Monday, October 12, 2015

Slow Fashion October: Week 2

This week I wanted to put down a few thoughts I've had about the practicality of dressing myself and my family in handmade clothing.  I especially want to dispel the myth that making clothes for kids is not worth the time and effort because they grow so quickly.  Since becoming a mother, I have been especially interested in exploring how handmade clothing can accommodate my own unique set of needs when store-bought clothing cannot.

With a little forethought, I've been able to choose styles for my kids that seem to grow with them.  My knits have an especially long lifespan, stretching with the babies they keep warm.  And finally, once the beloved garment simply won't fit anymore, there never seems to be a shortage of younger siblings, cousins, or friends to wear it next.  
I've found yoked sweaters to be especially forgiving.  Here you can see 18 month old Lucy wearing this freshly-made owls sweater at Rhinebeck 2013:

 Here she is just a few weeks ago, at 3.5 years, wearing the same sweater.  I had actually relegated it to her younger brother by this time, but in a desperate moment reached for it again because of how neutral it is.

Not to belabor the point, but I have one more bit of photographic proof that yokes are worth your time.  In this collage, the same sweater fits Lucy at 3 with very little ease, but still works on a 6 month old Sebastian with the sleeves cuffed.  It doesn't get better than that.  
I've also been really pleased with the top-down cardigans I have made for Lucy.  They wind up fitting for years.  In fact, at one point I had to force myself to stop making them for her, since the three I had already made continued to fit for so long.  Observe:
Long lived sweaters are just the beginning.  When I realized that both kids could wear tube socks indefinitely, it suddenly seemed worth my time to crank them out.  If I focus exclusively on them, I can make a pair of tube socks in about 2 weeks.   They are knee highs on Sebastian and Lucy will still fit in them for ages to come.  
Have I convinced you yet?  I find that my kids can make do with only a couple of sweaters and pairs of socks, which they wear with a wide variety of thrifted items that I've purchased specifically because they coordinate.  I remove the hand knits before meals and very rarely wash them, which definitely prolongs their lifespan.  
All this talk about accommodating my kids' growth leads me to a subject I'd love to see more people address.  My body has changed so much over the last four years, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  At first I got away with adjusting what I already had, like these corduroy pants I altered with a stretchy waistband.  Eventually I decided to come up with a basic handmade wardrobe that could take me through these changes in a way that store-bought garments simply can't.  
I require a lot from my garments.  They need to either accommodate a growing (or shrinking!) belly or provide easy access for nursing--and sometimes both.  While I love my Alabama Chanin tank dresses, which I've been able to wear both before and throughout my pregnancies, they aren't great for breastfeeding.  I tend to save them for special occasions now.
My jersey separates have proven to be a better use of my time.  I pretty much live in Alabama skirts of all different lengths. 
 I love to make basic ones quickly, but have begun seeing the wisdom in slowing down and embellishing them.  
It's especially exciting when I can make these additions to an already finished garment, so it can jump right into the rotation.
I'd love to hear about your own tricks for prolonging the usefulness of your own handmade garments.  Do you take your unique set of needs into account when designing and making clothing?  Have you come across any tips to insure they fit in spite of growth spurts or other fluxuations?  How about patterns that take pregnancy or nursing into account?  Jump in!


elizabeth said...

loved this post! what you make for your kids is super worth it! and more beautiful than store bought!!

Kristin said...

It's amazing how long your handknits have lasted your kids! :) I made my niece a yoked cardigan for her first birthday last October, and my sister-in-law says that it still fits her this year, too. I'm planning on making her another sweater for Christmas, and I hope it will last her for a couple of years.

Juliana said...

I love this post so much. I don't make clothes for my kids, but I do thrift a lot of them from ThredUp or ebay. I decided a long time ago that separates for the girls were not worth my time or aggravation, so I get them short sleeve knit dresses for summer and long sleeve knit dresses for fall/winter. Add a sweater and tights or leggings and they are good to go. I like the dresses from LLBean and Land's End best (although Hanna Andersson has nice ones too, they are expensive, even second hand)

For myself, separates were the best thing for nursing. Dresses are too tricky, not only for access but for modesty. I had one or two knit dresses that worked in theory, but in reality, just showed way too much skin (and none of my babies ever did well with a nursing cover). Knits are nice because they stretch, and one with some body to the fabric will cover lumps and bumps as the body goes up and down.

Andrea @ This Knitted Life said...

Your children are beautiful! You must tell me your secrets for finding time to knit and design such beautiful pieces! I NEED to know!

willfulmina said...

Thank you, Andrea! I don't think you would wonder if you saw my mountain of laundry, sink full of dishes, and generally messy house. I have my priorities: happy family and good food. For me being happy means spending time making something every day. I try to keep up with the house for sure but am not afraid to take a few minutes for my hobbies when the opportunity presents itself. The work will still be there later but the peace and quiet of nap time is fleeting!

October Rose said...

Have you found your kids knits have a tendency to pill? I know it's partly a yarn choice issue, but so much movement amounts to a lot of friction, and my children's little vests don't look as nice as they once did.

October Rose said...

Have you found your kids knits have a tendency to pill? I know it's partly a yarn choice issue, but so much movement amounts to a lot of friction, and my children's little vests don't look as nice as they once did.

willfulmina said...

Definitely, some more than others. I have read that cutting the individual pills off with scissors is the best approach, but ain't nobody got time for that.