slow fashion

In Practice, Sustainable Closet, At Home

One Skirt

That's the only piece of clothing that I have bought so far in 2017.  There have been a few other close calls...some pajamas had to be returned, some trendy printed weirdly flattering leggings caught my attention briefly, and a beautiful Mexican embroidered blouse also had to go back...that was the hardest one.  It was so pretty, but ultimately I had to admit that I already had a shirt very similar to it in my closet.

The average American buys sixty-four items of clothing per year, and most years I'm sure I am somewhere in that neighborhood. I didn't start 2017 with a big plan to buy no clothes, but budget and life constraints conspired, and suddenly five months had gone by without me noticing what had happened.  Now it's a thing, and I'm tempted to see if I can go the whole year.  Leave it to the  curve balls of life to force me back onto a healthier, more mindful path.

According to a 2014 Forbes article cited in a Fashion Revolution white paper, we purchase 400% more clothing than we did just twenty years ago.  And that was just twenty years ago, My house was built almost sixty years ago, and my tiny closets remind me every day how different our shopping habits are today.

I have been digging around a little bit to find out more about this idea...did people just buy fewer clothing items in 1960?  Why or why not?  I asked my mom about the closets and clothing of her youth.  What she remembers is that her mom was willing to buy her as much fabric as she wanted in order to make her own clothes, but that if she wanted store-bought clothing, her choices were more limited. I asked her if making her own clothes saved her family money, and her memory was that her mother was encouraging self-sufficiency, rather than trying to save money, which was not what I expected her to say. 

So the question is, how many items of clothing do we really need?  Do I need bigger closets or more discipline? (Probably both.)  If there is an item which is an unusual shape, or made of a special fabric, or is something suitable for a special occasion, generally the result is that it's not worn as often.  So we have a closet imbalance, with large volumes of special items that get worn once and a while, and then a much smaller volume of items that are worn in regular rotation.  Is that normal?  Is that inappropriate?  I still ask...why do we need, or think we need, so much clothing?  It feels like I still have more questions than answers on this topic, and I am wondering what others are doing...are you changing your closets?  Buying less?  Moving to a newer and bigger house with glorious, well-lit walk-in closets?

Are you wondering what was so special about that one skirt?  It is brick-red suede, and simply beautiful.  I spotted it while still pregnant and unable to buy or even wear it.  But it became a birthday present when, no longer pregnant, I saw it again at a super sale price.  I could think of nothing else for days.  How is it that clothing holds such power over us?


Doing It Myself (But Not Really)

There have been some big developments recently. Last weekend was a big weekend in fact, but Sunday was especially noteworthy. I had been home alone at that point for nine days in a row, and it has been intense and challenging.

One thing that happened was that I carved out enough time to knit four rows of a baby blanket that I started making soon after I learned that I was pregnant. I swear it will be finished before his one year birthday. It has to be or it won't be big enough to cover him after it's finished. Even a few rows a day at this point will get me there.

Another big event was when I took the baby for a walk in the stroller and we entered a coffee house so I could buy some tea and a croissant. He did not cry. He cried prior to our arrival and he cried soon after our departure, but I blame the unrelenting Texas heat for that. I give the baby credit for allowing me to get my treats without interfering with the quiet environment enjoyed by the other patrons.

Last weekend I also bathed the baby by myself, with no other person present in the house. This also probably sounds insignificant unless you have ever held a newborn and understand how unpredictably their heads and limbs thrash about. He is getting stronger by the hour and and extremely close to being able to hold his head up, but holding him in water without backup hands still intimidates me.

Last weekend I also showered uninterrupted, and even used a blow dryer, with no other adult present. This time the credit goes to the MamaRoo bouncing chair. Really "bouncing" is not really an accurate depiction of what this thing does. Babies apparently love, in fact crave, motion. This chair offers five types of motion, approximating the movements of the ocean, a kangaroo, a tree swing, the car, or a rocker. There are also built in white noise options, or even the possibility of plugging your music device. It has five speeds, and while I am still experimenting, yesterday the lowest speed of the tree swing bought the baby a blissful nap and bought me the grown-up bliss of a complete shower with a little bonus time for laundry.

Unbelievably, I also turned on the oven that day and used it to prepare some food for dinner. I even sat down at the table to eat that dinner, although dinner did not turn out to be one continuous event. MamaRoo came through again here, allowing me to finish my interrupted dinner before turning my attention back to the baby.

These things, and even a few others, happened for a few reasons. One, we are starting to find our rhythm and the baby is getting bigger and stronger. Both myself and the baby are getting the hang of our new existence. Two, and more significantly, for two nights in a row, the baby slept at night for five hours continuously. That may have been some sort of illusion on his part, some kind of baby mirage, because it hasn't happened again since. When I started writing this post a few days ago, I was jubilant from the effect of semi-normal sleep and mild productivity. This morning, on the heels of a brutal night and a rough 24 hours prior to that, it sounds impossible that I will ever feel rested and/or productive again or even that last weekend actually happened to me.

Regardless, these milestones were possible because I'm not actually doing all this by myself. I may be home alone technically, but I have had generous help at some key moments. As I mentioned before, my mom was here for a crucial stretch right as my husband left and as the baby was at the height of his struggle to resist continuous sleep.

After my mom left, I struggled mightily in the days that followed, but friends did not let me lose heart, stopping by with help, encouragement and/or edible treats. Ultimately, a couple we are friends with offered to not just babysit the baby, but to take him to their house, so that I had the experience of my house, but quiet, in which I could nap or do things, or both. I was unbelievably excited, until I packed his diaper bag, at which point I felt strange and guilty. When he left I even felt sad. My eyes filled up briefly but then dried quickly as they drove away; I recovered quickly and then spent a wonderful four hours doing normal things and taking an amazing nap.

When he was returned to me, We were both refreshed and calm, and I was ready, even excited to see him, even though only a few hours had passed. I am very lucky, and that night was the first night that he slept five hours. It felt like some kind of turning point, because when I woke up on Saturday, I felt like me again. The old me, the one that wanted to make things in my studio and that didn't mind being home alone sometimes.

In the beginning of all this, I wanted to do a lot of baby-related things myself. I wanted to knit the blanket. I planned to knit some animals for the mobile over the crib. I got half-way through making a maternity dress to wear to my shower and had plans to make several more. I should have made some burp cloths (just fancy pieces of fabric, really) and a nursing cover (again, a fancy piece of fabric). Instead, everything happened in whirlwind fashion all year, and I made almost nothing for myself or for the baby. I bought lots of things that I'm not sure will ever have a second life (at least at our house), and some things that proved wasteful or unnecessary, because I was had to rush or because I didn't fully understand what I needed.

But, at least this blanket will get done. I swear it will. And maybe events caused a temporary drop in my crafty output and a lull in my efforts at consuming sustainably. But on the other hand, isn’t it amazing and lucky that I don't have to do everything myself all the time?

New Skirt and New Life

Many people close to me have heard me go on and on about my love for the work of Alabama Chanin, a company which not only creates beautiful couture garments using earth and people-friendly methodology, but also open sources their methods so that people who enjoy the making process, or want to get the look without the price tag, can still wear their uniquely Southern and feminine styles.

I recently completed my third Alabama Chanin garment, and I have been very happy with it so far.  It is longer than I expected, and also a little bit roomier than I expected.  This turns out to be a fabulous for me, since I also recently learned that I am pregnant.  The comfy, stretchy waistband is turning out to be exactly what I need, since slowly, one pair at a time, my pants no longer comfortably fasten.  More on that later, but in the meantime, here's the skirt:

Stitching Time

There is little to report, but a nice calm before the next life hurricane is cause for celebration, not consternation.

Texas continues to entertain, although I haven't been struck with my usual urge to dissect local absurdities.  My mind has not been altogether here.  I had a nice visit to Minnesota, where I enjoyed the hot commodity of fresh air and open windows.  We didn't buy the land that I thought we would, and that was the right decision for the time being.  I'm still waiting for news on the dream job, which also has my mind one foot out the door, as slim as those chances are.  As per usual chez LaCasse, champagne chills in preparation for either an invitation to interview, or the inevitable thanks-but-no-thanks email.

I finished my classes, and am grateful to have no more homework.  My final illustration project left me with many ideas and with more work to do on my own this summer, which is, to me, the sign of a class worth taking.  So now, I'm doodling and stitching, organizing and plotting, drafting and resting, and alternating between feeling wonderfully relaxed and intermittently antsy.  I continue to sew by hand, even when I know I should switch to a machine...sewing by hand costs me time, but makes me happy and brave, so for now it dominates.

I have disassembled my wedding dress in order to examine the fabric for its reincarnation into the anniversary dress.  I have begun sewing a dress that I envisioned in my final illustration project.  And I really need to be making lightweight tanks and sundresses, because the Texas heat is upon me and I forgot how serious it is.

Reading continues on the history of cotton and it is an amazing story.  Vaguely familiar parts of our nation's history are coming to life in a much more vibrant way for me through the lens of the story of this challenging fiber, and its links to this part of the country.

Scrappy Purse Pouch

Here's my new purse pouch, made entirely by hand, with scraps from my sewing room.  It's full of feel-better bits for inside my big purse.  Band-aids, chap-stick, headphones, hair binders, stress-relief essential oil, Tyelenol...everything that you might need to increase your comfort on the fly.  And finally, I approached the scary zipper-monster.  It's not super elegant yet, but it's a start.

Now, time to get back to final projects and resume wizardry.

Make Clothes, Not Scraps

Since I have been learning to sew, I have accumulated many scraps born from testing fits of patterns, from making mistakes, and from making garments.  I can't bring myself to throw them away.  It feels so weird, and counter-productive, to take pieces of brand-new fabric and throw them in the trash.  As a result, I have a pretty large drawer of scrappy bits.

I recently read a figure that 30% of all textiles get tossed as scraps in garment production.  Given that we currently produce three times the amount of textiles that we did thirty years ago, doesn't that mean that we are currently "scrapping" almost the full amount of textiles produced thirty years ago.  I'm sure that we can do better.

Several months ago, I ordered some organic cotton jersey in a lovely blush color, which I think will be awesome with a little bit of summer tan.  It is natural enough to be earthy, but still could work with black, metal or chocolate colors, and so has just enough modern to it.  Equally excellent, it works well with other colors already present in my wardrobe, which for me is the key to not spending more time than necessary getting dressed for the day.

Inspired by Alabama Chanin's latest excellent book, I decided to see if I could build a basic summer wardrobe using a length of this yummy blush jersey.  I ordered an approximate amount that I thought would be appropriate, and it turns out that the amount I wanted was exactly the size that their producer knits it, which is even better for my experiment.  Hopefully, close to every bit of the jersey will be used to create the pieces.  I will be using the final project for my illustration class as a vehicle for planning the designs and I have four weeks to get that done.

New Dress, Plain and Simple

I've been working on this pattern on and off for several months.  In my mind, it was destined to be a nightshirt.  But after I slept in the original one, made from a light cotton woven fabric, it felt like too much, especially here in Texas.

So, I adapted the pattern for a soft knit fabric and re-made it, using sewing techniques shared in Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Sewing + Design.  Making it by hand and without binding at the edges felt more natural, especially for life in the oppressive heat which is hurtling towards us.  In the end, I realized that what I have is an easy, light summer dress made from organic cotton.  This photo doesn't do the light blush color much justice, but I plan to spend many summer hours in this comfy dress.