On handmade clothing, and other things

So I did a survey last month for #memademay where I went and counted every item in my wardrobe and where it came from. It was pretty extreme. I wanted to know, how well am I doing in making handmade clothing to wear? I gave up unnecessary shopping a couple years ago, and last year I did this epic #makenine challenge where I knit myself 6 sweaters. (No, I didn’t make it to nine.) Somehow, I thought this latest exercise would reveal to me the secret of why I was interested in making my own clothing, and what I should make next.

Well, I didn’t get the answer I wanted. It turns out, my wardrobe is currently 46% mass-produced which seems like a lot, but if you flip it, that means 54% (or a majority!) of my wardrobe is from more ethical sources. The rest of my closet is 27% me-made or mended, 13% used or hand-me-down, with a further 13% from local or more “ethical” sources. This feels like great progress after only working on it for a couple years. It’s all very inspiring stuff.

The thing is, I realized that the quickest way to get to a mostly handmade wardrobe will be to just to knit socks and sew underwear all the time. These are by far the most numerous items in any wardrobe and it’s a numbers game. I have made both in the past and I would like to make more, but by no means do I intend to stop making other things. That would be boring.

Which brings me to the question, why make things at all? I don’t usually ask that question.

Back in February, I spent some time up in Vermont with a friend/mentor who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was wearing one of my sweaters (Zweig, one of my favourite handknit items ever!) and knitting another. And while he is a lifelong craftsman himself, he just couldn’t understand why I would waste so much time making something one little stitch at a time. Woodworking and sewing projects move a lot faster. Making food and music spreads a lot of enjoyment. I suppose I could be a lot better at everything else in my life if I didn’t spend so much time knitting. I didn’t have much of an explanation then (other than, I enjoy it, it’s pretty, it’s relaxing) and I found myself wondering about trying machine knitting again… But in my head, it’s not worth comparing how “efficient” hobbies are when the goal is to lead a more intentional, sustainable, enjoyable life where posssible.

I like to make things, and getting better at making things is intrinsically rewarding. These are quite silly questions after all. Just as a silly as counting up every item of clothing in one’s wardrobe and creating an Excel sheet documenting age, cost and origin. My brain naturally leans in that direction, but I don’t enjoy that in my spare time. I enjoy every stitch I make. I enjoy every project I finish and I love something about everything I chose to make.

It makes me happy to learn more about the world and how things are made. I am, after all, the idea collector. Making things, whether it be digital or physical, practical or fantastical, is what defines me. One stitch at a time.

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