Darned

With Leigh’s encouragement (“it’s a kind of weaving with the sock as the frame”) and inspiration from Felix’s account of Celia Pym’s mending project (plus a little e-tutoring), I managed to turn a tight-foot that was more hole than heel:

into something that is more blue than brown, but definitely worthy of putting in a shoe again:

My first darn is inside out – my previous lumpy mends pursuaded me to do my sewing from the inside, which is completely the wrong approach here because it puts the raw edges of the stocking-foot in contact with the insole of my shoe which wore them away originally. But I really like the irregular shapes of the holes with the bright teal gleaming through, and maybe Leigh’s jumper idea is headed for my sketchbook…

Pennywise, Pound Foolish, Sewing Incompetent

About two years ago, life in the Paperhouse was changed forever by the discovery of a couple of pairs of Falke Soft Merino tights on the hosiery shelf during a rummaging session in TK Maxx. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I really am pretty shallow. Suddenly, winter dressing was transformed from a misery of static-y, snaggley, chilly legs to a cocoon of cosy chic. I went back and bought every pair of the tights in my size – even some in a shade which I like to think of as “camel” but is really an unwearable sort of unfleshly tone. I liked them so much I bought a couple of pairs at full, eye-watering price, thinking that even though £40 was a lot to blow on tights, at least they’d last a long time and I could definitely darn them.

But even tights with a serious Germanic name will wear out eventually and when mine ripped along the gusset, it turned out that my mending skills were a little reluctant. First of all, I put them in the mending pile. Then they ended up in the laundry. Then I tried to wear them anyway, and that was a thigh-chafing little adventure. However, I wasn’t going to buy replacements, and I refused to go back to nylons, so something would have to be done.

I don’t know how to darn. I remember my mum’s darning mushroom, and even recall seeing the occasional sock on it, but I wasn’t interested in acquiring any textiles skills. Darn number one was a rough stab with grey cotton which – and I really do see how this could have been foreseen – ripped through the surrounding wool on first wear. So I tried again:

Whipstitching with black sock yarn made a seam with the unrefined look of something out of a Cronenberg movie but also one which is stretchy enough to hold up. So I’ve got my tights back, although the world hasn’t really gained in darning expertise. Any tips on a good source for learning to do this properly would be welcome in the comments…

I get stuff

Not that I am milking my long-ago birthday for blog matter, oh no. But my dear little Ratchet made me this dear little cake (see how here), and seeing it on my mantelpiece every day makes me feel like every day is, in fact, my birthday. Which means that this six-weeks-after-the-fact post is practically timely.

In other stuff-I-have-gotten news, this yarn arrived from New York today. It’s Alchemy Silken Straw, it’s catastrophically expensive, and it’s the most curious and beautiful yarn I’ve handled in all my knitting days. As a knitter whose taste in yarn takes in the whole panoply of options from “DK-weight superwash merino” to “DK-weight superwash cotton-merino mixes”, this is a big leap into the unknown. In the skein, Silken Straw is glorious: crisp, faceted, richly coloured. But winding it (and lord knows I am glad to work in an office with a swift), you get to really understand its strange loveliness, well-evoked by its Rapunzel-ish name. Though it rustles like paper, it’s remarkably strong and promises to become a very special garment – something celebratory, I think.

Per Standard Blogging Procedure…

[Apology for not blogging here.] [Heartfelt resolution to blog more in future here.] [Explanation for lack of blog activity here.]

Actually, the explanation for lack of blog activity is here and here. It’s my first time making real magazines and – thanks to our dedicated commissioning eds, stunning contributors, fabulously talented art guy, and heroic publisher – the results are pretty impressive. Hitting the newstands mid-October.

Further On Fashion

Portfolio magazine on luxury fashion’s vague shrug towards responsible manufacturing practices.

In a January report, investment research firm Innovest’s list of the 100 most responsible corporations included no luxury conglomerates […] Innovest’s list, oddly, does include two leading retailers in the wasteful “fast fashion” movement—H&M and Inditex, which owns the Zara chain. It’s hard to be truly green with a business model that compels customers to frequently throw out what they own. Unfortunately, luxury fashion has begun taking cues from fast fashion, putting itself at odds with its exclusive nature. Whereas couturiers once made design statements as part of an ongoing evolution—creating new jackets that would go with last year’s dresses—fast fashion introduces clothes nonstop, zigzagging through multiple styles each season. Forced obsolescence drives consumers to buy more. This may sound like a shrewd business practice, but overproduction leads to overconsumption: The more we buy, the more we discard. That’s environmentally heedless—and it’s ugly.

For Portfolio, one of the key points here is that by chasing the throwaway fashion dollar, luxury fashion has been unwittingly degrading its own marketplace. A jacket that matches last season’s skirt implies a select clientele of repeat customers, picking out essential pieces season after season. The novelty-hungry trend seekers who rummage through H&M and Zara are, by their nature, not very loyal: they don’t have a relationship to the things they buy, and they don’t have a relationship to the places they buy them either.

Couture design and crafting can’t respond to the rapid turnover of street fashion. By inciting a furious desire for new beauty every season, the designer brands have summoned up a demand for copycats who can supply quick-turnaround product. Susan Scafidi’s solution to this problem is to espouse copyright protection for fashion designs – a proposal which, despite my sympathy for designers, seems neither very workable nor fair nor desirable. It doesn’t serve to change the self-immolating business model which Portfolio picks up on, either. Portfolio offers a different remedy which combines sustainability with exclusivity:

try to imagine a high-end fashion giant responding to our overtaxed environment by embracing traditional methods that are both more luxurious and less ephemeral. Now that would be a radical new design.

For domestic knitters and tailors, this isn’t that radical at all – if you are a competent needleworker, then you’re all set to be your own couturier. Luxury fashion is racing to catch up with your knitting bag…