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Pelle’s new suit, and some thoughts on clothing production

Pelle's New Suit children's book by Elsa Beskow Pelle's New Suit Courtney and I just came back from a little trip to New York, where we scouted venues for a NY ShopUp event (more later!), where we had lots of meetings with friends in the business (we’re so lucky to call so many of the brands and boutiques we work with our friends!) and where we visited the US edition of the Playtime fair, where we met even more wonderful friends. It’s always so fun to spend time in this bustling, busy city — I came back feeling full of great memories and inspiration! One of the friends we met in New York was Kirsten Rickert, an amazingly talented lady originally from Australia, who now lives in the US with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Kirsten is such a beautiful, pure lady; just have a look at her blog and her Instagram account. It was Kirsten who recommended the darling book ‘Pelle’s New Suit’  to us.

Pelle's New Suit‘Pelle’s New Suit’ is written by Elsa Beskow and was first published in Sweden in 1912. It’s a simple and sweet story with beautiful illustrations, taking place in a time before ready-to-wear clothing existed. Pelle is a little boy who owns a little lamb, and one day shears off all its wool. He then visits different relatives and neighbours in his small community village, asking them to help him with the different steps that are needed to transfer the lamb’s wool into a new suit (carding, spinning, dying etc.). In return, he will help his friends with different chores. For example, when his grandmother cards the wool for Pelle, he pulls the weeds from her carrot patch. When his mother weaves the cloth, he takes care of his baby sister. And when the tailor finally makes his suit, Pelle rakes the hay, brings in the firewood and feeds the tailor’s pigs. At the end of the story, when wearing his new suit, Pelle visits his lamb to show it his new suit and to thank it.

Pelle's New SuitIn our modern, consumer society, a piece of clothing is often mass-produced and simply picked up from a store. Sometimes the amount of money that is paid for clothing is so impossibly little, or so incredibly high… and many times it is discarding after a season, after a certain fashion is over. Or it is just valued for the brand it displays on its front. Clothing is often taken for granted, and there’s no ‘respect‘ for it — no real knowledge of the effort it took and the actions that were needed to create that piece of clothing. I love how this book describes the various steps of making a wool garment, the understanding of where the clothing actually comes from. I also love how it shows that when you don’t have the specific skills that are needed to do something yourself, you can ask others in your community to help you, and offer your help or skills in return.

Pelle's New SuitI hope that with the help of this little book (and trying to sew and knit as much as possible with my kids, passing on the skills that my mother and grandmother taught me), one day my children will be able to make a sensible and conscious decision when they will buy their own clothing… and that they will respect it and use it for what it entails. Anyway — so many words about fashion, reflection and values, all because of this sweet, beautiful little book. Thanks Kirsten, for the tip!

xxx Esther

PS Available through Amazon UK or US . I couldn’t find a large edition of the book, but if you can get your hands on that, Kirsten told me it’s so much better!


Comments (11)

March 9, 2015

Love! Very inspiring message. Looking forward to picking up a copy. Thank you, Esther!

March 9, 2015

This book sounds fantastic – thank you for sharing! Slightly off topic, but those crayons look really cool. What make are they?

Esther in Amsterdam
March 9, 2015

They’re from P’kolino — Annie from Brimful gave them to us when we met up with her in NY. Aren’t they clever? x

March 9, 2015

What a lovely little book for any child, thanks for sharing this with us. I just come across your blog too! :))

March 10, 2015

Such a gorgeous book! Just ordered a copy for the girls. Thanks for sharing Esther x

March 10, 2015

You can get the books directly from the UK publisher Floris Books (florisbooks.co.uk), which is quite nice, rather than using Amazon… Also Book Depository in the UK are ace as they are a UK-based company who pay their taxes… They also have the large format and, like Floris, all EB’s other brilliant books…

March 10, 2015

Elsa Beskow’s books are lovely…I wish more were available at the library here! ❤️❤️❤️

March 10, 2015

This is a beautiful book and a beautiful concept, no doubt. Still, you need to dress everyone and, unfortunately, traditional-artisanal-small processes of making are very expensive for the majority, so much that most of us, simply, cannot afford. There is an enlightening TED talk by Louise Fresco, concerning mass-produced, supermarket-style white bread, that we can relate to when talking and confronting small/mass production of goods. It is called “We Need to Feed the Whole World”. If you you care to see, it’s here: http://www.ted.com/talks/louise_fresco_on_feeding_the_whole_world

Esther in Amsterdam
March 11, 2015

Dear Sofia,
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for the link to the Ted speech by Louise Fresco (a fellow Dutchwoman!). I think we are actually thinking the same thing! I’m not trying to idealise a past, nor am I (naively) convinced we should go back to local or traditional small scale farming or production methods to feed (or dress) the billions of people in our world. In fact, I’m a big believer of innovation, using new technology and science to improve mass production, making it more efficient, with less waste and better working conditions. I like what Louise says about going to a regional scale, with closed eco/production methods. Any way — what I do hope to achieve by reading books like Pelle’s new suit, and by showing my children how one can knit a scarf, or sew a blanket (or grow carrots in our garden, or bake our own bread), that they will understand that there’s a chain of events that leads to that garment in the store, or that bread in the supermarket. I hope that they will respect mass produced clothing, that they will make a conscious decision when they will buy their own outfits. Do I need this garment? Am I going to wear it loads? (As opposed to throwing it away at the end of the season: ‘disposable fashion’). I hope they will understand that there are people far away, children perhaps, who have been picking the cotton for that T-shirt they are eying. I hope that they will pay that extra euro (if they can!) to support organic farming and fair wages. And I also hope that they will respect food — including that white loaf of bread in the supermarket. : )
Thanks again for your insight!! xxx

March 10, 2015

Hi there, we are big fans of Elsa Beskow in our house. Our 4 children attend the local Waldorf (Steiner) school and we were introduced to her books at our school bookstore. You can also find a large copy of Pelle’s New Suit at SteinerBooks here: https://steiner.presswarehouse.com/books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=20970. My children love all her books, but their absolute favourite is Ollie’s Ski Trip, in case anyone is looking for other ideas.

March 12, 2015

Thank you so much for sharing Esther! I bought it and it’s absolutely beautiful. I have another of the author’s books- about all the different months of the year which is just as gorgeous. So glad I found Pelle’s through you! Always love your book recommendations.

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