can design my own patterns

I purchased a used copy of my old textbook from fashion school, which outlines how to do this as well as the slash and spread method of flat pattern drafting, but I'm sure there are a million tutorials on this online. I don't have the luxury of a dressmaker's dummy yet, so slash and spread seems most attainable to me at the moment.

Step 2: Plan out my makes 

I find that I get things done if I have a plan, so my goal is to go through and assign each of my yarns and fabrics a future identity. This means re-documenting some of the Ravelry stash (which has gotten way inaccurate and out of hand) and maybe selling off some yarn. It also means figuring out what I want to make with everything and putting my Fashionary journal to some use.

Step 3: Sew for an hour, knit for an hour

In the evenings, I find that it's very easy for me to get distracted by television. We've set up a tv in the craft room now, in a fashion (it's a computer), so I can sew in there, and knit in by the main television if I want to watch movies. I'm hoping this makes it a little easier to stick to this goal. I want to try and do some sewing (on a quilt, on a garment) every night, and knit on something every night, too.