Sunday, 9 October 2016

slow fashion october: introduction

better late than never, right? i'm taking part once again in slow fashion october, although admittedly so far my sewing has been nil while i work on knitting. i did actually get a couple of selfish knits out of the way within a couple of days though! purely out of necessity, and both of them will be released as patterns, but these were at least completely unrelated to my current collections and deadlines. the weather dipped and i needed warmer knits that i could be rough with, stat. each week of slow fashion october has a theme, just to help structure discussions, and this first week is introductions. which kind of works perfectly, because i realized recently that i haven't actually introduced myself lately, and i've had a lot more people start following me online in the last little while. i always kind of assume i'm talking to people who already know me, but that's obviously a false assumption. so, here's me, ash.

shibori dyed indigo silk scarf.
i'm a canadian knit designer, textile artist, natural dyer, and i sew my own clothes sometimes. i have a long background in all areas of theatre production, both on and offstage, including about 8 years of wardrobe experience before i left the stage a few years ago. i learned how to knit and sew from my mum as a kid, and both sides of my extended family have a strong relationship to the fibre arts (crochet, clothing, quilting, knitting, spinning). mum and i have both also recently added weaving to our personal arsenals, which is fun. knitting is for sure my comfort zone though. mum jokes that she taught me the basic skills and i've run from there, which i suppose is true. i'm of the opinion that everyone is capable of doing what i do, it's just a matter of how much time you devote to your craft. my priority is knitting, and i spend an average minimum of 6 hours per day on it. which is a lot when you consider that i actually work a full-time, 9-to-5 job in arts administration too where i lose those hours from my day. i knit closer to 12 hours each day on the weekends. that's been the case for several years now. because i do it all the time, i've gotten very good at it. i recognize that definitely not everyone is going to knit to the extent that i do, but i believe strongly in it as a useful life skill (being able to knit warm things for yourself and loved ones, especially when you live in a cold climate, is a serious level up for the zombie apocalypse). so i encourage people to knit as often as possible, and i teach classes and workshops to that end.

i also am continuously frustrated by the lack of value placed on this very practical and beautiful practice. and on the whole slow fashion movement, as compared to fast fashion. fast fashion has allowed people (at least in western society) to ignore the environmental and social impacts of our practical needs for clothing in exchange for quick and cheap looks that change every month or two. so when someone does put the time and energy and skill into making an item of clothing by hand, its value is dismissed or severely underrepresented. add in the gender politics of clothing and handmade and craft and fashion and it's a whole other ballgame.

new shawl design and bison tooth earring.
as a queer femme, my expression through the clothes i choose the wear, the make-up i do or don't put on, the way i cut my hair, the piercings and tattoos i have on display or not, all of this is an integral part of my self-identity. making my own clothing allows me to control my body in ways that fast fashion doesn't. i determine what size i need not in comparison to a magazine or mannequin, but on what my tape measure says i need in yardage to cover whatever part of my body i'm working with. it means i can make adjustments right away to get the fit that i like best for my body. it also means that i can skip the "women's" and "men's" sections in stores with fluorescent lighting, and that i can instead document my progress and final product in a way that feels more like me (usually with bone or stone in hand). and just as importantly, it means i can make these same items for my darling ones. the ones who are so much braver than i am on a daily basis, who say "fuck your cis-tem/body terrorism/"ideal" body shape" and who will wave their hand at the suggestion that they are stronger than most by just being themselves authentically. having the ability to say "please send me x measurements" and "what's your favourite colour?" and then making something that will look and feel beautiful on them is literally the best thing about having this skill set.

socks are weirdly the one accessory that counts. maybe because they're so much effort for something so everyday?


weirdly, i often don't think about my handknits as part of a handmade wardrobe. well, sweaters yes, but accessories not so much. same goes for jewelry. i make pieces regularly with stones and bones and metal and leather, but if i'm taking stock of what handmade items i'm wearing on any given day, i often skip over them. for some reason, i think of a handmade wardrobe as the clothing i sew. i don't really know why that is. i don't think it's a hierarchy in my head. but maybe it's because sewing doesn't come as naturally to me, and so it feels more like work, and that's why it counts more than the other things. or because if i sew something, it probably stays on my body all day instead of being taken on and off. i haven't quite figured this bit out yet.

slow fashion is something that i believe deeply in, and that i'm constantly analyzing and processing and working on. it's also something steeped in many layers of privilege, which i think we don't acknowledge often enough. slow fashion requires time and money and skills that have been learned either through familial traditions or mentorship or training of some sort, all of which have their own layers of privilege. so i consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the skills that i do, and constant access to more knowledge, and a wealth of materials through my local fibre shed and the internet. a handmade wardrobe tells a whole story with so many tiny and huge threads interwoven in its fabric. you can't just pick one or two without causing a ripple effect elsewhere. it's an opportunity for constant growth and learning. and it's irresponsible of us to not acknowledge that.

another new shawl design, using julie's yarn.

so, that's me, at least in this context. rambling, and political, and kind of confused and constantly learning. and deeply, deeply passionate about all of it. i'll share more of my actual making later this month.

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