Slow fashion story

Spud and Chloe Outer Rhino yarnI can be a terribly impatient crafter. For all my love of the garment-creation process, the magic of taking a design from my head and giving it shape in cloth or yarn, I also love playing dress-up. Sometimes a small part of me just wants to have new clothes to play with, and that little voice gets louder and grumpier the longer a project stays incomplete. If I’m not careful that little voice can hijack the process and cause catastrophic crafting failure in the final stages.

Before I really began to invest time and effort in my handmade wardrobe, I was a serious clothes hound. Primark was just taking off when I was a student, and we embraced fast fashion wholly and completely, with a lot of encouragement from those Gok Wan programmes on Channel 4. I loved clothes, I loved getting dressed in the morning, I loved the play and the theatre and the art of fashion, and I absolutely loved having a full closet. Moving to London and getting involved with fashion blogging introduced me to the joy of clothes from charity shops and vintage stores, but even though I bought less fast fashion and more second hand, the consumption was still pretty rampant. I never spent more money than I had (and to this day I am still deeply suspicious of credit cards), but more or less what I had went straight into my wardrobe.

In 2013 when Chris and I got engaged. We didn’t have extravagant wedding plans, in fact we attempted to make as much of our wedding for ourselves as we could. (To this day neither of us can use a paper guillotine without terrifying flashbacks). But we did have very ambitious, escape-and-see-the-world type honeymoon plans, and from the beginning I knew I wanted to save as much money as I possibly could. And the first expense to go was my clothes. I slammed on the spending brakes so hard I’m surprised I didn’t get (very stylish) whiplash.John Arbon Textiles alpacaAround that time I was starting to really explore the concept of a handmade wardrobe. I’d been making and customising clothes in a haphazard way for many years, but in 2013 I started to explore the online sewing community, I discovered a succession of inspiring independent pattern designers, and found an incredible new energy in the idea of combining my passion for clothes with my passion for process. Within the space of a month I transformed from high-street-or-die fashion blogger to creative whirlwind. I took my poor fashion blog through a complete personality shake-up before finally admitting defeat, shutting up shop and channelling my new-found energy into Song of the Stitch.

Those early days were, ironically, like the beginning of a new love affair. The obsession, the passion, the excitement. I made a lot of clothes in 2014. A very lot. Essentially I replaced my previous shopping habit with a sewing habit. Nothing was more beautiful or exhilarating than the potential of a new piece of fabric or skein of yarn.

In 2015, Chris and I realised our dream to travel the world. For three blissful months we were completely free to wonder across continents at will. I shopped for fabric on three of them. I also became an honorary auntie. And Chris and I took the plunge to uproot our city life and relocate to semi-rural Surrey. Oh, and I changed jobs. Making a garment became a painfully slow process, a few snatched moments here and there to put in a sleeve or turn up a hem. Sewing wasn’t a route to instant fashion gratification any more, and I was left feeling grumpy and resentful of my time-consuming pastime.Knitting sweater circular needlesLife is starting to settle down now, the upheaval of the past few months slowly dissipating to be replaced by sparkly optimism about the future. I blame the new house. This place will be a labour of so much love, and so much time. Creating our dream home here will take years, hard work, and a lot of creativity. I think of it like an archaeological dig; every weekend we chip away a little more earth to reveal our true home underneath. And through it I have fallen back in love with the basic process of creativity. I don’t know what our home will look like when it’s ‘finished’, but every brush stroke feels like a triumph. Somewhere amidst painting rooms and putting up shelves I started to feel that little creative fizzle again, that little nagging pull to sit down and make a garment and revel in the process of creation.

My first garment of 2016 is almost complete. Without revealing too many spoilers (I’m taking photographs for a blog post today), there was a lot of process involved in this project, and it’s still not quite complete. For the first time I have really revelled in each simple step, from drafting the pattern to making a toile (say what, I never do that!) to making the first stitch.

For all this zen chat about process, I’m still an impatient crafter. I probably always will be. My love of clothing drives my passion for sewing, and so I will always have a little part of my brain that is so done with all this sewing crap and just wants to play dressing up. But maybe, just maybe, I can encourage that little voice to calm down, be a little more mindful, and a bit more engaged in the process. I think 2016 will be the year of slow fashion on Song of the Stitch, the year of considered decisions about my making, and the building of a beautiful, staple wardrobe that is as much joy to wear as it was to create.Undone Sweater Jen Geigley WeekendAs part of that I will be taking part in The Makers Year, a challenge from Kate over at A Playful Day, to reflect daily on what keeps me creative. Whether it be writing a long post for this blog, firing up the sewing machine, or just sitting in front of the telly with a sketchpad and some sharpies. You can keep up with my progress on instagram (where I am @songofthestitch), and browse through a lot of inspiring thoughts and images using the hashtag #themakersyear on both instagram and twitter.

Kicking off in grand style, I’ve just written my first 1000-word blog post! If you’re still here, you’re a super gem and get all the cookies. Have you set yourself any creative challenges for this year?

What do you think?