Monday, January 10, 2011

A week into the experiment...

I've spent a week now on my textile experiment. I've worn my set of clothes (see photo in my first post) 4 days. I decided that I'd wear my normal clothes to work and I work 3 days a week. That will give me time to wash my experimental clothes and keep myself sane. I did decide to purchase one other top- a sweater. I was finding that in a house heated by wood, my basement gets fairly cool and I wasn't comfortable working for hours on end at the computer. So, I bought a sweater at another average store for $20.67, on sale. Since I was looking for a sweater to keep me warm inside, I was really looking for something containing wool. I thought it odd that none of the sweaters in this store or at the store where I bought the rest of my clothes contained wool. Since I had decided for the sake of this experiment to purchase low to medium priced clothing at average stores, I didn't go searching for wool sweaters elsewhere. I believe that as fuel costs rise, we will be keeping our houses cooler and wool will be one of the fibers of choice.
So, hopefully, now I will be set for the year.
I have talked to a few people about my experiment so far. In general, people find it interesting which may mean they think I have at least one screw loose or that my idea has some merit. Some have agreed that the clothes probably won't stand up to heavy wear, being more designed for the mainly sedentary lifestyle of the average American. For me in January, I don't have a really heavy physical work load which would stress these clothes. I have taken care of the chickens and ducks, cleaned out the chicken coop, collected worms from my aquaponics system which I will be donating to a school for a worm composting system and a little housekeeping. In general, the stresses won't start until gardening starts in earnest in March. I'll be doing some planting in February in the greenhouse since the beds are already made, that shouldn't be too stressful on the clothes other than getting them a bit dirty.
I'll be washing everything tomorrow. The plan is to wash them at least once a week. More if they get really dirty. Now, in the world of the future with less access to fossil fuels, I would probably have to wash everything by hand, possibly using some more abrasive methods due to limited availability of modern washing detergents. For now, I'll be using my front loading washing machine, plant based detergents (my normal detergent), some "Oxy Bleach" (non-chlorine laundry booster), and drying the clothes on the line. Normally, I rarely use a dryer. I have one which doesn't work well anyway. In the winter, we hang up clothes in the basement where they add a reasonable amount of moisture to the air. This system will probably be less stressful to the clothes than in the average household, especially due to not using the dryer. I'll take a photo of the clothes about monthly to track any changes in the condition of them.
One interesting aspect of wearing the same clothes constantly that I have discovered is boredom! I’m still trying to figure out how much of that boredom has to do with our culture's habit of owning and wearing lots of clothes so that we wear different things, colors, styles, on a daily basis and how much has to do with the fact that the clothes I chose are very plain. I have this urge to add some color to my clothes and may be adding embroidery, woven trim, and other embellishments to my set of clothing over the course of the year! It's not so much that I'm bored of the clothes yet- I can just feel it coming.
Of course, I'm not the first person who's decided my clothing was too plain and needed to be spruced up a bit. Decorating clothing is a very old pastime of humans as you can see in this image of Russian peasants ( and this of ancient Greek clothing ( 
In case you are thinking that everyday clothes which will be worn in situations where they will be heavily worn weren't highly decorated, take a look at this replica of an 11th Hussar's military jacket. 

The only question I have for myself is how much I want to stand out with my clothing decoration…
And, for a peak oil/fossil fuels angle, what does boredom and decoration have to do with possible hard times ahead? Well, much of what is written about a world without fossil fuels is full of doom and gloom and how hard life will be. I believe that there are many wonderful things about life that we may be able to reclaim in the future. High among those things is an appreciation of simple things and of beautiful things. We may not have many clothes or other material possessions and those items can be well made and beautiful!


  1. Just a couple of comments. With all your research I'm sure you're already aware of this, as you did mention hand washing as most likely... just wanted to mention the fact that our definition of "dirty" may be quite different in the future. lol We may not be washing clothes every week, or even our bodies. History shows us this. I just can't imagine the folks that got sewed into their longjohns all winter long... yikes!

  2. While I was reading your comments about boredom and embellishments to our clothing for some reason a picture of the old time ladies sitting at their embroidery hoops popped into my head. And then I thought that with the clothes you wear for every day working embellishment of any kind would wear out really fast. But the thought of a white linen nightgown with little flowers embroidered on it really tickled me. What about your socks by the way????? Are you going to be using one pair? two? wool? Those would be more likely needing more often washing for healthy feet sake, maybe?

  3. oh boy, I'm full of comments today! Most people do have a ridiculous amount of clothing in their closets and drawers... I'm a minimalist myself and almost never buy any new (to me, from the thrift store usually) clothes. I've worn the same sweatshirts for 15 years or more. I realize that a sweatshirt would be too warm for heavy work in most seasons... just mentioning it. I'm interested in the parameters you'll be using, such as when do you decide that a piece of your purchased clothing is "worn out" and needs to be replaced. When it can no longer be re-patched and falls apart? Or something a little more presentable? Are you going to add nightclothes to this experiment too?

  4. Hi GrandmaMisi thanks for your comments. I agree that our definitions of cleanliness will indeed change in the future. I have to balance the need to spend time in this world around people so will still have to wash the clothes more often than I may in the future. As to embellishments, I think if a person has a limited number of changes of clothes, the best set would be decorated and by the time the worst set is "worn out" and set#1 is demoted to #2, the embellishments will have worn. While wearing 2 sets, the next set would be being made, with long winter months used to make and embellish. By worn out, I am assuming lots of repairs and patches would have been used and major parts of the seams and important areas (rear for ex) worn through. I decided not to add underwear, socks, or nightclothes- I will talk about them in future posts, though as they are important, too- especially regarding current use of elastic! Thanks for your comments and I look forward to hearing more from you.

  5. A different but related experiment: this woman made all her own clothes and shoes for a year as an art project. Every day she posted a photo and comment about her outfit on this blog:

  6. So interesting! I found you from and this is so interesting. Im a quilt maker, I have to admit I never really think about clothes, but I do think alot about post-oil textiles in general.
    Can't wait to watch how this goes.

  7. Wow. I just looked up Wonder how I wound up on that site. It's great, though. This is really an important issue.

    I also looked up the woman who blogged about wearing only what she made for a year. Very interesting. I can tell she's an artist! Can't see many of her garments standing up to farming and growing food and fiber, though. I'd love to find out how she makes the undies and bras. She said the undies are made from old tee-shirts.

  8. I saw your post on the Running on Empty 2 Yahoo group, and while I do think we will need to solve the textiles problem for our post-oil future, the idea of this experiment is kind of offensive. I grew up in South Dakota among farmers and other blue-collar workers--why not just ask them? Or is your lifestyle just so far removed from "those people" that the idea never occurred to you?

  9. Thanks for your comments, Renee. I am sorry you feel offended by my experiment. That has never been my intention. I AM a farmer, work with farmers, and live amongst them- I know the kind of wear hard physical work exposes clothes to. My lifestyle isn't removed from that. I spend much of the year digging up compost piles with a shovel and wheelbarrow, cleaning out chicken and duck houses, tilling the soil, digging up potatoes by hand, etc. The clothes I usually choose for those tasks hold up well. It isn't those clothes nor those people whom I believe will have a problem with making clothes last and theirs aren't the lifestyles which will change the most in the future. People who live primarily sedentary lives, working on computers in offices, in mostly urban and suburban settings not doing a lot physically do not have great stores of well made heavy duty clothing. They will have great changes in their lifestyles as they begin needing to grown their own food and fiber products. The great volume of clothing sold today has a built-in obsolescence, not only from a style standpoint but more importantly from a quality standpoint. Clothing wears out, tears, falls apart much faster now than in the past. The cloth from which it is made is of poorer quality.

    In general, when the subject of clothes has come up in previous discussions of peak oil I have been a part of and read there seems to be a belief that the stores of clothes many people now own will last them many years into the future, past when they will be able to replace them from stores. This is what I don't believe and am testing with my experiment. The clothes I bought for this are not meant for a heavy physical lifestyle. If this one set of clothes doesn't last the whole year, whatever the stresses I put on them, I believe the myth that we don't have to worry about relearning how to grow, process, spin, weave and sew clothing now- while we have time to make mistakes will be disproven. It has taken me years to learn to spin finely enough to make yarn as fine as what is termed "lace weight" and that's nowhere near fine enough to make light, comfortable clothing.

    Just as we need to relearn how to grow our own food, making our clothing from raw materials is just as important and needs to be addressed. That is what I am trying to draw people's attention to. Thanks for reading and I hope you will continue to read and share your reactions.

  10. I will definitely keep reading. I knit and crochet, and sew a little, but haven't tried spinning yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how handwork changes as we move towards making things that will, by necessity, need to incorporate both usefulness and aesthetic value.

    It just saddens me that in so much of the peak oil community, we would rather order a bunch of books from Amazon than talk to real human beings that already know what we need to learn.

  11. Renee, That is so right! I hadn't thought of it in that way. We are all so quick to buy the books to "learn" things! There are people who already know the skills we are trying to learn.

    I want to learn textile skills from people who know how to make clothes. I know how to sew and weave. Spinning fiber fine enough to make wearable clothing is something I am still working on.

    Thanks for your support! Anything you can add will be accepted gratefully.