Oh man. I haven’t posted in forever. I had some posts planned, but wasn’t able to get stuff done because I had life stuff get in the way. I got sick, had to move, and then started class again. So the dust in finally settling and I need to update!
I’ve been wanting to share the book that started my current mindset about making. I read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline after a discussion in my Maker Spaces class about where our clothing comes from. Ever since I started knitting, I’ve loved the personal satisfaction of wearing things I’ve made. But after that discussion and reading this book, I’m much more aware of the social and environmental issues surrounding the current state of fashion and apparel. Have you ever thought about why your $5 t-shirt is only $5? I think that once you start making your own clothes, you really start realizing the value of labor and how much of a skill sewing really is.
I don’t want to guilt anybody about the clothes that they wear. I am in the awkward place where I’m aware of the issues, but I still am participating in the problem. I know for a fact that I own clothes that were made in the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that collapsed. I am still wearing those clothes. And after listening to the Planet Money t-shirt series, it’s a much more complicated issue than this is bad and only certain kinds of clothes are good. AND I still haven’t even touched on the environmental issues.
What I appreciate about this book is that the social and environmental issues a pretty much treated as equal. I often see discussions of this issue that only take on one or the other. Besides the sheer amount of chemicals that are dumped when making our clothing, there’s also the waste in all the clothes we throw away. I know that I’ve had items where I’ve never taken off the tag, and then I make the decision to get rid of it. This is what I found the most eye opening, and also the most approachable issue. I can control what I buy and I can control what I get rid of. I can make the choice to mend and repair clothes so I don’t have to get rid of it.
THIS BOOK. Just read this book. There’s other resources like this book that I’ve been wanting to check out. I mentioned the Planet Money T-shirt series, which I think is a really interesting look at the industry. Another book I want to read, which inspired the Planet Money T-shirt, is The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. Also there’s the documentary True Cost, which is available on Netflix.
What I also want to mention here, since it relates to the book, is Slow Fashion October, put on by Fringe Association. I think slow fashion is something that relates to pretty much everyone who makes clothes. I’m hoping to participate, I’m gonna do my best to make time for blogging. I’m so excited to see what comes out of this!
Oh Elizabeth Zimmermann. How has it taken so long? Well, it’s mostly because I don’t like to give in to what’s popular. So when I first started knitting I kept seeing her name pop up, and all I knew was that her stuff was older and everyone liked her, so I would actively avoid her. Lately I’ve been wanting to learn more about my craft (I consider my main craft knitting), so I figured it was time for me to get acquainted with Elizabeth Zimmermann, and I checked out Knitter’s Almanac. And I’m so glad I did. It seems like this book should be like every other pattern book, just a series of pattern with the directions. But it’s so much more than that. I love the way she describes her relationship with knitting, and how she talks about the development of a pattern. I also love how she really encourages her readers to do their own experimentation and make the patterns their own. I love how she talks about unventing techniques, realizing that there’s nothing new under the sun. And most of all, I love her attitude. She made me smile, and I feel like she got me. I am obsessed with knitting and I have something on needles all the time. And Elizabeth understands me. She gets me.
So if you’re like me and you’ve been avoiding Elizabeth Zimmermann, stop it and get one of her books immediately because if you love knitting, you’ll probably love her too.
I think that people are most interesting and engaging when they’re talking about their passion. That’s definitely true for Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories, made up of people talking about pieces of clothing that are significant to them. I’ve been focusing a lot on the ethical situation going on with our clothing and the satisfaction that I personally get when making something. But there’s an emotional component to our clothing too, which I think we all realize when we try to clean out closets or have to pack up all our clothing. What’s really compelling about this book is that it’s not all fancy clothes from big events, they’re deeply personal and intimate and have been worn to bits. So while there are big names featured in this book and each story is specific to the teller, we can all relate.
At the same time, I don’t know that I have a single piece of clothing that I could boil down as the most significant piece of clothing in my life. There was the school uniform that I wore from first grade until high school graduation. I have my dance shoes that I performed and competed in. There’s the dress I wore to my first art show opening and my college graduation. There’s the first pair of converse that I owned, that I wore until they had pretty big holes and the color had completely faded out. I probably have too many clothes that I have deep emotional attachments to.
I highly recommend this beautiful book, and I recommend taking your time with it. I usually tear through books, but this one I just read a couple of stories at a time and savored each one.