Re-committing to used clothing

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Midway through 2011, I made a post here publicly committing to not buying any new clothing besides socks, undergarments, and shoes for the next year.

Aside from a brief flirtation with new clothing in 2015-2016 (first in fall 2015 when I bought myself a 6 basic t-shirts at H&M when I had a slightly larger income due to cobbling together a few part-time jobs, then again in the latter months of 2016 when I tried out Modcloth for two orders (meh) and H&M one last time, after I started my current full time job), I’ve stuck pretty well to this resolution made eight years ago.

This is relatively easy for me for a number of reasons, most of all that clothing made by fast-fashion and big box retailers tends not to fit me very well, so why bother messing around with it anyway? Meanwhile, the likelihood of something from the 1940s-1960s fitting me is significantly higher, curiously enough. I’ve also noticed a marked difference in quality with fabric on newer clothing pilling more readily, not only on my hips where my bag rests, but frequently over the whole item, even with delicate washing or following the “dry cleaning only” instruction. Meanwhile my 50-to-75-year-old clothing remains in excellent wearable shape even with regular use.

 


Some favorite vintage I found in 2018. Oldest items are from the 40s, newest from the 70s.

Reading back over my post from 2011, what strikes me the most is how I wrote that deciding not to buy new felt freeing because I no longer even bothered to look at clothes at places like Target or H&M.

Meanwhile, ever since Jan 1 last week, when I took a long, hard look at my finances and then wrote out a money diary accounting for my clothing-related expenditures, and just now as started to draft out my clothing budgeting plans for 2019, freedom is not how I would describe it at all.

Instead it is all about control now. How can I account for every expenditure and justify it, and how can I make more rules for myself for the coming year?

I find this curious and worrying.

In a generalized form (I can post the full money diary for the curious, something I’m still considering doing in an Instagram post at least), this is what 2018 looked like:

New clothing/shoes: 29% of total spent (if bridesmaid related expenses are excluded: 25.2%) – most expensive non-undergarment: bridesmaid dress, $47.99
Used or existing clothing/shoes (including tailoring): 71% of total (if bridesmaid related expenses are excluded: 74.8%) – most expensive item: vintage black dress to wear to my grandfather’s funeral, $58.75.

A mix of thoughts about 2019:
Happy to see that in 2018, aside from that bridesmaid dress, I didn’t buy any new non-undergarment/sock/shoe clothing new. I can probably get through 2019 without buying any new socks, undergarments, and shoes (but I think I shouldn’t try to compromise too much in that regard).  It would be good to find more sustainable options for these when I do buy them, however. They would cost more, but that would be ethically better.

How can I make thrifting and other secondhand clothing shopping even more:
a) sustainable for the environment
and
b) affordable?

a) One thing that isn’t figured into the above, by nature of its difficulty to calculate, is the carbon footprint I generated by ordering clothes online that are mailed to me and with my own driving to local secondhand stores. If I ban myself from all online clothing shopping, that would definitely cut down on expenses and the cost to the environment of air and land freight and delivery. That being said, since my package isn’t custom shipped to me end to end all on its own, but part of batches of mail with USPS and the mail delivery truck comes to our apartment complex every day whether I order something or not, while it is good for me to think about what I contribute to those deliveries, if I want to minimize my impact on the environment, I need to think about my own time spent behind the wheel instead.

Going forward in 2019, unless the thrift store is directly on my way to or from somewhere I need to be for work or a household errand, (there are three along my route to the grocery store, for example, and, depending on if I drive local roads or the highway to work, another 5-6 directly on those routes. I really should take the bus to work more often, however…), perhaps I should not go to any other stores unless I take the bus to get there. The exception to this would be if I am doing this as a social event with a friend and, since I have no friends who thrift with me out here, this isn’t likely to happen. (But if would be fun if it did!)

b) This past summer, I listened in on a financial webinar put on by my employer’s retirement financial services management company about budgeting. One thing that shocked me was in the breakdown of a model “good budget” that we were invited to consider regarding our own finances, we could allot up to 4% of our post-tax income to clothing. Meanwhile, my clothing-related spending in 2018 that I used to generate the percentages above comes out to about 2% of my post-tax income.

Nonetheless, I feel a compulsion to control this and cut it back even more. I have this tendency to feel like I have to forgo things that I enjoy because they are “wasteful,” “excessive,” and “unnecessary.” Moderation is important, but constant guilt is not good. Thinking about that percentage is a good reminder to me that I don’t actually have to be so hard on myself. Perhaps, instead of feeling like I need to cut back further than 2% of my post-tax income, I should make a commitment to donate 2X or 3X of whatever I spend on clothing in 2019 to charities. In 2018, I did manage to give more to charity than I spent on clothes, but not quite 2X as much.

After spending my 20s having next to no savings, I’ve felt incredible anxiety about catching up in my early 30s and, consequently, haven’t dedicated enough of my new income to others so far. I have much room for improvement in ways that ask me to be expansive and generous, rather than controlling and narrow.

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Baby #4

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Friends, am I getting caught up on blogging?

Baby #4 was born just three days ago (although I mailed her gifts off two months ago…), and Baby #5 was born only last  week too (still working on his…)

Oh right, and Baby #6’s grandpa wants me to make something for him too…

Okay, maybe not quite yet.

ANYWAY, back to the newest baby…

Baby #4 got another cute little vest with chain-stitch flowers on it because I loved making that first one so much.

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Click this link for the free pattern, hosted on Ravelry.

And a giant granny square blanket because those are so lovely to work on, even with all the ends to sew in afterwards…

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Neither Gossy nor Bonk wanted me to send this blanket away. They were totally in love with it from the moment I started working on it.

But I still did (after washing it, of course!)…

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It was so soft and squishy in addition to being bright and happy.  I love granny squares and bright colors set off by neutral gray or beige!  Knitpicks Brava Sport may be a little splitty to work with, unfortunately, but it’s so nice once it’s all crocheted up. I’m glad to have found a new favorite lightweight acrylic to use for future baby projects!

I have to take a break from blogging for a while now as I finish up my presents for Baby #5.

I’m 75% finished with a blanket that involves both colorwork and granny squares, but nowhere near to started on a hat and cardigan set.

But no penguin faces this time so it should be way easier!!

Baby #3

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Baby #3’s gifts also grew out of a silly idea on the part of his parents.

Back before they got married in 2014, his mom & dad made a truly hilarious engagement video of them costumed as a penguin and a giraffe and dancing around Chicago.

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Obviously their child should grow up knowing that his parents are some of the silliest, cutest people in the world.  Since they told me they were expecting a boy, I figured that he’d need to dress like a baby penguin to fit into his family.

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For the cardigan, I used the same pattern as baby #2’s green froggy one.  The little yellow booties (you can’t see it in the above picture of his parents, but dad is wearing ridiculous orange shoes too) came from this super simple free pattern.

That hat though… oh dear. Baby #3 would have gotten his presents so much earlier if I hadn’t set my heart on free-handing a color-worked baby penguin face hat.

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…I thought finally had something satisfactory, until I realized it was far from baby sized.

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Thankfully, making a second hat was so much easier.  Not only had I figured out how to pattern the color work, I also made the smaller hat by holding two strands together and using an I hook instead of the F hook I used for the bigger hat. SO MUCH FASTER!

I sent the bigger hat off too but I suspect that mom & dad might be wearing it more than baby #3 will be for a decade or so…

I wanted to make sure that giraffe-mom wasn’t forgotten either and totally lucked out by finding a giraffe blanket at Target.

Next, moving on to Baby #4…

Baby #2

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Back in late December, we had dinner with the parents of Baby #2 & Baby #3, after which we stayed up far past all our bedtimes drinking tea, eating cookies, and coming up with awful names for poor Baby #2. In a way, this was all Baby Mom #2’s doing after she suggested a partiality for the name of a certain Muppet frog…

Clearly I had no option but to lean into that evening of laughter with some of my presents…

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I free-handed the frog hat (taking inspiration from Frogcat clearly), and then used a free pattern for the cute little cardigan.

Since I put little feet onto the ties of the hat (I imagine it’s a whole frog sitting on Baby #2’s head like a helmet), I didn’t make booties to go along with this set.

Obviously, I didn’t want Baby #2 to grow up thinking that I believed they were just a frog, I made a couple of other things.

A kitty hat, as was requested when I learned they were expecting:

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And finally, I took the chance of to finish up a baby blanket project I’d had sitting around, in pieces, since 2011, and get it out of my UFO stash.

IMG_1134The white cotton came from an unraveled sweater I got at a rummage sale forever ago and used in some other projects over the years, whereas the gray/blue cotton came in that huge stash of yarn that a friend of my mother-in-law’s sent to me a few years back.

I’m so happy that this long-languishing project turned out so well! Maybe it was just waiting for the right little frog to come along…

Baby #1!

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Baby #1 got the simplest gifts, not because I love her mom any less than any of my other friends, but because when I checked in with her parents, it turned out she already had lots of people pledging to make things AND my friend had some disturbing memories of some horrid crochet dolls from her childhood.

Alright then, I won’t argue with simple and easy!

Having already made three grownup pink cat hats in January and February to send off to friends and family, it seemed right to make one for this little girl too. I recently just heard back from my friend that she sent her daughter to daycare wearing the hat on “homemade hat day” recently and it was a hit with the carers, so I count that as a serious win for all involved.

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The measurements for the baby cat hat are 8 inches across, and 7.5 inches from the top to the edge, by the way.  Rather than crocheting it flat and seaming the whole thing, as that pattern that went around online called for, I crocheted the crown in alternating rows of single crochet and double crochet until it was about 7.5 inches deep, then folded it in half and did the ribbing in the round (2fpdc, 2 bpdc) for another 3.25 or so inches. I used an F hook for this.

I also made a little vest for baby #1. The pattern is super easy to follow and I like that it let me use some neutral cream yarn and embellish it with a little bit of color.

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The pattern is May Flowers, available free on Ravelry. It’s not widely used yet and I don’t understand why. In this baby-gift mill I’ve been operating this year, I really enjoyed making two of these and they both worked up super quickly. For me at least it’s the perfect balance of simple, mindless crochet with a chance to be creative thrown in as well in the flower doodles. Check it out yourself if you’ve got baby presents to make…

2017 – Year of baby crochet!

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In Nov/Dec last year, I learned that three close friends were pregnant and all due in spring. By January, when I began jotting notes on what kinds of things I wanted to make for each of these new babies, I realized I definitely didn’t have enough acrylic yarn (always machine washable for little ones, I wouldn’t want new parents to feel obligated to hand wash anything). You know where this is going!

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Once the holidays were over and my new semester had settled into a semblance of routine, I made a huge knitpicks.com order (getting mostly Brava Sport) and started crocheting.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting the gifts I sent off to each of those three babies and then also something I sent to a fourth baby I learned about in May, this one due any day now to a former grad school professor of mine…

….and of course there’s also something I’m working on for another good friend whose little boy is due soon… more on that once I’ve finished and mailed it off.

…oh, and because I posted a partial picture of that project online, a family friend has asked if I might make his new grandson something similar…

In the midst of all these baby presents, I haven’t had the time or energy to work on much else in terms of crochet or plan out what to make next. (Oh, but some of the pink yarn from my January order was for hats for grown ups, one of my aunts in particular… 😼)

Given the way this year’s been going, I’m sure that as soon as I’m about to finish these next two sets of gifts, someone else will reveal their due date and I’ll have more projects automatically added to my list.

Good thing I got lots more baby-weight acrylic yarn from my Grandma when I visited her last month!

Looking back and looking forward

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The last time I updated this blog, I’d finished off my aunt’s shawl made from yarn unraveled from her favorite but falling apart cardigan. It made me really happy to finally try a pattern I’d had in my library for years, to send that yarn back to its owner in a pretty new form, and to not have to move that yarn to our new home, ~1000 miles from our old one!

In the six months since then (eeeek!), I haven’t made much, even though plenty of yarn did make the move with us!

What little have I achieved in my crochet since then?

1) I sewed buttons on my red granny cardigan (haha but didn’t sew in the ends just in case I still want to move them & also because I hate sewing in ends) and wore it to work as a subtle Halloween costume. So subtle no one seemed to notice I was in costume. I guess that means it can be part of my regular clothing rotation?

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2) I made ONE christmas present – a grocery bag in cotton for my brother and sister-in-law. The pattern is called Nonstop Net and it works up really quickly. Nicely written out AND charted, with helpful diagrams for everything. Somehow I still managed to mess it up and the sides aren’t exactly symmetrical, but it still works! And is big enough to hold a watermelon or pumpkin, I suspect. Haha.

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3) Saving the best for last: FROGCAT.  🐸 😸 ??

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Why frogcat?  It’s sort of a long-standing our-home-specific corruption of the word “groggy”  into “froggy,” which then has turned into saying “I’m a frog” instead of “I feel groggy.”   With Gossy taking many naps and then slowly blinking herself back into consciousness probably dozens of times a day, she is our home’s froggiest occupant.

Obvious, right?   Haha ok no, we’re just strange I suppose.

Anyway, Gene came up with the idea for Gossy to have a specific blanket just for her, rather than getting covered in our cast-off clothes or bathrobes.   He drew up an incredibly technical schematic:

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Over the course of a weekend, I translated this into fabric.  We abandoned the idea of a tie – no sense getting her tangled in it.  Now Gossy spends lots of time snuggled up under her frog, and months later, we’re still getting great amusement out of seeing frogcat.

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Looking forwards into 2017, I have my work cut out for me! Three dear friends are having babies in April-June, so it’s time for me to sort through my stash for baby-appropriate yarn (or go yarn shopping, oh my goodness!) and make some cute hats and other gifts.

Small projects like this are fun to look forward to.  I’m incredibly busy with my new job as my last six months of barely any crochet prove, but if I can make a frogcat blanket in a weekend, I can certainly make a baby hat or two in the same amount of time.

Happy new year and happy crafting to you all!

FO: Recycled Cardigan Shawl

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Over a year ago, my aunt brought me a beloved cardigan that had been darned a few too many times to keep wearing. She asked me if I might want the yarn. You all know how my stash of yarn has been overflowing in recent years and I’ve been trying to decrease its size, not increase it. But in this case, for this yarn that I knew I’d figure out how to give right back to her, I could make an exception.

It was fiddly to work with because it consisted of two unplyed stands: a tan/silver thicker cotton/acrylic one and a thread in either blue, orange, or brown. I managed  to keep it all together while unraveling and then again when crocheting it.

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Pattern: Silver Bells Shawl

I like the pattern a lot. Initially skeptical of doing the last round of picot stitches for the edging, I’m glad I did. They add an essential dimension to the piece and pull it all together.

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I hope she likes her “new” shawl!

Keep, toss, unravel

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We’re moving in about 6 weeks, so I’m packing and sorting through everything. Making some difficult decisions about things that, while I might have strong feelings about, maybe haven’t seen the outside of a box/closet since we moved in here 3 years ago.

I haven’t crocheted any clothing for myself in ages, probably because the pieces I already have aren’t things I love all that much.

The shrug below has already been unraveled. The yarn, which I like, will be better in something else.

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Pattern: Maui Shrug

The next two have both been bagged up and boxed away, even if they’re not perfect.

This red little thing is the first piece of lace I ever attempted. The yarn, Caron Simply Soft, is not holding up well even through I’ve barely worn it, but feeling gas won out over function for now.

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Pattern: Short and Sweet

This cream top still has potential, although I need to figure out how to stop it from sliding off my shoulders.

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Pattern: Babydoll Dress

This last piece is sitting on my desk note as I write, making me go back and forth on my decision about its fate. I think I want to unravel it?  It was a pain to make (read my Ravelry process notes here) and I’ve only ever worn it once. Crocheted dense summer wear doesn’t make much sense… but something is making me hesitate and I don’t quite know what. 

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Pattern: Red Hot Halter

What do you think?  Keep, toss, or unravel?

FO: Geeky baby gifts

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My marvelous cousins are having a baby this summer!

To get this little girl started off on the road to appreciating some great books, movies, and TV shows, I made the following geeky presents:

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Ewok hood (pattern)
Star Trek cardigan (captain, of course!) (Basic baby cardigan pattern)
Hobbit hooded cape (made up myself through trial and error, leaf pattern here)

I hope they like them and that eventually, once she outgrows them, maybe her stuffed animals and dolls can wear them while she imagines herself on Endor, captaining a starship, or on an epic journey…