This summer Kristine Vejar, founder of A Verb for Keeping Warm (one of the first stores to sell our fabrics and supplies in a retail setting), began a project that encourages each of us to make 25% of our wardrobe. Simply stated, this means 1 out of every 4 garments in your closet should be handmade- sewn, knitted, crocheted, or constructed in your desired method. I would also include any accessory- hats, necklaces, socks, shoes, and the like.

The project, called the Seam Allowance Project, helps connect those who have the desire to make with a community of sewers, knitters, and other craftspeople within the DIY movement.

A few reasons to pledge to make 25% of your wardrobe:

It’s an ethical choice. You KNOW how your clothes are being made.

It’s an economical choice. You are saving money by making your clothes yourself.

It’s a sustainable choice. You are consuming less because you are buying less.

It’s a creative choice and a beautiful form of self-expression.

People of generations past made clothes out of necessity, not necessarily because they wanted to. Now, those of us who make our own clothing do so as a conscious choice. Part of the “homesteading” movement is creating a sustainable lifestyle. Self-sufficiency through making includes producing clothing for yourself and your family.

Pave the way for a more self-sufficient lifestyle…

A Verb for Keeping Warm is located in lovely San Francisco (we’ve also been lucky enough to visit and hold a book signing  at the store). The shop also is home to a dye garden, a variety of classes (Kristine will be teaching an Alabama Chanin-style class), distinct yarns and fibers, and many dedicated teachers and employees.

If you are in San Francisco, stop in and learn more about the project, or share the information in your own town or city.

Another inspiring project that we learned about through Kristine: Project 333, where you reduce your wardrobe to 33 items. If you have participated in either project, we’d love to hear about it. Please share your experience in the comments below.

We asked Kristine to share some of her thoughts on “making”:

KV: My day-to-day work focuses on teaching people how to create their own textiles and clothing. I do this in mainly two ways: through sewing, dyeing, and knitting classes and by just being present (my store front, the materials inside, holding down my little space in the world as a representation of the making of textiles and garments).

I look at textiles and garments as inherent to our survival and wellbeing, just like food. We would not be here today without one or the other.

My hope and dream is that textiles and clothing will be thought of as consciously and with such consideration as we think about food. Or let me put it slightly differently, [my hope is that] those who do think of food consciously, with great consideration, and who have imparted such a positive change within food and cuisine, will think of textiles and clothing within this same frame of reference. Shop at the farmers market, support your local farm, local growers, cook your own food, sew your own shirt from locally grown materials, locally dyed materials, fabric you’ve woven – there are so many possibilities of how to get involved with textiles. [There are] so many possibilities where we could move away from supporting false economies of mass textile and garment production: inhumane labor practices (both in the growing of materials and the manufacturing), supporting and cultivating a US-based fiber economy, local fiber economies, and/or taking the labor portion of the process into your own hands.

Through the creation of textiles and garments, we create community, jobs, skills, confidence. The tactile experience lends itself to reducing anxiety and creates calm. Creating handmade textiles and garments, and wearing them, carries with it memories of making the garment and embodies all those involved in the making, whether it be someone who is sitting alongside you, chatting, or the person who grew the cotton being sewn into the garment.  Even the cotton itself, the material, the history of the material holds a story. I don’t even think people necessarily need to know the story or the history to have an inherent sense of its meaningfulness. Though knowing it is an added bonus, right?

Not everyone we teach to sew and knit goes on to sew and knit. [That’s] just the way it is. Though, from learning to sew and knit, they now have an idea of the time it takes to make a hat or a garment. My hope is that there is recognition of this time and a value for the work that goes into [making] a hat or garment. By having an idea of the time [required to make a garment], the cost of materials, and a sense of the labor, people might be willing to consider where a garment comes from, what kind of circumstances [the workers are] in when making the garment, and [whether] that is something they want to support. Though they, themselves, might not desire to make a garment, perhaps they will find someone locally who is making a garment. Or perhaps they will consume less, though more meaningfully. I hope to create a connection between people, textiles, and clothing.

AC: Included in this post are images that Kristine took while making one of her projects. Thank you Kristine for sharing. We hope to see you SF on our next visit.


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Click to read 10 comments
  1. Karen K.

    I adore the stencil that Kristine uses. Where is it from and how do we get it? And we’d love to see the finished garment 😉 Thanks!

  2. Patti

    I so agree with all of Kristine’s philosophies. Her “seam allowance” idea is spot on. I wish we had “a Verb for Keeping Warm” in my town!

    1. Cathy Smith

      This is really a timely post for me because after I came home from the Alabama Chanin weekend workshop and looked at the AC DIY projects I had either finished or was working on, I made a pledge to myself that over the next two years, I was going to make the majority of my clothing and phase out what I have hanging around purchased from stores that bought it all overseas. I have been looking at patterns in a new way to see how I can modify them to be hand stitched and I made a promise to myself to only buy organic cotton and fibers. So thanks for sharing Kristine’s story at a time when I can dive right in and make my dream happen.

  3. Helen (of troy)

    Making clothes is generally NOT CHEAPER–I can buy junky clothes much cheaper than i can make them.

    Home made clothes are however cheaper than custom made clothes (the true thing to compare them with) which i most definitely can not afford.

    I love my custom wardrobe–the exact style i want, with the exact details (almost always pockets!), with a perfect fit… not to long, not too short.. no alterations needed. I have been sewing my own clothes since the age of 15 (a very long time!) and while i do buy some store bought clothing–i prefer to make my own.

    (and i generally agree with all your other points!)

  4. Jhiga

    Such wonderful resources. Until I can make it up north, does anyone know of stores/workshops in Southern California?
    Thanks in advance.