Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Exactly what is my ethos? The "Frenchification" revisited... and the Handmaker's Factory Pledge

Previously on this blog, I have discussed moving away from the disposable culture and my ideal notion of frenchification.  That post was back in October, during the last (and my first) KCW.  The arrival of the next KCW (this week) made me look back over the last, and to revisit where my head was at in those

My initial thoughts on this topic are summarised below (from the original post).

  • I would like to buy fewer things, but buy things of higher quality
  • I need to invest in the things that I have, and look after them better
  • I have not adequately prepared for Kids Clothes Week Challenge and am instead procrastinating with lofty musings
  • This resolution applies to more than clothes - am sitting in my very much in need of decluttering house... 
  • I am full of good intentions but probably need some sort of action plan otherwise I might be reposting this again in several months time with no change.

Since this post, I have in fact thought a lot about this and have tried to live a little more accordingly.  I haven't sorted out the final bullet point yet, but have been aware of it and also have been trying to enact the first two in various ways.  I have also read Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and while it didn't change my life (I was already heading in the direction indicated...), it added weight to what is slowly taking hold for me.  I haven't spent a lot of time and effort and planning on this yet but I think my new summary of how I am feeling looks like this:

  1. I need to consume less
  2. I need to better look after the things I already have
  3. I need to make as many things as I can, preferably from "good" (sustainable, organic, recycled etc) materials
  4. Sometimes, I will buy cheap stuff for the kids (and also for me) from the likes of Target and "the dubs" (Big W) and that is OK.  My life is not a mission of binary, polarising values; I am not a saint and as long as I am thinking and trying and considering my purchases, buying things is not/does not make me "bad".
  5. I still need a plan

What I need help with here is - with limited time - what is the plan?  I currently vacillate between these two approaches:

  • Trying to sew lots of the basics (tee shirts, tops, quicky skirts etc).  The theory here would be that these are the things that I am mostly likely to buy as "disposable" fashion items, so I would achieve a lot by making those myself.  They are also most frequently worn, and most open to personalisation with minimal risk.  On the flip side, they are also insubstantial (in sewing terms) and so perhaps less exciting for me to sew.  It's also hard to reproduce the range of fabrics and designs that exist commercially - my particular bugbear issue being unable to find matching or complementary rib for nice knit fabrics.  The real temptation point is of course that I don't save a lot of money by sewing these things either, as they are so cheap anyway (for all the horrible reasons outlined in Overdressed).
  • The alternate route I see is to sew the things which are more timeless and long lasting in the wardrobe.  My recent foray into trouser making was exciting - I wear trousers a lot and now feel like I could have a stab at a variety of different trouser shapes / styles from my basic pattern (or the experience and shape of the basic pattern combined with a new pattern).  I struggle to find nice bras for a reasonable price - a long held goal is to make my own which would be a revelation for me, but which I suspect is it's own journey of discovery re fit and materials and so forth.  I also think sewing exercise wear would be an astonishing saving, with vest tops costing at least $40-50 and hoodie type running jackets in around the $150 mark for extremely basic clothing.
This isn't really a question I think, as the answer is (most obviously) that I should sew a bit of both.  I can't solely do one or the other, and it doesn't make sense to, but that means I have to reconcile that I won't be sewing one or the other to the exclusion of purchasing that set of items either.

It's not easy, especially when I work close to full time and have all manner of gardening, hanging with the kids, exciting TV and wine drinking to be getting on with as well as sewing :) but I think it's worth the thinking about it and the writing about it and the pause I feel when my hand reaches for a $15 top or a bolt of cheapie fabric in Spotlight.  I recently read Jorth's post about her daughter's desire to adopt the Handmaker's Factory Pledge and I decided to do the same.  The pledge is not all or nothing - it involves learning and thinking about the impact and source of goods - exactly where I am at!  And so:

As a member of Handmaker's Factory I pledge that I shall learn about the impact my clothing choices make on our planet, step off the merry-go-round of dictated fashion and confidently explore the traditional craft of making my own clothes. As part of this global interactive community I will share my passion and expertise, be respectful to others and have fun! 

Look out for all my *expertise* coming at you :)


  1. Very interesting post - some food for thought indeed.

  2. Love this post. Particularly appreciate point four - binaries aren't really helpful are they? Thanks for reminding me.
    Loving the handmaker's factory pledge too.

    Way to go :)