Getting Intentional About My Me-Made Wardrobe

My family composts, we recycle, we use reusables rather than paper or plastic. I make our favorite reusables for other folks at pen&thimble. We try to be thoughtful about what we buy and where. But I always want to push us to do a little more. This year, I’m making time to create a sustainable and long-lasting me-made wardrobe.

Sewing Garments

During the pandemic, I started getting serious about sewing garments. I’m lucky enough to be in the business of working with fabrics, so I came to garment sewing with a knowledge of fabrics, patterns, and I had most of the tools.

My favorite pieces I’ve made so far are the Gypsum Skirt from Sew Liberated.

I also knit that cardigan! It’s the Lighthouse Cardigan by Brandi Cheyenne Harper

And this modified Gemma Top by Rae Hoekstra of Made By Rae

I’m also wearing a scarf I crocheted. It’s the Doppio Colosseum scarf designed by Fay Dashper-Hughes.

Yes, the skirt and top are the same rose linen. Fabric is expensive and it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. So that means I’ll have a lot of pieces in the same colors. It’s a slow process. It’s not about the brand new hue or cool new print for me right now. But I seriously love this color so it’s a delight to keep working with it!

Knitting Garments

I also became a knitter during the pandemic. I came to the world of yarn in 2018 as a wool-allergic/sensitive crocheter of mostly cotton and linen yarns. And four years later I am a wool-loving, and now wool-tolerating, knitter of wool!

I do want to note that in the world of knit vs crochet, I stan both! Crochet is beautiful, varied, and often underestimated. And modern crochet, where my preference leans toward, is gorgeous — just look at Moorit Magazine for examples. But sadly, crocheting hurts my shoulder and back in a way knitting doesn’t so until I can figure out what I’m doing wrong with my crochet hook, I’m primarily a knitter these days.

Some of my hand-knit socks drying after a hand wash.

This year I’m getting more intentional with my knitting. I have a goal to finish one pair of socks every month. So far I’m on track! And I want to knit myself some staple garments that will stand the test of time.

Like this fresh-off-the-needles sweater — DRK Everyday Sweater by Andrea Mowry

It’s a perfect fit!

One of the things I love about knitting is that the materials can be reused. I knit the sweater above holding two strands of yarn together. Both strands were from two different crochet projects that didn’t quite work out. So I repurposed the yarn to make this knit classic piece!

I’m taking my time and trying to construct garments and knits that will pair well together and last for many years. It doesn’t mean I’m never shopping for clothes again. But I am buying less clothing for myself because right now it’s more fun to make and wear my own!

I’m going to use this space for me-made wardrobe updates this year. You can also follow my making journey on Instagram and the new Making App. I’m @gillianstitches on both. (Making app is a cool new app from Making Magazine that is kind of like Instagram but more quiet and for makers. So like old Instagram but 99% of the content is craft/making related — sewing, paper crafts, weaving, knitting, crochet, pottery, woodwork… all the things!)

I am always thinking about how I can apply my pen&thimble tagline — less waste is a bright idea — in my everyday life. When it comes to my me-made wardrobe, it is my goal to reduce clothing waste, purchase less fast-fashion, and just enjoy my handmade wardrobe endeavor. It all feels like a very bright (and fun) idea!

Let me know if you have any questions about my me-made wardrobe! I’d love to answer them in future posts!

Attitude of Gratitude

I have a Thanksgiving freebie (pdf) for you!

Last year, I hand-drew little thankful scrolls for our Thanksgiving dinner. Guests pulled one out of a jar and discussed during the meal. I had separate scrolls for kids and grownups, but it turned out that the grownups wanted in on the kid prompts too! Obviously, they had books and movies and superheroes they were thankful for!

This year, I decided to make some prompts for you and your family too — and these are for EVERYBODY.

Thankful Fill Cards Waste-Free Tips:

  • These aren’t just for Thanksgiving — REUSE them at any family meal, pop them in a lunch box for a gratitude boost, or put the stack in your own grown-up bag and pull a card when you need a gratitude-attitude shift.
  • Want to make these reusable? Laminate them and use whiteboard marker to fill in, erase, and REPEAT.
  • If your printer is agreeable (mine is), print these on the back of a piece of paper that was heading to the RECYCLING bin and then recycle them when you’re all done.
  • Don’t print these out at all. Read the prompts from your screen and answer them out loud.
  • Print one sheet of prompts and take turns writing answers and passing it around so the prompt is full of different answers. Then share the answers or make a guessing game of it.

Happy (American) Thanksgiving! We use this holiday as an excuse to gather with family and sit in gratitude, which is a practice I’m trying to incorporate into my everyday life too. It really has improved my attitude. Even if I’m grateful for the same things over and over — my husband, our backyard view, crochet time, my silly and sweet girls, being able to do creative work from my home studio.

Hope you find these cards useful for Thanksgiving or any other day!

Twin Sides of a Handmade Business: Back-To-School (Im)Balance

Shoutout to all the parents doing their best, showing up late sometimes, and still smiling! (Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook Sept 26)

My kids’ school has been having Spirit Week all week and this is our first day participating (Thursday) because I just figured out it was happening.

Of course I finally find the dress up schedule this morning to read that it’s Twin Thursday and I haven’t coordinated a matching friend outfit because… so many negative words flood my head, “I’m terrible, disorganized, flighty, a bad mom.” But the truth is that I’m not in work-life balance right now.

This isn’t my season for the beautiful work-life balance I imagined when I started this business years ago. Back-to-School orders come in like a tidal wave July-September, and my focus turns toward work to keep up. And at this point in my business, I know to plan for the big spike in sales this time of the year, but each year sees expansion and growth I never imagined. So no matter how much planning and preparation I do, we’re still caught a bit off guard.

But back to Twin Thursday 👯‍♀️. So there I am looking at this e-flyer with panic because I haven’t coordinated with my girls’ friends as I’m just seeing this dress up theme an hour before school starts. Probably not an ideal time to make a call to friends for this. But hey! We’ve got a built-in friend duo right here. Yay!

The struggle of a handmade business with a booming back-to-school season during back-to-school season with small kids

Both girls are so excited to match pants, shoes, and hairstyle — even if we couldn’t make a matching top happen. And I’m glad we showed up to Spirit Week even if we’re a little late.

Running a growing business and a family looks like this sometimes. But/And I think we are pretty happy! We figure it out and show up when we can, even if we are a little late to the party.

October 1st Note: Special thanks to YOU — customers who kept me busy; followers who cheered me on; family and friends who gave me space and grace — for your patience while I kept up with the massive tidal wave that was back-to-school orders this year. It was exponentially bigger than expected which was equal parts exciting and exhausting. Par for the course in business ownership! Now, I’m taking a breath and celebrating a bit as well as planning for the holiday season and 2020. New prints are coming and more of that #wastefreecurious content you love!