Slow Fashion October

Every October Karen over at Fringe Association starts a conversation about Slow Fashion. Just like slow food is meant to represent making a choice other than fast food, slow fashion is making a choice other than fast fashion. Here's her post covering this year's master plan. Lots of the conversation is happening on Instagram and I posted an intro there last week, but I feel like I have more I want to say than will fit in that format, so I'm continuing my thoughts here.

Slow fashion is a really good match for my interests and the way I approach the world. I have never been interested in collecting clothing, I like to have just enough to serve the purpose of clothing myself. I love knitting, but can't stand to make something that is going to end up sitting on a shelf. One of the things that has really transformed my making in the past few years was making the decision to treat my wardrobe as a project worthy of care and planning. I know what I like to wear, and spend my time making those things.

Concurrently with this revolution in my crafting, I have been fighting cancer. It has been humbling to no longer be healthy and able-bodied, and I have realized how much of a privilege it is to make your own clothes. Slow fashion isn't a choice available to everyone, it takes ability and time and money to participate.

Last year I was angry during Slow Fashion October. Every post celebrating someone's success felt like it ignored my struggles. This year I have a different perspective. Everyone has a reason that it is hard to choose slow fashion, and that's why we're talking about it. The pride of a handmade garment is well-earned and it is valuable to talk about how you pulled it off. There's room for that and a frank discussion of the hard parts.

How I Use Ravelry to Plan My Knitting Projects

As one of the programmers for Ravelry, I know the site very well. I don't just help make it, I use it a lot for my personal knitting projects. Today I wanted to share some of the features I use when I'm planning a project to ensure that I end up with FOs that I love.

Finding a Pattern for a Stashed Yarn

After I finished spinning up Pomegranate I knew I wanted to knit a sweater out of it. To find contenders I built this Ravelry search: sweaters, in bulky or super bulky weight (I find these weights are not well defined so I included both), with slightly more yardage than I have, and that I have in my favorites. If I don't see any contenders in my favorites I'll remove that criterion and start paging through result; anything I like I open in a new tab for evaluation. There are lots of other pattern attributes - fabric characteristics like cables or ages like adult - but I find that they are applied inconsistently and I'd rather wade through patterns that aren't quite what I'm looking for than miss out on something I would love, so I very rarely use them.

Evaluating Whether a Pattern Will Work

After a pattern has been short listed I send it through the following checklist, removing it if I am unimpressed at any step along the way.

  1. Enlarge all of the pattern pictures to make sure I really like the pattern, either as is or with simple modifications.
  2. Skim the projects to see if it is generally flattering on the people who have made it.
  3. Go back to the project page and study the yarn requirements - is my yarn similar to the recommended yarn or different but in a way I am okay with? I think about things like how the yarn construction will affect stitch definition and texture, fiber composition will affect drape, and color will reflect in those shapes. I also compare the grist of my intended yarn to the recommended yarn - weights like lace or bulky have wide ranges and two yarns in that weight may not be interchangeable.
  4. Check if I have enough yarn for the pattern. I tend to use at least 10% less than designers list for my size so that's my criterion at this point.
  5. Study in detail the projects in my size - how much yarn did those projects use? Are the models shaped like me and if so do I like how it looks on them?

If a pattern has passed all of these steps I check a few more things to make sure I'm not ignoring red flags for a pattern I find stunning.

Do I really have enough yarn? On the advanced project search for the pattern, I look at the yardages used. I assume anyone with 1-150 yards didn't actually fill out that part of the project page and ignore them. Here 22 people were able to make the pattern with yardage within 10% of how much yarn I have. I usually make the second smallest size, so that makes me feel pretty confident that I can pull it off, too.

Am I looking at samples made from comparable yarns? You will find projects with lots of creative yarn substitutions. I want to make sure that the projects I am thinking mine may turn out like come from materials similar to my own. The overwhelming majority of projects were made with bulky yarns here, so it's unlikely I am being fooled here.

What If . . . 

I don't have enough yarn and can't get more but really want to make this pattern anyway? I look at the projects that used 2+ colors and see if I like how any of them were done.

The pictures all seem to be hiding one area of the garment or some part of the fit looks consistently a little bit weird? I cross it off my list and move onto another pattern. I put too much time into my projects to knit something that I have a sinking feeling won't be amazing.

And there you have it! As you can tell, I like to use up all the yardage I have of a yarn, so I often pick patterns where I end up playing yarn chicken. These steps I've developed mean that I haven't run out just before finishing a project in years, and I am making great garments that I love. Do you have a great Ravelry tip or want to hear more about how I use the site? Let me know!