Smock dress dreaming

Smock Dress Dreaming Sewing

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

How do you feel about pockets, the bigger the better?

I love being free from a purse, throwing my necessities and maybe a craft project for good measure into a generously sized pocket, and apparently I’m not alone in feeling that capacious pockets offer freedom: “No pocketless people has ever been great since pockets were invented, and the female sex cannot rival [men] while it is pocketless” notes an 1899 article on the Rational Dress Society. Pockets (or lack thereof) are not just a symbol of sexism, but political in nature: evoking swagger, mystery, suffragettes, personal property, equality.

Similarly, the loose silhouette of early 20th Century ‘Village sacks,’ so named for the Greenwich Village artists who made and took to them, freed the female body and “conveyed the message that the wearer was a liberal woman who stood outside mainstream America.” (this I’ve learned from the incredible O’Keeffe: Living Modern catalog).

Which brings me to my modern loves: functional studio-meets-street smock designs by State the Label and GDS Cloth Goods which give me all the heart-eyes, the amazing catch-all crescents of Elizabeth Suzann‘s Clyde designs, and denim shift dresses and full skirts with wrap-around pockets by Aliya Wanek and¬†Carleen. I contend that FLAX designs of the ’90s actually originated many of the sack and pocket shapes we’re seeing these days, my own vintage Flax jumpsuit adorned with inset wrap-around pockets, and a quick eBay search offering much inspiration (lower right in the collage above).

After doodling countless smock dresses on every surface within arms reach, I’ve taken to drafting my ideal dress, a mash up of my smock-pocket dreams and my self-drafted crop top and best woman dress. More soon!


Here & there, vol. 3


Is the world melting or is it just some of the snow?

The past few weeks were challenging on many levels, and turning to manageable, tactile, creative tasks has helped me get through it. Of note:


The finishing touch on ultra cozy Hudson pants (the better to spend a Saturday morning snuggling & writing postcards to Senators).


Finding my own way to commemorate 2017. I think it’s critically important that we continue to define & document our own narratives — I’m starting in the pocket of this sweater (thanks, Beth, for the tip).


Slow stitching inspiration, thinking about the role of thread and fiber in mark-making, heritage, and recording history in cloth.


Looking forward to this series interviewing slow fashion leaders

Honored to be included in this piece on slow fashion sourcing

One step at a time, times 3: to lead, to follow, to make a habit.

Other numerical comforts: take 5.

Finding hope in local: local knitting, local elections, and learning how to be an active ally.

Plus: Ebony’s interview & illustration series

Fair Dare fabric recommendations



Project planning for fall


Back to my point about project planning: whether or not you actually want to make/use/live with a capsule wardrobe, the free¬†Capsule planner can be a helpful tool to plan wardrobe addition. I’m going with a fall capsule wardrobe, but I think the foundation of taking stock of what I have, identifying what’s working & what’s not, thinking about weather and lifestyle and any needs for the upcoming season allows me¬†to easily identify and prioritize pieces I want to add to my wardrobe, capsuled or not.

From my wardrobe planning process, I have a clear color palette, an idea of my favorite silhouettes, and an inventory of what I have and what gaps exist in my wardrobe. I have a good number of boxy tops that I love, but am pretty low on pants and skirts to pair them with (especially pieces that are in good condition and can be dressed up a bit).

The Capsule planner also offered a nice time to reflect on my goals: moving slowly, keeping my closet pared down, and working with my stash. So now, the part I daydream about the most! What to make? How will the things I make pair with what I already have and love?

Since I generally¬†enjoy making most of my wardrobe, I use the shopping list part of the Un-fancy Capsule planner to think about what projects to prioritize. But, considering my current need for pants and the learning curve to make a pair (which I don’t have time for just yet), I decided to invest in a pair of Clyde pants after many many months of contemplation and budgeting. I also need another pair of shoes, ideally boots, which is a bigger budget item, so I’m¬†trying to keep my project budget lean and finish up a few WIPs.

Roughly in order of priority:


Loose inspirations & interpretations: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

I wouldn’t say this planning method is totally foolproof — I could still end up with clothing that doesn’t quite fit or isn’t durable, or doesn’t ultimately move into regular wardrobe rotation. But I have a natural tendency (ok, borderline obsession) toward planning and I think laying it all out ahead of time is¬†really helpful.

I also know that this fall — really, the rest of 2016 — will be very busy for me, and there’s a chance that I won’t get through even half of the items on my list. Through my summer capsule wardrobe experience, I learned that making one full garment per month is a reasonable pace, so with my fall planning I’m trying not to set my expectations too high, and by prioritizing, I can focus on each item in due course. Still, if I don’t get to making or finishing the items on my list, I know that I have plenty to wear and lots of great options in my fall capsule.

This is my current practice of balancing excitement, inspiration, and desire, with gratitude, responsibility, and time management.¬†Do you have a fall list? I love learning about how others plan (or don’t!) their projects, and welcome your thoughts in the comments!

Marled sweater inspiration

1-marled sweater insp1

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I’m in total agreement that the best prize of a knitalong is the resulting knitwear,¬†however, I was totally floored to win a sweater’s worth of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn as WIP of the Week.

And it’s funny, because when Brooklyn Tweed released the Shelter marled colorways, I was sketching out my Fringe & Friends KAL plans and part of me (ok, most of me) wanted to ditch the Shelter sweater that needed un-doing and re-using to get my hands on those beautiful neutrals.

So I’m still in disbelief that I get to both reuse the existing sweater’s worth of Shelter (a treasured gift to Jenn), and then I’ll get my own sweater’s worth of Shelter gifted to me. Crazy.

But what to knit?

My first thought for a Shelter sweater went to Bronwyn, which totally stole my heart when it was released, but I wonder if the texture would get lost or feel too overwhelming in a marl. I actually already have a marled, cabled sweater — my Ondawa¬†(shown below) is in a very similar colorway to “Caribou” and I love it, so I think another camel marled sweater would be too similar. That leaves me deciding between “Newsprint” in black & white, and “Narwhal” in grey & white.

1-marled sweater insp-001

1 | 2 | 3

I love the contrast of Newsprint and I remembered Jen Beeman’s gorgeous self-designed¬†Stone Lake marled sweater. Less cabled than Bronwyn, but it makes me think Bronwyn could look nice in the Narwhal colorway since it’s lower contrast.

But, while I love knitting within the natural “grey rainbow,” I feel like Newsprint would be a nice treat as a change of pace — something less common in the small farm yarns I usually gravitate toward. In fact, the other sweater quantity of yarn in my stash is a medium-dark grey from a local small farm & mill, purchased with Exeter in mind. Maybe the marl wants to be something simpler, a break from cabling…

BT newsprintvia

So then I thought about shape and style elements — what shape would best complement my existing sweaters? I have a simple, v-neck pullover that’s a hand-me-down from my dad, a men’s cashmere sweater that shrunk one too many times to fit him. It’s inky black and luxuriously soft, albeit moth-eaten¬†with elbows that look like swiss cheese. I adore it.

Maybe a pullover with a nod to the soft, slouchy shape of this sweater I love? Immediately I thought of Lucinda, whose clever purl-side-out would certainly showcase the marl beautifully. My only hesitation is that Lucinda’s lovely drape and texture seems to come from yarns with a mixed composition, usually with a bit of silk.

Browsing some of the other Madder designs by Carrie Bostick Hoge, I remembered the newly-released Junegrass pullover, showcasing the gorgeous Colorado farm yarn Junegrass by Fancy Tiger Crafts, which includes one of my most favorite garment details: a split side seam.

Which leads me to my current daydream: a black & white marl Junegrass, with a neckline more like Lucinda (perhaps using my top-down customization skills learned in the knitalong), and a sleeve length slightly in between 3/4 and full sleeves (to match the feel of my well-worn and loved black pullover).


Fall style inspiration

1-fall insp

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


I know, shocking — fall inspiration & excitement¬†over cool weather layering possibilities. After a hot and humid summer across most¬†parts of the country, I think this is a daydream shared by many. I’m looking forward to¬†the usual suspects in denim, linen, wool, tights, and boots, but perhaps some new proportions this fall & winter. A bit¬†lagenlook, a bit ’90s nostalgia, a bit of exploration and play for a contemporary mix.

1-Starred Photos31


Because I really miss wearing hats, and also just generally being wrapped in wool. I just finished knitting the bright red Diode hat (left), which was a seasonally inappropriate summer project but a satisfying travel knit and a terrific shape and fit. Coming out of storage will be my Lilian beanie (middle) and my Jul hat (right) which to be honest needs to be re-knit at a smaller gauge because I never swatched and it has grown a lot in size. For me, hand knit accessories are a great way to top off (pun intended!) a neutral outfit and wardrobe with bright colors, and it’s also much easier and less resource-intensive to dye a small item a bright hue than to tackle, say, a vibrant oversized sweater (for Diode I used madder extract, for Jul I used fresh coreopsis flowers).


Warm neutrals

My warm weather color palette skews more toward cool colors, lightwashed indigo and white. For fall, I’m looking forward to drifting back to neutrals and a bit of warmth: grays, darker blues and black, rich¬†browns, and apparently, I’m very drawn to that peachy nude (in inspiration images 1, 2, and 5 above). At first I thought I have nothing in that color in my stash or closet, but then I remembered the bag of avocado pits in my freezer… maybe a cool weather dye project will make that happen.¬†(My previous avocado pit and iron dye experiments shown above).

p.s.¬†I haven’t written off the end of summer — in real life, where it’s perfect bike riding weather, or in terms of writing here — and still plan to post about my best woman dress and reflect on my summer capsule in the coming weeks.

On slowing


Once, I was talking to a friend who owns a small, craft-related business, and she said something that was both humbling and comical:

We’re all talking about slow fashion but we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off!

She was being hyperbolic, I’m sure, but I couldn’t help but chuckle in agreement. I love making things, and, as I’m trying to do with/through this blog, I like exploring the origins of the materials and processes I use to make clothing. To me, ethical, regenerative, intentional making is inherently slow. As anyone who wants to know more about their materials has discovered — and I think so many people are doing an incredible job asking these important questions — there is no way to cut corners. To internalize the social and environmental costs¬†requires extra time and money. And yet, we find ourselves living in an increasingly fast-paced world, tempted not only by the latest indie sewing pattern or lust-worthy fabric or yarn (raises hand guiltily), but by an amazing array of talent and inspiration, and simultaneously a heartbreaking, seemingly insurmountable level of human suffering and landscape devastation.

For me, these factors swirl together and whip me into a frenzy to do something. Something with my hands, which relieves the stress and anxiety of fast living; something, ideally, with local materials, which leads me to new relationships with people and place; something with a certain level of transparency, so I can reduce my reliance¬†on far-off supply chains and untold damage; something in community, to be shared in this growing world of online makers who make me smile. Of course, I’m trying to do¬†all the things¬†all at once, with self-imposed deadlines and a constant stream of fresh inspiration for the¬†next¬†project, or readying myself for the upcoming season (hello, midwestern winter heading my way), and thus running around like a proverbial chicken with my head cut off, leaving a stream of thread and yarn and paper trimmings in my wake. It might be Organic, but it ain’t slow.

Karen Templer (of the iconic Fringe Association and Fringe Supply Co.) launched a new project this month: Slow Fashion October. Slow fashion has many, nebulous definitions, drawing both from the Slow Food movement of local ingredients and artisanal practices (see: Terra Madre, Chez Panisse), and standing in contrast to the Fast Fashion epidemic of race-to-the-bottom economics and jaw-droppingly low clothing prices that create a false sense of consumer wealth (see: Overdressed & True Cost). For each week in October Karen has provided a theme:¬†you,¬†small,¬†loved,¬†worn,¬†known. What I love about this approach to #slowfashionoctober (in addition to Karen’s always on-point art direction and thoughtful writing) is that these are parameters for exploration, an invitation to all to participate in a way that is meaningful for you.

Speaking of¬†you, I missed the first partial-week theme so I thought I’d write up a few quick words about myself:

I’m Jess,¬†and my interest in slow fashion is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very broad and eager. I am hungry for change, a change in my own consumer habits but also in larger systemic issues like climate change, exploitative labor, and wealth inequality. I believe that such big issues will be affected by change at every level, and for me that starts (in part) at home because I love to make things, especially through knitting and sewing. I don’t think everyone needs to make all of their clothes, I know that time is a luxury for many people, but I think there is a radical power and depth of appreciation in understanding how things are made, and in obtaining the basic skills to participate in making. My background is in sustainable agriculture with a focus on food systems, so I think a lot about the parallels between food and fiber systems and land-based material flows, and how we can create a consciousness shift to engage more people with good food and good fiber. I think people who make their own clothing are often a step ahead in this, but I think fair wages and clean water (to name a few) are human rights, and improving food and fiber systems is essential to securing these rights. Does this sound like a political manifesto? I’m not one to preach, but I do feel strongly about these themes. My goal for Slow Fashion October is to explore and unpack some of this energy, and to spend more time writing out my thoughts, which will require, in tandem, slowing down in my sewing and knitting projects. My lofty ambition is to find peace and balance between my impulsive love for textiles (which has led¬†to an uncomfortably large stash of fabric, slightly less so for yarn) and my gut feeling that my pace of consumption is not sustainable.

In tangible terms, I plan to spend this month approaching¬†the backlog: projects I’ve had in my queue for months, which, to be honest,¬†weigh on me emotionally! I’ve promised to make my partner two Archer button-down shirts (with short sleeves) but have only finished a muslin, and I¬†know that I have some gaps in my cold-weather wardrobe, so I hope that by spending Slow Fashion October reflecting and re-centering my energy, I can change my habits to a slower, more thoughtful speed. Oh, and there is one very special dress that I finished in the last days of September and I can’t wait to share its story.

[Image at the top via Google Earth]

One Year One Outfit Inspiration: The Wool Wrap Skirt

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We’re rounding the three-quarters mark into the One Year One Outfit challenge and at this point I’m only half-dressed! Proposed by Nikki of This Is Moonlight, the One Year One Outfit challenge is to make a locally-sourced, handmade look using local fiber and dyes. The idea is directly inspired by Fibershed and Nikki has linked it to the non-profit by making it a virtual Affiliate Fibershed.

Back in January, I vowed to create one outfit this year that could proudly wear the Fibershed badge: local fiber, local dyes, and local labor. At that time, I was actually already on my way toward my first local garment because I was knitting my first sweater using Twirl Yarn, a luxurious small-farm yarn bred and based in Napa, California. I’ve since finished this sweater and it has become a pillar of my wardrobe.¬†I want to do it justice with a full blog post very soon… but today, with the very first of the crisp fall air in my new home of Minnesota, I want to write about my plans for the rest of my outfit.

I left California in late May, so in effect I will have lived half of this year in the Northern California Fibershed and half in a Minnesota Fibershed. There was a brief moment where I thought I could bust out a full California outfit before moving, and create 2 local looks, but then I realized what better way to sum up my year than a half West Coast and half Midwest ensemble? Enter the Minnesota wool wrap skirt…

Carolyn felt

Have you seen Carolyn’s incredible hand-felted local outfit? It¬†is stunning. Pictured above is the dreamy local wool felt that she made — click over to Handmade by Carolyn to see the results! When she posted about her felt-making process from raw fleece to sumptuous Australian wool fabric it was kind of a lightbulb moment¬†for me. I had been considering knitting the rest of my outfit, since I know I can find Minnesota yarn and I already know how to knit. But I want the outfit to have some textural diversity, and yet I don’t really want to spend months teaching myself how to weave and several more months weaving fabric for the outfit.

LS wrap insp

Felt, I hope, will be a fun and slightly more forgiving exploration through which I can produce cloth from Minnesota wool and stitch a garment to complete my outfit. Once I had felt on the brain, the daydreaming was nonstop. First, I thought of Oakland-based designer Laura Schoorl and her modern, fleece and felt silhouettes (pictured above). Then, I started thinking about my fall wardrobe plans and how much I love the minimalist styling of the Alabama Chanin wrap skirt pattern. Realistically though, winter is coming and wool felt will actually be much better suited to Minnesota winter than cotton jersey.

madewell emerson insp

HDH wool wrap skirt

Suddenly, wool wrap skirt inspiration seems to be everywhere from my Pinterest feed to my mailbox (above, Pin-spiration from Madewell,¬†Emerson Fry, and Hackwith Design House). I think I’ve found the perfect sewing pattern: the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork Magazine by Colette patterns, pictured below. Osaka is a reversible mini skirt with an angled front seam and simple button closure. It is shaped by the same kind of waist darts as the Alabama Chanin pattern, but calls for woven fabric panels to create two skirts in one. This seems handy to multiply my One Year One Outfit wardrobe, but may be bulky in felt, so I’ll definitely make a muslin and perhaps change it to one-sided instead of two (which would also cut down on the amount of fabric used, which may be necessary depending on my felting abilities).

osaka detail

Now that I’ve made all these lovely inspiration collages, the next step is to get started! As fate would have it, I purchased some beautiful local wool roving at the Minnesota State Fair last week (see the top photo of this post). It’s only about 4 oz., which I think could make just shy of one yard of lightweight felt (figuring 4 oz./yard is an average woven lightweight shirting fabric), but a new fiber-loving friend here in Minneapolis gave me a lead on where to get more… Stay tuned for my felt-making adventures!