Tips & Tricks: Join the Resistance!

Some of you may have noticed that I did not upload a post last Sunday, despite my stated efforts that I would be publishing every Sunday. I’m hoping you will all understand, and forgive me, but last weekend was just too hard. I was completely overwhelmed by the Inauguration, the protests, and the emotional roller coaster that ensued. I imagine that many of you felt the same. While last Friday was devastating, and Saturday elating, by Sunday I was left with the rug-pulled-out-from-under-you feeling of what comes next?

I have spent a good amount of the past week mulling over this question. After all, how much change can I, one person with basically zero government power, fight back against a deeply entrenched government administration? Obviously, it isn’t easy, but there are ways to resist. I’ve compiled some suggestions into this post, maybe some of them you’ve already heard/thought of, maybe some are new to you. Hopefully, this will help to remind us that, even as citizens, there are powerful ways for us to resist.

  • Call your representatives!
    • Okay, this is kind of a gimme, but its important to put it out there. Keep calling, keep writing, keep making your voice heard. If you’re uncomfortable calling because you don’t know what to say, visit this website for a series of scripts to help you out.
    • Yes, the White House comment line is down, but there has been a movement of folks calling Trump hotels and businesses. Call those places, make them lose business. Just remember to be polite, and respectful. Those people on the other end are just folks trying to earn a living.
  • Stay educated!
    • Maybe another gimme? But stay on top of what’s going on. Read reputable news sources. My personal favorite is The New York Times, but I also follow Dan Rather on Facebook, as well as his new news outlet News and Guts. Keep track of what’s happening, remember that its not normal.
    • Along that same line, look to history. Remind yourself of what is considered normal for an administration to do. Remind yourself what has typically been considered the powers of the President. Familiarize yourself with the system.
    • If you haven’t looked at it for a while, reread the Constitution. Take the time to really think about what its saying, and what powers it affords the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Understand how this country is supposed to work.
  • Donate!
    • You probably already know about the importance of donating to Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU but there are plenty of other causes that are going to need our help:
    • Those are just a few big ones! I would also suggest looking into upcoming elections in your area, and considering donating to upcoming campaigns as well, especially if you’re not happy with your Congressperson or Senator.
    • You may also want to look into local groups to donate to. Do your research, and look into local groups that are working to combat homelessness, climate change, or other important local issues.
    • Donations can come in forms other than money. Did you just knit a pussy hat for the Women’s March? That’s awesome! Now knit a hat or two and take them to your local homeless shelter. While you’re at it, bring something from this list  of what shelters wish you would bring or even make a call before hand and find out what your local shelter needs.
  • Get involved!
    • From the top to the bottom, get involved in politics. Go to local precinct meetings, run for local government (or at least become more knowledgeable about local races). Visit SwingLeft.org to learn about your closest swing district, and how you can help it swing to the left.
    • Go to more protests. Did you go to the Women’s March? Great! But don’t stop there. Find out when the next Black Lives Matter march is, when the next Standing Rock march is, when the Scientists March is, and then go to them!
  • Become more informed!
    • Maybe after the Woman’s March, you heard a lot of critiques about the movement. Maybe you heard that the march was too white, or that it was transphobic, or that it wasn’t accessible for disabled people. Listen to the people saying those things! Really put more time and effort into addressing your own privileges, and unlearning the various “-isms” that culture has taught you.
    • If its new to you, learn about intersectional feminism. Learn about white feminism and its many pitfalls.
    • Follow activists like Shaun King, and Janet Mock. Follow people who have had different experiences than those that you have had, and really listen to what they have to say.
    • And, most importantly, LISTEN. Listen when people correct you, listen when people talk about their struggles, listen to when its not about you. And remember, if someone is taking the time to correct your behavior, they’re doing it because they trust that you will listen.
    • If this is all new to you, I really suggest reading this article. Its a great primer, particularly for white folks.
  • Fight climate change at home!
    • Listen, for the next few years at least, it looks like we’re gonna be pretty much on our own when it comes to climate change. While we as citizens don’t have a ton of control over policy, there are things we can do at home to help cut carbon emissions from our life:
      • If you can, plant a garden. Grow your own greens, herbs, gourds, and veggies. Do some research and figure out what type of flowers your local bees like best. Go out and put things in the ground.
      • Eat locally. A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to try to source your foods as locally as possible. Check out local farmers markets, CSAs, and food co-ops. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a great conversation about how much oil is actually in our diets, and offers a lot of great suggestions getting it out.
      • Reduce the amount of plastic in your life. I know that personally, I have pledged to stop buying plastic water bottles, and am working towards purchasing as many foods as I can in bulk. I have been collecting containers to bring to the store myself in order to cut down on packaging. For more tips and tricks to reduce trash in your life, check out the Zero Waste Family.
      • And of course, the three oldies but goodies, mind your water usage, your electricity usage, and your car usage. Take shorter showers, and shut off the faucet when you wash dishes. Turn down (or off!) the thermostat, and if you aren’t in a room, make sure the lights are off. Take public transport, bike, or walk where and when you can.
      • Lastly, stay informed! Follow all those rogue twitter accounts that are posting facts about climate change. Support scientists and reporters that are trying to get the word out. Stay up to date on the facts and figures. The more you know, the more powerful you are.

Whew! Okay, it seems like a lot, and I know I only barely scratched the surface. But for a jumping off point, look how much there is! There is a lot we can do, and we can all do it together. Together we are many.

If there is anything that you feel is missing from this list, please share in the comments.

Tips & Tricks: Break the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater

I have discovered many wonderful things in the knitting community. I have discovered a love for the art of handcrafting, a respect for taking things slow, an understanding that starting over from the very beginning isn’t a bad thing, a willingness to answer any question no matter how small. All this, and so much more, are things that I love dearly about this community of ours. However, there is one thing in the knitting world that I would very much like to see put to death: The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater.

We’ve all heard it. The warning that follows every knitter (whether she has any inclination towards having a boyfriend or not), that as soon as she knits a sweater for her man, she has signed her fate, and he will inevitably leave her. I’m unsure whether this applies to other relationships that a knitter may have, or if non-female knitters are similarly afflicted, but I do know that I have been warned since I started knitting at the tender age of 12 that I should never knit my boyfriend a sweater lest I wish to doom our relationship. What a rotten curse!

Do I really have to detail why I think this myth needs to be put to rest? How many of us view making knitwear for our loved ones as a sacred task? I can’t imagine any better way to express my love to someone than to spend hours creating them a mindful garment stitch by stitch. A knitter making a sweater for someone they love, whether its a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, or spouse, is something that should be celebrated. Those knitters who set out to express their love for someone by creating for them a personalized garment should be encourage, not warned away with cautionary tales of ruined love.

I have been knitting a sweater for my own boyfriend for close to three years. It is the longest it has ever taken me to finish a single project. The road to completion has been hampered by just about every knitting mistake in the book. Wrong sizes, wonky gauge, ill-fitting armholes, too-short sleeves, you name it, and I’ve probably done it with this sweater. I’ve changed the yarn once, and the pattern at least three times trying to get it right. I’ve learned a lot about knitting with this sweater, and I’ve learned a lot about love. I’ve come to reevaluate what knitting for someone other than myself can mean. I’ve started to understand more about what clothing can mean to us, how a handmade sweater can carry so much more than just the materials it took to make it.

If, when all is said and done, this sweater spells the end of my relationship, then so be it. If my relationship isn’t strong enough to withstand my knitting a sweater, then it probably wasn’t a very good relationship to begin with. But I highly doubt that will happen. I think this sweater will bring my man and I closer together. In fact, I know that it already has.

So what do you say, fellow knitters? Can you join me in the promise to kill the Boyfriend Sweater Curse? Instead of warning new knitters that a handmade sweater will cause their relationship to die, I plan on telling them that I have found hand knits to be one of the most powerful ways of sharing tradition, nourishment, and joy with those that I love. I hope you will do the same.

Final FO of 2016 and Plans for 2017

Its funny. I had a whole post dreamed up that would summarize my last finished project of 2016, and outline my goals for 2017. It was going to be light, breezy, and maybe even annoyingly cheerful. Then, 2017 hit and everything got derailed. I started out the year by making the trek from Santa Rosa, CA (that’s about 50 miles north of San Francisco) to Portland, OR. Its a relatively simple journey up the I-5, and would have marked the end of my two week holiday visit with my family. Everything was going fine until we (I was travelling with my amazing boyfriend) hit Oregon. Just a few miles south of Ashland, OR, we were in a car accident. Thankfully, we were both okay, and the car, though undriveable, was far from totaled. What followed was us being stuck in Ashland for three days, snowed in between two closed mountain passes, spending money we really didn’t have, relying on the kindness of strangers, trying to find the positive in what has to be the most stressful start to a new year I’ve ever had.

I had wanted to start this year with a week at home before classes start. I was going to spend time making, drawing, baking, perhaps even getting a jump start on planning the spring garden. What I got was no where near that, but it did give me a good opportunity to put my survival skills to the test. It was a chance to see how I performed under immense stress that I didn’t see coming. And I rather believe I rose to the odds, if I do say so myself, because my boyfriend and I made it through, made it home, and even managed to have a bit of fun along the way.

I also got the chance to do a lot of thinking. I thought a lot about what I want out of this year, out of myself as a fiber artist, out of myself as a member of this maker’s community, and out of the community itself. What do I expect? What do I hope to achieve? With such an abrupt reminder that things do not always go as planned, and so much is out of my control, what can I do in my personal life to reasonably affect change?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. But what I do have is a few goals for the new year that, after my surprise adventure, I feel confident I can achieve. In 2017, I want every addition to my closet to be handmade. This is a goal that I believe is within my grasp. It may take a fair amount of perseverance and self control, but I feel I have proven to myself in the last few days that I have what it takes to tough it out. Along with proving to myself that I have the guts to take on such a challenge, I also recently convinced myself that I have the skill needed as well. During my stay with my family, I had the chance to do a little bit of sewing. With my mother acting as a safety net, I took on the task of making A Verb For Keeping Warm’s Nell Shirt, and was utterly shocked at the results. This was a pattern I had purchased last spring, in the hopes that it would be accomplished sometime in the future when I felt ready to take on such a daunting pattern. At the time of purchase, I had yet to sew anything on a machine, and was convinced it would take me many finished garments to amass the skill necessary for such a complex pattern. I have never been more delighted to be wrong!

The Nell Shirt was only my third garment sewn on a machine. I did all the sewing myself, with very little use of my safety net (there was a few questions about how on earth you go about insetting a placket), and the result fit like a dream. There are a few hiccups here and there. The sleeve caps had to be sewn over twice to get a few spots I had missed on the first pass, the v-neck is a tad bunchy, and the front gather will never be perfectly centered. But it looks amazing on, and fits like a dream. And when I was stranded, and the thing I wanted most was to be at home, putting on a shirt that I had made myself provided me something of what I was craving.

Perhaps the greatest gift a homemade wardrobe can give us is the feeling of home.

So, that’s my great goal for 2017, to make every wardrobe addition handmade. My second goal for the year is to regularly publish blog posts. Look for regular weekly updates here on Sundays (with the possible exception of finals week!).

Hope you have all been having a less eventful year than I have! And if your 2017 has so far been as fun as mine, you have my sympathies! Feel free to share what the first week of the year has had in store for you in the comments below.

 

Nell Shirt Details:
Size: 8
Fabric: Linen/Cotton blend, purchased too long ago to remember the label

 

Slow Fashion October: Handmade

It is no secret to anyone in my life that I love making myself handmade clothes. I love the process of production, I love putting on something I created, and I love when people tell me that they love something I’m wearing, and I get to tell them that I made it. There is no doubt that I absolutely adore making clothing for myself. What I am still struggling to fall in love with is producing handmade clothes for other people.

My slowest piece of fashion is, hands down, the sweater that I have been making for my boyfriend. At this point, I actually don’t really know how long I have been working on it. It was supposed to be a 21st birthday present for a man who is now 23 years old, so officially, I’ve only been working on it for about two-and-a-half years, but due to planning, pattern choosing, yarn selection, and general discussion, this sweater has been in production for far, far longer than I’ve been knitting on it.

My man and I started this project with a very specific vision in mind. We had particular ideas in regards to style, fashion, and fit. Due to this fastidiousness, I have changed yarn selection for this sweater twice, pattern three times, and started over at the beginning more times than I can count. It is only now, in this past month, that I am finally on the right track, and am geared up to finish the sweater by the end of the year. But I would be lying if I said that the procrastination is all down to a commitment to perfection. Mostly, the delay in finishing this sweater has been because of me!

You see, as much as I love knitting, and creating things for myself, I have essentially zero interest in making for anyone else. Every time I cast something on for someone else, I can feel all of the inspiration drain out of me, and an activity that I love suddenly becomes a chore. I don’t know if I could pinpoint exactly why this is, but I do have some theories. While it would be easy to write it off as simple selfishness, I think the reason why I shy away from creating for others is that it limits what I perceive as my freedom of artistic expression, and my freedom to fail. When I am making for myself, I don’t mind if there are a few mistakes, or if it takes a while to get a project to the finish line, or if the finish line is never reached at all. When I’m making for myself, I can improvise, embellish, add, or subtract anything that I see fit. I don’t have to check in with anybody to get approval of my decisions when I make for myself – rather, I am completely in charge of my own work. In a world in which I am rarely in charge of anything, this complete autonomy is a rare treat.

However, this lack of a drive to knit for others out of reluctance to limit myself is, in itself, a limitation. I remember, as a child, whenever my mother made me clothing, I felt so special wearing it. It was something that my mother had made just for me, something that no body else had, it was a gift of love from my mother that I could wear as armor against the world. I want to be able to give that same gift to the people that I love. I want my man to put on this sweater and feel how much I care for him. I want him to feel special knowing that no one else has this sweater, and that no one else ever will.

Handmades have the power to connect people to each other like no other thing has. I am determined to push past my own limitations, my false sense of lost freedoms, and tap into that power. I want to love my handmades for more than what they mean to me, I want to love my handmades for what they mean to others!

Slow Fashion October: Long Worn

I have had this phrase, “long worn”, percolating in my head all week. Through lectures on torts and civil procedures, through contracts readings and memo writings, during lunch breaks, and coffee runs, while making dinner, and getting dressed, I have been turning over in the back of my mind what long worn means to me, and how it fits into my life. At this moment, there are two concrete ways I see this concept operating in my world: (1) the clothes that others have worn before me, and (2) the clothes I make to last.

I have been a life-long thrifter. My mother is a public school teacher, and with three kids, thrifting was an easy, and fun way to keep us on budget, and fashionable. As a child, and a teenager, I just thought of second hand clothes as a way to find interesting pieces that were different from what everyone else was wearing. I loved thrifted clothing for what it could do to set me apart. While I still value that particular aspect of buying second hand, I have lately come to realize the value of reuse of clothing. In a world where trash is produced at an alarming rate, and our society’s relationship with the wardrobe has changed so drastically, so quickly, thrifting can be a radical way to remove oneself from the cycle. To wear second hand clothes is to give a garment new life, spare it from the dumpsite, and release oneself from the hectic world of fast fashion.

At this point, I would say close to 80% of my wardrobe is thrifted, and nearly 100% of my hardest working garments come from my second hand selection. Pictured below are two of my most favorite, and longest kept thrifted finds.

The jeans are high-waisted Levi’s, found a few years ago, and they fit like a dream. I have a body that is often hard to fit, with short legs, and wide hips that make correctly fitted pants almost impossible. Those jeans are like the Holy Grail to me, and up until recently were the only pair of jeans I owned. The knees are starting to thin, but these babies are long from retirement. I’m looking forward to the future rips and mends that will continue to tell the story of this incredible pair of pants.

The sweater was a gift, purchased at a thrift store by a friend who saw it and instantly thought of me. It is 100% cashmere, soft, warm, and light as could be. It has served me well as a layering piece through several Northern California winters, and will doubtlessly continue to soldier on through many Portland winters. When this sweater came to me, it had a few small holes in the sleeves, which was doubtless the reason why it had found its way into Goodwill. It took me only 5 minutes to fix the holes up so that no one could ever tell they were there. After I had mended the holes, and was wearing the sweater, I couldn’t help but reflect on the previous owner. Did they know that the holes would have been so easy to fix? If they had known, would they still have donated this sweater? Were they sad to see it go, did they wish they could have kept it, but feared that the holes meant it had outworn its use? As a knitter, I obviously have a bit of an advantage when it comes to repairing knit fabrics, and yet I still feel (perhaps wrongly so?) that learning to mend is not so hard a thing to do. In an effort to truly value our clothing, knowing how to make our garments last, being able to fix them so that they continue to wear, is of the utmost importance. This is the first way that the concept of “long worn” fits into my life – preserving garments deemed useless by someone else, giving them new life, and new purpose.

The second way “long worn” factors into my life, and my wardrobe, is in my handmades. When I first started knitting garments, I, like so many others, was attracted to the soft, gushy yarns that feel incredible against your skin. I wanted super soft merino sweaters to cuddle with all winter long. The only problem with those snuggly, marshmallow yarns, is their lack of longevity. They pill, they shed, they lose their shape, and what began as an impeccable finished object quickly becomes a frustrating chore. I had made these sweaters in the hopes of placing them permanently in my wardrobe, and it was a defeating feeling to realize I wasn’t reaching for them for fear of wrecking them. That’s when I started turning away from merino wools, and looking for fabrics with a bit more tooth to them. Now, when I knit a handmade garment, I give careful thought to whether or not the fabric will stand up over time. Will the wool pill too quickly? Will it keep its shape? Will the color fade? I have come to discover that choosing a soft yarn in a pretty color isn’t enough. When knitting a garment that will remain in a wardrobe for years, thought has to be given to whether or not the material will last. This year, I focused on knitting sweaters out of sturdier yarns, like Brooklyn Tweed, Lettlopi, and Imperial Stock Ranch, and have been delighted with the result (the two pictures at the top of this post are a couple of this year’s successes). I have built sweaters that will last, sweaters that will tell stories, and I simply can’t think of anything better than that.

In all truth, considering this topic of “long worn” this past week, has got me thinking about so much more beyond this blog post. I am thinking about concepts that are hard to pin down (particularly when exam prep is vying for top billing in my brain space), like how the clothes I currently have will last, how the clothes I add to my wardrobe in the future will fit with what I already have, how to determine whether I actually need a particular piece, and so much more. But that’s the beauty of this slow fashion movement, it leaves you questioning what you thought you knew about clothing, fashion, and style, and pushes you to create something new.

#slowfashionoctober: Introductions

Its that time of year again! The weather is cooling (finally!), the leaves are changing (which is so weird, I’m from CA, y’all!), and Slow Fashion October is here again. This first week is about introductions, giving us all a chance to say who we are, and what slow fashion means to us. To be perfectly honest, I had a hard time getting going this week. And not because slow fashion isn’t important to me, and I don’t have a lot to say about it–because it is, and I do–but rather because I was so overcome by other Life Stuff, that it fell by the wayside. Which in some ways, was almost perfect (for the purposes of this blog post) because it got me thinking about how slow fashion fits into my life as it is right now, not the life I hope to someday have.

As some of you may know, I am currently in my first year of law school. This means that my time is limited. I spend a good chunk of my weekday on campus, in class, and doing homework. While I have a little more time to myself on the weekends, I still spend a good amount of it doing homework, doing chores, going to networking events, and sleeping. While I certainly do get knitting time, I don’t really have much wardrobe planning time, and I personally find those to be two different things.

Along with the lack of time to devote to slow fashion, I find that living on a student’s budget means that I have a distinct lack of funds to devote to slow fashion as well. I keep find holes in my wardrobe, particularly since my move to a cooler, damper climate, and though I would like to fill them, I simply do not have the money to make that happen. I need to knit some more pullovers (my closet is sorely lacking), and cardigans with full length sleeves (3/4 worked for CA, not so much for OR), and while my light sundresses worked just dandy in CA winters, I could use some heavier dresses for winters in Portland. And some lightweight layering tops to wear under all the pullovers I’m going to knit. And some swingy a-line dresses for when spring comes. And on, and on, and on. I really would like to make all these garments. In my goal to eventually have a mostly handmade wardrobe, I would like to be able to plan out what to make, purchase the fabrics and yarns necessary, and then get to work. But with my budget where it is, that just isn’t going to happen right now.

Which all brings me to, how does slow fashion fit into my life as it is right now? In my life of no time and no money, does slow fashion even have a place? Spoiler alert–it does!

In some ways, not having unlimited amounts of time and resources to devote to creating the perfect handmade wardrobe is actually really making me slow down and think. What pieces do I really need, what is absolute top priority among those pieces, what is the best way to get it done? All of that, and more, are things that I have been asking myself as I have been trying to figure out where slow fashion falls into my life. Can I find it at a thrift store? Will I be happy with finding it at a thrift store, or would I ultimately be better off waiting until I can make it myself? These are also questions I have been considering. For some things, like jeans, I am absolutely confident in my ability to find at thrift stores. Other things, like well-fitting sweaters, and dresses, I know I will have to make for myself.

I am still figuring it all out. I am still in the process of trying to piece together my new life, incorporating all these new, fearsome pieces in with the old, comforting pieces in an effort to put together a picture that I like. It is challenging. There are a lot of pieces that I have had to set aside for later or throw away entirely. But this piece, this slow fashion piece, is definitely a keeper. It is a way of life that is so near and dear to my heart, I can’t imagine ever throwing it away. I just have to find the right place to put it.

So that’s my introduction y’all. I’m Brigit, I’m a 1L law student living in Portland, OR, and I don’t have things any more figured out than anyone else. Happy Slow Fashion October!

New Adventures, New Home

Two months ago, I did something I had never done before – I moved away from my home town.

I grew up in California’s North Bay, and there is a reason why people stay there. The weather is mild, the landscape is beautiful, the people are kind, the beach is close, and there’s more local production of food, wine, and fiber then you could shake a stick at! I had a wonderful time growing up in Sonoma county. I loved living there for all the reasons I just mentioned, and more; including the fact that all of my friends, and family are there. So why leave? Well, for all the wonderful things about Sonoma county, it doesn’t have a law school, and I am bound and determined to get my J.D. So two months ago, I moved up to Portland, OR to start my first year at Lewis and Clark Law.

It has been an interesting couple of months. Law school has definitely been the right choice for me. I’m enjoying the classes. I love the material, the thinking that is required, the new research and writing skills I’m learning. I’m loving exploring the area, visiting little thrift stores, finding new coffee shops, and going on hikes. It has been a little bumpy transitioning from a smaller town to a larger city. Discovering that parking lots are few and far between, that different neighborhoods have different feels, that going downtown can be a tremendous chore, and that driving across town can take the better part of an hour have all been new experiences for me. But the hardest thing by far, has been the feeling of loneliness.

I have always been a super introverted person, more likely to have a few very close friends in one tight-knit group than several friends across several groups. And it will usually take me a while to form those kinds of bonds. It’s just who I am, and I have always been this way. Living in one place for my entire life, this hasn’t really been much of a problem. My close friends have always been around, and even when confronted with the task of making new friends, my old friends were always there to support me, and give me a safe space to return to when I felt overwhelmed by new people and experiences. That is no longer an option. I’m out here completely on my own (well not completely, I moved with my boyfriend and my cat, but as any lady knows, neither can take the place of girlfriends), and sort of struggling to find a place to fit in.

Which is actually sort of okay. It may take time, but I am working on discovering a new place, and figuring out exactly how I fit into it. It’s scary, and overwhelming, and completely uncomfortable, but it’s also an incredibly opportunity to learn something about myself.

So what does this have to do with knitting? This is a knitting blog, and most of you probably come here to read about knitting. Admittedly, this post doesn’t have too much to do with knitting, except for this: in this time where so much of my life seems shaky and off-balance, knitting is the solid thing in the center tying everything together. I may not know where my career is going, or if I’ll make friends at school, or if I’m doing any of this right, but I can still make a sweater that I could love and wear for the rest of my life. I may not know if I’ll ever truly feel at home in this strange, new city, but I know that my feet will still feel cozy in a pair of freshly knitted socks. I may feel a little lonely watching Netflix by myself on a Friday night, but once I pick up my knitting, I feel soothed, and at peace. There may not be much I feel confident about these days, but knitting is one of those things, and if that’s not amazing, then I don’t know what is.