So, everything is fairly terrifying right now. The election is horrific. Climate change is continuing to wreck havoc across the globe. I don’t have a job, or at the moment, even any freelance gigs signed. And the Red Sox, sigh.
So I’m making things.
I made the jacket in the photo above, from two fabrics in my stash. The blue wool is from a piece I bought on eBay a year or so ago, and has the loveliest selvage on it. I used it for the end of the sleeves, which you can see when they’re not cuffed. It’s lined with an end-piece of orange raw silk I bought a year or so ago when I was in Seattle at District Fabric, and that I’ve been trying to figure out ever since what to do with — it was too short for a dress or a skirt. I have another jacket in this pattern cut out downstairs — in heavier wool, charcoal grey color, with a grey Robert Kaufman chambray to line it with. It’ll be terrific for dog walking, and will distract me for the three or four hours it takes to put it together. I knit a Hitchhiker shawl from a ball of ombre sock yarn that had too much space between the colors (I would have wound up with one black sock and one white sock). I’m also working up a pair of Kate Davies stranded Pawkies, which I’m doing as mittens, because winter is coming, and dog walking is upon me. I’m going to experiment with knitting a little hole for my index finger so I can select stuff on my iPhone through the mittens — I like taking Instagram shots while dog walking.
I’ve been thinking a lot about making stuff and creativity as I try to sketch out and envision what kind of freelance life I’d like to build. Sadly, I can’t retire, or tap into my savings, so I do have to find work, but my hope is to find work that allows me to write about issues I’m interested in, and in the best of all possible worlds, about people who are doing creative things.
In the meantime, I’m staving off panic by thinking about what I want to wear this winter. I have a couple of skirts I made this summer that I loved, and wore all the time. So I’ve been eyeing my stash (since I quit my job, and Can Not Buy More Fabric) and thinking about which patterns would work in which fabrics. It’s also Slow Fashion October, during which my Instagram feed is full of people who sew and knit thinking through their issues of consumption, of how clothes are made and sold in a consumer capitalist model and how, by making our own, we can strike back, even if only on small personal levels, at an economic model built on the idea of cheap, fast, and replaceable items.
Part of the pleasure in making clothes, for me, is thinking about it beforehand. What do I want to look like? And how do I want my clothes to feel? And then, can I make that happen? I have to say, three years into making most of my own clothes, I love getting dressed. I was never fashion-y, but now, I look in my closet, or more likely at my clothesline after doing wash, and it’s just so pleasing. Clothes I like, that fit me, in colors I wanted, that go together most of the time, which last, and that I made myself.
I had a friend visiting about a week ago. Months ago he convinced me to propose my first ever academic paper, nearly 20 years after I finished my Phd, for the Western Literature Association conference which was over at Big Sky this year. It was nearby, and seemed like a good idea. It was fine — I wrote about it in more detail over at my TinyLetter (subscribe here). He was amazed the whole weekend at the way the Montana writers all seem to know one another, and how, for the most part, we’re all pretty supportive of one another. And then, driving around town the next day, showing him Livingston, with our old school buildings repurposed as artist studios and theater spaces, our community garden and used bookstore/reading space, our funky little shops which exist because rent is cheap, it did strike me that we’re a pretty creative bunch of folks around here.
You can forget how important it is to live embedded in a community of creative people until you have to leave it for a while. I’m not slagging on the academics, but that conference, along with the one I went to a year ago, both confirmed for me that I was right to leave academia when I did. And my buddy who came to visit, and who is marooned in the Midwest, in a town where he doesn’t have a circle of people to help feed his own creative work, well, it just drove home for me that even if I sometimes roll my eyes when the local creative types get a little woo, I’d rather live among folks whose first response to most things is “what can I make from it?” or “how can I fix it?” or “can we use this somehow to improve our community?” It’s a small town, and like most small towns we sometimes get kind of fed up with one another, so it was a good reminder of just how fortunate we are. it’s not perfect, goodness knows, but it is creative. And for that I’m deeply grateful.
Also published on Medium.