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:

2018-04-28 (2)

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.

Advertisements

My “New & Improved” Plan for Battling UFOs and Scraps

Last year I came up with a plan that would allow me to work through more UFOs, whittle down the overflowing scrap baskets in my craft room, and allow me to work, guilt-free, on some new projects.  In the past, I always start the new year with grandiose plans to blast through all of my UFOs, and the white-knuckle willpower would only last about six weeks because the textile world is constantly releasing new fabric, yarn, and pattern collections.  So, I came up with this project rotation:

20170211_164545

The Original Project Schedule

And it worked really well for about six months until I discovered a glitch with my system–I never chose fabric from my stash when it came around to make a “new” project, choosing instead to use new fabric from a new collection that excited me.  The stash was starting to grow faster than normal, and I had this weird reluctance to cut into any of it because it was dear to me.  You don’t buy fabric or yarn with no plan unless you’re really in love, which makes it hard to use said fabric or yarn.  But, as a wise homeschooling parent told me about art lessons with my kids, “Art supplies is meant to be consumed, not conserved.”  The same is true of fabric and yarn.  USE THEM.

Plus, I’ve been noticing a lot of my contemporaries breaking into the pattern market, and they are killin’ it, which made me start wondering if perhaps I should start at least trying to write my own patterns for my use?  I know how patterns work by this point in my creative “career,” and the challenge involved excited me as well.

And then we did some charity blocks in quilt guild and it just made me feel good to make those.

So my project rotation schedule needed a few tweaks:

wordswag_1514822760965

And it’s been working WONDERFULLY.  I love the challenge of coming up with my own patterns, and I really love the idea of #everytenthproject being a service project–it’s like paying tithing on my creative abilities, for which I am so grateful to possess.

I kept a spreadsheet detailing my projects for last year, and it really helped me with my stash management and with branching out of my comfort zone:

2018-01-01-01

(It also alerted me to the fact that I tend to only knit with new yarn, which led to the decision to stop stashing yarn completely…because once it goes into the stash, chances are high that I’ll not be interested in using it EVER after that.  Interesting.)

It worked extremely well until I started sewing again for Fat Quarter Shop–by the very nature of those projects, they are always “new” fabric projects, which very quickly started eating up the next available “new” slots in my plan.  I’ll have to watch out for that this year, and possibly come up with a plan to accommodate those projects–the turnaround time on them is tight, so it’s not possible to actually have a “plan” to include those projects into my schedule.  I might leave them out of the “rotation” altogether, actually, and just enjoy the ride when I’m asked to ride along…because, duh.

Oh, another important note: Babies and weddings don’t have to follow the schedule because they are also impossible to plan around.  I just plug them into the spreadsheet where they belong and then work around them as necessary because I LOVE BABIES AND WEDDINGS.  I’m a gift-crafter at my core.

What I find, though, is that this schedule greatly reduces the chances of acquiring more UFOs.  I’m horrendously distracted by the new-and-shiny, but when I’d start thinking about cutting for or casting on a new project, I’d consult my spreadsheet and see if it could fit into the next category up for grabs.  If it didn’t, I’d tentatively schedule it; but more often than not, when I came up to its turn in the rotation, my excitement for the new pattern would have waned and I could move on to something that had been on my bucket list and would truly bring me pleasure.  I started 2017 with thirty-eight UFOs, finished (or donated or frogged) nine UFOs, and am taking in two new UFOs–that means I now have thirty-one UFOs, which is totally an improvement!  I have never ended a year with less UFOs than I had at the beginning of it.  Feels good.

And now it’s onwards to a productive 2018!  Happy New Year, and may you find a little time each day to move forward on your projects.

clementine-qal-e1504126058289And if you’re looking for an idea for a service project, maybe you want to consider joining Fat Quarter Shop’s Clementine Quilt Along?  I’ve committed to it, and it would be lots of fun to have some more friends quilting along, too!

You can find more information about the Quilt Along by clicking here to visit the Fat Quarter Shop Blog.  Proceeds from this quilt along will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

The Yarn is My Proxy

I’m trying to be a good little auntie.

I have a weird sibling situation that I finally came to a conclusion upon last year about how I’m going to treat all my present, former, and kind-of siblings:  I’m just gonna love them all.  More love always wins, right?

One of my sisters had a baby last week, and there’s nothing like the actual birth of a baby to really light the fire under one’s rear end to finish the crafties intended for said baby.  She had a little boy, and he is beautiful.

I’ve been working on this layette since October.  The plan was to finish it all before Christmas and then ship it so it’d be there before the birth, but…yeah.  Whatever, it’s finished, and it’s heading to the post office in the next couple of days to make its way to the chilly, chilly Canadian town that boasts one more beautiful baby boy as of last week.

The cardigan is the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan pattern, knit up in Plymouth Yarn’s Jeannee Worsted (51% Cotton, 49% Acrylic).  The buttons are from JoAnn Fabric.  I knit up a matching hat following the Basic Hat Pattern in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd.

The blanket is crocheted, as is every blanket I’ve ever made from yarn.  (The idea of knitting a blanket makes me twitch a wee bit.)  The pattern is “Pastel Waves,” from Leisure Arts Our Best Baby Afghans, which I’ve owned for years upon years.  I used good ol’ Red Heart Super Saver for it, despite its baby-melting acrylic content.  I just haven’t reached the point where I can buy that much cotton yarn at once.  That also makes me a bit twitchy.

So I’ll send this off, with much love and many wishes that I could live closer to this new soul.  It’s somewhat heart-breaking to watch all these nieces and nephews grow up, and know that I’m only seeing it in photographs instead of experiencing it in person.  Sigh.  But, perhaps, they’ll be reminded that I care when they snuggle up in a blanket or sweater I’ve made for them.

That’s the hope–that they’ll feel my love and know that I wish I was right there with them.

Happy BIRTHday, Little Baby J.


This post is participating in Small Thing’s “Yarn Along,”
“Anything Goes Monday” at Stitch by Stitch,
and “Sew Cute Tuesday” at Blossom Heart Quilts.

New Pattern: Harmony Wave Cowl

My second published pattern to date!  This cute little thing was designed for a scarf and cowl contest at Harmony, one of my local yarn shops.

Yes indeed, it is crocheted.  And it is lovely–I crocheted it in Blue Sky Alpacas’ Sport-Weight, and it is completely luscious-feeling against the skin!  I am definitely making more of these!

I’ve named it the Harmony Wave Cowl, in honor of Harmony’s contest, and for the obvious wavy stitch pattern.  It’s a quick pattern; I whipped this up over the course of two days of teaching school.

The original creation is on display at the Harmony shop until the end of the scarf and cowl contest on December 12.

In the spirit of the season, I’m offering this pattern for free until the close of the contest at Harmony.
Just hop on over to Ravelry, add the pattern to your cart, enter the coupon code HarmonyHoliday2013, and you’ll receive one download of the PDF pattern for free!*
Share the news, and enjoy your holiday season!

*Offer is good for one individual download of Harmony Wave Cowl pattern until 11:59 PM MST, December 12, 2013.  Please visit Cara Brooke’s design store on Ravelry.com to complete your transaction.  Registration for a free Ravelry account may be required for redemption of offer.

Getting the Knitting Cogs Moving Again

It’s been a weird spring and summer for me, in that I’ve had no desire to knit.  None.  I forced myself to finish some projects because I had all that time lying flat on my back while recovering from those lovely herniated discs, but there wasn’t a time where I was excited about knitting.  I preferred to just lay on the couch and watch Netflix movies.  I didn’t even read a lot.  I’m proud of myself for keeping it relatively together, attitude-wise, during all that yucky back stuff, but I was kind of bummed out during those months.

New socks!

But then, in August, we had a couple of cool weather days.  Very cool weather, the kind of weather that makes your toes start to feel a little frosty.  So I went in search of my alpaca socks, and reveled in the loveliness that is a pair of handknit socks snuggling around very cold toes.  That wonderful feeling, in turn, started moving the knitting cogs in my brain–at first it was a rusty creak (“It would be nice to own more than one pair of handknit socks.”), and then a disjointed series of interruptions to my regularly-scheduled thought processes (“Sweaters appear to be in style this year,” “I’ve never made myself a sweater,” “Monkeyboy has grown out of his old sweater,” “I haven’t been to the yarn store in ages,”), all the while speeding up until I’ve rediscovered my former life as an obsessive knitter who feels greatly conflicted over whether or not to take the knitting with me to the U-Pick Berry Patch.  (Yes, it’s true; and I am a little embarassed that I did have to devote a little bit of logic-making to that decision.)

But even with my brain humming along its (now) well-lubricated knitterly paths of pondering, my hands and heart were having a hard time getting with the program.  I’d sit down to knit and find myself desperately wanting to get away from my yarn after a few minutes.  Knitting wasn’t fun anymore.  Knitting didn’t make me happy.

And, finally, I figured out what it was:  Knitting reminds me, so strongly, of my neighbor who passed away this past winter.

I was forcing myself to put in some work on a vest I’m making for Monkeyboy, and as I was knitting, my eyes glanced across our front yard and into the window that I used to monitor my neighbor through during her last few months here.  My thoughts wandered to the crocheting bag I gave her for Christmas two years ago, and I surprised myself with having to choke back a sob at the thought of how she no longer has a need for a crochet bag, and wondering what had happened to it.  Then I thought of knit group, which featured little wise cracks she’d make; and then I saw one of her crocheted afghans laying along the back of one of my couches, which made me think of the bits of granny square advice she’d imparted to me over the years.  And it hurt; hurt so badly that I had to lay my knitting down in my lap and just breathe until I could think about those things without wanting to cry.

It continues to amaze me at how much I miss my neighbor.  You have all these “regular” people in your life that don’t appear special on the surface.  They’re not your grandmother, your best friend, your roommate from freshman year, or that teacher who woke you up with their words of advice.  There’s no “moment” that can be pinpointed as to their significance in your life–they were just there, silently building up memories and bonding slightly closer to you with each seemingly-insignificant interaction that you shared over the years.  It’s a love that is rarely recognized in the flesh, and mostly only realized once circumstances change to the point of no longer having it around in its normal form.  It makes me both sad and angry that I didn’t realize that I loved my neighbor like I did until she was dead.

And my neighbor is linked to the knitting part of my life, which makes the knitting part of my life hurt right now as well.

I won’t quit knitting.  (That would be so many levels of stupid.)  But I now understand why it’s been difficult, and that it wasn’t just my injury that made me disinterested in what I consider to be my most favorite hobby, over this past year.  It’s some weird expression of grief, and now that I recognize it for what it is, it does make a lot of sense to me.

However, the past couple of days have found me, for the first time this year, looking forward to knitting.  Autumn is on my mind, which raises mental images of cabled sweaters, tweedy wools, and marled mittens against a backdrop of fallen leaves.  Boots beg for warm socks as lining.  There are whisperings of Christmas knitting.  The changing of the seasons is diverting my thoughts to the good times that await throughout the next few months.

Those knitting thoughts are happy knitting thoughts, and they are peeking through the sad knitting clouds of mourning that I’ve been unconsciously carrying behind me.  So I’ve decided to take those thoughts of my neighbor and frame them in a positive light, rather than allowing my brain to close itself around the dismal interpretation of those thoughts.  I remember my neighbor’s smile when she unwrapped her crocheting bag, and I don’t allow myself to think on the question of what happened to the crochet bag.  The crochet bag made her happy, and I gave it to her.  That is a wonderful thing.  I am thankful for the crochet advice she gave me, and I’m glad that I have it to bless the lives of those I crochet for.  That’s another good thing.  And I will always look fondly upon “Bright White” skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn because it was her favorite color to edge her granny squares with, and there are a lot of people in this world who possess the Bright White works of her hands.  She was good.  And I got to have that in my life.  It’s just good, all around.

Autumn is approaching, and Knitting Season is beckoning me to move forward…and my heart and my hands are willing to get on board.

Life goes on.

Grief isn’t permanent.

Knitting waits for you.

Yarn Along: Rustic Baby Cozies & The White Queen

Happened across a neat little link-up called the Yarn Along, in which you just post what you’re working on and what you’re reading.  After seeing it, I felt motivated to read more and stitch more, so perhaps it will become a regular event in which I participate.

This week saw me finish Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, which is a fantastic telling of Elizabeth Woodville’s story.  She was the wife of Edward IV (usurper king of War of the Roses fame), and eventual grandmother of Henry VIII.  I love to read historical fiction, as it “sets” historical persons more firmly in my mind.  It will be so much easier to keep the Yorks and the Plantagenets in correct order in my mind now.  I’m a huge fan of Phillipa Gregory’s writings–she’s also the author of The Other Boleyn Girl (which I haven’t actually read), and I’ve read a few of her other books.  I look forward to reading more of the titles from “The Cousins’ War” series.

The blanket is for my little nephew or niece-to-be.  I saw the material hemstitched at a local quilting shop and it made me think of my brother and his love of woodland wildlife, so I caved and went completely backwards on my intent to not gift any sort of blanket.  My contribution to the article is the crocheted edging.  I’m not worried about gender neutrality on this–if the Little turns out to be a girl, I have no doubt that she’ll like woodland beasts to some extent.  I’m a girl, and I like bears, deer and moose myself.

There’s also two burp cloths made from the same material and I plan to crochet an edging on them as well, but it will probably be more of a procrastination thing (ie. finished at the last minute).  I’m not a big fan of thread crochet.

Three Finished Shawls

I decided to wear my Rock Island Shawl to church this last Sunday, and when the girls saw me wearing it they clamored to wear their shawls as well.

When we returned home from church and I watched them prance through the front yard in all their finery, I realized that I never posted “Finished Project” posts here on the blog about their shawls, so I ran inside to grab the camera and what follows is the result of our impromptu modelling session:

Junebug’s Shawl
PatternSezession II, by Rodger Murry
Yarn:  Odds & Ends from the stash
Hook:  5.0 mm (H)
Modifications:  I added a crochet shell border, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
Oi.  There are a lot of colors in this shawl.  Junebug wanted a purple shawl like her purple blankie, which is a granny square afghan, so when I saw this pattern I knew we had a winner.  I let her pick whatever yarns she felt like choosing to go in it, and when I’d get to a point when I wanted to change colors, I’d have her decide which color was next.  Her favorite color is yellow, which is why it’s edged in such a happy shade.

Penguin’s Shawl
PatternCitron, by Hillary Smith Callis
Yarn:  Noro Sekku, colorway 1 (discontinued)
Needles:  3.75 mm (US 5)
Modifications:  None
This shawl originally started out as a shawl for me, but I bumped the needle size down and ended up with a pretty small garment.  Penguin had admired it from the beginning, so I randomly gifted it to her after she walked by for the hundredth time with it on her shoulders.
This is a great beginner pattern, not hard at all.  Penguin tells me that it reminds her of candy corn and Halloween.
Bluebird’s Shawl
(Also known as “Fantastically Rainbow-y Shawl for Bluebird“)

PatternFan Pattern Shawl
Yarn:  Knit Picks’ Chroma Fingering, “Lollipop” colorway
Hook:  3.5 mm (E)
Modifications:  None.

This shawl is so Bluebird.  It’s bright and colorful, just like her personality.  She picked out the pattern after I offered to make her a shawl, and she chose the yarn out of my stash.  (The yarn was originally intended for making her some mittens, but the yarn didn’t want to be mittens.)

The pattern is pretty easy, just a simple repeat over and over again.  I like to just look at it when it’s hanging from the hook next to Bluebird’s bed.  She’s inordinately fond of this shawl, which makes me smile.


So there they are, three cute shawls for three cute girls!  (Penguin insists that I still owe her a shawl “made especially for her” because “her” shawl was actually meant for me in the beginning.  We’ll see how that pans out.)

Cherry Blossom Blanket

We are awaiting a new little addition that will arrive this summer for one of Michael’s brothers (and his wife, obviously) and I simply adore making baby things, so I volunteered to make a blanket for the wee princess.  I saw this pattern and color scheme used in a handmade purse and have been biding my time until I could finally use the combination for a project.

Details
PatternAfrican Flower Hexagon, by Lounette Fourie & Anita Rossouw (Sarie Magazine July 2009)
The edging is #250 “Coming Up Shells” out of 280 Crochet Shell Patterns by Darla Sims.  I figured out the half motifs through trial and error.
Yarn:  Red Heart Super Saver Solids in 0724 Baby Pink, 0774 Lt. Raspberry, 0378 Claret & 0505 Aruba Sea; Caron Simply Soft in 0003 Pistachio.

Hook:  G (4.0 mm) on the Caron Simply Soft & H (5.0 mm) on the RHSS.

Thank you Junebug, for “taking pictures with the blanket.”
(She was overjoyed to help model this finished project, as Bluebird is my usual go-to for photos.  I think Junebug has earned herself a permanent place in my arsenal of models.)

Click here for this project’s Ravelry Page.

The pattern is good; the yarn…

I bought this particular skein of Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn because the outside of the skein looks like this, which I think is rather pretty. The pattern, Spring Ripple Scarf, looks so good with this yarn!

The problem with Noro yarns is that sometimes the inside of the skein hides other colors; colors you would never have thought any person with working eyesight would choose to go with the colors on the outside of the skein:
Seriously…egads.

I’m thinking this one’s going into the frogging pile. Anyone interested in buying a skein of Noro sock yarn from me?

Now what am I going to work on? *sniffle*