The “slow food” movement interests me. Indeed, Thor and I endeavor to buy local and seasonal produce. I have started canning again – something that was part of my regular chores growing up.
All of this has a price, though. For instance, canning has an array of costs (e.g., equipment, ingredients, driving to local farmers markets and to outlaying farms to buy produce in bulk), not the least of which is time. Time, of course, has its own associated costs. Being mindful is expensive, though not necessarily (or even usually) in dollars.
But what about a “slow clothes” or “slow fibers” movement? People (especially, so it seems, women), love to buy clothes, but few seem to realize (or perhaps they choose to ignore), both (1) how utterly poorly made the clothes are (whether construction and/or fiber quality), and (2) the true cost of buying those clothes (e.g. labor practices and environmental consequences come to mind).
A consumer can walk into any store in any mall and buy a sweater for under $20, and few will give a moment’s thought to the true cost of that low price. At some level some know they are getting something cheap (as in one step above a rag), but don’t care. As long as it looks decent for a few washings … because then it can be discarded and a new rag – errr, garment – purchased to replace it.
Ah … enter the fiber devotees … First, we select and use the best fiber we can afford. Why? Because our fingers will be moving over every centimeter, which creates a rather intimate relationship with the project. Next, we frequently know the intended recipient of our fiber work, which increases both the value and intimacy. The recipient usually knows our work and love of fiber work, so the finished item is more than a commodity; part of the artist is captured within each project.
My grandchildren will undoubtedly be dressing their children in sweaters, dresses, vests, hats and mittens I knit for them – as well as clothes made by their great- and great-great-grandmothers. My daughter still has every item I knit for her when she went away to college in the snowy Midwest. I think I knit at least one sweater a month in the first semester, and she knew exactly why: I loved her and missed her terribly. At the end of the first semester she telephoned, and the conversation went something like this: “Ma, about the sweaters. They’re beautiful, and I love them – but I don’t have any more room in the wardrobe in my dorm room. I love you and miss you too, but please stop!”
She still has and wears all those beautiful sweaters I knit out of llama, alpaca, wool, Lopi, and mohair (none of which was inexpensive), for the snowy Midwest. But she hasn’t a single one of the store-bought t-shirts, hats, gloves/mittens, slacks, sweat shirts or blouses she wore in college – no matter their cost. Those faded and wore out long ago and were discarded and replaced (several times over).
So I have started my own “slow clothes/fiber movement.” Right now I am on a quest to replace all our towels. At first Thor was hesitant to wipe his hands with them; now I think he enjoys using the linens he sees grow on my loom. Wait until I try my hand at linen sheets!