Fashion Revolution Week & Integrity

I’ve been an ardent admirer of creative mending for many years, and I love to follow the #visiblemending hashtag.  As I was perusing some recent posts, I noticed that a lot of them were all talking about #fashionrevolutionweek, so I clicked on the hashtag and was transported to post after post discussing the need for higher standards in the fashion manufacturing industry, such as safer conditions and basic rights for garment construction workers, and a deeper commitment to sustainable and environmentally-friendlier practices on behalf of clothing manufacturers and distributors.  All the #visiblemending posts were popping up as an example of consumers taking personal responsibility to not add to the growing problem of overflowing landfills of clothing–if you mend torn clothing instead of throwing it away, it 1.) Doesn’t add to landfills, and 2.) Means you’re not buying more clothing.

I’ve been watching this fashion revolution/slow fashion movement for a couple of years now, first inspired by the thought-provoking writing of Karen Templer over at Fringe Association, and furthered by my quilterly instincts to always find extra uses for fabric after its first life as a piece of clothing and curiosity about how people manage to live “like that,” meaning “sewing their own clothes.”  “Where do they find the time?” “Is it truly cheaper?” (Anyone who quilts and/or knits can understand where I’m coming from, am I right?!?!)

My best friend sews a lot of her own clothes and is always stomping me in finish times when it comes to garments vs. quilts, which has been doing a lot to change my opinion about whether sewing clothes is the huge time commitment I once thought it was, and I’ve also knit a few sweaters in my day and have come to realize that they’re also not a huge deal-breaker, time-wise.  But to truly commit to a DIY wardrobe…truthfully, it sounds a little too minimalistic-yuppy/I-only-eat-organic/pumpkin-spice-hipster for me.  No thanks.  I’m a fan of science and don’t feel guilty about the technological advances we’ve made in many areas that allows so many of us to live better lives beyond what our ancestors could even dream.  This isn’t Little House on the Prairie–women today are so liberated to not have to worry about sewing up their families’ wardrobes, and enjoying that extra time that’s not tied up in sewing is downrightfabulous.  Not going to feel guilty about that, either.

But then I saw this post:

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Image via Instagram @ecologiqfashion

…and I literally gasped aloud as my heart did a slow-clap standing ovation.

So often, when you hear about sweatshops (which I first became aware of in the ninth grade) and the wish for better working conditions for overseas workers and the need to Buy American (because I live in the USA), people will say something like, “But just think of those factory workers overseas and how us buying those cheaply-made goods allows them to have a job and earn money!”  Followed by a proverbial pat on the back for helping out those impoverished, third-world workers that would probably starve and just die in the street were it not for wages they earn making near see-through t-shirts of inferior quality that end up with holes at the belly button after three wearings so you’ll have to buy MORE of them.

But with the age of internet and instant access to what’s going around the world, we are privy to the knowledge that conditions in those factories are downright scary, and very exploitive.  That horrible factory collapse in Bangladesh back in 2013 (read: FIVE YEARS AGO) that KILLED 1,134 people and seriously injured 2,500 more?  Nothing has been done to help the survivors’ families.  I am not the kind of person who can brush aside the idea that my easiness of living comes at the expense of another human’s fundamental rights.  Crap wages, unsafe working conditions, environmental irresponsibility…by purchasing, and thereby supporting, a company’s product, when that company engages in this type of behavior, that is the same thing as me shaking their hand and saying, “Yes, I agree with what you’re doing.”  Each of us votes with our dollars.

And, simply put, I don’t agree.  I’ve never thought it was OK to take advantage of other people simply because you can, either because they don’t know any better or because you’ve found a loophole that lets you get away with it legally.  It’s disgusting and completely devoid of the basic code of existence that I think human beings need to live by.  I’m not going to do that to other people simply because I lucked out with the golden egg of opportunity that was “being born in North America.”

Does that mean I need to start making all of my own family’s clothes?  Not necessarily–there are options to buy ethical clothing, which means that the clothes are created by workers who are paid decent wages, and given safe places to work, from ethical materials that were responsibly produced and dyed.  The big difference in going this route is cost.  Paying a worker a livable wage means that their end product is going to cost the consumer more money.  Using responsible, quality materials that won’t fall apart after a year costs more money, too.  (Us crafty types already know about this particular point in the form of wool vs. acrylic, and big box store fabric vs. quilting shop cottons–you do get what you pay for.)  But I am a stay-at-home mama to four; making our clothing is going to be a far more economical route for me than purchasing it at fair value.

In the wake of all this paradigm-shifting, I have a bright moment of joy to share with you: Our family was talking about this issue over breakfast the other day, and I shared the “You can’t exploit women in one country to empower them in another” quote with them, which led to explaining how the clothing industry works, and what it means to look the other way and ignore when bad things are happening.  I used the word “integrity” to explain what I meant, and noticed that my fourteen-year-old daughter perked up when I said that word.  Towards the end of our discussion she said, “I think learning to sew my own clothes would make a good ‘Integrity’ value project, don’t you?” and in that moment I wanted to cry from happiness because this girl gets it.  In a world where teenagers (especially white, middle-classed teenagers, such as my daughter) are painted as screen-addicted, entitled brats, this girl empathized with a less-advantaged girl somewhere else in the world and thought of something that she herself could do, at the cost of her own time and effort, to hopefully lessen that negative impact.  I wasn’t that compassionate at fourteen, so I’m proud of her heart.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but for now, this is enough:  Things are going to change around here, and it’s going to take me a little while to figure out exactly what that means.

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Randomly in November

  1. I saw the sign-ups for the Bee Hive Swap in time this year, and got in!  :::happy dance:::  So excited!
  2. My own swap group that I’m running liked it so much that a bunch want to do it again next year!  So, busy with setting that up at the moment.
  3. Yeah, two year-long swaps…talk to me at the end of next year.  🙂
  4. I wrote up an exhaustive inventory of the many works-in-progress taking up space in my craft room, and then hammered out a plan to plough through almost all of them in the next year.
  5. The first WIP that will reach completion as a result of my awesome new plan is probably a pair of socks that I started back in Australia.

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  6. A newly-finished pair of socks right now is kind of perfect, given that the snow has started.  I was actually thinking the socks would be a Christmas present for someone dear to me, but my feet are freakin’ freezing, so I’m going to keep them.  Mwa ha ha.
  7. The second WIP that will probably get finished is a baby boy quilt I started almost eight years ago.

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    The kid in this photo is Penguin, who is now nine years old.  She’s drinking from the mug I received after giving birth to Junebug, who is now seven-and-a-half years old…

  8. It’s funny how you can start a project with so much excitement, but with each passing year of not completing said project how much that excitement turns into resentment and shame.  So much so that I definitely don’t want to keep the quilt when I’m done, but fear the repercussions of giving a new life an item infused with so many negative feelings from myself.  The act of giving wipes off all the bad juju, right?  Right?

  9. I’ve also fleshed out a “Baby Gift Flowchart” to help me decide what to make for tiny humans on my radar.  In this age of social media, I find that I’m inundated with the awareness of many a pregnancy, and the baby-lovin’ crafter part of me really wants to make something for every one of them.  However, given the physical limitations of time, I can’t.  So I came up with a way to shrink the pool a bit and ease my conscience.  A line had to be drawn somewhere, or I’d never be done with making baby gifts.

    Baby Gift Flowchart

  10. I’m currently aware of nine pregnancies, and of three women trying to get pregnant.  That’s twelve impending births in the next year.  My flowchart narrows the gifts down to five recipients, which is still a lot, but gives me back a bunch of time.  I am raising four children of my own…
  11. My son broke the teeth off of the zipper of his winter parka the first day he wore it.  Of course.  Even better, he broke off enough teeth that the actual zipper pull fell off, too.  So, instead of working on WIPs, my time is needed to repair a zipper in a parka.
  12. Once again, making plans is a dumb idea.

Because I "Have Time" Now for Mending

My school-aged kids attend school now, in case you missed the update.  That being said, I have a lot more time for things that I’ve been somewhat content to ignore for many years.

Case in point:  Mending.

Of course, the moment I spent a bucket of cash on school uniforms, all the girls started literally ripping through their other clothes.  I am determined to not buy clothes while we’re here in Australia, mostly because I’m trying to save money to buy massive amounts of winter clothing when we land back in the States in the middle of winter, and also because most of the clothes that are wearing out are old, and on their last recipient (Junebug).

However, I have a thing about throwing away fabric.  I can’t do it.  If we were home, I’d launch all these into the fabric stash pile, to be used in some fashion in a future sewing project.  But we’re not home, and I’m not going to transport ripped clothing halfway around the world, so I decided, since I “have time” now, to see if I could fix the offending articles.

Armed with a few Pinterest images, and some handy how-to from The Beating Hearth, I mended this pair of Junebug’s pants, backing the hole with her “favorite” fabric that I’m using in her Star Spangled Diamonds quilt.  I extended the darning out quite a bit, as the fabric of her pants is very thin throughout the entire lower leg.

Pleased with my progress, I tackled a pair of Bluebird’s pants, which still have to last through two more girls:

That one didn’t turn out as well; I should have cut away the loose threads.  Ah, well.  I’m amused by the “Utah-shaped” darning.

Inside shot:

I’m still learning, but I’ve managed to save two pairs of pants with my mediocre skill!  That’s a skill in which to invest!  I’m unsure about the weaving part when you’re done with the lines of stitching…it seems unnecessary.

Of course, mending takes time, which meant I wasn’t able to work on my other creative projects as much as usual, so progress on those was small this last week.  But I saved two pairs of pants, which is totally worth a little delay on extra-curriculars.  (At least, it’s worth it to me.)  Also, it’s surprisingly satisfying to mend clothing.  Maybe I’ll try to unearth some articles out of the stash pile when we return home?

Patching Up the Blankie

If you have a child who carries a blankie, you’ll totally understand the necessity of tending to whatever injuries the coveted item encounters. Rabbit’s blankie has had this ouchie for a while, but then it caught on something the other morning and tore some more and she seemed rather distraught about it–so I decided to do something about it.

I located some random pink gingham flannel (which isn’t too terribly random when you consider that this a house with three young girls living in it!), cut out a heart, hefted the sewing machine upstairs and started some intense blankie surgery, while Rabbit anxiously looked on.

End result: