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Tag Archives: Wearwhatyoumake

Making & Doing: Shawl, Skirt & Teaching

pshawl

Happier times ahead. We had a photo shoot yesterday for this asymmetrical shawl knitted in three colours of Ripples Crafts BFL 4ply. I’ll be writing much more about this shawl later (including my source of inspiration, why it’s the next instalment of Authors & Artists, and how it is constructed) but for now let’s glance downwards..

Pskirt

Hello skirt! This is one of the first things I’ve whipped up since I started dress-making again. I made this skirt in just a few hours and it worked perfectly for the photo shoot.

I use the super-simple Burda 6682 and made View B. The fabric is a slightly stretchy cotton poplin I found in a remnant bin in Glasgow’s Mandors. I had around 0.75m and still managed to eke out a knee-length skirt. The construction couldn’t be simpler: darts front & back, side & back seams, zipper, waistband, hem, done. I had never inserted a regular zipper before (it’s always been invisible zips until now) but even that went without a hitch. I’m not entirely happy with how the waistband was attached – it was easy but looks a bit sloppy on the inside – so I’m going to try a slightly more fiddly waistband next time. I think my perfectionist tendencies are rearing their heads again..

.. but the skirt is super-comfortable and fits well. Its no-nonsense style makes it a good, basic pattern that I can see myself making again and again. Well, I am trying to make an everyday wardrobe, after all! The next skirt will be made of a medium weight denim that I picked up at the same time as the pattern. I have a bit more fabric to play with this time, so I might add a bit more length.

Pshoes

I’m off to Manchester this weekend for the Joeli’s Kitchen retreat. There are going to be all sorts of amazing people there and I cannot wait to see everybody.

Next Wednesday I am going to be at Kendal’s finest wool establishment, Williams Wools. I’m teaching a class on colourwork and how to design it yourself. I know people have lots of ideas in their heads, but it can be difficult translating those ideas into a project. I’ll also talk about how to find the right colour combinations because that is probably one of the questions I get asked the most!

Then Saturday the 6th I am back up in Dundee’s Fluph Shop doing c-c-cables in the morning (sorting out those C2R, CNB, and T3R abbreviations!) and Shetland lace shawls in the afternoon. It’s never dull teaching at Fluph and I expect a fair amount of difficult questions flung at me!

I’m late updating my workshop page due to Life Happening, but hopefully that’ll whet everybody’s appetite! I’ll return with more details about the new pattern and some Edinburgh Yarn Festival lowdown!

Thinking Slow Fashion on a Budget – Building a Handmade Wardrobe Pt. 4

This is the last entry in my series on how to make things you love to wear. We’ve looked at how to examine your wardrobe, how to identify what you need to make, and how to approach this.

But I will be the first to admit that building a handmade everyday wardrobe takes time and money – so I thought I’d devote a post to how to ‘do’ slow and sustainable fashion on an everyday budget and with an everyday lifestyle. For me slow fashion and handmade go hand-in-hand.

1. The Keyword is Slow

I am not going to wake up tomorrow with a 100% handmade everyday wardrobe nor are you? Things take time – especially if you are knitting a 4ply fair isle cardigan by hand.

But slow fashion is its own reward – you get to imbue your finished cardigan with a lot of meaning which you wouldn’t get from buying it in a shop. One of my favourite cardigans was nearly completed during a relaxing knitting retreat with a stunning view. Whenever I wear it (and I do so often), I think back upon the snow-capped mountains, the open fire crackling in the living room and the fine company I was in. Another favourite cardigan was partially worked whilst sitting on the beach. Whenever I wear it, I think back upon a fantastic weekend I spent with far-flung friends drinking exquisite coffee and looking at insane Regency architecture.

I am a big believer in things taking time. If you take a long time to make something, chances are you will also be wearing it a long time.

December 2013 1122-horz

2. Choose Carefully, My Friend

In the not-so-distant past I worked for a big yarn company and I got to knit four garments of my choice every year. I started out by knitting statement pieces – things that used a gazillion balls of yarn and an equal amount of techniques. I never really wore the finished items and now I no longer work for the yarn company, I have given them away. So much wasted making time!

If you only have time to finish one or two big projects ever year, make them count. Choose your projects with care: don’t work with a colour you’ll never wear and don’t make something in a style you’d never wear. It’s easy to get tempted to get sucked into making things you see other people making, but be mindful of your crafting time.

If you have limited making time and budget, you need to think about your colours, materials and wardrobe style. Look back at the previous instalments in this series (1, 2 and 3).

3. Recognise Privilege When You See It

It’s so easy to feel disheartened when you are still on the first sleeve of your wool-blend cardigan six months down the line, and you see someone looking swanky in their 134th unicorn yarn project of the year.

But a handmade wardrobe can so very easily slip into privilege: some people don’t have to work; they can pay other people to mind their children, clean the house and make dinner; or they may even pay others to make their things for them (true story). Or maybe they’ve saved for several years to afford to make that expensive Alice Starmore kit.

You are still on your first sleeve of your cardigan but I bet you have been busy with other things. Own your achievements rather than compare yourself to other people whose lives may be heavily edited. You just never know. ‘Handmade’ should never be a competition about who is most worthy. Handmade should always be about your own wardrobe needs.

January 2013 168-horz

 4. Think Sustainable When You Shop

Very few of my non-knitted clothes are handmade – but most of them are things I have either upcycled, found in second-hand shops (my favourite winter coat is 1960s 100% wool which cost me £12 in a second-hand shop. It had been labelled with the wrong size and never worn); or thrifted from friends.  I cannot always afford to buy things from an ethical retailer, so while I cannot check the provenance of things nor guarantee that the original seamtress was paid a fair wage, I know my money goes towards a good cause if I buy second-hand from a reputable charity shop. I also know some of my money goes back into the local economy which is important to me.

And I think about how much I actually need. When I started doing my wardrobe assessments, I was surprised by how much I didn’t actually wear. Rather than throwing things out (hello landfill) I decided to donate a lot of things so other people could benefit from me no longer having to wear business casual.

I still buy underwear, socks and tights from regular stores (I am no saint!) but I try to think about what I actually need. This also frees up extra pennies to spend on nice fabric or yarn.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Think of your handmade wardrobe as a journey or an ongoing adventure. Remind yourself why you are doing this: you are being kind to yourself, you are making things that will get worn again and again, and you are doing it because you love making things. If you find yourself sewing an intricate organza gown on no sleep and a deadline three hours ago, then it is probably time to reassess your commitment to a handmade wardrobe (unless you wear organza gowns every day and, if you do, I admire that level of commitment).

Also consider your time investment to be a kindness to yourself. It is a powerful statement: “I choose to spend this amount of time on myself making things that will make me feel good, that will remind me of beautiful moments, and that works with my lifestyle.” You may not get a handmade wardrobe overnight, but the journey there is part of the pleasure.

Now go forth and make beautiful things that you will keep wearing. Have fun.

December 2013 007-horz

What You Need to Make – Building a Handmade Wardrobe pt. 3

So far we have looked at the joys of wearing handmade and how to discover what you wear. Now it is time to figure out how to combine the joys of handmade clothes with your everyday life.

Does What You Make Match What You Wear?

For a long time I kept knitting cardigans that were big & cosy. One after another hit the wardrobe shelf and they stayed there. After I did my own wardrobe assessment I realised I kept wearing short, fitted cardigans in navy, grey and mustard. No wonder I never wore my moss green cardigans!

If you have done the big wardrobe assessment I mention in part two, you should know what things you keep wearing. Look at your handmade items – and do they match what you wear? Are you making things in colours you actually wear? Are your handmade clothes the same silhouettes as your shop-bought favourites? Can you combine your shop-bought favourites with your handmade pieces? Why (not)?

Sept 2015 862-horz

Think Colour & Fibre

Jackie made a great point during the last instalment: you need to think about the fibre you’ll use as well. Make things in fibres you know you like wearing and which will work with the project: cotton or cotton-blend shirts; alpaca cardigans; wool/nylon socks.. make sure the material you choose to use is practical (which is a broad church depending upon your lifestyle) and works for what you are making.

Also think about the colours you will be using. Aim to make something in your neutrals but also something in your core colours and accent colours. Make the colours work with what you are already wearing.

August 2015 1250-horz

How To Figure Out What To Make

While I am a big fan of making very special handmade items – a delicate shawl for a wedding or an amazing fair-isle hat to show off my colourwork skillz – I am an even bigger fan of wearing handmade things every day. So, let’s think about the things you’ll keep reaching for again and again.

By now you should have a good idea of what you tend to wear and in which colours. You should also have an idea of what items have proven to be wardrobe staples and which ones linger at the back of the shelf. Can you make any of these wardrobe staples yourself?

Basics Need Not Be Dull!

You’ll probably want to make some basic staples for your wardrobe, but remember that these do not need to be all grey 4-ply stocking stitch cardigans or black trousers! Find some great everyday patterns and start thinking about which neutrals you keep wearing. Remember, you are not trying to imitate a machine-knitted cardigan from a high street shop, but you will be making a handmade item that fills the same spot in your everyday wardrobe.

Some examples of jumpers and cardigans I would knit/have already made for my own wardrobe:
+ River Pullover by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
Stevie Cardigan by Sarah Hatton (long-sleeved version)
+ Acer Cardigan by Amy Christoffers

As you can see, they are fairly simple projects but have a bit of interest at the same time. Likewise, I designed my Scollay cardigan with the same notion: easy to wear but with some knitterly interest. Think about your favourite silhouettes and styles – and then start trawling Ravelry! Pinterest is also a great source of inspiration. I lean towards vintage & feminine – so make sure to seek our patterns that cater to your style.

 

Don’t Stick To Basics!

I know. Counter-intuitive. However, your wardrobe consists of more than just basics. Think about your accessories as well. Do you keep wearing the same hat? Do you like to pep up your day with colourful brooches? Do you drag big tote bags around with you?

  • Having a gorgeous hat/cowl/gloves set that matches your favourite winter coat/jacket is a great way of wearing handmade with pride.
  • Making your own brooches not only get you an excuse to visit bead shops and haberdasheries, but it is also a nice way to introduce handmade items into a wardrobe that may be too formal to allow flamboyant knitted shawls (except on weekends).
  • Become the woman who always carries a stunning handmade purse with her. I know a stunning lady in her 50s who always looks immaculate – and her purses are always killer. Imagine my face when I found out she makes all her purses herself from re-purposed textiles!
  • I find having a rainbow of scarves/shawls invaluable – even the most neutral of outfits can be pepped up with a seriously bright shawl

Accessories are small, achievable projects – this is often important when embarking on making your wardrobe more handmade.

The last instalment will discuss how to gradually adopt the slow wardrobe approach – and how to do that on a budget and a regular life. Most slow fashion blogs I have seen tend to cater to people with far more disposable income and time than anybody I know, so I’ll discuss how I’m approaching it and hopefully give you a few ideas!

From not knowing what to make to making things I love to wear: L-R – Jess, Brygga and Scollay.
2011 - January 122-horz

Happy making, folks x

Discover What You Wear – Building A Handmade Wardrobe, pt 2.

In the first post in this series, I wrote about discovering the joys of wearing handmade clothes. This post is about looking at your existing wardrobe and find out how you can slowly turn it into a handmade wardrobe. Key adverb is slowly! I know a lot of lovely people who have a (mostly) handmade wardrobe but it is a long process to get there. A handmade wardrobe is also always a work in progress and about mending things you have already made.

With all that in mind, let us look at how you can figure out what you need to start making. No use making something you won’t wear!

1. Throw Things on the Bed

Open the wardrobe and take out all the things you keep wearing. Do the same with your jackets and coats – everything goes on the bed! Try to grab the fifteen or thirty things you keep wearing – from belts and scarves to skirts and cardigans. If you want, you can arrange them into the outfits you usually wear.

See if any trends emerge at this stage. Do you have more clothes than you thought? Do you have only a very small selection? Do you wear the same five things over and over? Can you sort them into piles of near-identical items (i.e. grey t-shirts) or do you have a very eclectic selection?

2. Time to Look Closer: Colour

Now you need to look at the colours you see. I’d suggest you sort the colours into three categories:

  1. Neutrals: the colours that bind everything together.
  2. Core Colours: the non-neutrals you keep wearing.
  3. Accent Colours: the occasional splashes of colour.

Your neutrals could be colours like black, grey, ecru, beige, khaki, fawn, brown or navy blue.

Your core colours are very individual to you. These are the colours you see again and again in your wardrobe – this can be anything from more neutrals to rich jewel colours or maybe soft pastels.

Your accent colours are the colours you only occasionally wear but you still see them again and again. What colours are your scarves? Your hats? Your jewellery? Maybe you keep being drawn to prints that have tiny bits of green or pink in them?

Becoming aware of what colours you keep wearing will make it easier to decide upon the colours you need to use when sewing or knitting something for yourself. I used to knit a lot of moss green cardigans until I realised my favourite cardigans were deep navy blue and grey!

3. Time to Look Closer: Style & Lifestyle

Many people tell me “Oh, I don’t think about fashion – I don’t have the time nor the inclination” and I hear you on that. Everyday life can be so hectic that many of us just grab whatever we can afford and what more-or-less fits. However, I promise you that subconsciously you are drawn to similar things again and again, and that your wardrobe will reflect this.

Ask yourself:

  • What items of clothing form the skeleton of my wardrobe?
  • Do I have anything that’s really too ratty to wear any more, but I cannot bear to throw it out because I don’t have a replacement? What is this thing?
  • What words can I use to describe the things I reach for again & again? Classic? Country? Romantic? Urban? Punk? Unisex?

4: Think About Your Discoveries

This process is designed to make you think about your everyday wardrobe. I trust you will be honest with yourself here – no embellishing the truth and lying to yourself about being a slinky Bohemian kimono-wearer when you are actually a sweatshirt & jeans girl!

When I first did this exercise, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have any jeans and that I leaned towards wearing dresses with bold complementary colours. I had no idea I was so “dressy” in my everyday life! I was especially surprised to see how very little black I had in my wardrobe – I used to live in black clothes! – and how much I used navy as a neutral. The first thing I knitted after all this was a fitted yellow cardigan which has now become a wardrobe staple despite my misgivings! It works!

In the third instalment I’ll talk more about how to decide what to make and how to plug wardrobe gaps.

Wear What You Make – Building a Handmade Wardrobe pt 1.

Over the last couple of months of using Instagram regularly I’ve noticed something. I feel happier and relaxed when I wear something I have made. And so my thoughts turn towards the fabric stash and wanting to make things that will continue to make me happier and more relaxed. Reader, I bought a  sewing pattern with a view to make some wardrobe basics that’ll keep me as happy as my knitted items.

But what about knitting?

Knitting is my first love and I am so lucky that I get to design what I want to wear – and share it with everyone! Wearing what I make is the best feeling (and I’ve started using #wearwhatyoumake as my own personal hashtag to track my handmade wardrobe adventure) and it’s something I’m thinking hard about for 2016 too. Simply put: I want what I design & make to be easily integrated into an everyday wardrobe.

I recently spent some time going through my clothes. It’s a good exercise that keeps me aware of what I own, what I treasure, and what I keep wearing. I do this semi-frequently and I always learn something from doing it.

Observations:

  • Colours lean towards teal, navy, mustard, and deep cool reds. Neutrals are navy blue and brown.
  • I tend to wear dresses more than anything.
  • I wear the denim, skirts and the cord skirts most. Pencil skirts get most wear.
  • I own two pairs of trousers (1 pair of jeans, one linen) which I rarely wear.
  • Three cardigans get most wear: the Stevie Cardigan (knitted in navy Rowan Wool Cotton) is beginning to show wear & tear; my brilliant Scollay cardigan; and the mustard yellow Hetty cardigan which goes with everything.
  • I still wear shawls but I have grown fond of very big shawls recently – I tend to wear Proserpine, Fika (currently floating around Britain as a sample – I miss it), Swale and Kirkja (it’s smaller but mustard yellow).
  • I shy away from cute patterns (owls, deer, moustaches) but love geometric patterns. Mostly I like to wear things made from plain fabrics.

 

 


From the observations, I have learned the following lessons:

  • I love bold colour combinations.
  • I need more cropped cardigans.
  • I need another navy cardigan and another mustard yellow cardigan.
  • And a brown cardigan. And a teal one.
  • I need to add pockets to skirts & dresses. Pockets are brilliant, yet rarely appear in high street women’s wear.
  • I need to make myself more skirts (I’ve said this every year since 1989 or thereabouts).
  • Handmade makes me happiest.

Obviously there are problems surrounding a handmade wardrobe: slow fashion takes time, money, and skill. I am privileged because I can devote time to building a handmade wardrobe (and can justify it by calling it work). Not everybody can do that and that is okay. A good place to start is to wear what you make (and think about whether you’ll wear what you are making) – but that is something I’ll explore in the next instalment!

Happy November, everyone!