Is Ethical Fashion Expensive?

When I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had bought something really cheap, despite knowing it had probably been made in dodgy factories, the main reason given was not having much money to spend. That made me more optimistic, because ethical fashion isn’t necessarily expensive.

It came as a huge surprise to me to discover that brands making efforts to source garments ethically include many that produce cheap clothing. Brands like Target, Kmart, Uniqlo and Zara have a good score on the 2016 Australian Fashion Report compiled by Baptist World Aid.

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So how do these companies sell clothing cheap while still addressing ethical and environmental issues?

The first and most obvious answer is larger scales of production. Large orders require less staff training per garment, mean less time wasted between jobs, etc. Because of these economies of scale, when you produce garments in the millions it might only cost 10 cents per garment more to improve the social and environmental impact of that garment.

The next answer isn’t surprising: cheap means cheap. Cost cuts result in lower quality materials and sewing, and there has to be a consequence: and that is that the $5 t-shirt or $20 pair of jeans isn’t going to last long. Or even the $10 t-shirt and $40 pair of jeans.

I wouldn’t be surprised if workers being able to afford to eat enough calories to work their punishing 100 or so hour a week shifts, helps prevent construction errors, too.

But the most interesting reason that ethical brands can compete at the low end is that by taking control of supply lines, cutting out the middlemen and treating workers well may actually save them money.

A large part of the reason bad labour conditions for workers came about is that when, a decade or two ago, brands shifted garment manufacturing overseas factories they stopped taking responsibility for supply lines. They left it to subcontractors to employ factories or home-based workers, and those subcontractors were – and many still are – unscrupulous in lowering prices as far as possible so they get a better cut. The factory workers at the end of the line end up with what’s left over. The more subcontractors the less money the workers get. It’s also system that makes it hard for brands to control the conditions workers are enduring.

After Rana Plaza, the huge factory fire and building collapse in Bangladesh a few years back in which over a thousand garment workers died, the Bangladesh Accord was devised (http://bangladeshaccord.org/about/) and brands began to implement codes of practice. The factories they use are independently audited regularly to ensure they are sticking to a basic set of principles of safety and fair labour conditions, and deal with issues of environmental degradation and pollution. Of course, attempts are made to get around the restrictions. Some big brands have trusted subcontractors to choose factories with fair working practises only to find those factories secretly subcontracted to ones that don’t. As a result, they’re beginning to set up their own supply lines and factories.

But the main point of this post is: you don’t have to buy expensive clothing to make a difference, just be a bit more selective in your shopping. Brands with an ethical/sustainable fashion policy include it on their website. Independent organisations like http://www.baptistworldaid.org.au/assets/Be-Fair-Section/FashionReport.pdf and http://ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au, have lists of stores.

Also, be extra careful of online shopping. By bypassing local retailers completely you may be not only shopping direct from the countries with the worst social and environmental problems, but undermining efforts to improve them.

Wardrobe Confessions

The three books on ethical fashion I’ve read:

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In To Die For, Lucy Siegle goes through her wardrobe in order to calculate how much clothing she has compared to the average woman, and how much clothing of different fibre types.

After a bit of digging one Saturday recently, my back was at that point of needed me to do something that wasn’t strenuous or involved sitting down too much either. So I took inspiration from Lucy and counted everything in my wardrobe.

Afterwards I tallied up the numbers. I have about 556 items of clothing (this includes counting every pair of stockings or underpants – and all those socks) 32 paris of shoes (including gumboots and thongs) and 16 bags (not including the accumulation of totes). I didn’t bother counting the scarf, glove and hat collection since I make those, so I have kept many favourites. 5% of my clothes are vintage or second hand, 15% are handmade, 7% have been refashioned.

Lucy told of how most women have garments in their wardrobe that they’d never worn. I’d thought ‘no way is that true for me’. I was convinced I knew every item of clothing intimately. Um… yeah. Ate a few slices of humble pie, first with the shower-proof jacket I got at a Snowgum sale, then the dress I haven’t found an occasion to wear it at yet, but the worse was the pair of pull-on jeans I can’t even remember buying.

I was expecting my big weakness for socks would stand out, but 120 pairs? Really? And only 39 of them are handknitted by me. And I culled them before moving a year and a half ago.

A quick google bring up estimate of the average number of shoes a woman in owns is 27 in the US and 21 in the UK. I have 30. Including slippers, thongs and gumboots. I can blame plantar faciitis for some of that. I bought 7 pairs of new shoes in the last two years, which is more than usual for me, in order to have pairs that cushion my feet properly. However, I culled waaaay more that between moving house and getting rid of pairs I couldn’t fit cushioning insoles into.

Having gone through my shoes, I decided to polish the leather ones. This meant I examined them closely and found two that need repairing – one old and one recently bought pair. Two other pairs looked fine until I turned them over. They were so old that the plastic soles were crumbling. That made me realise something about my wardrobe.

The contents aren’t a result of a shopping addiction, but a slow accumulation over many years and a determination to wear most things until they fall apart. When I cull, I rarely throw things out. They’re refashioned, sent to the op shop if they’re good enough, and at the worst, turned into rags (which may end up in a rag rug). Looking through everything reminded me of what I have (including those forgotten jeans) and of the story behinds some pieces. It was actually really nice to reconnect with everything.

I’ll save the stats on the ratio of different fibres, and their ethical and environmental impact, for the next post.

Scratching Beneath the (Textile) Surface

A few weeks ago I went shopping for leggings and some knitwear, and was shocked to find I couldn’t get anything that wasn’t mostly polyester. Then I noticed more people mentioning buying ultra cheap products online from China. Then I happened upon a show on iView about ethical textiles and, though it did not surprise me to find out about terrible working conditions of garment makers, I was excited to learn about the efforts going into tackling them. So I posted about it on Facebook. A friend commented that she’d just listened to a radio interview with a woman who’d written a book on the subject. I looked up the show, found a podcast, listened to it and was so impressed I immediately bought the book.

The book is called Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press. It was funny and tragic, shocking and inspiring, and I tore through it in a couple of days. Then I bought a book mentioned in it, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle, and absorbed that in a few days, too.

I found it utterly fascinating, from how the fashion industry works now to learning about all the stages, post design, in the creation of a garment. While much of what I learned I already knew, since as a knitter I had made it my business to know all the ethical and environmental issues to do with fibre, but there were plenty of things I hadn’t known on the garment-making side. There’s a lot to be horrified by and yet I came away feeling far more hopeful than I expected.

Why? Because it seems like the garment industry is being taken, sometimes kicking and screaming, in the direction the food industry has gone, with greater awareness and value placed in environmental, social and health consequences of the way it runs. And I can see that the same interest and energy that drives the decluttering and clean living movements could be directed toward people buying, and therefore encouraging the making of, more ethical fashion.

I asked my friends on Facebook if they’ve ever bought really, really cheap stuff and what their reasoning was in order to gauge the sorts of reactions people have for and against ethical shopping. It’s been interesting to see how they regard it. This article investigates people’s attitudes toward ethical products. I was intrigued to see that the people who choose to ignore ethical issues tend to regard anyone who tries to shop ethically negatively – and I’m reminded again of the food movement, and how despite mockery of ‘organic’ products an appreciation for sustainable food practises has grown.

I dove into all this wanting specific questions answered. Why are some clothes now so ridiculously cheap? Is it better to buy direct from China, cutting out the middlemen, or worse? What are the ethical fashion brands and do they make anything that isn’t expensive and dead boring? Why is current ‘fast fashion’ full of dull, unflattering polyester jersey that falls to pieces after a few washes? How should I approach shopping in order to make a difference, even a tiny one?

Most of these questions were answered, and for a few it was easy to extrapolate an answer. But they’ll take more than a few blog post to cover, so watch this space.

Plastic Not Fantastic

Recently I packed away my summer clothes and brought out the knitwear. Looking through the jumpers, cardigans, jackets and vests, I felt a mix of fondness and weariness. There’s a lot I love in there, but I found myself wishing I could pack it back away for a little longer.

I don’t think it has anything to do with dreading the cold months. I like winter. I’m just a little (dare I say it) bored with wearing the same old thing. Not just the knits, but the skivvies that allow me to wear wool without setting off my allergy to it.

Since I’m not constantly adding hand knits to my wardrobe through knitting any more I have to look for other ways to freshen things up a bit. Because I can’t wear wool against my skin I wear fleecy jackets over short-sleeved shirts on cooler summer days, but overall I prefer natural fibres. I have three cotton jackets, but they’re the same design in three different colours so if you didn’t register a change of colour you’d think I was wearing the same garment. Another kind of cotton jacket sounded like a good addition to my wardrobe.

I figured if I was going shopping I may as well tackle another item of clothing I needed. Too much feasting over the Easter weekend meant I wasn’t comfortable in my jeans and pants. I’d wear skirts instead, but because my cat occasionally swipes my ankles, I have to wear them with leggings instead of tights during cold weather. I have two pairs of leggings, and they’re starting to look a bit tired. Still, leggings shouldn’t be hard to find, right?

So I went shopping. And was aghast. I couldn’t find simple black cotton leggings. They were all made of polyester. And the jackets and knitwear – all acrylic. Even the long-sleeved t-shirts and polo-necks had high levels of plastic content. When did this happen?

Well, I dismissed it as bad luck – I just chose the wrong stores. However, when I went to Ishka a few days later, thinking their aesthetic is usually more ‘natural’, I found lots of 100% polyester fabric masquerading as cotton. Ugh!

A friend put me onto a shop that sells cotton leggings, so I mail-ordered four pairs. When it came to the knitwear and jackets, however, I decided to go second-hand and found a casual corduroy jacket and long cotton cardigan at a charity shop, the latter which I dyed. Problem solved.

However, I do wonder if I’m seeing a worrying trend. On a science program last year researches showed how when modern houses catch fire, the fires burn hotter and spread several times faster than they used to, because most house contents are now, essentially, petroleum products.

And in another program, researchers found that most of the plastic ingested by fish in Australian waterways was fibres from clothing.

Personally, I don’t mind polyester for evening wear and travel clothes. Otherwise, my wardrobe is mainly cotton based. I find polyester unpleasant to wear, even when it doesn’t give me a rash.

But I’m disturbed to see how much poly has crept into my daily wear. I’m not going to toss any of it out, but I am going to be more careful about what I’m buying from now on. I feel more justified in buying and refashioning vintage and second-hand clothing, too.

And I have a stronger urge to change my daily ‘look’ to incorporate much more hand woven and hand sewn clothing. My Saori garment design book is looking very interesting right now.

After a Decade of Blogging: Into the Future

After finishing my overview of the last decade of blogging, all kinds of questions came up.

On Blogging:
Why do I do it? How is it that I’m still blogging without losing enthusiasm for it after all this time?

At it’s most basic, it’s a record of what I’ve made that I can refer back to. If I don’t write about it, it’s easy to forget how much I’ve done, or the process I went through.

Would I still blog if it was private, so nobody but me could see it?

Probably. I keep a writing diary, too, and nobody sees that. But I like being able to show people what I’ve made when I’m out and about just by picking up my phone and searching for a post, and that someone might read something I posted about and be inspired to create.

Is it extra wear and tear on my hands and back that I ought to avoid?

Not really. I don’t write overly long posts – at least not very often. Mostly they’re a few paragraphs and a picture.

What have I learned from a decade of blogging?
Don’t be opinionated online – keep that for friends in person.

Any regrets?
That I didn’t try to get a couple of sock knitting designs published in a magazine.

On Craft and Art:

How does blogging change my attitude toward both?
It makes me accountable. If I write that I’m going to do something I’m more likely to do it – of if I fail, writing about it makes me consider what went wrong. Needing something to blog about can be the extra push I need to tackle or finish a project. I certainly need that when it comes to art!

What is more important to me: craft or art?
Art. Not that craft isn’t important, but I get a different kind of fulfilment from art that I think is more essential to my well being.

So why craft?
It’s stress-relief! And it gives me the satisfaction of finishing something when my art and writing projects take so long to complete.

Why tackle longer, more challenging craft projects then?
Because learning something new feels good and is good for my brain.

What have I learned from the last decade of craft and art?
Life’s too short for bad yarn!

Any regrets?
That I stopped regular weekly sketching.

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Other observations:
I was very interested to see that the signs of growing repetitive strain injuries were there early, but I didn’t recognise them. Now I know that breaks are essential, as is staying physically limber and strong, and varying the kinds of movements I do – which justifies being a creative fidget!

Something I’ve had to learn over the last ten years is to avoid spending more time looking at craft and art on the internet than actually doing it. And not letting the internet (ahem, Pinterest) tell me what and how to create. It’s better to go seek information when I want it than be passively fed a stream of what some company’s dodgy algorithm thinks I want to see.

Is there another ten years of blogging in me? At this moment, I can’t see why not. So long as I have craft and art in my life I’ll want to record and share it. Physical limitations brought on by age might slow me down, but I suspect I’ll have the urge to create for many years to come.

A Decade of Blogging: Adapting to Change

2012

Thanks to RSI in my hands, I gave up knitting.

Well, except for machine knitting on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine and the second hand Passap knitting machine I bought that year to make socks on. Weaving continued, and I tried straw, card and inkle weaving. At a convention I did my first weaving demo.

After revamping my jewellery storage, I started making and refashioning jewellery in a big way. I did more stamp-making and wrapping paper printing.

In 2011 I’d tried a method of crocheting around twine to make a basket. I noticed through the Stat Counter that the photos had been pinned on Pinterest. So I joined up and for a while there I was quite addicted to it.

Researching family history caught my attention for a while. Unfortunately I never went back to it.

At life drawing classes I started drawing heads in preparation to start portrait painting, but I abandoned Sketch Sunday.

It was a year of working out what I could and couldn’t do with my hands. I’m pleased to see it didn’t entirely limit my creativity, and led to exploring crafts I might not have tried otherwise. I’ve not used the Passap much after that year, unfortunately. My attention turned more toward weaving.

2013

The year started in a reflective mood, with me adjusting my wardrobe to allow for some weight I’d put on. (A few months later I started the Fast Diet.) I discovered I have a heart condition (very minor, as it turns out, but I didn’t know that then) and became officially menopausal, so it was a year for health discoveries.

In craft, there was a lots of culling of things – bags, books, clothes – and questioning what I spend my time and energy on. The Bond and I got to know each other again, leading to a handful of rapidly made garments, the making of weights, and buying another machine to make the double width Mega Bond.

After buying and padding out a dress form, I re-lined a jacket, made a dress out of a postal sack, and sewed up a Regency gown. A couple of quilts and a day bed cover also got sewn. I was officially over my dislike of sewing.

I painted two portraits – or three if you count the test piece. During camping in December I used the ponchard box for the first time.

The embroidery bug caught hold of me, and stuck around.

In a kind of personal challenge, I set aside several weekend days to tackle the craft to-do list, concentrating on sewing, printing, dyeing, jewellery-making and bookbinding.

We went to Japan for eight days around Christmas and walked so much that I got plantar faciitis. So much for walking more to prevent osteoporosis!

It was definitely a year for fidgeting creatively, switching from one craft to another. But also of stretching myself to try new things.

2014

Because of the plantar faciitis I couldn’t get about much for months. Maybe that’s why, in a moment of insanity, I decided to participate in the Handweavers & Spinners Guilds’ mystery box challenge. Far too many hours went into making a rather ugly fairy. Whenever I get a hair-brained idea now I ask myself ‘is this another ugly fairly project?’.

More refashioning, weaving, embroidery and jewellery-making happened through the year. I did three portraits and two ponchard box paintings.

Then we bought a house. And moved. Oh, so much moving house. And fixing up the old one. And renovating the new one. And clearing weeds. And expensive landscaping. By the end of the year I was utterly worn out.

2015
I took stock of my craft materials and ambitions, and did some culling and planning. Lots of tackling projects that had languished for ages came about from this. There was also weaving, refashioning, embroidery and jewellery-making.

After getting pedals onto the table loom I decided to tackle more challenging weaving projects with finer yarn, making tea towels for Mum. I tried pin loom weaving and made a tapestry hat – all do-able in front of the tv.

Pinterest changed in a way I didn’t like which led to a big rethink about where I get inspiration and ideas from. I decided I didn’t need it, and at the worst it was directing my creativity rather than being a source of inspiration. I closed my account and don’t miss it at all.

I sprained my ankle badly in February. Fortunately, it was better by the time the garage permit came through, so we could get stuck into preparations, landscaping and gardening. Which were exhausting. It meant not much crafting happened for a while. When I finally had energy I decided to make ’100 cards by Christmas’.

At the end of the year I bought an 8 shaft Katie loom, deciding it was time my weaving got beyond twill and the occasional huck lace project.

2016

I had my first weaving classes. Paul brought home an abandoned loom, and I fixed it and a friend’s loom up. But an old neck and back problem suddenly got much worse, and I’ve been struggling to get much craft or even work done since.

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What a decade! Going over the last ten years’ blog posts has been very thought-provoking. It has me contemplating why I craft and make art – and blog about it. RSI restricts the type of craft I can do, and now this sudden worsening of my back problem has me questioning what I’ll be capable of, for work and creative fulfilment, into the future.

A Decade of Blogging: Creative Fidgeting

2010

In the previous year I’d pondered whether I was a bit over knitting. Still, I did plenty, including the ‘Bernardathon’ (three knitting patterns by Wendy Bernard). There was weaving, too. And some natural dyeing.

At the start of the year I set myself a challenge called ‘Projects of 2010′ in which I tackled a photo album, floor rug, mirror frames from pegs and chopsticks, tea towel pillows, painting a wall with bubble wrap and turning half of a shop mannequin into a plant stand.

I got into recycling in a big way. I wove cassette tape! I fused plastic bags together by ironing. Toward the end of the year, after a short stint hand sewing and mending clothes, I discovered refashioning in a big way. With Paul’s help I made a duct tape dress form.

Lots of bookbinding & book art was explored in the beginning. Later I dove into printing, first by cutting up foam mats into stamps, then trying printing with a pasta machine.

I did a lot of soul searching over art, making a scrapbook and continued Sketch Sunday. I made a ponchard box, and mini paint tins.

The range of creative ideas I pursued that year amazes me now. It was a big year for exploration and invention.

2011

I started the year with ‘Projects for 2011′, but I only got half of them done. Successes included reducing my silk painting supplies and making a certificate portfolio.

Sketch Sunday continued. I started life drawing classes. Later I participated in the Sketchbook Project (but was very disappointed the next year when they cancelled bringing it to Australia). I made an effort to sell some paintings.

We travelled to Europe for my work, and I bought only a little bit of yarn, keeping my suitcase as light as possible.

Lots of knitting, weaving and refashioning was done. Bookbinding seems to have dwindled, though. I tried more printing at the start of the year, but decided oil-based ink was too messy. I stuck with stamp carving and acrylic paints/inks, and made wrapping paper.

The year ended with the onset of RSI. My hands were so badly affected I couldn’t hold a tea cup. It turned my creative life upside down.

A Decade of Blogging: the Early Years

Today it’s ten years since I started this blog. Ten years! It wasn’t my first attempt at craft blogging. I’d been writing about knitting in my LiveJournal for a while, but I wanted a separate blog with the sort of functionality that Blogger offered. What prevented me was only having 1 hour of dial-up internet time a day, and at that speed uploading pics was impossible. When I moved in with Paul in 2005 I had access to broadband, which felt so luxurious.

I thought it might be interesting to do a review of the decade in the same way I do a review of the year each year. This has turned out to be epic, so I’ve broken it down into four posts.

2006
My new blog was called Knitting and Chocolate. I only intended to write about fibre crafts, keeping more personal anecdotes on my private LiveJournal, but mentions of the house extension from hell snuck in now and then. It only took until August for me to get blog angst. My friends weren’t reading the blog and I wasn’t getting many comments. I decided that I was doing it more for me and as a record of what I make, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that philosophy since.

It was lucky I did, actually. Later in the year someone started a petition to a US yarn maker to sell their yarn in Australia, which inspired me to write what I thought was a helpful post suggesting Aussie alternatives. It got up some people’s noses. I might have quit blogging at that point, but I kept on for my own enjoyment.

Thankfully, there are more nice people in the online fibre community than nasty. It was a year of blog-based international swaps and challenges. My first Secret Pal was the fabulous Michelle who knit me a pair of socks and sent me thoughtful gifts. I took part in Project Spectrum, in which participants made something in a different colour each month. My first Knit From Your Stash started, too. I’d only been knitting for a few years and I already felt I had too much yarn.

It was a year of trying new things. My second post included photos of yarn I bought to weave on the Ashford Knitters Loom, which arrived a few weeks later. I got a spinning wheel later and had spinning lessons at the Guild. I attempted to podcast. I was terrible at it and I’m glad I didn’t pursue it. The thought of there being awkward rambling and opinion about knitting by me in the world is horrifying!

I’m intrigued to see I suffered from hand pain that year. The first indication of the RSI problems that were to come.

I thought most of these events were spread out over a few years. 2006 was a busy year, especially since I started blogging in March so it was only 10 months long, really.

2007
I took part in Project Spectrum again, only this time I revisited a different craft for each month. This was significant because it inspired me to pursue some of them later, like bookbinding and printing. However, I decided later in the year that spinning really wasn’t for me.

It was also a year for lots of personal knitting challenges, like Knit From Your Books, Bust out of Your Box Sock Challenge (try interesting sock patterns), and Sockless Summer (making things other than socks from sock yarn).

One highlight of the year was that, while staying in Katoomba at a writers centre, I met the blogger David Reidy of Sticks & String.

And I joined Ravelry.

I got a lot of knitting done that year thanks to the house extension from hell – I needed a LOT of stress relief.

2008

A blogger noted that knitters were abandoning blogs for Ravelry. I’m not sure if Ravelry was the reason, in retrospect. I suspect there was a natural fading of enthusiasm for blogs as new distractions like social media came along. But blogging still exists – as does LJ. As Facebook and Twitter probably will long after most people move on to the next big thing.

I knit a voodoo doll of the builder after he tried (summons withdrawn) to sue us after we sacked him. Oddly enough, we never heard from him afterwards!

I’d started a vague challenge to crochet to a pattern, but eventually decided it wasn’t my thing.

I started going to a local stitch’n'bitch. It was fun, but after a few years they moved it from a convenient local site to people’s homes and I made it to fewer and fewer of the meets.

We travelled to New Zealand and I came home with a suitcase full of yarn.

I bought an Ashford 4 shaft Table Loom. A lot more weaving happened in general that year, as I not only tried out the new loom but explored clasped warp and weaver-manipulated structures on the knitters loom.

2009
I started the Personal Sock Club where I put yarn and a pattern in a bag and selected them at random, and the Socks for Others Club, where I knit socks for friends. I knit a lot of socks!

There was a lot of post-Black Saturday blogging. I made SES beanies, and wove a pile of scarves to donate.

Having passed on two old knitting machines that came my way over the previous couple of years, I decided to buy a Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine.

I joined Weavolution. Ravelry wasn’t allowing weaving projects to be added to the site. Weavolution was… well, it had a lot of catching up to do. Still has, unfortunately.

We travelled to Canada! I bought yet more yarn.

I tackled a bookbinding project – the photo album of the Canada trip – and played with paper craft. I started Sketch Sunday.

I turned 40.

At the end of the year I switched to WordPress and changed the blog title to Creative Fidget, deciding to blog about all my creative pursuits rather than just fibre craft.

Projects of 2015

January:

First project finished in 2015 was the Bunny Mink Scarf with inlay.

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It was a good month for weaving. We finally got the pedals on the table loom, which made weaving much faster.
However, the next rigid heddle project, the Memory Scarf, was tortuous to weave.

February:

Paul and I put together a pair of Bedside Bookcases.

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Not a project, but it felt like one: I left Pinterest. And never looked back except with relief.

March:

I twisted my ankle badly, which is probably why the only project I managed for the month was the Stitchy Shirt.

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April:

I made a Shoe Modification ready for my trip to Europe.
A little less work and more down time on this trip, so I managed to stitch a
Beetle Pendant while I was travelling.

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May:

I made a Flamingo Pendant as a thank you present for a friend.
A post-trip bout of finishitis took hold, where I finished the Ribbon Scarf

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Fair Isle Beanie
… and Paua Ruanna Collar.

June:

A simple tweak turned my stiff I-cord Scarf into a relaxed, loopy scarf.

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I finished the Silk Stripe Placemats.
Some knitwear and scarves were spruced up on Overdyeing Day.
I went a little overboard making a Gingerbread House.

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July:

Giving up on altering it yet again, I turned the Origami Bolero into the Origami Bolero Scarf and the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket into the Gift Yarn Scarf.
After a sudden and intense love affair with a pin loom, the Neon Blue Blanket was born.

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More weaving produced the Silksation Scarf.
And I replaced the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket to make it the Blue Sleeves Jacket.

August:

Craft Day among friends was Refashioning Day (dress & two tops) for me.

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I tried a little simple knitting to make Capucine.

September:

With the leftovers I made a Capucine Cowl.
An experiment with circular weaving resulted in the Tapestry Hat.
And my determination to try weaving with fine yarn meant I finally produced the Scary Tea Towels for my Mum.

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Then I lived up to my blog name and, perhaps triggered by all the landscaping preparations, became a little obsessed with jewellery-making, refashioning old pieces to make the Washer Necklace and Tiger Tail Bracelet.

October:

I finally used some paper beads to make Paper bead jewellery.

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But the weaving continued, with another pin loom project, the Hunky Hank Shawl.
Colourful beads suggested to me a Tinkle Bracelet for a friend.
While for myself I made Seed Bead earrings & necklace, though by then the landscaping was nearing its end and the jewellery-making obsession had run it’s course.

November:

A simple solution led to me finally finishing the Art Necklace.

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I started 50 Cards by Christmas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-9, 9-10.

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December:

While way on a solo writing retreat, escaping the beginning of the new garage foundations work, I made some Inkle bands.
For the New Year, I bought myself a Katie Loom!
And I embellished a cardigan:

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Overall, it feels like I got less craft done this year than usual. RSI and a sprained ankle held me back in February and March, and I was away for most of April and part of November. Then there was all the landscaping and garage preparations and ongoing tasks that ate up mornings and weekends.

Thanks to the latter, I was exhausted by the middle of November and behind schedule with work. I reconnected with both writing and craft during my solo writing retreat week. In fact, I learned something useful. Because I wanted to avoid a sudden increase of typing, which would lead to RSI, I did craft in the mornings – weaving and card-making which didn’t work my hands too much. By the afternoon I was relaxed and my mind had been working over the story while I crafted, so the writing went well. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been doing the same, with varied success. I can’t help that the garage build and various chores are a distraction, but I can avoid spending mornings stuffing around on the internet – which just adds to the wear and tear on my hands and back. It is hard to switch into work mode, however, when the craft project sucks me in and I don’t want to stop.

A lot of refashioning, modification and reusing of materials were part of projects in 2015. When I did try something new, it was in weaving mostly, and also a few jewellery projects. In both I finally tackled and/or finished a few very long term projects – the scary tea towels and art necklace.

I only finished one portrait this year thanks to starting classes two months late, though the second is close to finished. That’s disappointing, as I was aiming to do four.

This year’s aim with the house was to take a break from big projects and stick to small ones while the pool fence, landscaping and garage preparations were done. The pool fence was ridiculously stressful and complicated. The actual landscaping was fast and stress-free, but the preparations before and pre-mulch preparations afterwards took up far more time than I’d expected.

The garage project is slow and ongoing, but mostly Paul’s task so I’m free to chase the work deadline and craft in 2016. I’m in a much more optimistic frame of mind than I was six weeks ago. In fact, the silly season, which I usually find distracting, stressful and a bit lonely, felt like a welcome break and opportunity to get everything back on track.

Happy New Year!

Stress…… Relief

Last Friday morning WeBlow blew 45 cubic metres of mulch on the garden.

gardenOct15g

This means I can ignore the garden for six to seven months, apart from tackling weeds. There are still smaller jobs around the garden to do, but nothing on this scale.

What a absolute, profound relief.

After some work gigs on Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday sitting in a chair, aching with exhaustion after sleeping for 12-13 hours. Thinking back over the last three months, we’ve done a heck of a lot of physical work. We’ve done it on weekends around social occasions and on weekdays in the mornings, pushing my usual morning work and domestic tasks into the afternoon and shrinking the time I have to write and putting me behind schedule.

It’s been stressful, too. First waiting for a planning permit, then preparing the site for the landscaping, then preparing the site for the mulch. Plans were made then constantly altered. Each day I either pushed us both to get out and do the work, or if sickness or inclement weather prevented us I used that time planning and organising. So many times I felt a bit desperate as I realise each job is going to take two, three or four times as long as I’d estimated. We did 8 to 10 hours of raking and digging over the embankment, post-landscaping, about that much just sweeping the muck off the court surface, and at least double on other tasks all together. All the while I was only too aware that the only way anything could be done by each project deadline was by taking time away from important things, like visiting my parents and work.

We also had a housewarming, two birthday parties and two dinner parties in that time. I guess we didn’t have to, but the housewarming happened early on, it would have been a shame not to celebrate Paul’s 50th, and I’d arranged the dinner parties when I’d given up on getting the permit. Thankfully we have good friends who offered to help out during the 50th, which made it less exhausting. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like having people over again, I suspect. Not because I don’t want to see my friends, but just thinking about the hour and a half of dishwashing I did after the last party makes visiting friends them rather than inviting them here far more appealing.

Now the organising and stressing falls to Paul, as the garage build begins. The concreter is one of these “we’ll start some time next week” kinds of tradies, which would drive me nuts. But Paul doesn’t seem bothered.

I slept for 9 1/2 hours last night and I’m feeling more rested, though I haven’t a lot of energy. I’m off to Supanova at the end of the week, which I’m looking forward to. Two of those to get through and I’m done with publicity and can concentrate only on writing.

Though there’s Christmas to get through. Actually, I think this is the first time in decades that it feels like I’ll be less busy rather than more – and I might not mind working through the holiday season so much either. It’s going to feel like a holiday, compared to the last year and a half!