Slow Clothes

My childhood was anchored on a foundation of slowness — and yet I am powered by an incessant inner fire that contradicts it.  As a little girl I had homemade granola with warm goat’s milk for breakfast (if you’ve ever made granola from scratch or milked a goat before sunrise, you know these are not terribly instant processes). It was slow(ish) food to create, but I ate it quickly so I could hurry back out and play with the goats (in my ankle-length homemade dress with bodice smocking and puffy short sleeves — because that’s what I wanted to wear and no one could talk me out of it). We made homemade noodles (which had lumps and were therefore yucky) and ate peas from the garden and made biscuits from scratch. What I love about my childhood is that it taught me to appreciate the necessity of things that don’t come quickly. It is a brilliant balance for my constant sense of urgency, and I’m grateful every day that I was taught very early about process and patience. 

My grandmother (Margery June), knit my Barbie clothes. I grew up in a practical household, which meant few toys, but because my grandmother was a knitter it was inevitable that I’d own a Barbie doll.  I envied my friends with their store-bought, shoddily-stitched, wee starchy skirts and tube tops. I wanted what they had. I had no idea how fortunate I was to have my very own line of Barbie couture. I mean, really, look at that green jacket; my Barbie was a trendsetter and neither of us knew it. Side note: You can see where I came by my obsession with top down raglans. 

In addition to Barbie clothes, that same grandmother gave me knitting lessons and the Encyclopedia of Country Living before I was old enough to think much of boys, so you’ll understand why my priorities even now tend toward self-sufficiency, time-honored traditions and knitting. I can’t help it. I’m a whirling dervish with a calendar that defies the laws of space and time, who is struggling to learn balance, who chronically over-commits (but is getting better) and who puts far more pressure on herself than anyone else does. But I knit. And I make food from scratch. And I sew. And I garden. And those may be the reasons I’m still sane, in spite of myself.

Slow clothes, like slow food, are a return to quality and substance. Is it better to own fifty shirts that may barely last a few washings and will be given away within the year, or five beautifully made shirts that will last for years? A handknit sweater is the epitome of slow clothing; everything about the process, from the proper care and raising of the animal (or the plant), the processing, the spinning, the dyeing, the design of the pattern, the knitting… it’s an entirely thoughtful, artful, intentional process. And it’s absolutely gorgeous that so many embrace it.

If our priorities are on the process, on making and having things worth savoring — things worth keeping — then we are part of that return to slowness.  Let’s keep it up.


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