Friday, October 21, 2016

Knitting and unknitting and knitting again-- Slow Fashion October Week 3

It's week three of Slow Fashion October! After getting out my thoughts last week-- about buying too much and choosing more carefully in the future-- I felt relieved and somehow lighter. Getting dressed for work this week I noticed that I really do have enough things-- things I love!-- to wear. This is Karen's prompt for week three:

How do you understand your style, choose projects well, advance your skills, get the right fit, and keep things interesting and long-lasting at the same time. What are your go-to patterns and most successful garments. How do you avoid mindless acquisition of yarn and fabric, or making “too much.” How do you make time and space for making — and why?

First of all, wow. There is a lot to address and I don't think I can possibly cover all of it! These topics have stretched my writing-- and thinking-- abilities so much and I have felt both exhilarated and exhausted trying to keep up. I'm going to confine myself to talking about knitting since it is still my craft drug-of-choice after all these years, for a number of reasons.

I knit because I find pleasure in working with my hands. I crave the action of the needles and yarn, the familiar motions repeated to the point of perfect automaticity of the muscles but also until there is something more than that-- intelligence in my hands. This feels deeply human, somehow. And it is soothing. My brain is always going at warp speed and knitting is one of the few things I've found that slows down my thoughts a bit-- while I have been writing this I have had some knitting at my side for when I need to stop and think, which has been often. Knitting has gotten me through some incredibly difficult times and I keep projects on tap for when I need to escape from the world (or myself) for a few hours. When I have finished a project there is satisfaction in a job well done and then an almost instant sense of bereavement-- the knitting is over! 

Naturally there is tension between the desire-- the need!-- to knit for its own sake and the hazard of making "too much." About five years ago I spent a year knitting hats-- one per week!-- and writing about it. I learned so many new skills and was able to try out a ton of different kinds of yarn while satisfying the urge to always be knitting something. It was a challenge and I'm glad I did it-- I got a little misty-eyed just now looking at my former blog-- it wasn't in any way mindless, but of course I made "too much"! I remember having some misgivings about that while I was knitting. The finished objects were sort of beside the point of the challenge-- many of the hats were unsolicited gifts and the ones I made for myself I have mostly stopped wearing or given away. Before 52 Hats I made very little and it felt like a big, important level-up to make A LOT. My knitting has a much less frenetic pace these days, but I still like to keep a more-or-less continuous flow of it in my life. 

There is also tension between this desire and my desire for a more handmade wardrobe. In case I didn't make it clear in my first and second posts on this topic, I'm what they call finicky about what I wear. Making things for myself is risky-- I have a small pile of handknit sweaters I rarely or never wear. My most successful garments are probably socks! Thinking about slow fashion this month has re-oriented my thinking a bit here-- I realized a long time ago that I will never knit all the sweaters I think I need, but I am further questioning these perceived needs and the assumptions and hidden costs underlying those perceptions. I don't need as many sweaters as I want to knit. I still want to make clothes for myself-- for the challenge, for the thrill and satisfaction of wearing something I made myself, to know exactly where my clothes are coming from-- but I am accepting more and more that this should be a slow process!

And there are lot of ways I slow down my knitting-- intentionally or unintentionally! The result is the same: I get to extend my enjoyment of the process, and I force myself to think more carefully about the finished object and its place in my life. Frogging is probably the primary way I slow myself down-- I think I unknit at least as much as I knit. Silly as it sounds, it was once a great revelation to me that if I didn't like the way a project was going or how it had turned out, I could just unravel it and start over. This completely changed my approach to knitting-- I started experimenting more and I make discoveries all the time because I'm not so afraid of making a mistake. If I have any qualms about ripping back, I remind myself that I will be gaining knitting rather than losing it! And I extend the time between yarn purchases by recycling:

Another way I slow down is by starting with fiber-- spinning and plying calm me just as much as knitting, and making my own yarn not only adds steps to the making process but also adds more transparency of known origins. As soon as I finish writing, I am going to sign up for a fleece preparation workshop-- and then I'm probably going to work on this:

Finally, documenting and analyzing my projects here slows down my knitting a lot. I sometimes have to force myself to stop and take pictures at crucial moments, or to write about my progress, because I just want to keep knitting, particularly if I am watching something good on Netflix! But I never regret these pauses-- I love to be able to look back and time travel a bit through my knitting history, and writing is another craft worthy of a chunk of my free time. And the possibility of a connection with other knitters and makers keeps me coming back to keeping this blog, even after a three year hiatus, even though I know I write mostly into a great void. Reflection and community are a vital part of the movement toward sustainable fashion, sustainable crafting, resilience in general, and I'm so grateful to Karen for providing a forum to talk about these big, meaty topics! Now to dive in to this week's discussion...

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