Clothed with the Sun, Part II

{You can start with Part I from back in November if you’d like, here, for some background on why I’m thinking about all this in the first place.}

I’m sitting here with one hand-knit sock on one foot, and the other still beside me, half-finished. This year, I’m making my clothes. At least, I hope I will be. I’m planning to. We are halfway into the first month of 2018 and all I have are lofty plans and a nearly finished pair of socks that I’ve been working on for far too long. I’m exhausted, overworked, feeling out of sorts in almost every way, but I have plans, oh I have plans. And I intend to try my best to keep them.

Right now, I’ll be honest, I’m very tired. I’ve worked in the kitchen all weekend because we are in the busy retreat season at HoneyRock and there are 100 extra people to feed here than usual. I’m right now the sort of tired where you just feel like crying for no reason, where you end up staring into space for a while. It’s the sort of tired where you worry that you will always be as tired as you are, that this is it for you and the energy is never coming back. That’s how this whole season feels. The amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen is extremely disproportionate to the time I have to spend on what feels like my real work, sewing, designing, thinking, feeling, etc. Which is why I have my high hopes, why I’m holding them tightly even on my most tired days.

It feels good to have plans. No, it feels amazing. Even though my eyes are crossing as I try to look at the computer screen and type comprehensible sentences, I have PLANS. And I’m here today to tell you about them, to say my plans out loud so as to encourage myself to keep them and maybe also share the wealth. The wealth, that is, of being clothed with the sun, of dressing for work, real work, of finding out that you have agency in the areas of your life that make you blue, the big ones and the small ones, and then taking that agency and running with it.

Clothes feel like much more of a challenge than quilts do to me. When sewing an article of clothing, I often feel impatient. Quilts are such a big process that you get lost in the length of it, not expecting to finish anytime soon. A garment feels small, simple, like it could be done in an hour or two, when really it needs more like four or five. I want to practice patience. I want to not make sloppy mistakes. I want to finish all my seams beautifully, to make clothes that will last a very long time, to do as good of a job as I know how to. This will be difficult. But it will also be worth it. It will be worth it to adorn my body, to treat myself with respect. I want to sew the clothes from the patterns and then make them even more special, with embroidery and applique, tags and topstitching. Small things to add up to something big. Clothes made by myself for myself.

And then, once I make the clothes, I want to wear them. Perhaps even almost exclusively, we’ll see. It’s an experiment in joy, in doing what I set out to do, in practicing what I preach and paying attention to myself as I do. I’m sure I’ll still cringe when I walk past a Madewell, I’m sure I’ll still windowshop online, imagining all the women I could be in all the beautiful clothing. But maybe I’ll also feel a little more confident about the woman I am, the things I carry around within, the plans I make and carry out, little acts of bravery, of power. I hope that will be the case, but for now all I have are the plans. Plans and my own tired body, clothed in something not-quite-bright, yet still luminous. A tiny sliver, like the morning moon I’ve been seeing as I make my sad frozen walk toward serving breakfast. Morning moon, shocking against the blue of dawn. The moon is clothed with the sun, quite literally lit by something outside itself, waning and waxing, full and new in turn. That is how I want to be. That is how I will be. That is how I am. A season for everything, for the moon and the sun, for making your clothes and buying them, for mending and tearing. For making plans and carrying them out. Stepping out in bravery with an armload of fabric, a needle and thread, your own living room, a stack of papers, and hope.

Read on to see what I’m going to do:

  1. Pleated summer dress.
    Peppermint Magazine, free.
    Navy essex linen.Simple and pretty, I’ll probably shorten it a little. Essex linen will be perfect, as it is a lightweight cotton/linen blend with a lovely drape. I’ve only sewn one dress before (Grainline Studio Farrow), and I’m ready for a second good option for summer weddings, throwing over a swimsuit, wanting to feel pretty, etc.
  2. Tamarack jacket.
    Grainline Studio, $16.
    Navy dot outer fabric, rose essex linen lining, pink quilting thread.So excited to make this. A first quilted garment, with, I’m sure, many more to follow. Especially excited since I have a machine now that is capable of machine-quilting. Want to have this finished by spring. Now I just have to find my way to a washing machine to pre-wash my fabrics. That is all that is stopping me from starting. Not sure how I’ll quilt it, but sometimes it’s nice to not plan ahead all the way.
  3. Box top.
    Self-drafted, free.
    Yellow linen.I bought myself gorgeous yellow linen on black friday, and I think I’ll want to wear it all summer. The box top pattern is simple and perfect for me, one of the first pieces of clothing I worked to perfect for myself. I have one in black linen made a year ago that I’ve already worn practically to death.
  4. Peplum tank.
    Peppermint Magazine, free.
    Blue gingham.I’m obsessed with gingham and I can’t wait to wear this shirt, that’s all. Also, God bless Peppermint + Emily Hundt of In the Folds and their collaboration to make amazing free patterns.
  5. Hadley tank.
    Grainline Studio, $16-$18
    White linen.Received this pattern for Christmas after wishing for it for a while. Can’t wait to try it out sleeveless and then probably make it again with sleeves right away. I love the seaming down the front.
  6. Esme Top
    Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style $21
    Thrifted striped cotton.I love this book. It has tons of super-practical, thoughtfully constructed simple garment patterns in it, and it’s also a lovely book to read and look at. I got it first from the library and renewed it as many times as I could, knowing that I would just have to buy it eventually. Esme is a simple long sleeved tunic-ish top. Excited to try it as-is, and then probably make some alterations to it, making the pattern my own, gradually.
  7. Owyn Pants
    Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style $21
    Olive corduroy, given to me by a friend clearing out her stashThe first time I had this book from the library, I made these pants in black linen. I made them too short, but they are fantastically comfortable and I wear them frequently around the house, feeling light and airy, and thrilled to be wearing pants, PANTS!!, that I made myself. Now I’m excited to have a pair to wear outside the house. I’m also planning, probably, to fix the black linen pants, maybe lengthen the cuffs somehow.
  8. Summer tank.
    Self drafted, free.
    Thrifted pink stripes.Another pattern of my own, one that I made many, many versions of to get just right. Wearing clothes cut from this pattern makes me feel confident and beautiful – I know this for a fact. The perfect reason to make more. Also very good for layering – one of my superpowers.
  9. Cline sweater.
    Julie Hoover. $8
    Brown Sheep Prairie Spun yarn in Wild Indigo.
    Really excited to make and wear and own this sweater. That’s all. Excited, excited, excited. Sweater knitting really amps me up because it’s a long game. I love long projects, the way you can carry it around with you through different pieces of your life. The way your days get knit into the sweater. That’s how quilts are too – I love when they take a long time and go a lot of places with me and my heart. That’s the truest thing about being clothed with the sun. It’s being clothed with my own life, my own feelings, my own heart, not someone else’s idea about it. Sweater knitting feels like the epitome of that.
  10. Truss cardigan.
    Brooklyn Tweed, $9
    Cascade Yarn Spuntaneous Worsted in Doeskin
    I’ve had my eye on this cardigan pattern for a long time. I think it will really be a challenge, which will, I’m sure, be both exciting and frustrating. I’ll probably save this for later in the year, definitely after Cline, when I’ll probably feel even more confident in my knitting, ready to make something truly spectacular. I’m sure I’ll have to frog and start again a few times on this one. But hopefully the results will be beautiful. Also, I could really use a gorgeous tan neutral cardigan in my wardrobe, so maybe it really should happen sooner rather than later.
  11. Beach Tank + Resist Hat
    Jess Schreibstein, $8 each
    These patterns just came onto my radar, and I’m really hoping to find a chance to make both of them this year. No yarn plans yet, and I also have the feeling that adding these to my list is pretty ambitious. But maybe 2019! Maybe maybe even 2018!


If you have any feelings about wanting to make some clothes but don’t know where to start or if you just want to talk about it or anything, talk to me! Send me an email! I’d love to talk about hand-making / being clothed with the sun with you.

It’s worth noting, I think, that while wanting to make my clothes largely has to do with my own spirit and personal esteem in wearing clothes every day, I do also feel strongly about the ethics entangled with clothes and wearing them. For many years now I’ve been nearly exclusively buying my clothes secondhand so as not to contribute to the inherent waste and unavoidable corruption associated with buying new clothes. There are already so many perfectly good clothes that already exist in the world that are out there for me to find! Trying to find decent second-hand fabric is much harder — it’s something I think about every time I go to a Jo-Ann Fabrics. I have been lucky to already have found a few solid sources for second-hand fabric, but what can be found there is definitely hit-or-miss. I do buy a lot of brand new fabric, both for quilting and clothes making, and at this point, I don’t quite see a viable alternative. So, no answers or solid plan yet. Someday I would love to use 100% secondhand or ethically produced fabric and yarn for my own clothing that I make, but thinking that through will take some time and much more money than I have to spend on hobby-clothes-making/purchasing at this point. For now, maybe just thinking about it, being aware that my fabric purchases could be perpetuating something I don’t want to perpetuate, is a little bit enough.

P.S. I’VE OPENED MY FLAG SHOP ON ETSY!!! (And a facebook page here!!!) So now you can buy some signal flags to hang on your very own wall or window, to say what your heart truly wishes to say, to remember what needs to be remembered. I would really love to stitch some flags for you. Really really. You can find my shop here, and there is also a link up in the top menu of Synchronized Swim. I’ll probably keep making plugs for it in my posts for a while, because, yes, of course, I would love for folks to buy some flags, but mostly because this is something I really believe in, something I want people to know about. It’s my deepest wish for more people to feel like they can fly whatever flags they wish to fly, say what they have to say to the people they have to say it to. Here is a small way to do that. Here are some colors seen from far across the sea. Here is something true. (It’s my secret dream that maybe making signal flags could be my real live job someday, and it will take help from you and people like you to make that happen. Even if you can’t buy flags right now, spread the word if you’d like, if you can. Again, I mostly just want people to know that these exist, to see how beautiful the poetry is, to have a chance to say what needs to be said. Follow the facebook page! Favorite the shop on etsy! Buy some flags if you can! Let’s take the world by storm with color and poetry, swimming together, full of wild hope! I’m hopeful every day, and making these flags is a big, big part of that.)

P.P.S. If you want to never think about clothes the same way again, find and read Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Leanne Shapton, and Heidi Julavits – three artists who feel like kindred spirits and friends, whose every work is exquisite. This book basically definitely changed my life. Get it from the library, renew it a bunch of times, take it in slow. So much in it – so much to say about how clothes are a part of who we are. This small thing is an important thing. This small thing gets to be big sometimes.

One comment

Leave a Reply