Half way in to the month of May, I am ambivalent about participating in Me-Made-May. Not because I don't believe in the idea, I most certainly endorse the idea of encouraging and supporting people who are entering, or expanding, into the world of self-made wardrobes. If you are unfamiliar with the movement, go check out the blogger who started the whole thing, Zoe at So, Zo What Do You Know?. To see thousands of examples, search any of the associated hashtags like #memademay, #memademay2017, #mmm17, and the like. This movement (is that what we call it?) has been going on for eight years, which I would say is pretty impressive. That dedication and engagement speaks to the call of making our own clothing. I rather love that idea, that it's been going on for eight years, and still going strong. However, with any social movement (I'm gonna use that term unless someone can give me a better one) you have grumblings, and criticism. I started writing this post on the first of May, but didn't get to a place where I felt like posting it, so I sat on it. And life happened, as well as two weeks of MMM17, so here I am two weeks later. In that time I have seen many many posts of thoughtful people sharing their belief in handmade with the community. Some of the posts are sweet and enthusiastic in their simple joy of having made a wearable garment. I love those ones! Folks who in the last little while have been introduced to the huge world of garment sewing that feels so big and adventuresome, discovering the myriad opportunities making your clothing brings. And the community of like-minded people! I do not want to sound in any way jaded, but I remember that feeling of excitement of all the clothes I was going to make. (For a look at my 2015 MeMadeMay, you can go to the About page to see a grid of them) This is not to say that I am not still excited about the garments I have yet to make, and the plans I have. But as I have filled my closet out, and accomplished a certain level of proficiency in making items that I will wear, I have become more discerning. I now find myself with a large closet full of handmade clothes, only a certain portion of which I wear on a regular basis. I need to figure out what to do with the rest of it.
As Me Made evolves as a construct I see more and more fine tuning and distinction on how to execute it. Coming so closely on the heels of Fashion Revolution week (how many memes can there be?) I can feel a shift in our collective making from impulsive sewing to discerning making. As a community, our collective closets are fleshing out. We have options. The Slow Fashion idea is becoming a movement that has many tentacles reaching in all sorts of directions. As with any of these modern online movements, some of these ideas can become a little strident in tone, as individuals see an opportunity to make some noise. We are all just trying to connect. I get that, and I can feel a bit like I'm screaming into the wind sometimes myself. But what I really like about Zoe's pronouncement this year is how much each Me-Made-May'er can tailor the movement to their own needs. I can get completely paralyzed by not knowing where the fabric I am sewing with was made, for one personal demon. And then as I spiral down that rabbit hole, thinking about how much unsustainable fabric is in my stash, I stop making, and become depressed, defeated. This happened a couple times last month after reading thoughtful and engaged posts by people around the Fashion Revolution. And then when I realized Me-Made-May was beginning so soon, I confess I was lost and a bit resentful. How can any one person keep up with the latest ideas around sustainability? Especially when it seems everyone has an opinion about it? I found a reality check in Karen Templer's post, give it a read, and remembered that we each need to do what we can, what we are comfortable with.
I was uncertain of my participation in Me-Made-May at the beginning of the month, when I first began this post. I mean I wear Me-Made every day already, what's the point? Do I really think my Instagram followers want to see thirty pictures of me in a row....? Do I want to take a self portrait every day this month? I am struggling with my photography at the moment. When I use my phone on the timer it gives me these weird burst photos that I can't post on Instagram. Not to mention I can't figure out a tripod situation for the phone. When I use my camera then I have a complicated set-up to find a neutral background, and I always need to edit the images for color balance and the like. It's been SO grey lately and when I get direct sun it's too contrasty. My studio is good for making, but not great for photography. So that's frustrating.
And then there is the idea around making just for this month, which is really not something I want to do. I just spent three weeks trying to find a sustainable raincoat to purchase, to replace the Patagonia coat I have had for literally 25 years which has finally stopped being waterproof. I cannot find a raincoat to buy that is what I want, that will keep me dry, and that is within my budget. That was a very frustrating process, trying to buy a raincoat! I was reminded how much I HATE shopping. I tried it in person (not easy here in Maine), and when that proved fruitless, turned to the interwebs. Ugh. Not fun. The whole enterprise felt like a personal affront, and a total waste of my time. Does this sound like a Slow Fashion issue or what? While I was thrashing about searching rainwear made in the US, or sustainable, or small batch, quietly waiting in my studio was the Waver jacket from Papercut Patterns, cut out and half-sewn in some waterproof fabric bought at Mood months ago when I set to making myself a raincoat about six months ago..... Sigh. C'mon Samantha, what are you doing looking to buy a raincoat? I pulled the project back out. It is not my finest make, but you know what? It keeps me dry! A very pragmatic make that has seen a lot of action since I finished it.
The past two weeks, while I was on the raincoat quest, I cut out and made two separate pairs of Flint pants from Megan Nielsen. The first pair, while wearable, were a bit clown-like in their oversizedness. [what strange denial am I in that I keep making items to big for my waist in a effort not to make something too small....] But the second pair, taken back in to the pattern's original XL, fits quite well, and made up in some lightweight Navy twill from my stash (that mysteriously appears to be crocking a bit?) is now a highly wearable garment. This process of making up two pairs of pants in a week, made me take a hard look at my making. I know I am not alone at this crossroads. Have you read Karen Templer's post about her Summer of Basics makealong? It would seem many of us are thinking this way. The idea of taking a whole Summer to make three garments seems like a slow pace, but then that is the brilliance of it. We are all still moving too fast, why does the accumulation of made garments appear more important in it's quantity than the quality of said items? If we're going to have any impact on the industry, we need to act as examples and reduce our ridiculous demand for new new new. Last month's TEDtalks offered up some ideas I read about in a Washington Post article that hit home. I encourage you to read the WaPo article. The idea banging around in my head was from Emily Esfahani Smith, whose book The Power of Meaning, talks about how chasing meaning makes us happier than chasing happiness. This may sound like a tangent I'm heading out on, but honestly I can tell you that when I am sewing up a button up shirt that I have made a couple times before, in a fabric I love and need in my closet, I am filled with meaning that is just as profound a feeling as happiness. I think that's why so many sewists and makers are focusing their attention on items that they know they will wear over and over again, in fabrics that may not be flashy or exciting, that take a little more time to make. We are all looking for meaning, in our closets as well as elsewhere..... Perhaps even more in our closets at the moment because it is in such short supply in the wider world around us?
As my garment sewing evolves I find myself less and less excited about sewing the new, the shiny, the flashy patterns. I still buy them when they come out, no doubt. But I am drawn to classic items such as those designed by Heather Lewenza at Closet Case Patterns and Jen Beeman at Grainline Studio. I spent a good part of this winter in my two pair of Ginger jeans, my Archers, and various Lark or Hemlock T's layered under my handknits. I made up a Driftless cardigan last month and while it was not an exciting make (Navy cotton knit) it is getting a lot of wear this Spring. So while I would like to make myself a new Elisalex, a Sallie Jumpsuit, a Kielo, I think I may just plug along on my button up shirt vein. I have completed a Rosa top as a muslin, followed by a dress that I rather like the shape of. This has become my way in to MMM17, to really focus my attention on the basic closet items that I know I will wear daily if they are in my closet, even if they are not sexy makes. And not to be banged out for this month, but at a thoughtful pace for the foreseeable future. To whit, I was in the mood to cut out a pattern (and I need to be in the mood to do that part of the process) so I cut out two Archers, another pair of Flints and a pair of Hudsons. The Archers have been completed, the Flints are next followed, most likely, by the Hudsons. I feel it's important to mention here that I do not have a conventional job that requires me to go to an office and be accountable to a boss. I do not have children. My time is very much my own, unlike many people I know. I have made choices in my life, long-term, and more recently, that allow me to engage in this dedicated making without interrupting other activities. My introversion is served by spending hours back here in my studio sewing. So my output is just that, mine, and not to be compared to anyone else's. While Social Media allows us a window into each others lives, we all need to remember that there is a human being, with all the associated flaws we don't feel like sharing, beyond that window. What we choose to share is a picture we want you to see. It is edited, it is cropped, it is a tiny snapshot of a moment that represents what we want the world to see. So never ever think that because someone appears prolific, and beautiful, and flawless, wearing the most gorgeous clothing made by their own hand, that there is not a side they don't share, that is just as human as we all are. Take the good from these pictures, leave your own insecurities out of the experience. Every single image you see here was edited by me. Me Made May is not about comparison, it is about celebrating this lovely practice we all share of making something from nothing with our own labor and skill. And that should be shared without reservation, but with an understanding of the fullness of it.
Makers Gonna Make.