The heart of a gardener

The other day, a very dear gardener friend gave me a beautiful and unexpected gift: some pickings from this summer’s yield!veggies july 27As you can see, this included some quite delicious things: lettuce, French chard, arugula, some sprigs of dill (of which one can never have enough), cherry tomatoes (that taste like the sun), a ton of basil + mint, and a few edible Nasturtium flowers (these bright orange buds are known for their zingy, peppery flavor which happens to be perfect for salads).

In past experience, I have tended to be chronically unlucky in my gardening attempts and exploits (where, yes, even a poor succulent didn’t quite thrive on my watch, I overwatered!). I’d like to continue to work on this, on my ability to steward and care for other forms of life. My gardener friend truly inspired me when he described a more recent project of nursing caterpillars to moth-hood — that is, adopting and feeding them, allowing them a safe place to build a chrysalis and grow their new bodies, then gently letting them go once their newly-sprouted wings had dried.

As a knitter and appreciator of the fact that good things take time (and also often only happen in their own time), I’d like to cultivate the heart of a gardener — a co-creator in an art whose medium is life itself! Maybe I’ll start small, sprout a few seedlings, and see what happens?


I’ve been sorely behind on my blogging and reading this month, but look forward to catching up on your creative exploits and adventures! 🙂

Fashion Revolution Week: April 23 – 29

Just a quick, mid-week post and reminder that it’s the 5th annual Fashion Revolution Week.

If you’ve ever been saddened and horrified by the workings of the modern fashion industry, then you know that the human and environmental costs of what has come to be known as ‘fast fashion’ are huge. By fast fashion, I refer to the high-turnaround cycles of seasonal clothing production that mass-produce largely disposable — but also ‘higher priced’ — clothes. The costs of fast fashion include environmental degradation (a result of both the chemically-intensive production of textile fibers as well as the fallout of having countless t-shirts and stretchy jeans wind up in landfills or sent back to countries in the global south); inequitable and exploitative international trade arrangements; and, perhaps already best publicized, forms of worker-exploitation (low wages or unremunerated work, disregard of labor laws, physical attacks on workers who attempt to unionize, unsafe/unsanitary conditions, etc.). It is no secret that the working conditions of the textile workers whose labour creates the brands and goods for sale on our fast fashion marketplace are, to put it simply, dismal. The 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh was the deadliest structural failure accident in recent history (wiki): after structural instabilities in their building were found, garment-labourers were ordered to return to work. 1,138 workers died in the building’s subsequent collapse. To call this, and events like it, ‘tragedies’ — and the workings of the global fast fashion industry that produced it ‘unethical’ — is an understatement. And, this is not new. Textile-production and social inequality have a very long history.

Clothing and textiles are central not only because they’re necessities, but because they reflect the ways we are compelled to be in the world. We have all known the need and pressure to find economical ways to clothe ourselves, for instance, in a world that often requires us not only to wear ‘many hats’ (garment-pun intended) but in which all kinds of social judgments are made about the hats we do wear. Unless one has access to all the right resources, it’s understandable to be compelled to reconcile our ethical vision of how textiles should be made and sourced with life’s very real demands and constraints (I may choose not to wear a handmade outfit for a job interview…. but, now, I’m thinking that the place that would hire me in handmade garb would kind of be awesome?).

Because of its importance, clothing is also transformative. As so many great bloggers have taught me (and as my grandma taught me, as she happily sewed clothing on her Singer while listening to the greatest hits of Julio Iglesias), how we source, approach, handle, create and care for the things we wear makes us, in turn. I don’t think the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week is to become an exemplar, or an ethically spotless consumer. Nor is it to say that we should all be makers (though, that could be a nice thing to aim for!). And, the point is not to take the fun out of clothes and replace it with the wagging finger of moral rectitude.

I see its spirit as bringing greater awareness, first, of the actual people and the supply chains by which most of us must already source our clothing and textiles so that we can generate better, more just, more humane, and human-centered practices (and, with that, more environmentally sustainable textile practices as well). And, to the extent that a kind of consumer-driven ‘desire’ and overconsumption are both the engines as well as the manufactured by-products of the fashion industry (I’m not above this!), I also think the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week is to examine my own motives and desires when it comes to clothing. This led me to ask myself a series of questions:

If it is true that I ‘vote with my dollar,’ how can I vote more ethically and sustainably? Where and when can I replace the shorter-term gratification of that ‘perfect steal’ with a longer-term, but richer gratification that comes with, say, making a garment, loving it, and wearing it (down) over time?

How can I develop a sense of style that feels right and timeless and enduring to me in a way that makes me a bit more autonomous from the pressure, generated by the logics of fast fashion, to run out and buy each seasonal must-have? 

Finally, how can I more creatively use what I do have — what is already on hand: materials, talents, resources — to meet my needs, not only for “clothing” in the bare sense but also for a sense of identity, justice, and also community?

Just some thoughts on where I stand. Thank you for reading. Read more about this worldwide week-long event at fashionrevolution.org


 

What is your view on fashion and its ethics? Does FRW inspire any new ideas or directions for you? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Please excuse our appearance

Excuse our appearance

Every so often, that energy hits you.

It’s the same source of energy that will see me re-configuring the living room furniture and cleaning up all those under-the-sofa dust bunnies after 3 years of being completely content and okay with its first arrangement. It’s the energy that can compel me, in an uncharacteristically confident bout of resolve, to weed through my closet and separate the wearables from the hanger-holders — those difficult-to-face clothes that require me to admit that not only have my tastes changed, but my body has (and is) as well. Continue reading “Please excuse our appearance”

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I am finally on Instagram. 

I had long been a bit anxious about how Instagram would change my life. Would it turn me into a chronically photographing person? (though, there is nothing wrong with that). I had long limited my social media to Facebook, WordPress, and the occasional project-specific Pinterest binge. Beyond this, it also usually takes me a long time to catch up with things. In matters of social media, I’m neither the tortoise nor the hare, but the sloth. I like to think that the saying “get with the times!” was made for folks like me, pre-occupied as I tend to get with my yarn, my books, and my coloured pencils and inks.

Today, I let myself go down the Instagram rabbit-hole. I’m a bit overwhelmed, but very excited at all the beautiful work that people are sharing and talking about. Also, I love all of the ways makers use Instagram to document the doing of their creative work as well as all of the living that happens around it. I really relish it when people share the behind-the-scenes of the things they make. I hope to use Instagram to do more of the same with my projects, while continuing to post here when I’ve got something longer to say. 🙂

In the meantime, in a bit of a craft/social media frenzy, I found these crafty social media buttons (as would be expected there are Etsy, Craftsy and Ravelry icons in the kit!). I thought they were too perfect.

Happy Making!

 

 

 

Knit stockings at the Fête de l’Escalade

Today is a special day in the Swiss canton of Geneva.

This weekend, Geneva commemorates the Escalade (“the climb”), or the military victory against the Duke of Savoy’s attempt to seize the independent city-state in a surprise attack in 1602.

Coinciding with the holiday season, the Escalade celebrates Genevan independence – a spirit still very much alive in the canton. Street celebrations include mulled wine, battle re-enactments, a huge bonfire, and a torch-lit, 800-person procession through the cobble-stoned Old Town staged by Geneva’s Compagnie de 1602, the historical society of the Escalade.

The day is also steeped in history-making through story-telling. When I attended the celebrations in 2013, I remember overhearing a man in a café tell his children, for instance, the triumphal tale of Mère Royaume, the (fictional?) legendary local cook who warded off the Savoyard troops scaling Geneva’s city walls by pouring down a full cauldron of steaming hot vegetable soup (!), causing enough commotion to rouse the sleeping city in time to defend against the invaders. This is why, by early December, the Genevan chocolatiers fill their shop-windows with displays of le marmite – a chocolate cauldron filled with colourful marzipan veggies. This little soup pot has become a kind of edible emblem for the Escalade celebrations, and is broken to bits and relished at the opportune moment, like this Genevan duo below.

Chocolate-thoughts aside, I recently found myself looking through some of my old Escalade photos taken in 2013, when I lived in the city for research and to visit family. Specifically, my eye couldn’t help but be drawn to the very bright knit stockings worn by the musketeer and pikemen re-enactors. I wonder: did early 17th century Genevan troops really defend Geneva donning these playful palettes and colourful hosiery?

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I remember that it was a very cold day. The stockings looked up to the task.

It turns out, the Compagnie de 1602 acknowledges that there are colours and ornaments in the costumes that do not reflect the military uniforms of the early 17th century, shaped as they were by Geneva’s sumptuary laws – moral codes, in the spirit of the Protestant Reformation, intended to curtail the use and display of luxuries, including certain kinds and colours of fabric. In Calvin’s Geneva, I assume, hot pink might have been a no-go.

I dug a little deeper. I learned that the majority of the current costumes were made in the 1950s, and were inspired not by historically documented costumes but by a series of relatively recent paintings – the watercolour illustrations of Swiss artist Édouard Elzinger for the 1915 book, Nuit de l’Escalade (The Night of the Escalade). Elzinger’s own renderings of the soldiers’ 17th century uniforms was influenced by early 20th century Escalade costumes and Flemish painting.

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Bright stockings in Elzinger’s colourful aquarelle, La Nuit de l’Escalade (1915).           © Musées d’art et d’histoire de Genève

So, it seems, the costumes – like all practices of history-making – are a mix of the old with a dash of creative re-imagination. These stockings make me want to get my double-pointed needles and make a new pair of knee socks.

More 2013 Escalade snaps below.

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Bonne fête de l’Escalade!

Meanwhile, back in Chicago… (lots) more snow today and yesterday.

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*Rosenblatt, Helena. 1997. Rousseau and Geneva: From the First Discourse to The Social Contract, 1749-1762. 

**http://www.wikiwand.com/fr/Compagnie_de_1602#/Notes