On Recycling (and a pair of socks)


The #slowfashionoctober Instagram prompts have me thinking about my craft as of late. I highly recommend checking out the feed here. The “what” prompt got me all excited about recycled materials. Even though the prompt was posted over a week ago, I’m still thinking about the meaning behind using recycled materials for my work. There are a lot of ways to be ethical/considerate in crafting. Sourcing locally, dyeing naturally, and organic wool are a couple that jump out at me. I love these options, but price wise they’re usually out of my reach. However, I don’t think cost has to be a barrier to conscious crafting. Recycling materials from items that already exist can really cut down on the overall costs of making. Buying a linen duvet cover from a thrift store is most likely going to be less expensive than new linen. And, with extra effort, quality materials can be found. But cost is only reason why recycled materials play such an important role in my life.

From the perspective of waste reduction, the best materials are the ones that already exist. According to this view, making my clothing from clothing that might end up in the landfill would minimize total waste. It’s a simple calculus that I find motivating and useful when I think about the impact of my hobbies on the earth. Of course, this is a very mathematical/economic way of thinking about making clothes.

Sometimes I like to be a bit more poetic. As I was knitting these socks I kept thinking about non-human recyclers. Just about every other creature on this earth might be better at recycling than us humans. Or at least every ecosystem has designated recycling systems built in. There are mammals, like raccoons and possums, who scavenge food waste. There are birds who build their homes from discarded items in the forest and the city. There are entire species whose job it is to break down plants and animals so they return to the earth. These decomposers perform essential roles by creating rich and fertile soil that is open and welcoming to new growth. Without these mammals, insects, and mushrooms, we would live in toxic environments.


I wonder if there is a role for the scavenger and decomposer in the making community? We place much needed emphasis on sourcing thoughtful new materials, but do we pay enough attention to the back end of the process? What would it look like for makers to take note from the scavengers and decomposers of the world?

Just like every slow food devotee has a compost heap, would every slow fashion maker have a yarnpost heap?
Would we dumpster dive for materials that others have deemed irreparable?

Would we have competitions for most mended garment? Or item with the longest or most wears? Would we begin to keep note of these stats on our own clothing items?

Would we celebrate, rather than despair, when our friends frog a garment because it’s unworn and celebrate again when they knit it into something loved?

Would we start up new quilting bees for our fabric scraps?

As I think about the role recycling could have in maker communities I get excited. The ideas I mentioned above actually sound like a blast. I love making with other people, and all the more l reason to gather together in creativity!

I know that talking about material sourcing and waste can be a touchy issue. It’s so easy for me to feel guilty that I’m not following one of my slow fashion goals. But, it doesn’t have to be about strict adherence to moral-fashion guidelines. We are all creative people, and this isn’t a competition. The massive challenges facing our earth and communities won’t be solved through individualism. Working together to do our best which will almost certainly be imperfect is better than perfection alone. I think the best place to start is with a small idea and a forgiving heart.

Happy Making

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Finished Object: Circlet Shrug

Today felt like the first real day of autumn. It was the perfect day to break out my newest finished object: my Circlet shrug. which I have named Goblin Made because the cables and lace remind me of the sword of Gryffindor, plus Goblin’s make beautiful and amazing things – this shrug deserves to be one of them.


I spotted this pattern in making no.3. Its a beautifully complex cable pattern by the queen of cables -Norah Gaughn. At first glance I placed this pattern on the back burner. In my mind I wanted to make it out of reclaimed yarn and I knew finding a suitable yarn substitute from thrifted sweaters would be a challenge.  Such a challenge that I threw out the idea all together when my mother in law said she wanted to buy me a sweaters quantity of yarn for my birthday. Um, enough of this perfect yarn to make a perfect shrug??? YES PLEASE


Let’s take a break to talk about my amazing mother in law, Barb. Barb is an incredible knitter. She also is on a mission to keep all local yarn shops in business. For her, helping the local community is her main hobby. Her mission is an honerable one. I hope I can be as generous as Barb one day.

Barb’s generosity meant I could buy enough of the recommended yarn to create this beautiful shrug.


the yarn: So about this yarn… Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in the potion colorway. I have been longing to knit with Brooklyn Tweed since I became a yarn snob (three years and counting). They’re American made – American wool, milled in the USA, and dyed here too. Yay! This yarn is difficult to describe. It’s DK weight, but it produces a very stiff fabric. So for this garment the stiffness and memory of the wool make the cables and lace stand out quite clearly.


the pattern: Now it’s time to talk about constructing the garment. This pattern was a bit tricky for me. Basically it’s knit as a long rectangle and the long sides are seamed. But there are gradually sloping rib sections on the front sections that add complexity. After reading through the pattern carefully two or three times, I was able to press onward in my knitting (though still a little timid).

The cable section is based on a 20 row repeat. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a memorizable pattern, but I would say I tentatively remembered it by the time I reached halfway through the back section. So that did mean I spent a lot of time with the pattern in front of me. I also spent a lot of time tinking back rows where I forgot to add the lace eyelets which are added on the wrong side – easy mistake.

The pattern left the side seaming up to the knitter. I used mattress stitch and seamed about 3/4 up the side. The arm hole is loose enough for my preference. Considering my history with tight armholes and sleeves I consider this a massive success!


reflections: I saw this pattern as a contemplative exercise. While most of my knitting is like a race to the end, this one was a slow practice in taking things easy – not rushing. This is something I am very bad at. I am a very rushed human being. When I played cello in school I most certainly was the culprit behind our orchestra wide rushing problem. I think the rush is in the very fiber of my being, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take some time to call it to the foreground, examine it, and maybe question it a bit. So, as I knit this shrug, every time I felt like rushing to the end of a row or section, I reminded myself that with this pattern I could just put it down right there. If I wanted to rush I could pick up a sock. But this project was all about slow.

I think the slow really benefited this pattern. There is only one mistake, a miss-cross of a cable, that I caught after completing two of the chart repeats. Considering I would have had to rip out 40 rows, I decided to keep the mistake and embrace it as a design element. After all, contemplation isn’t really about the best, rather it’s about building new habits and reflection and that miss-crossed cable dropped me straight into reflection mode.

I love this shrug, I think it’s a great piece for layering in fall/winter. The color is perfect for my palate. The yarn is amazing. The details are delightful. It’s the perfect statement piece for me (low on the statement but high on the detail). 100% recommend to anyone interested.

 

Review: The Laneway Dress

I’m all about stretching my skills and leveling up in sewing. Every time I make something I hope I can improve my sewing and patience… especially attention to detail. The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade was the perfect chance to up my game. When the review call went out for the Laneway Dress, I was a bit hesitant. The Laneway it all it’s vintage glory isn’t exactly my everyday style, it was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I decided to put my name in the hat for the chance to sew a vintage inspired dress because, who knows, maybe I’ll love it and the worst thing that happens is I’ll get to sew a cool dress.

The Laneway Dress is slightly 1940’s inspired, has an a-line skirt, open ended bust darts, pockets, and three collar options (centered collar, asymmetrical collar, and a classic collar). I gravitated right away towards the classic neckline, which made the bust darts the most noticeable feature of the dress. I was hoping for a classic dress to add to my wardrobe that would be suitable for presentations and lectures as well as something that might be dressed down for more casual wear.

When I got the email about reviewing the Laneway, I was ready to step up to the challenge. My first challenge… finding a reclaimed fabric that would work well with the pattern. I stoped by Perennial, my local reclaimed project supplies store (I hope every city has one of these), and found two options, a poly/cotton blend fitted sheet in a light blue and a cotton geometric fitted sheet in darker blues and whites. I ultimately choose the poly/cotton blend because it had a little more movement to the fabric. The geometric cotton would have made a lovely version, but the overall print would have hidden my favorite feature (the bust darts) and would have made the skirt quite stiff. The total cost of both fabrics was $2.

My next challenge was fitting. I cut out the pattern in a size 10 with a B cup as is, no mods. I constructed the bodice and noticed there was a lot of extra fabric above the bust darts. I stared at this in the mirror for perhaps 30 minutes, trying to decide if raising the bust darts would solve this issue… but what I really needed to do, and ultimately did, was shorten the bodice, which mean recutting. So I unintentionally made a muslin, and I was lucky enough to have more than enough fabric left from the fitted sheet to make another bodice (what a relief). I now know to measure the pattern pieces before I cut to determine if I need to shorten a pattern for my 5’3″ frame

My third challenge came in fitting the sleeve. For some reason, I could not get the sleeve to fit into the armscye. The underarm section (the non-gathered section between the notches) was about an inch higher on the bodice than the sleeve. But, because I have climbing muscles, I always find I need more space in the underarm than patterns usually have. So I considered this a sign and shaved about an inch off the underarm bodice section. I’m happy with this decision, the underarms fit well.

I did not interface the facing with conventional interfacing. Rather, I used a tight woven cotton sheet (same one that’s covering my ironing board). I basted the facing piece and my new interfacing piece around the edges using a 1/8 seam allowance. This certainly provides enough stiffness to the facing for my liking.

Overall I am happy with this dress. The instructions were clear and precise. Because I shortened my bodice and I’m new to fitting, I did have to do some extra research about shortening patterns and redrawing bust darts. But this was all accomplished on the internet and with sewing books from the library. Though I was a bit apprehensive about the vintage-inspired style of this dress, I found that it translates very well into a non-vintage wardrobe. Whenever the dress catches my eye, the first thing that comes to mind is Cinderella on a casual day. Paired with sandals it’s perfect for a picnic or a day at the art museum. With a flannel and boots it’s great for errands or a night at the brewery. I had a lot of fun imagining different outfits for this dress… and that’s probably the most important thing for a wardrobe staple. So, Laneway Dress, you have converted a non-vintage girl to a vintage believer… what a feat!

 

Recycled Denim Cleo

Plus some newbie pattern hacking!


This style of dress has the most names I have ever encountered. Overall dress, dungaree dress, pinafore… I grew up calling it a jumper, so that’s what I’m going with here.

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This is my second version of this pattern. It’s the first pattern to receive the high honors of a repeat project. Though I do wonder why I need two jumpers in my closet, but something just screamed at me that these two are both incredibly worth it. Is that a sewing gut instinct?

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The Inspiration

I was totally enamored by this denim jumper from ASOS I found while perusing the internet.

I was like, oh my god I could make that out of jeans.

So I did. Shamless copy.

The Pattern: Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

This is an amazing pattern. It’s already all over the internet. Just google it.

The Hack

Okay hacking this pattern was actually more complicated than I thought it would be. And I didn’t take many pictures… lame. I’ll do my best to describe the process.

The most difficult part was the diagonal section on the front of the dress. To create a pattern piece, I traced the pattern on a roll of large paper. I basically created the front piece of the dress as if there were no center seam (I subtracted the seam allowance from the center). I drew two diagonal lines to create my new pattern piece. I then cut these out and traced them again to add seam allowances (important step).

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I did a similar process with the back, but since I kept the center back seam, the process was a little easier. I took one picture of this part 👍🏼

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I followed the instructions as written, making sure to stitch up my extra pieces before joining the center seams.

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The Fabric

I deconstructed three pairs of jeans for this jumper. All were around a US size XL. I first took my seam ripper to the pockets. Then I cut off the waistbands of each pair of jeans. I then cut around each zipper (saving it… for something?). I then cut the crotch seam apart. Finally, I seam ripped up the outside leg seam on each leg. This left me with four usable leg pieces.

I didn’t use interfacing in this dress. Mainly because I haven’t found a reclaimed alternative. My facing pieces are from the same denim and I found it provided a nice amount of stiffness.

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Final Thoughts

This pattern is great for recycled fabrics. I especially like the button option; it’s much easier to come across used buttons than used overall buckles. Plus, the no-sew buttons on overalls and jeans are rather impossible to reuse. If anyone has found a way to do this, let me know.

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This is my new favorite workshop dress. It’s sturdy, tough, and I can imagine myself wearing it all year long. I’m already dreaming about this dress over leggings and boots in the winter.
P.S. Shoutout to Kyle for the photo cred.

 

An Orla Affair


The Orla Dress is my first fitted bodice dress. After scanning the internet for free dress patterns to use as skill builders, I came across the #anorlaaffair sew along on Instagram. The organizers had such a supportive schedule that I felt confident someone on the internet could lend a hand if I got stumped. So I jumped straight into sewing.


The Pattern: Orla by French Navy

As a beginning sewist, free patterns are so helpful. I love the chance to jump on the opportunity to test out a new pattern without much investment. It’s also a great way to keep the cost of sewing down while gathering skills.

The instructions on this pattern are basic: like sew the side seams or insert the zipper. I’m glad I had constructed a few garments before jumping into this one. 

This pattern has darts in both the front and back bodice pieces, as well as sleeves, a back zipper, and a gathered skirt.


The Fabric: Vintage 1960’s(?) Cotton Bedsheet

I love the pattern of this fabric. Mid-century florals, who could go wrong. The recommended fabric for the Orla Dress is viscose or rayon, or fabric with drape. This sheet is quite stiff. Also, it’s see-through… But I thought this would give me the chance to line a dress bodice. So I grabbed another old white bedsheet and watched about five videos on youtube and declared myself a lining expert.


A note about fitting: I have athletic shoulders. I’m a regular rock climber, which has added a lot of muscle to my shoulders (specifically the latissimus dorsi for those anatomy geeks). I always find that choosing a size on my bust measurement will lead to tightness in the shoulders, especially underneath the armscye (sleeve opening). But, I don’t have broad shoulders. The actual distance between my shoulders is quite proportional.

So, to avoid tightness in the Orla bodice, I used my upper bust measurement to determine my size. That meant I had a lot of extra room in the waist. Even though I made a muslin, after completing the construction for my Orla, I realized I didn’t like the extra room in the waist with my fabric choice (more on that below). So after some playing around, I took in 1/4 from each dart (including the lining…). No idea if this was the right fitting method, but I’m happy with the results. I would be happy to hear if any sewists with strong shoulders have any suggestions.

I also added pockets to my Orla following Anna Zoe’s instructions. This is one of my favorite features of this dress.

 

I love the basic silhouette of the Orla. It’s quite adaptable to different fabric types, which makes it great for using reclaimed fabric. My first Orla is so sweet, almost too sweet. I call it my Easter dress, because it seems like it would fit in so well at a pastel garden party with dainty pastries and tea. While I do love all those things, I am a little more rambunctious in my everyday life. It’s also mainly a white dress, and I am guaranteed to spill marinara sauce on every white item I own. But, despite it’s dainty-ness and gleaming white fabric, this dress might be miraculous and find regular rotation in my closet. I am already planning to make another version of this dress from a light chambray fitted sheet, definitely with pockets, and maybe try to stretch my skills in some more pattern hacking.

 

 

Mountain Gods Vest


This is a special project. My wonderful Mother-in-Law, Barb, gifted me this yarn on a family trip to Arizona. I love the vibrant colors and the luxurious yarn. I never thought I would knit a vest… in new (unused) fingering weight yarn. It just wasn’t on my mind as a knitable possibility. But the delightful yarn shop ladies encouraged me to try on a sample, and maybe it was their sweet compliments, but I fell in love with this vest. I was most interested in the options a vest like this creates in my wardrobe. It’s a perfect transition garment. I plan to wear it over a t-shirt with jeans and even a few dresses. It seemed like a great summer knitting project, not too heavy, but still substantial enough to keep my interest.


Not everything I knit is reclaimed. If I have the chance to support local yarn shops and indie designers I jump on it. I like the challenge of knitting with reclaimed yarn, but I don’t want to create impassible boundaries for myself. This yarn is a treat, it’s special and it’s from my mother-in-law; goodness like this doesn’t happen all the time.


The Pattern: Mountain Gods Vest by Suzanne Nielsen.

Overall I liked this pattern. The center back lace pattern is the most striking feature. I love that it can be worn upside-down as well, giving the vest a fuller look. That also means there is a ton of room to play with color. The pattern has a hem on both the top and bottom. That’s a nice feature, but I find that my hems always roll up toward the right side of the garment, even after blocking. It would be easy to do a stretchy cast on and bind off to replace the hem.


The Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden, Serenity Silk + in Flamingo, Frosted Teal, and Garden in Delft.

The Garden in Delft color-way is part of Zen Yarn Garden’s ARTWALK series. Every dye-lot is based on a piece of artwork. You can learn more about the yarn and inspiration painting here. All three yarns are a merino, cashmere, silk blend. I have never worked with yarn like this before, and it was delightful. Definitely slippery yarn… I will be reaching for something woolier for my next project to make up for all the sliding, but my wooden needles came to the rescue and I never rarely dropped a stitch.

Also the color of this yarn is amazing. So vibrant, so saturated, that middle section is so speckled. If I had to choose a favorite it would be the pink section. That pink… that variegated-ness… I just keep staring!


This project kept me company while visiting my family in Minnesota and enduring the extreme heat of St. Louis. I love that it can be worn two ways (though flipping it can be a struggle… as captured above). This is a perfect summer project and a great wardrobe builder.

My Every Day Dress

I love this dress

Okay: time to actually stop swooning and talk about this beauty.

The pattern: the Peplum Top by In the Folds. It’s a free pattern from Peppermint Magazine. It’s a loose fitting peplum top great for warm weather and those heat waves. You can grab the pattern here.

The instructions were so simple to follow, the back has a great v-neck detail and the shoulders have these cute separate panels. As a beginner sewist I managed this pattern with ease.

I lengthened my peplum pieces to hit just above my knee. After checking the total length measurement on the pattern, I held a tape measured at my shoulder and let it fall to the ground. I found the desired length. Then I subtracted he bodice measurement from that new measurement to get my peplum pieces.

The fabric: this was a cotton king sized bed sheet. It might even me a California king… that’s how big it was. That’s all I know. It also has slight bedsheet stripes where the weave of the fabric changes direction. It doesn’t come across as obvious bedsheet though, and isn’t even visible in the photos. Sheets like these are everywhere at thrift stores. And most have tags that reveal fiber content.

I did a burn test to identify if it was a natural or synthetic material. Natural materials like cotton or wool are great for natural dyes – which is exactly what I was hoping to do with this sucker.

The dye: INDIGO!

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This was a very successful resist-dye. I chose to dye the entire sheet… which was a massive undertaking. I basically twisted it from the corner, wrapped it with cotton yarn, and rolled it over a broom handle to make it more manageable.

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Indigo is an amazing dye material. Maybe one day I’ll devote more time it’s glory, but for now I’ll point you to The Modern Natural Dyer for a guide to all things indigo.