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  • Writer's pictureElfy

Handknit: a lesson in slow fashion

Last week was a sort of breaking point for me. My knitting machine was playing up, the internet went down for 4 days and my oven broke (which is the main thing I use to make earrings). We went back into lock-down and it all felt a bit meaningless, and it meant that I wouldn't get to go home for my mum's birthday, which sucked. So safe to say was having a bad week. At times like these, I always get really anxious and I tend to overthink, so to combat this I decided to take a step back, take a break from my usual work, and to work on something for myself.

I decided to get back into hand knitting, I remembered it being therapeutic in first year, so I decided to give it a go again without forcing myself to make it perfect or make anything super unique and fancy. I wanted a simple tote bag that I could use for my shopping or just for walking about, so I went and bought some deadstock yarn, found a new stitch to try and I started to knit.

The act of knitting itself is repetitive and fiddly, meaning it takes concentration, especially when you are doing something a bit more than just plain knit. I needed to make sure I was keeping track of the row and stitch I was on in order for the pattern to work.

It definitely took my mind off things. being able to pour my time and brainpower into something was really rewarding too, and it made me think of one of the lectures we received in third year that focussed on slow design and slow fashion. everyone knows what fast fashion is, and there is now growing awareness of its effects, which has given rise to this idea of slow design and slow fashion.

What is 'slow design' then? That's easy, its something that has been designed and made slowly, with a lot of time and consideration in its process and production. In our lecture lead by Dr. Jen Clarke, she outlined 6 principles that draw from the origins of the 'slow food movement' that inspired 'slow design'.

  1. Reveal- Designing something slowly reveals details that would have been missed or forgotten in a fast design process.

  2. Expand- Slow design allows you to consider the real potential of what something can be beyond its original concept.

  3. Reflection- designing and making slowly allows you to reflect ton what you are doing and why, so you can proceed with conviction and purpose, instead of just doing it.

  4. Engagement- Slow design allows you time to engage others in the process, to share and collaborate on projects together.

  5. Participation- (this one is a big one for me) slow design makes you an active part of the process, you can embrace your ideas and explore more, instead of working so quickly that you become a passive part of the process as it moves past you.

  6. Evolve- Slow design provides you with a richer experience, where your choices are instrumental to the process. It also allows you the room to evolve the design and change it as it grows, creating a more mature idea in the end.

The purpose of the slow food movement was to emphasise the importance of eating local food and putting time and care into your meals, creating a more enjoyable and cathartic experience. It makes sense to me that these ideals have transferred over into the fashion industry, a sector that is synonymous with fast process and production and disregard for its own damaging effects on the environment. The benefit of 'slow design' is that it allows you to be more considerate of your material use, meaning that the eco-footprint is lessened because of the process.

The fashion industry is inherently fast, but I have found myself in the last few years growing more and more dissatisfied with it. This quick fix, impulsive buying to fill a spot in your wardrobe culture is exactly that- a quick fix. I want my wardrobe to be full of pieces I love, and I know will last, and it makes me feel so happy to be more supportive of local, small brands and designers that are putting in the effort to remodel the industry. I know how great it feels to see someone wearing my clothes, and I am happy to give that feeling to someone else when I can afford to.

In the end, I wanted to be inspired by the material I had, the colour it was and the actual process I was going through, I was letting how I felt about what I was doing inform the next step I would take, I allowed myself to make mistakes, and I embraced them to create something that is really unique to me and my experience of making it.

I love this bag, and I am happier for having made it.

So if you want to make one like this, here is what I did

materials: - size 8mm knitting needles

- 2 balls of chunky yarn (i used deadstock yarn from hobbycraft, 10% alpaca 90% acrylic) either both in one colour or 2 different colours like me.

Stitch info:

I was using the honeycomb stitch for the majority of the bag, however, I found in the process that you can create 2 variations of the same stitch based on a very subtle change in the pattern.

The basic pattern goes like this:

cast on in multiples of 2

row 1: Knit 1, Knit one Bellow

row 2: Knit 1 with slip, knit 1

row 3: Knit 1 bellow, knit 1

row 4: knit 1, knit 1 with slip.

This comes out looking like this ->

However, i made a slight adjustment that changed the look a little so it was tighter together:

row 1: knit 1, knit 1 bellow

row 2: knit together current stitch and one bellow catching the slip in between, knit 1

row 3: knit 1 bellow, knit 1

row 4: knit 1, knit 1 and bellow together.

This minor adjustment came out looking quite nice

So here's the pattern then:

Cast on 40 stitches

knit 4 rows plain knit

start working pattern (either variation) for 60 rows

knit 10 rows of 2x2 rib

cast off

repeat for the second side

I then used a rib stitch to create my straps by casting on 6 stitches and working k1, p1 for as long as I wanted my straps to be.

The 2 colour choice was a complete accident, I originally bought 1 ball of cream, knitted one side then didn't have enough to finish the bag. when I returned to hobby craft there was no cream left so I picked up the blue and decided i would have two colours and the straps would be attached to the opposite colour on each side. To be honest, I love it, and that mistake is exactly what slow design is about, rolling with the punches and evolving with the project.

I've come a long way since May of this year, making this bag and contemplating my achievements were really therapeutic and almost a meditation for me. I've had so much fun pushing myself to create, and I have made some things I really love these past few months, so here is a little showcase of that. (you can always buy my stuff on my Etsy and Depop, or message me too :)

Thanks Ali for the photos :)

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