Slow fashion October: Week 5 and a BIG REVEAL

This week’s theme is KNOWN. Karen suggests talking about favorite sustainable resources / the changing concept of “local” / traceable fabric and yarn origins / traceable garment origins / reference books, films, videos.

While I have a lot of thoughts about the changing concept of “local” and what “sustainable” means, I want to talk this week about traceable fabric and yarn origins. As a knitter who sells my wares, I am always much prouder and more excited about offering up garments/accessories that I spun myself, especially when I know that the fiber came from a farm. That feeling is simultaneously, inseparably, about both origins/traceability/sustainability and about personal investment. Most of my handspun wool gets all the way to the FO stage still smelling a bit like a sheep, and that makes me happy. More than happy- that’s the smell of satisfaction. [Amusingly enough, as I was typing the word “satisfaction,” I made a typo and wrote “scatisfaction.” Too apt? Probably.]

But the point is, the more I know about a material’s origins, the more I enjoy working with it and the more I appreciate what the object is worth. And, to be fair, those materials that I tend to know the most about are the ones that I work with for the longest, through the most stages in the process. That leads to not only my own pride and enjoyment in the making of the thing, but also my customers’ excitement and appreciation in the owning and wearing of the thing, at least in the circles where I tend to sell my products.

All this is to say that one of the goals for Slow Fashion October that I didn’t dare to publicize, out of my own fear (of both being spread too thin and out of failing to do the thing, or failing to do the thing well), was the making of a sweater for my father. This is sweater number two for me, and y’all know how sweater number one turned out.

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The thing about this sweater is that it’s all handspun yarn- some that my dad spun for me using his drop spindle, but most that I spun on my wheel. This wool is primarily Icelandic that I traded for at a gathering a couple years ago, though some is Jacob; all is unprocessed. It’s all some variation on deep, chocolatey brown, and I think it’s gorgeous and gorgeously soft. The white bits are actually lanolin- my hands always feel amazing after knitting on this, but it’s certainly heavier than it will be once it’s washed again. And again, and again.

The pattern is my own made-up take on Corduroy, from Lisa Lloyd’s book A Fine Fleece, which I received from my dear friend Stephanie a couple years back. I didn’t like the look of the reverse stockinette ridges for the cuffs, and I wasn’t keen on the ridges under the arms, so I scrapped that instruction and went straight-up old-school with a ribbed bottom cuff, stockinette body, and plain ribbed collar. The sleeves will be all stockinette with plain ribbed cuffs as well.

I’ve had a hard time with this pattern- the book features glamour and action shots, rather than helpful, “here is the model’s armpit so you can see how those rows are supposed to fit together” kinds of shots. This pattern showed two photos of this sweater, one from relatively far away (no detail on the side ribbing, any cuffs, back, or sleeves) and one close-up of the collar (no details anywhere else). Aside from a diagram of what the measurements should be after blocking (Shouldn’t it just… fit? What’s the point?), the pattern was basically just a list. I could comprehend it, but I couldn’t care enough to follow it. I wanted it to be my sweater, anyway.

So, known. This project is an exercise in known materials, or at least knowledge of their sustainability. Maybe it’s a naïve view, but if wool comes to you full of bits of sticks and caked in clay and worse, there’s a pretty strong argument that it hasn’t gone too far from its original home. Even if I haven’t met the person who owned those Icelandic and Jacob sheep, I can bet that the person I did meet has, and that everyone involved had good intentions. Because, let’s be honest, who besides people who really love sheep and the wool they produce would be willing to haul that stinky stuff around?

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