Thursday, 20 August 2015

Guest Post: Helen Stewart on the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge

My name is Helen Stewart. I’m a knitting designer and the host of the Curious Handmade Podcast, and  I’m so happy to be posting on Crafts from the Cwtch today: Sarah visited the Curious Handmade blog earlier this week and had so many wonderful things to say about creating a handmade wardrobe, so I’m glad to get a chance to try and return the favour! It’s a subject that we’re both really excited about at the moment, and this topic that seems to be getting a lot of traction among makers recently. I’ve just launched the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge and the response has been heart warming.
There’s something so personal and intimate about creating the clothes in which we live out our daily lives. We’ve all been somewhat in the grip of “fast fashion” for years now, and it really feels like it’s time to shake that off and explore what it means to slow down, buy less, and make more. Clothes shopping is sold to us as a recreation activity, but in reality, for most women, it’s actually an exercise in frustration. Spending hours in shops trying to unearth a garment that meets all our requirements can be stressful! Does it fit properly, do we like the colour? Was it manufactured ethically? Can we afford it? If we take a step back you can start to see that all of that time might be better spent just making what we want. Also (and this might be the strongest motivation for me!) there’s just such joy in making. It lights up the creative and the practical sides of the brain, and it’s so satisfying, especially if you’re creating an item you’re going to be living with and using day after day.

I’d been thinking about all of this for a long time when the idea for the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge came to me. At first it was just going to be a theme for a month or two of podcasts, but as I spoke to other makers and designers, I realised that the idea had so much more power as a community exercise. Making clothes can be intimidating, especially if we need to learn new skills, and support and encouragement from like-minded people is the very best way to see a project through to the end. Eventually, in a conversation with my friend Susan (she’s Kizmet on Ravelry), we decided to collaborate on an official challenge. The rules are simple: choose one or more handmade wearable pieces to knit, sew, or crochet for your daily wardrobe by the end of October. The thread in the Curious Handmade Ravelry group was started less than two weeks ago, and it already has more than 250 posts! It’s a place of daily inspiration for me and everyone else who has jumped on board. People are really going deep, exploring their motivations and aspirations, and it’s just such a positive vibe.

For my own challenge projects, I'm starting to think in terms of coordinating outfits after talking to Libby from Truly Myrtle for the Curious Handmade blog and podcast recently, as well as seeing other people's plans in the group. I'm thinking about using the Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt as a core piece as well as a long Washi dress and possibly a skirt for the sewn items. I already have the patterns for these three pieces, so it’s a start! Then I would like to knit a versatile simple cardi that would go with all three items.I’m also in the last stages of designing a shawl for a Mystery Knit Along (coming very soon!) and I think that would be a really special piece to mix in as an accessory with the rest. The possibilities are really so endless with this challenge that I’m trying hard not to get distracted by all the things!!

We’ve really just started, but I am so thrilled by the whole thing. It’s going to be a really meaningful project for the whole community. I think it’s easy as makers to focus on gifts and creating things for other people, so there’s something wonderful about giving yourself the space to focus on your own needs, and to think about how your craft interacts with your day-to-day life.

If you would like to join in with the challenge, you'll find more 'Handmade Wardrobe Inspiration' right here on Saturday, when there'll be an interview with 'Do-it-Yourself Clothes' expert Cal Patch. Don't miss it! 


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