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July 31, 2011 / KristenMakes

Our Conversation

Reversible is a project in which I share the work that I am doing for my MA in Fashion & Textiles Design.  I am investigating sustainable design for knitwear in a reversible and reworkable context.  Utilising the organic quality of the knitted structure to create intrinsic shaping and detail as fabric and garment are simultaneously created, I am designing and knitting a garment that can be worn in different ways and produce different looks.  As such, I invite the wearer to engage personally with their own wardrobe, and hopefully value and meaning can be instilled into a garment that would otherwise be thrown out after a few wears.  In this blog feature, I will talk about why I chose this path, how I am proceeding, and what the final product will be.  I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in this space so that we may all learn and benefit.

The countdown to hand-in is T-minus five days.  Everything is MADE, but needs to be organised in a presentable and clear way.  It is really difficult to take a step back, look at a year’s worth of work and judge what should be ‘up’.  However, to avoid this reflective and introspective process just now, I’ve instead turned to studying everything you’ve been saying in these Reversible posts.  I have learned so much, not just about you guys, but also about responsible practises.  In reading other blogs, I find that there is a lot in the comments; what a great way to meet like-minded people!  I thought that maybe you would want to learn a little more about the people who, like you, are crafting and thinking on slow and responsible fashion.  I read through all the comments and tried to organise them into a sort of conversation.  I hope you enjoy what people have to say as much as I have!  (psst, read to the end too, so you can see my important announcement!)

Jessie Willcox Smith, 3

Image via pinterest

STARTING WITH CRAFTING… What I always find interesting about crafters is what they make and how they got into it.  A lot of us started early, taught by ourselves, mothers, or grandmothers (e.g. Sewing Princess, Noas’ Libellule, Frayed at the Edge, and myself!).   Many of us don’t even recognise how amazing our work is though.  For example, my own wonderful mother-in-law Sue, is due much more credit than she believes!  Though she claims not to be a crafter, she’s decorated cakes (that her children STILL rave about) before cake-decorating became trendy.  That, with loads of macramé and some sewing, I’d say you’re a crafter and you don’t know it!  We currently craft for many reasons though:

  • For Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones, she finds comfort in the repetitive rhythm of the movements.  I’m sure she’ll find that present in knitting, which she just took up!
  • Liz began knitting as something constructive that wouldn’t take her attentions away from the wee ones.
  • Frederica found that knitting gave her the control to add needed items to her wardrobe weren’t available on the high street in the size and colour she wanted.  Similarly, Rue from Tinks and Frogs started knitting when picked something out of a magazine.  Rather than making it for her, her mother taught her to knit it; now she’s not only an expert knitter, but an amazing spinner too!
  • Speaking of control, my own dear mum found that rather than in knitting, there was more control for her in sewing.  No kidding, she’s so precise and was an excellent sewing teacher; I picked up the basics from her, but not the precision or determination.  I find I am OK with a squint seam, meaning I will never be the quilter that she is, unfortunately.
  • I wanted to point out that for me, it is therapeutic.  I can forget about things, and just work on a project.  It puts things in perspective and helps turn of the frantic part of my brain.  There is an interesting 3-part article from eco-salon called ‘Using Your Hands to Soothe the Brain’ which expands on this idea.  Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 if you have the time!

Image via eco-salon

There is some really interesting insight out there about knitting specifically.  Lizz from A Good Wardrobe points out that ‘knitting was about building something up, whereas sewing is about deconstructing/tearing down in an effort to build something’ – it’s that organic quality of knitting that I love too!  Regarding pattern-writing, Kerry of Kestrel Finds and Makes echoes something that I came across quite often while giving help to knitters when I worked at a yarn shop.  She was told by her knitting teacher that most patterns are designed by designers rather than knitters, and as such are less about the organic, seamless, and efficient processes that knitting can have, and more about knitting up pieces and sewing them together.  This process makes sense with woven fabrics but is not necessary in knit!  As a result many patterns are misguided and difficult to follow, turning knitters off at the get-go.

MOVING ONTO SUSTAINABILITY…  It seems to be present in all our minds, and something we aim for or are beginning to recognise as a goal.   Sustainability is not without its difficulties though.

Image via Estethica and Made-by

In regards to shopping with a slow fashion mindset:

  • Louise from a view into my world made the decision in January not to buy anymore clothes, but finds it difficult to source ‘sustainable, organic, ethical fabric choices’ for her own sewing.
  • Jo, the jewellery designer behind Dragonflight Designs explains that budget is a major factor in her shopping (mine too!); and finds that even items in charity shops are being overpriced.  I have been seeing this too, as vintage and thrifting becomes more popular.
  • Liz accomplished the hugely applaudable feat of putting her children in cloth nappies, but found that made it difficult to find affordable trousers that were made fit over their ‘bigger posteriors’.  Rather than going back to disposable nappies, she made her own baby trousers with elasticated waists.  What a solution!
  • Encountering fast fashion, Ali of the wardrobe, reimagined confesses ‘my understanding of fast fashion came through the act of making — and I’m amazed, in hindsight, how oblivious I was’ – ME TOO!  Once you go through the process of making something, you realise it is a human-involved process.  Every garment has a story of who made it, where, and how, but I get the feeling some retailers don’t want you to think on that.
  • This impersonality in our shopping has not gone unnoticed by Kerry: ‘I’ve also become fed up with the culture that is designed to make us buy more and more, and not value our clothing’ –hear, hear!
  • Additionally, Kerry points out that a major change must happen for slow fashion to be affordable.  Regarding my example of having a Barbour jacket rewaxed, she points out that ‘as this is for a product in the higher end of the market, it is so important that equivalent initiatives are available on the high street.’  She then gives the example of getting her shoes re-soled, a smart and responsible yet often-forgotten practise.
  • Back to fit, Lizz keenly recognises a link between poorly fitting clothes and fast-passing trends: ‘I would love to see consumers move towards building a closer relationship with designers and tailors. These fast trends tend to be a result of unflattering fit – you blame the design rather than the fit so you’re constantly looking for something different. I think when your clothes fit; they stay in your closet longer.’

Many of us have found ways to lessen our impact through our laundering and garment life cycle practises.

Image Source

  • My mum reminded me of the saying ‘Keep it nice, wear it twice.’  I tried to look up the origin of the saying but after a brief googling didn’t find much; I think we need to bring it back though.
  • Anne makes a point of taking good care of her clothes, so that they are appropriate for the charity shops when she no longer needs them.
  • Beyond charity shops, Knitlass of Auld Fashioned gives her badly stained/worn garments new life as ‘washable wipes/cloths, dribble bibs, dressing up clothes and bags’.

Fibres and resources proved a popular issue in the comments.

  • Quite often, people assume that natural is better for the environment.  While that makes sense, Anne points out ‘that cotton production (unless it is organic) uses high levels of chemicals’.  Of course organic cotton is much rarer on the high street and more expensive.
  • Additionally, Babara points out that in the life cycle, cotton is ‘much more difficult to maintain. For instance my vinyl table cover (vinyl being generally from non-renewable resources) wipes clean with a few quick and easy strokes. My cotton table covers must be laundered and ironed every time there is a spill.’
  • Knitlass stresses that laundry is a very important issue because ‘it is where the greatest changes are possible. Given that that’s where the greatest impacts are, then it behoves us all to respect the resources we consume and make really good use of them.’

There were so many other interesting experiences and points to share in this subject from many different backgrounds:

  • Jo mentions that from her interest in historical costume development she has learned that ‘when fabric was made entirely by hand rather than by machine, the cloth was woven to the size and shape needed for the garment. This required no (or very little) cutting and produced no waste fabric’.  Zero-waste was much more popular of a practise when materials were costly and precious.  Fast-fashion spawns cheap and valueless materials in which little thought is given to the 30% textile waste that is just lost on the factory cutting room floor.
  • My mother-in-law Sue shared her mother’s keen notion of making a wardrobe last: ‘She often made 4 or 5 interchangeable pieces that coordinated and taught me how to use them effectively. No fad fashions for me; I knew I’d still have to wear them long after the fad was over’.  All that is needed is a bit of time, some planning, saving, and thought, and in the long run this type of wardrobe would save much more time and money than trip after trip after trip to the high street after each fad passes or each new cheap garment falls apart.
  • It can be argued that we are losing our connection with where things come from.  Not only is this true for clothing but also in food.  Liz shared with me the shocking story of a Home-Economics teacher she knew who learned of a class that was stunned to learn that eggs were not dug up from the ground!
It is obvious to me that there is a strong correlation between making and the desire for a responsible consumer attitude.  If we start small, then little by little we can better ourselves and lessen our impact.  Last week I turned a very pilled old tee into a quilted wipe cloth, which actually works wonders!  Perhaps next week I’ll make my own reusable cotton face pads (any tutorials?).  When we start thinking on these actions, they have a tendency to snowball into a habit, and then a lifestyle.

Sadly, this is the last official Reversible post, but I will have more of my work to share; this will probably come next week.  Also, I wanted to announce that I’m thinking of a giveaway!  This will be a chance for me to give back to you as a way to sincerely thank you for reading, contributing, commenting, and supporting me through this year.  I really mean it, you guys are great, this project could have been really awkward and difficult without all your help.   Plus this will be my way of celebrating my completed MA!

I’m going to have a think about what to give away, as we have readers from many different crafting backgrounds, and I don’t want to leave anybody out!  Feel free to send me ideas, but right now I’m thinking of presenting a few options and your way to sign up for the giveaway will be something like leaving a comment in which you choose what you’d like to win.  What do you think?  I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do a giveaway, but I’ve honestly been scared: ‘does anyone actually read my blog enough to sign up for a giveaway?!’  Well prove my fears wrong, and sign up in droves!  Keep checking the blog for updates, and soon as I buckle down with the deciding the details, I’ll share and start the giveaway.  And have no fear, international readers can join too!  I’ll ship anywhere!

Alright, back to my huge to-do list of loose ends to tie, oh and finishing that darned paper too!  Thanks again everyone.  I am so grateful for you!



Leave a Comment
  1. Kerry / Jul 31 2011 8:04 am

    Hi Kristen, glad to hear all the comments you’ve received have been helpful, and interesting to read your summary. Good luck with your hand in!

    K x

    p.s I’d definitely enter a giveaway! 🙂

  2. Mum / Jul 31 2011 9:53 am

    Your mum probably shouldn’t be eligible for a giveaway but one of those cute little owls would sure be fun to win! (Not the whole sweater, just a wee sample owl!)

    Thanks for the shout-outs! It always does a mum good to know her children pay attention to what she says and does! Haha!

    So proud of all you’ve done and I’m sad this particular series is done, though I know you are anxious to turn it all in and move on…I’m looking forward to the next phase!

    xx Mum

  3. Rue / Jul 31 2011 12:30 pm

    I loved reading your summary of all of the comments! Thanks for reminding me to come back to my favorite blogs and read the comment threads – so many interesting thoughts and stories to be found!

    Good luck tidying up all of the loose ends and finishing your M.A. Enjoy the feeling! It’s been over a year now but I still remember the sense of relief and accomplishment when I finished my J.D. (along with a tiny bit of regret that I was finally done with school). What do you have planned next?

  4. Sue / Jul 31 2011 1:41 pm

    What a great series (and I would like it even if you weren’t my dear daughter-in-law!). Thanks for giving me crafting credit, that I’m still not sure I deserve. I’m back working on an old (very old!) crewel project; I have to finish it before I can start learning how to do needlepoint.

    You’ve done a great job on compiling our comments. And they’re all so interesting. Some of them reminded me of things I’ve done (like using cloth diaper/nappies — and still have some as cleaning rags!) in the past, am still doing, or might want to do in the future. (or might want to go back to doing again)

    A give-away sounds like fun. If family isn’t off limits, I’d suggest a sampler of your various knitting stitches, like the young ladies used to make in the old days with their embroidery. It could make a nice decorative object.

    Good luck on these last few days…although I don’t think you even need it.
    Mom Orme

  5. Sarah / Jul 31 2011 3:11 pm

    Oh, boy! T-5 days is so exciting!! I’m really looking forward to seeing your final project. 🙂

    I really, really enjoyed this post. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read it all. Everyone has such interesting and thought-provoking points. Thank you for sharing this. It’s marvellous!

  6. Sarah / Jul 31 2011 3:15 pm

    I’d love to post your reversible button and project on my blog. Is this OK with you?

  7. Juliane / Jul 31 2011 3:31 pm

    Dear Kristen,

    having only just discovered your blog a few days ago, I am a very new reader, but I enjoyed slowly making my way through all of your reversible project posts. This was a very interesting and thought-provoking journey (I even asked my library to buy one of the books you mentioned) and I’d like to thank you for sharing your work with us!
    I would definitely sign up for a giveaway (who wouldn’t? I think you’ll be surprised at the number of comments…), but as for ideas on what to give away, I am a bit at a loss. Maybe one of those really good books you mentioned? Most of all, I’m a knitter, but I do a variety of crafts (like jewelry making, and I’d like to get more into sewing), so I’d appreciate many different things. Yarn or other supplies for crafts are always appreciated, I guess. What about a mixed package for different crafts, along with (a) pattern(s) or tutorial(s), so that the winner can try out a variety of crafts? I’m not quite sure how to get in the sustainability factor into the giveaway, though…
    Well, in the end, I have more ideas than I thought initially. I hope some of it helps.
    Thanks again and good luck for your last few days of frantic work! 🙂

    Juliane from Germany

  8. KristenMakes / Jul 31 2011 4:36 pm

    @Sarah: of course! anyone is welcome if you like!

  9. KristenMakes / Jul 31 2011 4:38 pm

    @Juliane, how lovely to hear from you! I am so glad you are enjoying the blog and that enticed you to learn more, yay! Thanks for these lovely ideas, I love the variety package idea!!!

  10. KristenMakes / Jul 31 2011 4:40 pm

    @Sue, of course you deserve it!!! Thanks for the ideas! I suppose the family would be off-limits for the giveaway but I will definitely tuck the sampler idea in my back pocket for you another time! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  11. KristenMakes / Jul 31 2011 4:41 pm

    @Rue, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I definitely sense the relief/regret mixture coming on when I finish. I have LOADS of sewing planned when I’m done though, a whole week at least!

  12. KristenMakes / Jul 31 2011 4:42 pm

    @Mum, you bet you’re getting some owls! I’m sad as well, but also excited! Love you!

  13. Noas' libellule / Aug 1 2011 6:37 am

    Love this post! great way to organise your thoughts. Giveaway sounds great!

  14. Rachel / Aug 1 2011 8:00 am

    Finally had time to read through each of your Reversible posts and loved all of your work and research! Can’t wait to see your final presentation (and get together with you after the craziness of this week is over!) – Also, who doesn’t like a giveaway? I would join!

  15. Amanda hamilton / Aug 2 2011 5:25 am

    Hope all goes well with the hand in – you have put so much and so much of yourself into this _ can you send your blog in as part of your work as well as it does so much to spread the word about what you want to achieve.

    I started to knit at age 4 before I could read and write and find it great to destress or not to feel I am wasting time when waiting to pick up kids from activities. Also it is good to distract the mind from pain and is even been used by some hopspitals in pain management programmes now.

  16. Sue / Aug 2 2011 9:27 am

    I think reading all the comments is almost as much fun as reading the blog. You’re really getting popular.

  17. Sewing Princess / Aug 2 2011 9:44 am

    As for the idea for the giveaway, perhaps a trifted item would be good for sustainability. Perhaps from a charity shop or something upcycled.

    It’s interesting to read about your project. Good luck with the last bits of your work. It will be interesting to see how it can develop it after your studies

  18. aviewintomyworld / Aug 2 2011 7:18 pm

    great round up, and like someone else already mentioned – what a reminder read through comments as well as posts, i tend to read via reader on my phone so not as active in the commenting circles, note to self etc haha!!!

  19. knitlass / Aug 4 2011 9:10 am

    Don’t stop just because of the hand-in! I like it when peope talk about these sorts of things – rather than just telling us about their latest crafting triumph/disaster. btw, I’m a Heriot-Watt person too, but based at Riccarton…. Good luck with the final preparations!

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