Discover more from talks excessively in class
On Slow Making
Fashion, Knitting, and Intentional Slowness
I started knitting in late 2019. I was fresh off of six weeks of forced sick leave so I could recover from my hysterectomy, and I was going a bit crazy back at work just in time for winter break and the slow season. I had a friend, LC, who I knew both knitted and crocheted. My grandmother had tried to teach me crochet years earlier, but I just didn’t get it (I still sort of don’t) and I didn’t love the fabric it made, either. Knitting, though—that was beautiful. That, I would wear.
I’ve always been a bit of a clotheshorse. When I was young, it didn’t matter much, because my mom bought my clothes, and I wore almost exclusively athletic sets from Adidas or Nike—you know the ones, a matching pair of shorts or windpants and a t-shirt and possibly a windbreaker, all in the same color, with a little embroidered check on the breast. I wasn’t a tomboy. I was always extremely femme, despite the shortness of my hair and the endless athletic wear. But I wasn’t femme in a way that I could make sense of yet. For one thing, I was fat, which none of the other girls at school seemed to be. For another, I looked just like my Dad, a man, and everyone told me that regularly. For a third, girls were expected—required—to be good in school, sit still and quiet, until recess when they could enact petty vengeance on whatever poor kid crossed them.
I’m not saying the girls were worse than boys. They weren’t. But they had higher expectations thrust upon them, and I chafed under that.
So, I dressed unremarkably, in masculine outfits designed to hide my body. I played freeze tag with two boys in my class at recess, almost exclusively for three years. I had a short, permed haircut despite the beauty of my natural curls. And, at the same time, I wanted to be a clothing designer. I had a notebook full of drawings of clothes, all painstakingly colored, all with lovingly-written descriptions of various pieces, shapes, materials, or contexts.
This one is a red satin trumpet gown with iridescent lace over it, and it has matching iridescent elbow-length gloves, to be worn at formal events like movie premiers and weddings where they serve food instead of just cake.
This one is a matching top and pants in a big black-and-white check print with a lacy hot-pink shirt underneath that shows when you unbutton the top. It’s casual, you could wear this to the mall!
This one is a lime green tube dress with shorts underneath and a little purple shrug. I wish I owned this.
It was obviously the nineties.
Despite fashion being a difficult thing for a fat girl from northeast Texas to be interested in, I was, until one day a boy at school said, “How are you going to design clothes when you're not fashionable or thin?”
I put my notebook away and I didn't think about it again for a long time.
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But I did start thinking about it again. Some, when I started knitting, though that was mostly an activity to cool my brain off. Recently I've started thinking about designing again but for myself only. I've started looking at sewing machines, checking out fabric, and learning more about patterns and patterning. I enjoy fashion, but most of it is not for me, and what is tends to be the bottom of the barrel in terms of sustainability, human rights, and quality of fabrics and construction. So making my own clothes seems—at the very least—better than that.
There's something about the idea of slow fashion—slow making in general—that speaks to the part of my brain that I try to push down and aside. I’ve always been a lot—who am I kidding, you know this, you’ve seen it in the title of this letter. But a lot of that is that I have trouble slowing down and looking at things from any perspective other than “Get it completed so we can move on.” Knitting, clothesmaking, novel-writing… these force me to move slowly, to take my time, to be careful.
I think it’s good for me, to be forced to slow down. It’s not easy, but it’s good. And knowing that even if it’s slow, there will be a finished product on the other side that was made with intention, imbued with the magic and meaning of many days spent in the making of it—that’s worthwhile in a way I have not mastered.
I hope you have a slow thing you’re working on. <3 Feel free to chime in below in the comments, and stay tuned for more knitting chat soon!