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Knitting & The Benefits of Slow Fashion

Egyptian socks in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, circa 250-450 AD

“We live in an age where unnecessary things are our only necessities.”
– Oscar Wilde

Knitters are an interesting lot, especially in 2015. We are essentially crafting our own clothing using sticks and string at a time when we can choose our next pattern using a device that accesses the internet from the palm of our hand. One couldn’t call us luddites—Ravelry has over 5.5 million users around the globe—but we are engaging in an ancient and useful art that dates as far back as 250 A.D. We are a paradox. Wielding an archaic art form in one hand and the latest technology in the other, we’re pushing against the tides of time to carry something ancient into a new age. 

Like it or not, we are living in an incredibly disposable time. Speaking of our devices, according to a 2014 study by Recon Analytics, the average American replaces their phone every 22 months. It’s also an age of easy distraction and instant gratification—if you want to binge watch all 100 episodes of your favorite series on Netflix, you can do it without ever leaving the couch… because you can also order all your meals on your laptop.

Where do knitters land in a disposable, instant gratification world? As lovers of everything sartorial, we’ve noticed with some dismay the advent of the “fast fashion” movement, with looks moving from catwalk to collection faster than you can say ‘cabled fisherman sweater.’ Knitting and crocheting are the very antithesis of fast fashion, so how do we contend with the zeitgeist and still remain relevant, chic, and fashionable?

We recently watched a documentary  titled The True Cost, currently available on Netflix. It explores the negative side effects of our fast fashion existence, which has far-reaching consequences impacting both the planet and hundreds of thousands of working people—most of them women. Executive produced by Livia Firth, who is also the creative director of Eco-Age, founder of The Green Carpet Challenge, and lastly, wife of Colin Firth, The True Cost examines why we moved away from ecologically sound, sustainable clothing, a topic about which Tahki Stacy Charles Yarns knows firsthand.

Men pulling racks of clothing on busy sidewalk in Garment District, New York City, circa 1955. From the Library of Congress archives.
Men pulling racks of clothing on busy sidewalk in Garment District, New York City, circa 1955. From the Library of Congress archives.

In 1978 our fearless leader, Stacy Charles, began working in his Uncle Sam and Aunt Irma’s button supply business in New York City’s famous Garment District. Clothing in America was a huge manufacturing industry—95% of American clothing was American-made in 1965. Now only 5% of clothing is made in America (for another wonderful look inside NYC’s once-burgeoning, now-shrunken Garment District, watch Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags).

Stacy surveying some of his mood boards
Stacy surveying some of his mood boards

Stacy has always been a vocal ambassador of the tenets of ‘Slow Fashion‘ while also acknowledging the ways in which trends can be sustainably appreciated. Each season Stacy culls ideas from the catwalks for translation into knitwear, reining in the artful (but sometimes unwearable) to make something lasting and timeless. Knitwear, by its very definition, is eco-friendly and sustainable—when we choose our next knitting project, we don’t dare make something we can’t wear next year, or even in the next five years. Knitters cast their sharpest critical eye on their next project knowing it’s an investment of time, money, and materials. As Livia Firth said recently, “You make an investment, and this is what our wardrobe should be made of: investment pieces that last forever, not throwaway pieces that we don’t care about.”

Runway tears that inspired Tahki Stacy Charles' Spring 2014 collections
Runway tears that inspired Tahki Stacy Charles’ Spring 2014 collections

If the ‘”Slow Fashion” movement is going to take root anywhere, it will be in the fertile grounds of the crafting world. Karen Templer of Fringe Association is starting her first ever “Slow Fashion October,” and all crafters are welcome to participate. Having just celebrated Zara’s 25th Anniversary last year, Tahki Stacy Charles has a vested interest in the longevity of not only our garments but also our materials. It’s something we stress more than anything in our industry—materials matter. If you’re going to spend months making an intricate lace cardigan, make it with the best materials available.

The Zara Family of yarns has long been a favorite of knitters—a superwash extrafine merino available in a staggering array of weights and color treatments, Zara in its many iterations hasn’t changed all that much from when we first introduced it to the American market from Italy. As Stacy told us:

“I have always considered fibers and raw materials  when I select yarns. In fact, this is always utmost in my mind. While I have been known for my innovation in yarn developments, I have always considered myself a classicist—well, maybe a classicist with a twist. I consider one of my greatest achievements to be helping to develop the ‘Zara Merino’ yarns at Filatura Di Crosa.

“Even today, Zara is still produced with the same exacting standards as when we developed it 25 years ago. As with all our new products, we work with our technicians ( I often call them magicians) on our machines at the mill, and through trial and error… voila!”

You can see more garments from the Zara 25th Anniversary Collection here, and we just sent out our Knitflash newsletter detailing this season’s Zara garments here. Since Slow Fashion October is less than a month away, now is the perfect time to pick a pattern to partake in the movement. Zara’s variety, durability, easy-care wearability, and gorgeous stitch definition make it an obvious choice, but any quality Tahki Stacy Charles fiber would do.

Olivia Turtleneck in Zara 8
Olivia Turtleneck in Zara 8

Do you consider your fibers when choosing your next project? Do you expect your garments to last a lifetime, or are you knitting for trends? Have you made a beloved garment in a Zara yarn? Share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!