Slow Fashion, Quality over Quantity, and Why It’s Great to Be a Maker

With so many yarn stores struggling to stay open and designers having a hard time figuring out how to make a living off of $5 patterns, there is much talk about whether our industry is going to last. On the other hand, Etsy is filled with new yarn dyers, and it seems everyone who’s been a knitter or crocheter for much length of time has their own pattern or two up on Ravelry. We aren’t going anywhere!

It seems very timely that discussions about slow fashion have been popping up, and after watching this documentary (look for it on Netflix), I am completely on board with embracing the movement. If slow fashion is a new term for you (as it was for me), here are a few links that explain it better:

http://fashionista.com/2012/12/the-slow-fashion-movement-what-it-is-and-the-10-brands-that-are-doing-it-right

https://fringeassociation.com/2016/09/30/slow-fashion-october-week-1-introductions/

Can Slow Fashion Impact Fast Fashion?

When people think of consumerism and fast fashion, the first things that usually pop into their minds are the overseas factories with poor working conditions for women and children, and overstuffed landfills. These things are probably the two biggest problems with fast fashion today – especially with companies that churn out “collections” every week. When I went to school, there were usually only two, or maybe three seasons a year.

Speaking from a designer point of view, fast fashion has also destroyed creativity. It is not possible to produce entire “collections” every week that will be sold for a few dollars a garment and will probably be in a landfill a month or two later, and still maintain any sense of creativity or design. If you go to the mall these days, doesn’t it seem like everything looks the same? I don’t enjoy shopping anymore at all (well, except for yarn, but that’s another story!), and I realized when I was at the mall a few weeks ago that the reason is because I’m not at all inspired by what I see. And designers cannot just “produce” creativity – it takes time to absorb inspiration, time to experiment, and time to make if you want something of true quality.

I think the fiber community deserves a big credit for its role in this movement. We practically define what slow fashion is! When you buy yarn that has already received alot of by-hand treatment – such as being hand dyed and/or handspun – it just naturally follows you will want to make something special with it that you will keep and pass down to loved ones. The entire process from when the fiber comes off the animal to the finished project is the opposite of being disposable. Even if you are buying cheaper yarns, you are still making something by hand that has a personal touch and will be of value to you over anything you might buy at Walmart for a few bucks. We put thought into what we buy and make, and how we use it once it’s finished.

Speaking as a designer, I put alot of thought into my patterns. I DESIGN each one, from start to finish, which is so much work, but you can be certain I’m not working off of some template, and definitely not just churning out copies of whatever is “on trend” at the moment. Browsing through Ravelry, I am always amazed at all the creativity in our community. It is filled with unique, one-of-a-kind projects, and I hope that we will be the people to inspire the rest of the world to take a few moments to appreciate the unique, and value quality over quantity. And I am much more inspired to design things that I know will be lovingly made and cherished for a long time to come.

I hope we can inspire the fashion industry at large to return to a slower pace as well, and to putting more thought into creativity and design, and less into selling what amounts to quantities of junk.

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The Design Process Finale

Because I like to finish a series, and because logistics are important, here is the finale. If you are one of those people (like me) who likes to read things in completeness, here are the first and second parts, in case you missed them.

Pantone on Fashion…and In General

If you haven’t figured it out already, let me just say, I LOVE color. When I was working as a graphic designer, color was always a major part of my work, and as a knitter/crocheter, it still is. Color is probably the first thing I respond to when picking yarn, and I very often find that even sub-consciously, color is at the core of my design work. Of course, I try to pay attention to line, texture, shape, etc., but color is the design element I always seem to have the most immediate and strong instinct about. It follows then, that I really enjoy Pantone. I enjoy their color forecasts, and my husband very kindly bought me this book for my birthday. Twenty years ago, when I was starting out as a designer, the Pantone books were the gold standard of matching colors in the printing industry and Pantone was strictly business. The swatch books were super expensive, but they practically guaranteed that your design would translate well from computer screen to the final printed item. I love how the company still produces useful things for design professionals, but has developed more products for the general public to celebrate color.

The Doubles Remix

As anyone who’s read my blog for awhile knows, I love knitting cowls. You can imagine my delight and excitement when Stephanie at Unwind Burbank let me design two patterns for Yarn Crawl LA this year!

I’m one of those knitters who aims to use up every scrap of yarn on a project. I’m not too crazy about leftovers. Aside from the fact that these two cowls are soft and squishy, the other great thing about the design is that you can just keep going until you’re almost out of yarn. Just make sure you leave enough to do the rows of ribbing, but otherwise, just knit through your supply!

One day I was looking to make a superfast gift for someone, and I realized I had two skeins of Malabrigo Rasta, which this pattern lends itself to perfectly. This yarn really highlights the texture of my design pattern, and I used every last inch to make this cowl! For those of you who are not familiar with Rasta, let me just say, it is so chunky, that with a few modifications to my original pattern, all you need is 2 skeins and 2 days (or 2 hours, depending how fast you knit!) and you have yourself a supersoft, squishy cowl. This is going to be my go-to version for when I need to pull a gift out of thin air!

RastaChunkyVersion
RastaChunkyVersion2
The Doubles Remix

2 skeins Malabrigo Rasta – shown in Stitch Red #873
Size 15 24″ circular needles
Stitch Marker

CO 84 sts. Place stitch marker and join to work in the round, being careful not to twist stitches.

Work 1 1/2″ in 2×2 rib, then switch to the double seed stitch.
(Double Seed Stitch: Rows 1-2: K2, P2. Rows 3-4: P2, K2.)

Work in Double Seed Stitch until piece measures 9″ from CO. Switch to 2×2 rib for 1 1/4″. BO in pattern.

Monday Morning Inspiration

Musetouch is supportive of artists and filled with visual inspiration! The highlight from their Facebook page is this photo of Christian Dior gowns circa 1949. Even though many people like to make fun of the absurdity of runway shows and the cost of couture, this photo is a perfect example of why I hope there will always be the world of couture. How beautiful can one make something if given endless resources? And almost 70 years later, here we are enjoying the work! Happy Monday friends!

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The Details

I have always thought that the edge stitches on charts were optional. In fact, most of the time, this is true. For those of you not familiar with charts, here is a quick summary of how they work. They should tell you the number of stitches in the pattern, plus the number of stitches in the borders. So for instance, if you have a chart that tells you it is a multiple of 10 plus 4, this means that if you want to repeat the pattern twice, you cast on a total of 24 stitches. (10 for each repeat, plus 4 for the edges.) The chart will usually enclose the repeat section between two bold lines, with the edge stitches on either side. In most cases, you can choose to simply cast on the number of multiples you wish, and then shorten or lengthen the number of edge stitches depending on what you need to meet your finished measurements.

The Barbara Walker pattern below is an exception to this rule. It has taken me hours of knitting, ripping out, reknitting, and finally, a trip to my LYS to confer with one of my coworkers, to realize why I ran into problems. For my design, I want a finished measurement of 24″ wide. The pattern repeat is a multiple of 18 stitches, and so I determined that if I did 5 repeats (90 stitches), I would be as close to my goal as I could get using complete repeats.

However, as you can see from the chart, the repeat shifts about halfway through. (The bold lines show where this shift takes place.) In this case, the edge stitches are necessary to make the pattern work, because without them, there is nowhere for the pattern to shift.

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I hope these little details will help my fellow knitters. Because making garments fit has everything to do with gauge and stitch count, is helps to know where you can have freedom to alter a pattern, and where you MUST follow the chart exactly as it is written.

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This shows where the ribbing was interrupted in the piece without the extra edge stitches.

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And here is the partially finished swatch with the edge stitches. The shift is now working without interruption of the stitch pattern.

Yarn Crawl LA 2014

Are you familiar with yarn crawling? If not, here is a quick description: in cities that host one, all the participating yarn stores have special promotions and events going on for a weekend, and people “crawl” with their friends. In LA specifically, you purchase a passport and tote bag and go from store to store and get your passport stamped. The more stores you crawl in and out of, the more stamps you get and the more goodies you’re eligible to win!

I am so honored and excited to design two patterns for Unwind, both of which will be free Ravelry downloads. One is knit, the other crocheted, and both are super fast, soft, squishy cowls made out of Manos Maxima. I thank Unwind for giving me the privilege of designing for our store!

Bright Doubles CowlDouble Posts Cowl