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There is often a sense in our knitting community that each of us fits neatly in one of two boxes — the process-oriented or the product-oriented. While there are indeed knitters who knit for tactile joy and those who knit to fulfill a certain vision for a finished product, there are also many knitters who fall somewhere else on the spectrum. One of these knitters is Korina Yoo, the Marketing Coordinator here at Brooklyn Tweed. Korina sees value in both process- and product-oriented perspectives and applies a balanced approach of both to her making practices. In this balancing act, Korina has created her own internal creative space wherein she works toward honing her skills through process, while enjoying the curatorial powers afforded by the production of a slow fashion wardrobe.

Korina happened upon knitting quite by accident during her first winter here in Portland, Oregon. At the time, the crafty renaissance was well underway, with online knitting resources, patterns, and yarns easily within a beginner’s reach. Having come from a family of generational makers, it was only a matter of time before the world of fiber arts would draw her in. “I find a lot of strength in making with my hands,” Korina says after reflecting on her introduction to the world of handmaking as a child — which comes as no surprise considering the legacy of talent that exists in her family.

After years of exploring a range of hobbies, Korina really didn’t expect much when she first took up knitting. The first few things she made after watching instructional videos on YouTube were scarves and cowls for other people, usually close friends. But this craft suddenly became so much more than a transitory activity when Korina realized that she could, like her grandmother, make nice clothes by hand. After having finished her first, actual garment, Korina thought, “Hey! I made a top and it actually looks pretty all right.” It was in this moment that she found the confidence to really dive into her knitting and begin making more garments for herself.

Korina’s go-to basics, from left to right: two of Julie Hoover’s Cline Pullover (Shelter in Cast Iron and Newsprint) and Junko Okamoto’s Yuri Pullover (Loft in Soot, Fossil, Fauna, and Sap).

Product by Process

When considering process- and product-oriented making habits, Korina is swift to point out that there is not any inherent value in prioritizing one or the other. “It depends on the kind of experience you want out of it,” Korina notes, acknowledging that some knit to soothe, some knit to fill holes in their wardrobes, and some knit for reasons that fall somewhere in between. At one point in Korina’s making process she was making to make, which is why many of her first projects were gifts for other people.

In the short few years Korina has continued on with her knitting practice, this focus on process-only knitting shifted to product-focused as her skillset grew. The things she enjoys making now are often garments that have clever details requiring a more thoughtful and skilled approach.

But this growth didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen in isolation. The shared knowledge that circulates through our making community are ever present and ever valuable to new and veteran makers alike. Korina explains that “hearing other people’s stories was so influential to [her] growth,” since she “learns best by example.” Makers like Melody HoffmanEva of The Charm of It, and her fellow members of the BT Team introduced her to quality materials and a deeper understanding of how process- and product-oriented practices dovetail into the creation of a single handmade garment.

Korina sporting Jared Flood’s Mawson Hat (Shelter in Newsprint) and Sonobe Cardigan (Arbor in Porter), which she affectionately calls her Geiger!

There are many reasons why we make our own clothes. For Korina, the inherent value of making and the opportunities presented to hone her skills through practicing her craft are ever present when she sits down with a project. While external factors, like ethical and environmental reasons, ring true for Korina, the majority of her drive to make comes from the empowering internal knowledge that she can.

Skill-Building Wardrobes

Korina’s focus on both process (developing quality craftsmanship) and product (working towards quality garments) has naturally developed into a curatorial, slow fashion approach to her making and wardrobe. She has learned exactly how much time and work handmaking requires and often has clear ideas on what kinds of educational challenges she wants to take on next, and so, carefully plans how a project will fit into her life well before casting on. When asked about her feelings on the current state of her slow fashion wardrobe, after a little over a year of focused making and refining her tastes and preferences, she is happy to state, “I’ve reached a point where I’m really good with what I have and where I am.”

When thinking of newly-finished makes and future projects, now that “the basics are covered,” Korina finds herself wanting to incorporate projects that are still utilitarian, but more fun, with interesting stitch patterns, shapes, and clever construction that keeps her mind engaged — like Jared Flood’s Sonobe Cardigan and Scott Rohr’s Ellsworth Wrap. As a very recent convert to stranded colorwork, she’s also eagerly diving back into the world of colorful yokes.

Korina’s current project: a mash-up of Marie Wallin’s Raven Fairisle Yoke Pullover and Tin Can Knits’s Strange Brew Round Yoke Recipe, knit using six colors of Loft (Cast Iron, Soot, Pumice, Yellowstone, Sap, and Cinnabar).

Thanks to a clever ratio, Korina feels confident moving forward with her plans to incorporate these quirky items from project basket to closet. For Korina, the trick is to pick a neutral color to form the foundation of your wardrobe, and then select two or three other “pop” colors for variety: black, rust, and ochre are her choices. The same idea can be applied to garment types for outfit-building as well. For example, Korina has a profound love for clothes, but what she enjoys most are pants with interesting construction details like asymmetrical tie waistbands, voluminous pleats, or clever pin tucks (“I’m a pant connoisseur!”). So, her favorite recipe is “to pair an outlandish pant with a basic top and coat.” Regardless of how minimalist or adventurous the individual pieces in her closet may be, following a ratio of 2 neutral colors to 1 pop color, or 2 basic pieces to 1 adventurous piece keeps an outfit looking balanced and cohesive.

This summer, Korina refocused her efforts into sewing as well, and has enjoyed exploring ways to incorporate bold patchwork — which she loves (“It’s like knitting; you’re making your own fabric as you go!”) — into unassuming utilitarian garments. She put her 2:1 ratio to good use in the above project, a black-and-red patchwork kimono jacket.

All shades, except Newsprint, found in both Shelter (Korina’s favorite) and Loft; Newsprint available only in Shelter.

Solenn Pullover in Loft (Cast Iron), Ellsworth Wrap in Loft (Fossil, Cast Iron, and Soot), and Naos Hat in Shelter (Yellowstone)

Follow Korina’s making journey on Instagram and Ravelry!

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What began as Jared Flood’s personal blog has evolved over the years into Brooklyn Tweed, a company guided by its core team members’ collective passion for wool, knitting, and design. This passion continues to be nurtured, shaped, and made more nuanced by the unique perspectives that these team members — we — each bring to the table. Staying true to our voices has always been the hallmark of our strength as a company, and as we grow forward together, we always keep in mind that magic happens during the journey, not just upon arriving at a final destination.

Each day at Brooklyn Tweed is filled with the beautifully mundane and the ordinarily amazing. To shed some light on how we work behind the scenes, how we think about the products we make, and how we approach the craft of making clothing as a whole, Jamie Maccarthy, our Customer and Community Relations Specialist, will be sitting down with members of our team, sharing with you why we deeply care about the work that we do, as well as more about our quirks, our humanness, where we are now, and where we’re heading.

Say hello to Christina Rondepierre, the Marketing Manager here at Brooklyn Tweed.

Christina — whose thoughts are never far from slow fashion conversations taking place in our making community at large — began building her slow fashion wardrobe nearly a decade ago. What started as a bubbling urge to knit and knit and make and make has, with time, simmered to a steady focus on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion in her craft. 

Sourcing

Of paramount importance in Christina’s slow fashion wardrobe is sourcing, both in where a garment is sourced and where the materials to make that garment are sourced. If a slow fashion wardrobe means making a conscious decision about what enters one’s closet based on the ethics of its production, it would follow that the choices around what is included should take into account where those things are coming from.

During her first few years as a knitter, Christina didn’t have the context to question the roots of the materials she was working with. Instead, the desire to fill her closet with me-made garments drove her parallel desire to accumulate yarn.

Christina’s exposure to Brooklyn Tweed early on in her knitting journey played a large role in her realization of the importance of known-sources wool. Each skein of Brooklyn Tweed’s woolen-spun yarn passing through her fingers encouraged a new thoughtfulness — where are the sheep who made the fiber that would become this yarn? Who are the ranchers, the millworkers, the dyers? As she learned about “new techniques, fibers, and tools, [there came] a natural response to want to dive deeper, to elevate [her] craft and to learn as much as [she could].”

Given the pervasiveness of mass production, to be able to point a finger at a map and name the ranch, mill, or dyehouse where a yarn is made is truly something special. Knowing the where of a garment and its materials affords a unique ability to support the communities that continue to keep our domestic textile supply chain alive. As many of us wool lovers know, “it’s really difficult to keep a sheep’s fleece clean, and the quality of the wool is dependent on the living conditions of these majestic animals. Purchasing quality fine-wool ensures a market share for the ranchers who spend their time and effort and pour their hearts into tending to their flocks.” Christina consciously, and actively, seeks out yarns that contribute to the growth of the deeper economies inhabited by ranchers and other domestic supply chain partners.

Christina sporting Carol Feller’s Carpino Pullover from Wool People 6 (left; Loft in Wool Socks) and Jared Flood’s Skiff Hat (right; Shelter in Soot). Cameo role: her lovely pup, Riley!

Sustainability

In looking at the where and how of a garment or material, inevitably the question of resources comes into play. If we can point to the location of production, as well as to the people and animals producing, we also need to consider how often the production is happening and at what costs. Succinctly put, “the goal of sustainability is to make sure that the resources you’re using are able to be replenished instead of being depleted.”

Brooklyn Tweed’s ranch-specific yarn line opened up a new space for exploration in Christina’s personal making practice. In speaking with Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, the realization that yarn can be the end product of a larger, sustainable practice was eye-opening and connected many threads that Christina had come across in her academic experience studying agriculture, permaculture, and globalization. She says, “When you start incorporating other ways that sheep can help increase the health of the land on which they are grown, those sheep add a whole new level to the sustained productivity of their landscape.”

There’s an additional layer that often goes without acknowledgement in larger conversations about sustainability — whether or not something is sustainable for an individual maker to produce. When considering sustainability in her own wardrobe, in addition to considering the environmental costs of the materials being used, Christina asks herself: “Do I have the ability and am I willing to care for this item for 5 years (or more)? How much do I need?” If she were to knit 12 sweaters each year for the next 5 years, that would be 60 sweaters to wash, mend, and wear — with a full time job, a family, and other obligations, it wouldn’t be sustainable to keep producing and tending to handmade garments at that rapid of a rate.

Now that Christina is at the point where she’s content with the foundations of her slow fashion wardrobe, she finds herself exploring ready-to-wear garments produced by companies and artisans that share her values. We live in a moment where many ready-to-wear garments are produced in the slow fashion spirit with varying degrees of success. These companies make rounding out a wardrobe that balances the handmade and the readymade possible, and something that Christina is happy and excited to be constantly working towards.

Christina in Joji Locatelli’s Manzanilla Pullover (Arbor in Dorado).

Cohesion

With the right ingredients, a capsule wardrobe hits all the right notes for Christina and invites a cohesion into her closet that would otherwise be wanting.

Instead of focusing on a seasonal capsule wardrobes, Christina incorporates a few different mini capsules into her rotation throughout the year. This approach to season-less capsules not only maintains Christina’s consistent aesthetic, but also increases the affordability of a slow fashion wardrobe. With fewer pieces of high quality that mix and match well, Christina can feel good about the slow fashion wardrobe that she is creating and nurturing. Before she begins a new project, she always asks herself how she can wear it with existing items in her wardrobe, and what color choices will allow her to wear the new-to-be item throughout the year.

“What I’m excited about most right now are designer specific capsules,” she says, as knitwear designers with strong points of view create garments that blend together harmoniously through the years. With a Jared Flood capsule wardrobe already in heavy rotation, Christina’s next focus is on Emily Greene‘s designs. In addition to her wardrobe picks below, she’s currently knitting the Kaare Cardigan in Quarry (Obsidian) and the Prism Hat in Shelter (Yellowstone)!

While many of us makers share common goals in regards to our making practices, Christina’s perspective welcomes us all to ponder more on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion as we curate our own slow fashion wardrobes. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on slow fashion throughout the month of October, and can’t wait to share more perspectives from the BT team with you.

Freja Cardigan in Quarry (Moonstone), Fretwork Cowl in Quarry (Alabaster; discontinued color, but Sandstone is a lovely substitute!), and Skiff Hat in Shelter (Soot)

Tensile Pullover in Loft (Artifact), Divide Pullover in Arbor (Fleet), and Hatch Hat in Arbor (Humpback)

Follow Christina’s making journey on Instagram and Ravelry!

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Last week, we delved into the story of one of the many remarkable teams who seamlessly came together to see to fruition the first iteration of our Ranch Project — Bare Ranch in Surprise Valley, California, whose devoted efforts at sustainably stewarding their land and animals resulted in the extraordinary Climate Beneficial American Rambouillet wool that we sourced and spun for Ranch 01. It was through our work with Bare Ranch that we connected with Fibershed and what would become another integral chapter in the Ranch 01 story, and hopefully in our collective fiber and making story as well.

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A fibershed is a concept referring to a strategic geography that defines a textile resource base, much like a watershed or a foodshed. In that sense, it means being connected to a place and a landscape, knowing what grows there, what options for production are possible there, and then supporting and relying on those resources to fulfill basic necessities such as water, food, shelter — and clothing. It is a step away from the human and environmental impacts of fast fashion and a return to tightly knit local communities founded on meaningful, necessity-based relationships. In many ways, it also points to a radical act of slowing down and of reinvesting attention and care into materials, whether inherited, made, or purchased.

As an organization, Fibershed is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by textile artist, author, and educator Rebecca Burgess. Their mission focuses on educating consumers and independent producers on strategic fiber systems and on connecting wearers to the soil in which their clothing was grown. Fibershed is also doing work in actualizing the concept of fibershed in regions such as Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, regenerating landscapes through carbon farm planning, rebuilding local manufacturing, and empowering regional communities. Fibershed envisions a soil-to-soil cycle of textile production, which decentralizes the conventional textile supply chain and ensures that textiles make their way back to the soil, ultimately for greater environmental, economic, and social benefit.

Climate Beneficial illustration by Fibershed

Fibershed is doing groundbreaking and awe-inspiring work in this regard through education efforts, research on fiber systems, and their Producer and Affiliate Programs. Their research on fiber systems is particularly fascinating in that they are aimed at bolstering fibersheds by developing land-based models and methods for reviving historically local fiber and dye plants and animals, and for creatively rethinking the ways in which local landscapes have been used in order to cultivate new textile resources (that might otherwise be imported). For example, through extensive research with Indiana University professor Rowland Ricketts (trained in indigo farming and dyeing in Japan), they were able to grow and process Japanese indigo in temperate northern California. Meanwhile, our very own Pacific Northwest Fibershed is working to revitalize the flax plant (which produces linen) in Oregon, which historically, up until the 1950s, supported the only flax industry in the United States.

Fibershed’s Producer and Affiliate Programs serve to inspire and continue these grassroots efforts at both developing and reviving regional fiber communities. The Producer Program (of which Bare Ranch is a member) connects farmers, ranchers, spinners, mill owners and textile artists working in northern and central California. The Affiliate Program is its global counterpart, which now has 35 national affiliates (or chapters) and 15 international affiliates. Those interested in participating in these affiliated fibersheds — whether they’re a producer, a scientist, a maker, or a consumer — can express and develop their skills while learning others in contribution to the “shed of their existence.”

Photo by Paige Green Photography

Re-imagining our involvement and investment in local communities is rooted in this: being connected to your materials and resources, knowing where they are from, keeping them in play for as long as possible, and then putting them to rest in the manner they are due. If it is say, a wool sweater, this can mean sourcing a yarn that was produced responsibly, taking the time to turn it into a garment, loving and wearing it to bits, and then composting it at the end of its life so it can regenerate the soil from which it came. In the words of Rebecca Burgess, “It’s healthy to find ourselves in a place where we feel like we need each other and the plants and animals, and to have respect for them. And it’s hard to have respect for things if you don’t know where they come from or if you don’t know who you owe your gratitude to.”

In that vein, next week we will visit the last chapter in our Ranch 01 story, Green Matters Natural Dye Company and the work they have done in imparting the earth’s colors to this beautiful Rambouillet wool.

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A great variety of knitting patterns are now more available and accessible than ever before, thanks in part to online pattern databases and publishing houses dedicated to knitting patterns — in Brooklyn Tweed’s library alone there are more than 500 patterns. With so many options to choose from, now is a great time to expand your current skill set and venture off into uncharted knitting territory! (Or shall we say, charted knitting territory?)

In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern, the sixth installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the information and resources that we provide in our patterns to ensure you have a well-informed and successful knitting experience, whatever the skill level the pattern may be.

Today we offer additional tips to help you build confidence with your craft — and boldly tackle that intricate lace, cabled, or brioche piece, or perhaps even your first seamed or colorwork garment.

(Patterns clockwise from top: Huck, To the Point, Hayward)

Remember that Skill Level ratings are not meant to be restrictive. A knitter who identifies as an advanced knitter may still be stumped by a pattern and one who identifies as a beginner may have few issues following the same pattern — so don’t feel intimidated by a higher skill rating!

In general, our Skill Level rating system is aimed toward giving you at-a-glance information on the types of techniques or construction methods that may be involved in the pattern, rather than being a hard and fast determiner of the types of patterns that you yourself can tackle. In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern we break down the criteria we follow when assigning Skill Levels to our patterns. We also provide information on the construction of the item and the techniques involved in the pattern (both required and optional), so you know what to expect and can assess how this information meets your skill set long before you cast on.

Gather your resources. The great thing about knowing before casting on what construction methods and techniques are involved in the pattern is that you can prepare yourself by gathering your resources — be they a guide to abbreviations for common knitting terms, instructional videos on how to perform a certain stitch or finishing technique, or notes other knitters have provided about their experience working with the pattern.

Having these resources in one easily accessible place (perhaps as a collection of printed-out material or as bookmarks on your web browser) can be extremely handy when you find yourself stuck on a certain section of the pattern. You can also consult these resources to practice before starting your project.

Feeling well-supported is critical to a successful knitting experience. As such, we always provide in our patterns written instructions for the special techniques involved (whether required or optional) along with a handy list of abbreviations for the knitting terms and stitches used. Our abbreviations “dictionary” also includes written instructions on how to perform the particular stitches they stand for. In this way, you can be sure that your pattern and pattern resources are already assembled in one package.

(Patterns from Left to Right: Grove Mittens, Agnes)

Trust the process (and the instructions). One of the many magical things about knitting is that you’re creating your fabric itself, while also manipulating it to look, fit, or behave a certain way. Inherent to this method of making is a little bit of mystery — even with a schematic, you may not actually see how a piece will be shaped until you’re in the moment of shaping it, or what it will look like in its entirety until you’ve finished it. (Sock knitters, remember what it was like when you first turned a heel.) So, try to place your trust in the process and the pattern instructions. You can rest easy knowing that our tech editors and proofers work tirelessly to make our patterns as clear, concise, and reliable as possible.

Know that it’s OK to substitute techniques. There may be a simpler way to accomplish a specific technique — and these are often provided in our patterns — so don’t be afraid to substitute them to fit your comfort level. Some examples are working a Long-Tail Cast On instead of a Tubular Cast On or binding off normally instead of working a Sloped Bind Off. Some techniques may also have multiple variations. For example, some knitters prefer to work wrapless Short Rows instead of the Wrap and Turn method, or work a Long-Tail Tubular Cast On instead of the standard Tubular Cast On involving waste yarn. Play around, experiment, and practice multiple variations on techniques to find the method that works best for your knitting style.

In a similar vein, you can draw upon techniques you’ve worked in previous projects to evaluate how you can utilize them in a seemingly different application. For example, if you’re a cuff-down sock knitter who often grafts toes with a Kitchener Stitch, you’re all set to work a Tubular Bind Off!

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Many of us may develop a perfectionist streak throughout our knitting careers. While quality and perfection are worthwhile goals to strive for, it is still helpful and kind to allow yourself the room to make — and learn from — mistakes. It’s also helpful to determine what kinds of mistakes you can live with and what you can’t, so you can more judiciously allocate your time and effort.

In the words of Lela Nargi, author of Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter’s Life, “There are no mistakes, only design opportunities.”

(Patterns from Left to Right: Yishu, Freja (To be released with Winter 18)

Practice new techniques on a smaller project. Try starting with something small, like a hat or a cowl. This way, you can practice and experiment in a more manageable way, and without the pressure of more yardage or fit considerations. The bonus is that accessories can be quite versatile and practical additions to your wardrobe rotation.

Ask for help. Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Your fellow knitters at your local yarn store, in your knitting group, or on Ravelry will be happy to help you if you get stuck. We also offer online pattern support for all Brooklyn Tweed patterns so always feel free to drop us a note at support@brooklyntweed.com.

Take notes. When trying something new, it’s always helpful to document your process, the issues you encountered, and how you solved them, either in a separate notebook or on the pattern itself (whether on paper or the PDF copy) — we leave plenty of negative space in our patterns for this reason! In this way, you can become a resource for yourself when you take on future projects.

Take a break. If you feel like you’ve been stuck at a certain point in a pattern too long for your liking, feel free to set your project aside for a moment. While we all want to be able to tackle a challenge immediately, it’s important not to overstretch our limits. As such, rest your mind (and hands) every now and again so you’ll have renewed energy and a fresher perspective when you return to your project.

Most importantly, have fun and keep at it. We all start somewhere — and knitting is a life-long learning experience!

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Slow fashion encourages the careful consideration of what we bring into our closets, the deep satisfaction of making or owning garments of quality, and extending the life of what we have already loved to pieces. It offers the opportunity to creatively express yourself which is at the heart of making itself.

In Part I of this series, you heard members of the Brooklyn Tweed team talk about their personal thoughts on the subject. Expanding upon those ideas, we compiled the following practical tips for anyone who is interested in slow fashion and is curious about how or where to begin.

Identify your personal style: Having a clear idea of what types of clothing you want to wear, including its fiber content and color palette, will help you identify your personal style and inform your choices on what to knit and how to assemble your wardrobe. Taking time to identify your personal style will make it easier to build a long-lasting wardrobe and avoid impulse purchases that won’t get much wear.

Create a vision for your wardrobe as a whole: Perhaps the most powerful way to take control of your wardrobe is to think of it holistically. When you plan your wardrobe as a whole, you can intentionally decide what your next project will be based on what type of garment will complement your existing, or ideal, wardrobe. Building a wardrobe with your personal style in mind will also help ensure you’re making garments that will flatter your body and inspire you to wear them with confidence.

To help plan your wardrobe, take the gauge swatches from sweaters and accessories you’ve made with you while shopping to help select yarn or fabrics in colors or prints that will coordinate across those knit garments. (If you’re new to swatching, read our Swatching 101 post here.) If you are shopping for ready-to-wear, look for pieces you can expect to wear a minimum of 30, 40, or even 50 times. (Raise your hand if you’ve joined the KonMari bandwagon!) By being intentional about what we bring into our homes, whether ready-made clothing or what’s being cast onto our needles, we can simultaneously eliminate waste and ensure we will find both joy and usefulness in what we create and wear.

Make “capsule” items you’ll wear for years to come: When pondering what to knit next, consider functional, classic garments that never go out of style. Think Aran cabling, Gansey pullovers, shawl-collar cardigans, and accessories such as watchcaps and go-with-anything cowls and scarves. When knitting or sewing wardrobe staples, make the most of your time and resources by creating items of clothing that you know will see years of use.

Consider the source of your materials: Take time to know the origins of your fiber. By working with sustainable materials, you can ensure you are supporting the environment as well as the people who work to bring the fiber to your hands. Wool sorted by breed — aka breed-specific wool — provides farmers with a higher wage than fibers that are sold to be jumbled together across breeds, and preserves the breeding stock of sheep that will continue to provide fiber for years to come.

Reclaim yarn from sweaters you already have: Your next project need not require the purchase of new yarn. Sweaters that you either already have in your closet or find secondhand offer the opportunity to give fibers another life. Perhaps you have wool languishing away in a UFO at the bottom of your knitting basket that you can unravel, wash, and recast as another garment that will give you greater joy while knitting and wearing. If you have a handknit sweater that doesn’t fit quite right or that no longer suits your style, but you can’t bear to part with it, reclaim the yarn for a new project.  

Start Small: Slow fashion, and the idea of making your own clothing, may seem overwhelming at first but it need not feel insurmountable. By following some or all of the steps above, we can each engage with the movement in ways that work for us as individuals, all the while adding enjoyment to our lives. There’s no need to knit or sew your entire wardrobe or go to great expense in order to participate in slow fashion. Start small by wearing one thing you have made every day. Accessories can be key here — a good, classic hat or scarf can carry you through the seasons. If you enjoy the process of making, you can slowly add to your handknit wardrobe one piece at a time and simultaneously express your creativity each and every day.

Join a community of crafters to learn and share knowledge about hand making clothing. Share your knowledge with one another through knitting groups or meet-ups designed to encourage learning more about your craft and making clothing. Local yarn stores, fabric stores, and crafting guilds are great sources for such gatherings. There are also robust communities online where you can connect with people with similar interests, such as Ravelry for knitters.

In closing, always keep in mind that the slow fashion movement comes from the desire to take control over how we clothe our bodies and is a non-judgmental process that originates with the individual, not from external forces. Just as the slow food movement taught us to take time to savor both the process and the product, slow fashion offers us makers the opportunity to thoughtfully consider how we wish to express ourselves through our creations. By being mindful about the materials we work with as well as the products we create, we can have a literal hand in how we both move through and impact our world day by day.

Thank you for joining us this month in our series focused on slow fashion. From hearing thoughts about slow fashion from members of the BT team to reading about how we incorporate slow fashion principles into our business to learning some tips about how to bring slow fashion aspects into your own daily practice, we hope you have found some nuggets of inspiration in these recent posts focused on the process and product of making.

We invite you to share with us below your own thoughts and comments about the slow fashion movement. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

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Since clothing is an essential human necessity, an initial awareness of fast fashion’s pitfalls can be disheartening. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of the scope of fast fashion and its range of issues, though, we choose to focus on things we can change by thoughtfully considering how our role as a business in the textile industry can support the burgeoning slow fashion movement.

In its present form, slow fashion has been steadily gaining a foothold in the crafting and making communities over the last decade. We find this movement and the conversations it inspires deeply significant, being firm believers in making intentional choices about the products we manufacture and design. By choosing to focus on quality over quantity, and striving to produce yarns and patterns that embody timeless style and lasting beauty, we can help to ensure our business practices are in line with the slow fashion principles.

As it is with slow fashion, traceability is also important to our work. By being able to identify the origins of a product and its production path at every step, we are able to ensure that our production processes are sound and our impact on the environment is as minimal as possible. Our breed-specific wool yarns are sourced from and support ranchers who are taking the time to care for their flocks of sheep (and their wooly coats). A breed-specific wool yarn preserves the natural character of each singular source of fiber, which in turn gives your finished garments unique personality.

Our domestic manufacturing efforts aim to bolster local communities and contribute a revenue source for domestic production facilities that are preserving textile traditions or changing the landscape of the textile industry in the United States. Working with mills and dye houses such as Harrisville Designs, Jagger Brothers, G.J. Littlewood and Sons, and Saco River Dyehouse gives us the opportunity to support companies that face the challenge of preserving and passing down their knowledge to the next generation.

In our knitwear design house, we strive to create patterns that are as thoroughly and thoughtfully considered as our breed-specific yarns. Patterns are developed over the course of a year and are designed to be wardrobe staples that will be of value for years, if not generations, to come. Each pattern undergoes a vigorous technical editing process before making its way to our talented sample knitters who knit each piece by hand. We aim to provide well-written and supported patterns that allow knitters to enjoy the process of creating garments by hand while simultaneously taking control of their wardrobe options.

Next week we’ll be continuing this discussion by providing some practical steps you can take with your own wardrobe in order to participate in slow fashion.

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Every October we pause and ponder on slow fashion: what it is and what it means to us as a company and as individuals. Though you may be hard-pressed to find a concrete definition of what this movement is all about as it moves in and out of our collective consciousness, Karen Templer of the Fringe Association blog writes that the intention behind starting the slow fashion conversation in our modern maker community was to celebrate “the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.”

Our vocation to continue supporting domestic textile production and empowering knitters with patterns that can become staples in their wardrobes feeds directly into the goals and outcomes of the slow fashion movement. Needless to say, all of us here at Brooklyn Tweed have a deep investment in slow fashion and thought we’d first share some thoughts on the subject from our staff and then invite you to join the conversation by commenting below.

Making one’s own clothing meant garments with higher quality fabric and craftsmanship, while exercising creativity and individuality. I continued to sew through high school and college and beyond. When my children were young, I made clothes, toys, and costumes.  The family was given matching pajama bottoms every year for Christmas. Eventually, I had less time due to family life, and then full-time work, to pursue sewing with the same passion and commitment. Quilting replaced sewing, then knitting replaced quilting. I still consider myself a sewer and a quilter but those activities require equipment and knitting is so very portable.

I feel that the pendulum is swinging and I’m interested in garment sewing again. It is like many activities in life — the more you do, the better you get, with the converse being true as well. Time away from the sewing machine has meant reacquainting myself with techniques and construction methods — not a bad way to spend one’s time.

The current Slow Fashion October trend doesn’t really speak to me because I was participating in slow fashion long before it was a thing. I wore hand-me-downs, bought used clothing, and made my own clothes as a way of life. While it’s interesting to see what people are doing for Slow Fashion October, I’m more inclined to keep doing my own thing which isn’t limited to a certain time period or social movement.

– Stephanie Engle, Production Coordinator

 

Slow fashion to me means being mindful of what I am choosing to wear, from considering who is making my clothes to the source of the materials to the working conditions of the maker. If I’m the maker, it also means taking time to pay attention to the design and being proud of creating something by my own hands that will be enjoyed by either myself or my loved ones.

– Jen Hurley, Office Manager

 

Fashion isn’t everything. But we all have to clothe ourselves, and I think how you choose to do that says a huge amount about your character. Many people don’t know the stories behind the clothes I wear: the hours it took to knit a sweater or charity shop in which I found my favorite woolly cardigan. And they don’t have to — but I do. 

– Anna Moore, Art Production Coordinator

 

To be honest, I’m still working on wrapping my head around the “slow” of slow fashion, specifically in the context of my making. I deeply respect its ethos, and after impulsively — and soullessly — dancing with fast fashion in my high school and early college years, I’ve learned the hard way exactly how crucial it is to tangibly exercise consciousness in the seemingly superficial act of clothing oneself. Thankfully, asking myself such questions as, “What is this? Where did this come from? How was this made? Will I wear it? Will I love it?” is every day becoming more and more an instinct. At some point in this learning process it just suddenly made a lot of sense to invest more in making my own garments, too.

And here lies the challenge for me. I do love knitting as a process, but I may actually be a 100% product knitter. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about how a project will fit in my rotation, as a matter of principle, the vision of the finished piece becomes the sole focus of my making, which quickly — defiantly — turns impatient. In other words, I value the slow of handmade, but still expect myself to work like a machine, to churn out pieces like a factory — hence the debilitating guilt when projects languish and incapacitating fear of failure or “wasted” time when planning a custom piece.

I don’t believe we should take garments at face value. Rather, I believe we should be constantly working to uncover the stories they tell about how they came to be and what those, in turn, say about their makers and their wearers. Yet for some reason I find it difficult to do this uncovering when it comes to my making. I find it difficult to accept my own processes as useful and illuminative in their own right.

Thankfully, I’ve recently found myself surrounded by amazing people who are actively pushing me to realize the value of the process in all of its unhurried, yet frighteningly spontaneous (to me), yet infinitely creative glory. So my work this month is to meet them halfway in this quest to understand “slow” by being kinder to myself, allowing mistakes, allowing room for “distractions” (sometimes a movie just begs to be watched without the stress to multitask!), accepting my limitations, and really, not worrying about failing too much.

– Korina Yoo, Creative Coordinator

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” –  Mahatma Gandhi

There are so many elements of the fashion industry that are broken and harmful nowadays and I have always loved this quote for really stating this feeling so simply and strikingly. For me slow fashion means making my own clothes through sewing or knitting, buying from ethical producers, extending the life of a garment through mending, and resurrecting treasures from charity and thrift shops. It is not a frivolous privilege but a necessity.

– Lis Smith, Wholesale Specialist

 

Growing up in a family of crafters, sewing, thrifting, and embellishing clothes were just part of daily life. With three kids at home, figuring out how things were made and then making them ourselves was a necessity as well as useful entertainment. That early interest in craft led me to a degree in theatre with a focus in costume design and historical fashion — really digging into the process of how and why textiles and garments were created in the past and using that knowledge to create something new. I discovered the community aspect of crafting later, after ending up working in IT (like a lot of art majors). Finding a group of people to learn from, create with, and pass on skills to was hugely beneficial — and eventually allowed me to make a career jump to the knitting industry. So my introduction to slow fashion began in a communal, creative, knowledge-sharing environment.

From there, it was a natural progression from simply making things to learning about the real-world impact of the materials I was making things out of. How was this fabric or yarn made? Who is making it? Where is the fiber sourced from? Are the land and animals being managed ethically? Are workers receiving fair wages and working in safe conditions? What is the environmental consequence of commercial production? What materials can I use that support sustainability and ecologically sound practices? And realistically, how can I implement these considerations into daily life as a consumer and crafter, as well as encourage and enable others to do so?

The last, in particular, is a balancing act. Of course I want to make every new pattern I see, and to buy all the beautiful yarn and fabric I can get my hands on, but then I’m just back to fast fashioning my slow fashion — and how many of those projects will I actually finish? My goals for Slow Fashion October this year are to look before I leap (and purchase), to complete and use the things I make, and, I think most importantly, to explore how I can better share slow fashion with others who may not enjoy the same access to knowledge, materials, or simply time to craft that I am privileged to have.

– Kel Moore, Wholesale Specialist

 

I grew up wearing a uniform to school every day, so when it came time to dress myself in high school, and more importantly as an adult, I was at a bit of a loss. It’s taken me many, many years to realize that in making my own clothing, I’m able to identify how I want to dress and present myself to the world in a way that simply can’t be done with ready to wear clothing. Initially, I liked the challenge of making my own clothing, but what has become more meaningful to me is to be able to find my personal style through my creativity and handwork. 

— Christina Rondepierre, Marketing Coordinator

 

I have a lot of fraught feelings about Slow Fashion, mostly to do with how accessible it is. So often the rhetoric is about the individual: “This is what I am doing…” “My intentions are…” “These things matter to me…” While focusing on our individual actions is one step in the process of effecting change, it’s absolutely necessary to move beyond that at some point to consider “we,” “us,” and “our.”

More than anything else, Slow Fashion is about creating community and sharing knowledge. As makers, what are we doing to empower other makers and non-makers in our communities? When will we start hosting workshops on making, thrifting, and mending? When will we begin sharing our stashes and knowledge with those who don’t have the privilege to shop small or learn on their own?

It’s not enough to tell folks to not judge themselves if they are unable to legitimate their standing in this moment through the purchasing of known materials or garments, nor is it enough to linger on the sidelines cheering folks on. Let’s take to the streets arm in arm and work to inspire and share our knowledge with makers and non-makers alike. When we work together, we can make an impact on more closets than just our own.

– Jamie Maccarthy, Customer Service

Join us next week for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll share more about how Brooklyn Tweed’s story and business model reflects similar values as the slow fashion principles. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your own thoughts and responses to the above ideas and considerations.

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