Slow Style: 2nd Year Reflections

September marked the end of my second year committed to slow fashion, so over the weekend I took some time to look back at my sewing projects, shopping log, original commitment and one year review.  With it being time to consider my wardrobe for the upcoming fall/winter season and Slow Fashion October, it’s the perfect time to gain fresh perspective, set new style and sewing goals and make a new commitment as I head into year 3.

Where I started

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My closet one year ago

I ended my first year in September of 2016 feeling accomplished. I was happy with my clothes, I’d cut my shopping way down and sewn 6 new garments for myself. I’d created a beautiful cohesive mood board to help guide future projects and I was feeling inspired to focus more time and energy on slow stitch and natural dyes, bringing elements of my artwork into my closet. My goal was to use materials I had on hand and work on one project each month. Rules were abandoned because where to shop had become second nature.

“This year is simply about making. Experimenting. Creating mindfully.”    – I said

That’s not exactly how I’d summarize the last 12 months and I’m hopeful that writing this all out will lead to a more focused year three.

What I Bought

I’ve been logging all my clothing purchases since September of 2015, along with where I bought them and how much I spent.  At the end of year one, I was surprised to see that I’d bought 27 things in 12 months, 6 new and 21 used. This year I was floored when I tallied up a total of 68! I’m about to attempt justifying this number by breaking it down in more detail. Spoiler alert: It can’t be justified. Mistakes were made.

Brand New // 11 pieces // $380 total

I can at least say that great thought went into the new purchases and I don’t consider any of them to be mistakes. The corduroy pants, moccasins and athletic wear were purchased from companies I felt good about supporting and they’re durable items that suit my lifestyle, get lots of use and replaced pieces that were so worn out I couldn’t even donate them. The harem style pants were especially versatile, frequently taking me from a typical day of SAHM life to a family friday night out seamlessly, particularly in the combination below.

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Company Missions:   Manitobah  //  Patagonia  //  Prana

A swimsuit from Target and 5 bra’s from Macy’s make up the rest of the new purchases. I allowed these guilt free since I don’t know how to make them yet and the ethical brands I looked at just didn’t have what I wanted at a price point I could justify as a stay at home mom with a limited amount of savings. I wore the last ones until they were trash and will do the same with these. Sometimes that just has to be enough, and I’m okay with that.

Second Hand // 57 pieces // $180 total

The used items, not pictured here because of the ridiculous number, is where I should have done a better job editing. I had so many sewing fails this year that I just wasn’t adding new things to my rotation and my impatience led to a few trips where I picked up way too many pieces at once. Generally, I dig through thrift shops and take away one new treasure or just pick up clothes for the kiddo who’s constantly outgrowing things. I need to get back to that place. In reviewing the list, I determined I spent $67 on 18 second hand items which I either never wear or have already donated back to the thrift store…not cool. There were plenty of great finds that I wore a lot and continue to wear, so I’m trying to stop thinking of how I could have spent the wasted money and just let it be another lesson.

What I Made

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I was feeling disappointed in myself when I first started to outline this post because I didn’t think I’d gotten much sewing done, but looking back I did work on 13 projects. Unfortunately, only 4 are in my closet and wearable, one of which was not even technically handmade but rather thrifted and mended. Two were thrifted and completely restyled and the dress was made from scratch. I can at least say I met my goal of working on 1 project per month and these are some of my favorite things.

Part of the issue was just the learning curve involved with making clothing. Combine that with patterns I bought on impulse just because there was a sale and fabric in my stash I thought I could use and it was a recipe for disaster. Even if they’d all turned out wearable, I’m fairly certain that the lack of planning behind each one would have led to total wardrobe duds. It’s no coincidence that after taking a closer look at the failures, my #2017makenine line up and subsequent projects were much more successful.

At the rate I’ve been going, and with just 3 months left, I’m not sure I’ll complete all the projects on that list, but I have one in process at the moment and so far it seems to be going well.

What I Learned

Shopping

Year 1 didn’t actually undo my bad habits like I thought it had. Clearly, based on the number of items I bought, I still need a more strict set of guidelines for shopping, even if it is second-hand. In addition to the thrifting, I quickly realized without mindfulness, it’s easy to transfer bad shopping habits from clothes to sewing patterns or fabric. I’ll definitely be adding these purchases to the shopping log from now on…not sure why I didn’t from the get go.

Sewing

I need to move beyond high school home economics skills to master garment construction and fitting before I can make my Allessandro Michele for Gucci dreams come true. In order to accomplish this, I’ve forced myself to set aside the guilt that comes from creating waste so I can just sew through bolts of muslin to learn my craft and gain the confidence required to cut into an expensive piece of fine fabric and know I won’t be throwing my money down the drain. I’ve already picked up my first bolt.

Owning a Fabric Stash

My fabric stash was mostly useless. Adorable vintage fabrics I’d thrifted never felt like ‘me’ when I’d dig through the bin to find something for a project. Some of my favorite’s are small pieces that need to be one element in a specific design while the remaining fabric will need to be purchased. Even pieces I bought brand new and excitedly prewashed in preparation for a project didn’t get used because they were either the wrong size, color or material for what I eventually wanted to make.

Based on this article I found while google searching ‘KonMari for artists’ I won’t be stashing fabric without a plan anymore. It seems pretty obvious, but I was 20 years deep in the “just in case” mentality with enough “imaginary work” to last a lifetime if I had no other obligations. The article is a good read for creatives on the path to simplicity. My overstuffed creative space is getting closer and closer to a simple little sewing corner with no extra stuff hanging around. I plan on using this method moving forward:

Project Idea -> Commitment -> Deadline -> Materials Hunt

Personal Style  & Wardrobe Planning

The biggest mistake I made was confusing creative inspiration with my personal style. I created this mood board thinking it would guide my sewing and shopping until I had my ideal wardrobe, but as my closet began to align with this vision, I started to crave more color, variety and vintage flair. This mood board inspired me to create, but doesn’t represent my forever closet.

SS Year 2 Mood Board

Removing all of my art related content from this blog and compartmentalizing my separate interests helped me come to this conclusion, and reaffirmed my decision to separate the two. It’s obvious to me now why so many designers have uniforms. Not every idea belongs in my own everyday working wardrobe. They can simply be channelled into individual bodies of work while my personal style remains separate. Of course, there will be some overlap at times, but in hindsight, I see where I went wrong. The fact that when I created this mood board the dominant color of blue was mostly non-existent in my current closet should have raised a red flag. I love some of the blue pieces I added, but this whole wabi sabi theme I was so drawn to when creating this collage just isn’t what I’m actually wanting to wear every day.

Maybe I should just buy a black turtleneck and call it a day…I kid…sorta?

What’s next?

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Well, a few weeks ago I turned 37, and in addition to realizing I’ve been working towards an aesthtetic that wasn’t totally me, I suddenly felt like half my closet should belong to a teenager. I treated myself to a new book, The Curated Closet, created a pin board called 37 to gather new wardrobe inspiration and  promptly took that inspiration thrifting and scooped up 9 new pieces to add to my wardrobe…yeah, the exact thing I was just saying was a big mistake I made earlier this year!

So, next on the agenda is no shopping for a while. No clothes. No patterns. No fabric. I’m starting to work through some of the exercises in the book in order to recalibrate and be sure I’m heading in the right direction with any new additions.

Once I’ve worked out a list of any gaps, I’ll select my next sewing project and allow the occasional thrift shop visit. I realize I’m completely contradicting what I said in this post in terms of loosening the reigns on shopping, but I wrote that before assessing my year of shopping and I guess either I wasn’t being honest with myself or perhaps had just completely forgotten how much I’d really acquired. Can I still blame mommy brain at almost 3 1/2?

A New Commitment / Note to self:

    1. Forget perfectly cohesive visual representations of your style and keep a small file of whatever you truly love (and really wear!). Figure out how it works together.
    2. Keep a well thought out and prioritized list of items to sew and/or purchase over time. Take it slow!
    3. Practice sewing. Practice pattern drafting. Do the work. Master your craft.
    4. Buy second-hand. No poor quality items. No temporary filler items. No items to upcycle unless you’re shopping for a specific planned project.
    5. Support socially / environmentally ethical companies when you must buy new.

 

I think dedicating this space to slow fashion, personal style and sewing will keep me more focused on my goals so I don’t find myself so far off track again. At the same time I have to laugh at how I’m beating myself up over such little mistakes when just 5 years ago I was buying brand new clothes every week without a second thought. In the big scheme of things it’s just second hand clothes, but I am determined to get this whole wardrobe thing figured out so change is more of a slow evolution than periodic overhaul. Let’s see what year 3 brings…

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Still Sewing, Still Learning

I’ve made a little more progress on my #2017makenine line up, beginning to tackle McCalls M7473 view D, the line drawing included in the image below.

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“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”    -Albert Einstein

The good news is, I’m alive and well. Unfortunately, I’m sharing another failure / learning experience. It was so disappointing because I sewed a muslin, made fit changes, altered the pattern and thought everything was good to go. Then I cut my fabric and mostly constructed the entire thing before slipping it on. Great fit! Pattern matching, not too shabby! Left side, love! Right side, hmmm??

 

It took a while staring at it in the mirror and thinking about the process to come to the conclusion that the underside, when cutting the front and back pieces on folds, must have slipped and come up shorter. I’m not sure how I want to go about salvaging the fabric yet but I see no way to fix this particular garment.

I really like the pattern and feel good knowing the issues weren’t due to the modifications I made to it, which were to lower the neckline, drop the notch on the side seam to create coverage down to hip level and extend the sides of the front panel to more closely match the shape of the back. The original pattern is only sewed to below bust level and I’m not about showing off that much skin at this stage of life or requiring the right under layer in order to wear it.

What really bums me out is after my failed initial attempt at the Anna dress using a similar type of fabric, I thought I’d done my homework and was more prepared to work with such shifty material. I didn’t pre-wash it and took great care to line up the pattern and keep the grain straight but just didn’t anticipate the underside slipping so much, even when pinned.

I’ve since read advice to use a felt board or flannel backed tablecloth to keep the fabric in place so I will try that next time as well as tracing off a full pattern piece rather than cutting on a fold. I’m feeling hopeful about the next version, but need to figure out what to do about fabric as I’ve used this piece down to scraps. So much to learn. So little time.

 

Closet Goals

I read a variety of style blogs that run the gamut from extreme minimalism to careless over consumption and now that I’ve declared this space a personal style blog, I thought I’d share where I stand on this spectrum…or at least just talk to myself about my current thoughts on the subject. Over the years, I’ve been influenced by it all and gone from too much shopping, not enough planning, closet full of nothing to wear to restricting shopping, excessive planning and a tiny closet that started to wear out and bore me way too quickly. At this point, every time I flip to this image in my inspiration notebook, all I can think is closet goals!

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There are a lot of pieces in there. When the heck do you use ALL of those bags?! But you know what? To me, it looks like a closet filled with special items collected over time that are truly cherished, well cared for and loved. I imagine it belongs to a woman with a strong sense of her own style, who sees dressing as an art and has fun choosing an outfit each day.

As I sew, dig through charity stores and shop for vintage, these are my goals.

I’m dedicated to an ethical wardrobe and learning more about sustainability every day. I’m on board with slowly and thoughtfully adding new things. But minimal? I don’t really think so. I just love clothes, fashion design and the thrill of the hunt! Digging through the large donation thrift shops and finding that vintage treasure someone cleared out of an attic, 100% silk, wool, or cashmere on the cheap, testing out a trend I’m not sure about for $3 …yes, please! Continuing to queue up sewing projects because I enjoy learning new skills and creating things? Of course.

The idea of capsule wardrobes is helping me work out the colors and pieces that make up my personal list of essentials, giving me a more solid foundation to build upon but I’m approaching the sweet spot where I can just add things I love while keeping it functional. In my climate, most of my clothes can be used year round so, with a few exceptions, packing away seasonal clothes isn’t necessary. I love an eclectic mix of things I find beautiful to combine in all different ways accessible in my closet at all times. Based on how quickly I got tired of my very minimal closet, I think it will be perfect to have enough items that it takes 3 or 4 weeks to cycle through all my favorites so they last longer and I don’t burn out on wearing them.

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A while back, I would have talked myself out of this clutch because it’s not something I’ll use every day. Now I’m okay with owning something special for date nights, even if I only get to use it twice a month. I’d had the idea of what I wanted in my mind for a while, so when I spotted it in a vintage shop (although, is 90’s vintage? I was in high school in the 90’s…doesn’t add up!) on vacation for $12 I felt good about taking it home. Okay, I actually walked away and had a beer down the street because it was navy and not black, but then I decided I still loved it and went back for it. Thoughtful and spontaneous!

All my chatter has me curious to hear from you. How often do you feel you should wear something for it to earn it’s space in your wardrobe? Every month? Every week? What are your thoughts on owning more than necessary if everything is mostly second hand or handmade and the rest ethical? My perspective has been all over the map the last few years but for the moment it’s a relief to loosen up the reigns. I’m hoping I’ve learned enough that I can just enjoy wardrobe building for the fun creative process it can be without falling back into old patterns and making lots of mistakes. And I suppose I can go easy on myself if I thrift something that isn’t for life…back to the thrift shop it can go right?

Cut & Paste

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I have to believe that anyone into personal style who also loves to sew has the box of clothing items they just can’t seem to part with because you know you could [fill in the blank] and it would be perfect! My issue with said box is it basically turns into a black hole where ideas go to die and clothes never see the light of day. For this reason, I decided to put ALL my clothing into my closet and move things I’d worn to one end as I went. After a couple months, I reviewed my wardrobe board and did a (dare I say) final sort of items into 3 categories:

  • love = hang back in the closet
  • meh = donate/sell
  • love but don’t wear because xyz = project box

Keeping the love but don’t wear items in my closet was only complicating getting dressed, obviously, so I decided to snap a quick picture of each piece before returning them to the black hole. Next I used Photoshop Elements to create 8 1/2 x 11″ layouts, printed and cut them out to glue into my wardrobe/sewing journal.

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Now I can flip through my journal when I’m feeling the urge to shop and prioritize a project. Drawing in some grids gives me a clean space for jotting down notes for each. Many need mending, fit alterations, dyeing, or restyling, and others I’d like to knock off the pattern or sew/purchase a new item to go with it. I do realize I could have completed some mending in the time I used to play cut and paste, but there’s 33 projects so in the long run I feel it’s worth the couple hours to keep them all on my radar and moving forward.

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I made it look so fun, my kiddo immediately asked for some clothes for his own project and we spent the best Saturday morning creating together!

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I’m so grateful for the online sewing and personal style community. Though I’ve been doing things like this for as long as I can remember, I now know I’m not a total weirdo and others out there share my obsession interests!

Next on the agenda is some actual time at the sewing machine. I still have #2017makenine to finish and one of those projects has been cut and on my table for longer than I’d care to admit…

A Personal Style Blog

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Back in 2012, I started this blog to document my journey as a textile artist. I wrote about anything and everything, textile collage, online classes I took, learning embroidery, carving stamps, printing  and painting fabric, experimenting with wallpaper paste collage and art journaling, organizing my studio, random craft and sewing projects, handmade holidays and daily life . It was with me through my first group art show, Art Walk booth, gallery exhibition and local retail shop experience.

After having  a baby a few years ago I followed my interests back to dollmaking and slow fashion and wrote about that. At first I liked seeing the progression of things over time, but after a while, blending it all together just didn’t feel right. After a lot of thought, and with more clarity than when I first started, I decided to launch an Instagram account and shop under a new name to share my dolls with the world and wipe everything from this site unrelated to slow fashion, personal style and wardrobe sewing.

I have endless inspiration and ideas for posts and projects surrounding these themes and look forward to having a personal space reserved for indulging my slow style journey and participating in the growing online discussion. I don’t know that it was necessary to address the change, but it felt strange deleting the bulk of 5 years worth of content and not mentioning it, so there it is.

If you’re reading, I hope this is a welcome change. It did seem the most interest was generated on these posts anyway. So, until next time….and if you happened to be here for my other creations, Little Stream Studio will be coming soon!

Me Made May 2017: Wrap Up

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Me Made May 2017 is a wrap, so I thought I’d pop back in with an update. I challenged myself to wear each of my me-made items two different ways and complete 4 mending or upcycling projects during the month. I’ll go ahead and throw it out right now, I did not crush my goal, but I had fun with it and did what I could.

The Outfits

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Outfit 1: Cat shirt, thrifted and upcycled | sweater, thrifted | Paige denim, new 2015 | Frye boots, new 2011

Outfit 2: Cat shirt | Wet Seal vest, thrifted | shibori skirt, thrifted and upcycled | Simple shoes, thrifted

MMMay17 moon shirt

Outfit 3: moon phase tank, upcycle from husbands closet | Patagonia pants, new 2017| Toms, new 2015

Outfit 4: moon phase tank | sweater, thrifted | jeans, thrifted | Toms, thrifted

MMMay17 green shirt

Outfit 5: green 70’s blouse | sweater, thrifted | jeans, thrifted | Palladium shoes, thrifted

Outfit 6: green 70’s blouse | necklace, new 2014 | Patagonia pants, new 2017 | Clarks shoes, new 2016

MMMay17 dress & skirt

Outfit 7: skirt, thrifted & refashioned | One Heart tank, thrifted | Simple shoes, thrifted

Outfit 8: denim dress | scarf, new 2010 | Simple shoes, thrifted

Pieces That Got No Love

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The May gray was partly to blame and when sunshine did peep through I reached for other favorites first. The kimono was never love so I’m not shocked there. The blue tank was a favorite in the summer but it’s very low cut and I could use a new layering piece to put under it so I couldn’t be bothered. Then there’s the crochet jacket which I’ve decided doesn’t get wear because of the color so I’m going to dye it gray to make it more versatile.

The two pieces which aren’t accounted for were me-made by my loose definition for this challenge and include a skirt and sweater which I thrifted, tailored and mended. The skirt was in the laundry most of the time, but it was too cold to even notice. The sweater got one wear but my cat needed an emergency visit to the vet, then a couple hours later my son suddenly had a fever of 105!! Anyway, no photo that day.

The Projects

I did two out of the four I aimed for. One was the shibori skirt and the other was a quick tailoring job on a pair of joggers I lived in two summers ago. They were too saggy in the hips and the fabric was shredding next to the rear seam so I removed the inseams and took them in, simultaneously solving both issues. I haven’t worn them yet, and as I type I’m recovering from a 24 hour migraine and can’t manage to photograph them, but I’m sure they’ll make an appearance here eventually.

In Conclusion

Life threw me some curve-balls and the weather was all over the map but the first two weeks were great. I got a feel for what type of items I’ll actually wear, figured out how to make a couple older items wearable and I’m looking forward to next year if this continues! Thanks Zoe!

Shibori Look Midi Skirt

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After creating my wardrobe mood board and realizing the dominant color was a shade of blue that wasn’t represented in my current closet, the racks at the thrift shops became a sea of blue! Proof that shopping with a plan works…especially when diving into the donation thrift, which can be an overwhelming amount of options. I have so much love for the hunt that giving up shopping new fast fashion didn’t cure me of over buying inexpensive second hand things that didn’t earn their space in my closet. This $2 shibori look skirt, however, was money well spent and fits in with my wardrobe goals. The color, print and silhouette are on point.

05-17-17 skirt & moodboard

I fell in love with the fabric at first sight, knew the skirt wouldn’t fit as is, but could see there was plenty of fabric to re-style into a midi skirt that would. This was a pretty straight forward project that was complete in an afternoon. Here’s what I did:

  1. Cut the waistband off close to the stitching
  2. Ironed new waistline of skirt and laid flat
  3. Marked a line 6″ from the top all the way across and chopped that piece off, leaving a piece of fabric to cut a new waistband from and the skirt portion, already constructed and hemmed
  4. Basted new waistline in preparation to gather and fit new waistband
  5. Using my waist measurement, cut a piece of elastic and a new straight waistband
  6. Stitched elastic together with ends overlapped so it has to stretch slightly to fit
  7. Serged waistband front and back together at the side seams
  8. Folded waistband in half and inserted elastic, pinning in place.
  9. Serged raw edged of folded waistband together
  10. With right sides together, zig zag stitched waistband to skirt
True to recent form, I did steps 5 – 10 twice. Old habits die hard and I first fit the waistband to my hips, then quickly realized I’d only want to wear it that way with a swimsuit on the beach and the purpose of the skirt was to build my everyday wardrobe. Out came the seam ripper. Repeat steps 5-10. Definitely made the right decision.

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Confession: I probably should have lined this. I knew it while working on it, but didn’t have any on hand. Slow is a state of mind that’s hard to remain in while racing against a toddlers nap time. The zig zag stitch finish is sloppy but it’s okay because I’m going to add lining once I get to a fabric store then properly bind the raw edges.

I LOVE this skirt and I’ve worn it four times already as is, but it has reminded me of an article I once read about the fashion industry taking the ancient art of shibori and turning into a print. I realize one day this skirt should be replaced with a fully handmade version, from the dyeing process to the sewing. In a world where a child didn’t dominate my time, I’d prefer to grow the indigo and make my own vat…but back to my current reality: I’ve ordered a shibori kit from Dharma Trading Co and added the project to the end of my current list. I’ll be wearing this proudly in the meantime though, especially once lined and properly finished to my perfectionist preferences.

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Here’s my favorite way I’ve styled it so far. I felt like a million dollars when I wore this on Mothers Day, even though it only cost me six! Bonus: looks pulled together, feels like pajamas.
  • vest (Wet Seal, thrifted years ago, $1)
  • shoes (Simple, thrifted, $2)
  • cat shirt (thrifted and restyled, $1)
  • skirt (thrifted and restyled, $2)


Once upon a time, I wrote enthusiastically about all the slow style posts I was planning on. They haven’t come to fruition, but I’m getting back to work on my original goals for the series and hope to have more thrifting, styling and outfit posts sprinkled in between sewing project features. One new development is this little bro turned 3 and he’s my new photographer! Although, I’m not above mirror selfies in a pinch.

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