making a minimal, utilitarian wardrobe–

the project of making a minimal, utilitarian wardrobe falls to long winter evenings. stormy weather gives us a little more time to practice our skills, working on an ambitious project of making, mending, reconstructing more and more of our clothes.

i’m trying to make just the clothes i would use in my daily life, cosy in the farmhouse, active on the mat, working in the gardens, tending to the animals, weathering on the bicycle, snug in bed. on odd occasions, smartly turned out in the village and very rarely now, the city. i hope these clothes will be sturdy enough to stand by me for decades, so their style must be timeless, their fibres strong and natural, their uses multiple. layering dungarees and sweater vests, cardigans or aprons over woollen under-layers that cover the distance from my bed to the mat to chore-time and back, this is functional ware to clothe a day of many characters. traditional responses to living intimately with the weather, the land, the plants, the animals, the harvests, the work and play of the seasons, they inform my choices. i begin to look how i live.

to greatly simplify, i restrict my colourway to monochrome save for old indigo denim. everything layers in an endless remixing of a modest number of garments. we all share clothing and all of us thieve from my sweetheart regularly. we share an aesthetic, so the variations multiply. thrifting is a collective project, and sewing skills are the language we must learn.

our early projects focused almost entirely on reworking what we already own. mending, visible and otherwise, taking things in or out or entirely redesigning, these are all fine, useful skills. alterations. it’s slow work, but satisfying.

when we do sew from scratch, we try to source local materials without toxic dyes, unnatural fibres, or fabrics with questionable labour practices. this is challenging, but it seems to be growing easier if no less expensive.

some basic garments we purchase new if we cannot find used after a long search, for now, but it’s not easy nor cheap to find ones that fit the bill. i have, for example, never yet found a pair of socks without plastic fibres. i do actually want my clothes to be capable of returning to the soil by way of a plain home compost eventually. so i knit more of our socks, slowly, and test the possibilities of finely-knitted undergarments, an escape from the synthetic.

a dear friend brought silver roving and a charcoal fleece that are not only from local animals, but we even know the names of the sheep! (edie and coley, if you want to know.) how’s that for cultivating a connection to one’s fibreshed? i long to knit homespun yarn, but first i must learn to ply what i’ve spun. perhaps this is the winter for it.

next, patterns, mastering hand-stitched seams and the treadle machine. the young ones hoped to grow dye plants for their own colourful clothing, i experiment with greys, but we may have grown distracted. this sort of work could take a great deal of our time, but mostly we fit it into those quiet edges of the day, stitching away while we visit or watch a film, picking up a project and putting it down as needed.

it is a revival of sorts, as i pick up the thread from my grandmothers and my mother before me and pass it on to my children. it revives more than economies, ecologies, to turn toward local, thrifted, reconstructed, handmade clothes of natural fibres and dyes. it revives imagination, so we might imagine another future.


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