My Slotober project for 2016

My Slotober project for 2016

I’m sure there are a lot of you dying to point out to me that I have yet to sew anything out of the fabric that Allison custom-wove for me last year. Trust me: I KNOW! (By the way, have you seen what Allison is up to these days?) I’m secretly hoping to do something about that this month, but it’s not my official plan and I’m trying to be realistic. My official plan is to focus on making things wearable again. Part of why I keep urging everyone to read NO ONE WANTS YOUR OLD CLOTHES is that I’m increasingly troubled by every post and plan on the interwebs about how to streamline your wardrobe — be it in the context of a capsule wardrobe or a slow-fashion wardrobe (which are not the same thing) — starting with, “first, clean out your closet.” I’m guilty of promoting this — and a major closet clean-out in 2014 happens to have played into my enlightenment about what I really wanted in my closet — but as that article so adeptly covers in one single read, it’s not good.

Trash is one of my lifelong fascinations — I read about and think about waste management more than the average human — but for a long time I was among those who believed that giving clothes to Goodwill, etc., meant it would find a new home, not a spot in the dump or on a cargo ship or any number of other troublesome fates. I’ve come to the realization that a truly conscientious wardrobe starts with owning what you own — taking responsibility for it. So I’m upping my commitment on that front.

There are ways to re-home or repurpose things, and we’ll talk more about this during Long-Worn week next week, but for my Slotober project this year, my goal is to get four unworn garments back to wearability:

1) Bob’s rollneck. Bob loves this sweater and would love to wear it, but the neck is just too big, and the stockinette roll might not have been the best approach with this particular yarn. So my first job will be to pull out the neck and redo it, picking up fewer stitches this time to cinch up the hole a bit, and either try again with the stockinette but less of it, or go straight to replacing it with a regular ribbed foldover crewneck. I’ll leave that up to Bob.

2) Linen chambray top. I bought this popover at Madewell about three years ago and loved the fabric and the fit except, as usual, it was too small for me in the shoulders. So I cut off the sleeves and wore it — a ton — under things. The linen got paper-thin pretty quickly, and there are significant holes at the corners of the pockets. I was planning to harvest the buttons and put it in Bob’s rag bin, but I put it on the other day and I still really love and could use it! So I’m mending those holes and keeping it alive as long as it’s willing. I only wish I still had the sleeves to take fabric from.

3) Amanda. I know, I’m as pained to see this here as you are, but I’ve confessed before that I’ve always been unhappy about how large I left the neck, and I just don’t wear it. If there’s anything I learned from you all during the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 (and last year’s SFO, and everyone’s general willingness to rip and fix), it’s that it really is pointless to have a sweater in your closet you don’t wear, so it’s time for me to do something about this. I may have to face the fact that I chose the wrong yarn and this will never hang on me the way I want it to, even with a modified neck. But I’m not conceding without first attempting to fix the neck. Like Bob’s, my first try will be simply to pull it out, pick up fewer stitches and see what effect that has. Then I’ll made any further decisions based on those results — possibly major neck surgery or major ripping. <hiding eyes emoji>

4) My favorite jeans. These are another regrettable fast-fashion purchase I’m trying to do right by. They are, in fact, my favorite jeans to wear — the most easygoing — and I only own three pair of blue jeans to begin with. There’s these, my other already holey/mended jeans (much older than these and still in better shape) and a newer pair of J.Crew jeans from their Made in L.A. line, Point Sur, which are my dress-up jeans, since the other two both have holes now. (Plus my new natural-denim I+W’s.) These are only a few years old but have gotten so threadbare all over that they shred somewhere every time I move — they tear like a Kleenex — so they’re not currently being worn at all. Because I love the fit and don’t want to buy more jeans — and because I love the idea of it — I’m thinking of doing an allover saskiko treatment, so they’ll practically be hand-quilted. It’s a longer-term project, if it even works, but I’m going to get it started and see!

I’d like to say I’ll tackle one of these per week, but this is a nutty month for me, so I’ll tackle them as I’m able!

If you have set out a Slotober project for yourself, I’d love to hear about it! And I hope you’ve read the comments on the master plan and the kickoff post, as well as on the #slowfashionoctober — such good stuff already. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to respond to every comment, but I am reading them all, appreciate them so much, and am also attempting to read every post to the hashtag! You guys are endlessly amazing.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October 2016: Week 1, Introductions

61 thoughts on “My Slotober project for 2016

  1. I have a friend who is the highest order of human and she is always working to help people who have gotten a raw deal in life. Sam is posting on her Instagram @culvs88 for Slow Fashion October. I know she makes conscious choices in her own wardrobe and has for a long time, but she also is someone who can make sure second hand clothes go somewhere they’re worn and appreciated. She is currently doing a fellowship for global health in NJ and working to help homeless youth. Anyone can DM her on Instagram if they have men’s or women’s clothes or shoes that need a new home. She is also an incredible resource for social justice knowledge and someone who truly walks the walk. Go find her on Instagram if you want to help out or donate!

    • Yes, there are many places that want and need clothes and shoes. Contact your local soup kitchen, religious organizations, and schools for lists of places your extra clothes can be taken and are really needed.

    • If it hasn’t already been said-local Women’s shelters are usually happy to have clothes. I take my husband’s and mine to Homeless/womens shelters and ask they not be re-sold ( as in Goodwill). I want someone to be able to just take it especially if they need it.

        • Having worked on the charity shop side of this equation, I have seen that it is simply not reasonable or realistic to expect charities to never dispose of our donations – their mission is related to service provision, not textile recycling, and our donations serve as a source of revenue or utility. Not everything that gets donated will get sold or used (for any number of legitimate reasons) and it is a huge burden to deal with heaps of unwanted clothing. They take up valuable real estate in small charity shops, slow down turnover and reduce revenue, etc. It’s in the interest of non-profits to use as much as they can and then get rid of the clothes. There are very few options for getting rid of the clothes and the choice is usually between paying to throw them out, or selling them to a textile recycler/vendor. It doesn’t feel great to know that’s where your clothes may end up, it doesn’t feel great to dispose of them that way on the non-profit side either. The bottom line is that there just isn’t a way to feel good about consuming more than we need.

  2. These all sound like great projects. I’m very curious to hear more about why you think Balance was the wrong choice for your Amanda sweater. I’m planning to knit Brooklyn Tweed’s Bronwyn for myself this fall, and I have been seriously considering Balance as an option. I also live in the south and worry that a heavily cabled sweater in 100% wool will go unworn, but since the pattern is similar to Amanda I’m curious about why the yarn is not working for you in that sweater. Thank you and thanks for providing such a wonderful, welcoming community for makers!

    • I think it could be great for Bronwyn. It cables beautifully, obviously, and I chose it for those same reasons. I think it’s just some awkward combination of the fit and the density of the fabric here — it just doesn’t hang right on me and I’m constantly pulling at it. I’ve thought about removing the bands and finding some clever way to join it into a pullover, but I still just think the scale of it is wrong as compared to the fabric. Not sure how to explain it!

      • Just to put in a suggestion for adding a woven ribbon facing inside the neckline to stabilize it. With a soft silk ribbon (lots of lovely hand-dyed options out there), it adds next to no bulk and can bolster the neck and shoulder lines of knitwear beautifully.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response. I recently knit a baby blanket in a very similar wool/cotton blend and your comments made me realize that I don’t think I’d be crazy about a similar fabric in a sweater for me. I look forward to seeing how you tackle your Amanda this month. Thanks again.

        • Oh, don’t get me wrong — I LOVE this yarn for sweaters. Both of the sweaters pictured are in Balance, and as I was ripping out the neck on Bob’s I was soooo happy just having it on my lap. I wear my Bellows nearly every day, same yarn held double, as it’s perfect for my cold studio. There’s just something about this particular densely cabled, raglan, not quite the right size combo that might not have been best.

  3. How big are the necklines of those sweaters? I have that problem a lot, and many times I had to rip back more than just the neckband, and add another set or two of decreases before the bind off. More work, but I ended up with a wearable sweater every time.

    • The green one will be fine, but that’s what I was saying about the cardigan — it might actually have to go back on the needles and knitted further to a smaller neck.

  4. I had to laugh about you not doing any thing with your custom fabric because I do the same thing. I let it sit around as if it’s to perfect in that form to be screwed up by me making something useful out of it. Yarn is the same way I love it so much it just stays yarn. Read No One Wants Your Old Clothes, very informative about our gluttony.

  5. Textile trash has been on my mind a lot too. There is absolutely a point where we can end up with too much, where it is difficult to navigate an overflowing closet. Yet the undercurrent of those “clean out your closet” tutorials seems to encourage people to throw away everything and go shopping for more clothes. Since most of us can’t afford to buy a whole wardrobe of ethical, sustainable clothes all at once, this creates a cycle of buying more fast fashion that will ultimately become waste again. And then there’s the waste that comes from our own crafting – leftover scraps of fabric, yarn that’s been frogged too many times, and the almighty stash – all things I’m guilty of wasting. All interesting topics that I can’t wait to hear more about.

  6. I have seen people on Instagram buy clothing at thrift shops not in their size just for the fabric. Many XL men’s tees are used for muslins. We need to use our imaginations on how to repurpose the unwanted clothing.

  7. Karen with your amazing ability to draft patterns could you first make patterns from your chambray shirt and your favorite jeans ( since they fit well ) and then make these items? Just a thought.

    • I have only the most rudimentary drafting skills — don’t even have the sewing skills to make either of these items, much less draft them. And I’m not sure either would hold up to be taken apart for tracing, but it might come to that.

      • Karen, you don’t take them apart but kind of roll them over pattern paper and mark it where the seams lie.

        • Yes, don’t take them apart (it’s actually easier to see the grain and shape of the fabric without distortion when the pieces are still together). There are a few books out there that cover the basics, plus some articles in Threads magazine, Kenneth King has a class about copying your clothes on Craftsy I think … or have a sewing friend help you! I’ve gotten most of my very favorite sewing patterns by copying thrifted clothes that happened to fit me really well.

      • Cal patch has a good book that has a chapter on copying your clothes. She also has a Creative Bug companion class.

  8. Consider that an all over sashiko treatment will change the drape of your jeans plus add visual girth.

    • I’m not exaggerating when I say they are tissue thin — they’re gossamer — but yes, the “quilted” fabric will wear differently. I’ll be using a thin underlayer of whatever sort.

      • Cut up jeans make great fabric for quilting and weaving projects. They make truly pretty rag rugs and Pinterest is full of ideas for sewing with them. I was cutting them up for rag rugs (purchased at the end of a rummage sale) and was throwing out the pockets until I found a cute idea for sewing old jeans pockets onto a denim backing for a wall hanging to hold stuff. I had a friend who had rag rugs made from them on her kitchen floor. The latter is my ambition for another slow October.

  9. I thought that it would be a good idea to purchase men’s cotton dress shirts from the thrift store and make them into something. The problem is that they were selling for $6 to $8 and there was not that much fabric in them and that I could just purchase shirting cotton for less money. I do look for sweaters to frog for yarn and now have quite a few that have piled up. The yarn from these is quite fine and needs to be plied on a spinning wheel before it is usable. It takes time but is interesting to do in front of TV, or something like that. There are a couple of Ravelry groups that do this.
    Our volunteer library just had another of there very large yard sales and it felt good to see a mother, or grandmother, leading 3 children out with piles of used clothing in their arms. This was recycling at its best, I think.

  10. Maybe for the items we really can’t see wearing even if refashioned or mended we could think about doing clothing swaps – posting our articles of clothing and/or accessories to trade.

  11. I think you are right about the problem of throwing clothes away while building a capsule wardrobe, but for me the idea of a capsule wardrobe has made me think more about what I buy and how I treat my clothes. It kind of has put my thought process going: what do i actually need, what is my style, what i feel good in, can it be fixed if broken and what happens to it when I don’t need it anymore etc.. All in all I buy less and most importantly less things that don’t really suit me so less gets thrown away. For example I don’t go to fast fashion shops like h&m as much anymore. So if a capsule wardrobe makes me more conscious consumer it is a step forward. I am definitely still learning and trying to educate myself more. I am very into the idea of handmade wardrobe and I think that the concept of capsule wardrobe can help planning that too.

  12. I have a purchased roll-neck sweater. Each section of the neck is knit up from the body of the sweater separately and then seamed( so there are 4 seams along the same line as the raglan seam lines). The back section is slightly longer than the rest. Also a couple rows of the rolled part are tacked down just at the seams. I love the way this works and think it would probably work in a hand knit. I hope you can follow my description . Have fun making you clothes wearable again.

  13. I’m looking at the same thing as Elina – creating a capsule wardrobe means I must get rid of the excess, but how do I do that thoughtfully? We have a local charity organization that I know wants the clothing and will use/sell/recycle it all in as best a manner as possible. Nothing will go immediately to a landfill and will all be reused or worn again by someone else before hitting a landfill. Am I sad that my only black cardigan is one that I bought 12 years ago just because I needed something to wear to a wedding while I was visiting my mother? Oh and it’s 100% polyester. Yeah, I am. I always hated it (and have since sworn off polyester even before I had an environmental reason to do so), but it was before I knew how to knit or that I could develop talents as a Maker. I’m new to the Slow Fashion aspect of this whole thing but it motivates me to do better. And I’ve got to have a starting point for Doing Better – part of that is to purge the excess, see what needs to be replaced (because I have long been known for mending to extend where and some items really just are beyond anymore repair), and then find ways to replace those items in a better, more ethical manner.

  14. i have set myself only one major goal for this month (because i know life gets in the way and my wishlist is too huge): i will hand stitch at least one garment a la alabama chanin style. I really want a new jersey dress from old tees i’ve had laying around for a while. so fingers crossed i can at least accomplish that.
    but i do have mending and restitching that needs done as well …

  15. I am in the process of losing weight. A massive undertaking and it has meant cleaning out the closet. I am not talking 5-10 pounds. Think 120 pounds. How does this relate to cleaning the closet and $5 shirts. Here is how that works. I work in a casual environment. I can wear jeans, long sleeve t-shirts, and I wear lots of puffy vests as I am under the ac which seems to run year round and I am that cold office worker. With more weight to lose, I can not afford to buy clothes off the rack right now. Co-workers who have lost weight are generous to donate their jeans and tops to me. I used a great many of them. At a size 18, 20, 22 I could easily offer my clothing to others who are either entering the job market, need jeans, or just need the basics. There are MANY institutions that welcome your suits, jeans, you have to look for them. I am not super rich so Target gets my money. When I am done wearing my tops I have sisters to give them to, or office workers to donate to.

    That food desert that so many write about also has another component. In a city that can not support a grocery store, where do you buy simple things like underwear? Bras? what do you do when there is no Walmart?

    • This is a great point about the scarcity of places for some people (especially poorer people) to buy decent affordable clothing. The comparison to the “food desert” concept is very enlightening, and I have noticed this phenomenon where I live (Oakland).

  16. When I was in high school, I used to patch my jeans underneath the rips (instead of over), sometimes with denim from cutoffs, sometimes with contrasting fabric. For years afterwards I thought that was too dorky to be borne … which might have something to do with how I generally saw my high school years 😳 … but now I’m thinking it just might have been very cool.

  17. Slotober will be an issue of price when it comes to yarn choices for me. I would love to buy better quality yarn but if I spent $100 for sweater yarn that I knit and am unhappy with, I feel I am out $100 and have less $ in my budget for other projects. I look at your lovely Amanda knowing it was hours of work and it saddens me it does not fit how you’d like. It really is hard to know exactly how the end result will come out. My inner voice shouts ” you spent hours making it, wear it anyway! :)

    • The beauty of yarn is it’s still yarn! I can unravel and knit it into something else if it comes to that. And it’s yarn I love, and I had an amazing experience knitting the sweater, so whatever happens, it’s all good.

      • I’ve just started sewing and I’m having a hard time with it being more of a one way street than knitting is!

  18. Fabric yarn and Slotober inspiration. So here’s what I’m thinking about for using (some of the) clothes that no longer fit my life…fabric yarn! I have (sorry to admit) many clothing items left over from my corporate career. There are several DIY guides on the internet for making yarn from jeans and sheets that could be adapted to making fabric yarn from any type of clothing. Many of the available knitting patterns for fabric yarn seem to be for home dec items (e.g., rugs) but taking in to account that fabric yarn won’t stretch, I think a lot of patterns could be adapted. For example, patterns designed for recycled sari silk seem to have a lot of potential. Repurposing clothing and knitting…what could make a better Slotober? (That said, my life is kinda complicated right now so I don’t expect to actually make such a garment this month…but expect to continue to let this idea simmer throughout Slotober.)

  19. I love the idea behind Slotober and I plan on participating in my own small way by finishing up two sweaters for my husband and I, knitting a few garments/accessories for my daughter rather than buy them, and searching the thrift shops for the few things that I do need instead of buy them from a fast-fashion shop. But I have to say, I agree with dddress above – and I hate to say it – but it’s an issue of price for me. I would love to buy better quality yarn and make most of my clothing, but when I consider how much it would cost, I just can’t get past thinking how this one sweater actually costs me $100+ and a ton of time (I’m a slow knitter). And I may not even like it, which has happened to me before. And to multiply that times a few pieces for me, my husband, and my daughter each, I just can’t. And it’s the same with clothing that’s already made…spending a good chunk of money on higher quality items may be worth it, but I can’t get past the guilt of spending $150 on a single pair of jeans when I could get my entire family a few new pairs for the same price. I hate that I feel this way, and I of course know the benefits of being conscious with your clothing, but I kind of feel as though I’m on the outside looking in with this movement.

  20. I am so so guilty of purging my closet! Last year I discovered Marie Kondo, and while she has helped me better my organizational life for the better, i threw away SO MANY CLOTHES. Like, I may have tossed more than I tried to donate. I was purge happy, anytime something didn’t “spark joy” I would run to the trash can to throw it away before I changed my mind. I even threw away some of my own handknits. I feel so guilty now, reading about how dismal the chances are that any of those donated clothes will ever be re-worn. I feel inspired to upcycle my own clothes and to keep my eyes open at re-sale stores for less than perfect items that can be jazzed up with the skills I have. Its a shame that so many of us can craft and neglect to apply our hard earned skills to slower fashion. cant wait to see how your project turn out

  21. One possibility for clothes that are not in good enough shape to donate is to use them for garden mulch. Natural fibers are best but even polyester can become weed blocker, or line a path. My husband is a forester, and he’s very hard on clothes. When he’s done with them they are stained, partially shredded and generally unwearable. Those items become path liners to keep the weeds down. I wouldn’t use them as veggie mulch because of the dyes, but some items ( indigo dyed jeans) can go right up by the plants.
    I know this idea isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but for some of you it might be just the thing.

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  23. Good luck with your projects Karen! Reading this got me thinking about a sweater I knit for myself several years ago ( — it’s a beautiful sweater, it was challenging and a lot of work to make, but I loved every minute of it. Sadly though I NEVER wear it. The fit in the shoulders is just not right and it gapes open in the front in a way that I find impractical. Over the years I have thought about adding a button band, a shaped collar, and other modifications, but I think that what would make me happiest right now is to frog it and use the yarn for a project that I like more. It’s not the first time this has crossed my mind in the 5 years since I finished it, but I feel like I am finally ready to do it this month. The excitement of the new possibilities for this yarn overshadow my disappointment in the original project. I can’t wait to make something that I will love AND wear!

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  26. I have my slotober almost ready,My favorite jeans,they are about 7 years old,I cannot part with them.They need a couple patches,A shirt I love to wear under a lot of cardies and other long sleeve tops.Its stretched out to the max.So I’m thinking either,make a new pattern out of it,or repair,lots of elastic thread.Hmm,Then a sweater I have had for so long I cannot remember, Its my Fall sweater for errands,lazy fall walks and bon fires. The collar is literately hanging off ,I’ll need to tear out,and I would like to make it a bit looser,as it was too tight anyways.I am really going have to see how to do the collar,I have yet to make a sweater.I know Karen has tons of help right here on fringe and association.

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