Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Self-Stitched-September Update: Participants are Amazing!

I haven't been piping up much recently about Self-Stitched-September since my initial call to arms, and announcements of wigit and Flickr group creations. I thought it best to keep on the down-low for a while and let it gather it's own momentum. Which is exactly what's been happening.

Sencha detail1

You may or may not recall that Me-Made-May had over 80 participants and in my initial SSS post I stated that my goal was to get 100 participants on board for this round of hand-stitched goodness. Well, I am incredibly pleased to announce that we have approximately 130 participants signed up so far! High fives all round! I'm sure that once more lovely sewers out there see the beautiful work and hear/read the persuasive chat of those currently signed up more people will decide to come along for the ride, so keep sewing/sharing/blogging/commenting/photographing/talking/writing about the challenge! More is most definately merrier.

Jalie Jeans---Capri style

The Self-Stitched-September Flickr group is already a lovely place to 'visit', with members displaying their self-stitched wares in preparation for the month itself and discussions taking place about all manner of related topics. I've been finding the 'Welcome' thread particularly fascinating, with members making small bio's about themselves and sharing what drew them to the challenge. Remember, you don't need to belong to the Flickr group to participate in SSS if you don't want to, it's just a useful place to 'gather', share and interact. Similarly, if you don't feel able or you don't want to participate in the SSS challenge, you can still head over to the Flickr group and 'hang': checking out the photos and discussions without even having to sign up to the group. How more frikkin' inclusive can this be?!

Off White Tube Top

The beautiful garments that you see 'decorating' this post are from SSS participants visible on the Flickr group pool. Click on each individual image to see the whole thing and find its creator. Thanks everyone who has signed up to the Self-Stitched-September challenge so far, or offered encouraging sentiments, or both. I really believe that we are doing something special here, in different ways and on different levels.

Monday, 28 June 2010


Now some people may not respect this, but I’ve been making a few things for other people recently. I’m mid-way through cranking out a couple of Jenny skirts for two honeys, trying to apply my limited knowledge to making the (I assume) necessary adjustments for their individual figures. And Saturday night I whipped up this little purse for my mate because hers is dying its inevitable death.

When you spend most of your sewing time on lengthy garment projects, it can be a real eye-opener to make something that only takes an hour from start to finish including cutting the pieces and hand-stitching the lining to the zip tape. Creating an entire thing, one hour, está! Unbelievable. Of course, I’ve made little purses and makeup bags before, but I’ve always tended to make a load of them at a time, production-line style, either for Christmas presents or to sell on my old market stall. It was really nice to make one thing whilst thinking about the person I was making it for, hopefully infusing it with good juju that she will feel.

Aside from the time it (didn’t) take to make, the other thing I loved about this little project was that it’s made entirely from scraps. The front bird fabric was left over from my Macaron dress, the denim I used on the back came from some jeans that I cut down into shorts for my boy and the lining is formed from the crazy Chinese takeaway fabric. I still had some anchor trim left after this and this and the turquoise zip (which echoes the turquoise in the bird fabric) was floating around in a drawer. Final score: Thriftiness: 1; Consumerism: NIL.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


I'm pretty late to this particular party, but I finally got round to making the Colette Patterns Madaleine mini bloomers this week. I downloaded the pattern the second I clapped eyes on it but it wasn't until my revision of my Summer Essentials list that I realised they might actually prove to be darn useful.

Generally speaking, I found they went together very well, except I found the front and back inside leg seams didn't marry up. Did anyone else have this problem? When you lay the front and back pattern pieces together, there is clearly a sizeable discrepancy. Anyhoo. I really like the way the pattern instructed the insertion of the elastic in the waistband, with two lines of casings which look really neat. I'll definately be using that method again in the future as I HATE it when elastic sometimes folds over and monkeys about inside it's casing.

I must say that these are realllllyyyyyyy hipstery. If/when I make these again, I'll definately be adding some centimetreage at the top to make them cover by substantial arse and hips a bit better. Also, I wish I'd gone with my first instinct to put elastic rather than a drawstring/ribbon round the bottom for comforts sake. I like the pleats at the front of each leg which wouldn't be possible with elastic, but I think I could live without them.

I used some really nice crisp shirting cotton that was chillin' in my stash without a plan attached to it. I think it gives a traditional mens' pyjama vibe which is a quirky reflection of the bloomers use. I also handstitched all the ends of the ribbon so that they don't fray during washing. I have actually used them each day since their completion for sleeping in/wandering about the flat in before I go for a shower (for a visual on that, see below), so I would have to declare them a WIN! Thanks to Sarai for going to the trouble of creating this pattern and instructions for free. There are some seriously cute versions of these bloomers out there, check out this post to see some of the cuteness.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Vintage Pattern Giveaway

Maybes you've already read Gertie's post on Vintage Pattern Sizing, maybes you haven't. She's a damn clever one, that lady. I have to say, her post made me finally accept something that I've been trying to ignore for some time. I've been buying the wrong size vintage patterns. I've learnt this after massive eBay sessions which have seen my collection swell to a number I have yet to admit (and seeing as they are presently spread over two countries, I don't need to just yet). I didn't realise about the whole measuring your top bust rather than full bust thing to determine your size, so I have a whole heap of 36" bust patterns that are going to take some grading if they are to fit my 34" bust frame.

Now, as Gertie points out, it's not the end of the world. Grading one size down is theorectically do-able. Except I'm lazy. Therefore I've decided to have a giveaway to re-house a couple of 36" bust patterns that I've already tried and decided are too big and too much hassle to re-size if I were to use them again. Lucky you!

Both patterns are used but complete and in good condition. Neither pattern is dated, but I'd estimate both are from about 1970. I'm giving them away together, so if you would like them to be yours, leave a comment with an email address (I'm a busy lady, no time for hunting out ways to contact you!) and I'll pick a winner at midnight on Sunday 27th June. Just copy, paste and complete the following sentence: 'I would like these patterns because.......'. I love a bit of audience participation, me.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Thoughts on Forgiveness

I don't know how I missed it until last week, but back in the day (like, the 8th of May) Susannah of Cargo Cult Craft wrote a relevant and though-provoking post (as usual!) about the differences between and perceptions of Homemade and Handmade garments. She discussed how, in her eyes, her self-stitched creations didn't match up to the finish of mass-manufactured garments. She raised many interesting points, as does the post's comments section, and if you are interested in sewing clothes, I'd recommend you check them out and get involved in the debate. I waded in with my own comment on the topic, but have since found myself revisiting this issue in my thoughts and felt a post brewing to help consolidate my thoughts more clearly. (At times, I'll admit I view my blog as a kind of cheap sounding board/therapy.)

Susannah's post made me realise that when I really got into sewing my own clothes, about four years ago, I felt exactly the same as she did on this matter. Obviously I took pride in my creations and loved the buzz of being able to reply 'I made it' when something received a compliment, but there was always this fear that the garment would somehow fail or display tell-tale signs of homemade-ness. In my clothing company jobs I'd seen sample machinists whip up amazing things in less time than it took me to make a round of coffees due to their decades of daily experience. I knew that the wealth of tips and tricks would never be at my disposal, and my efforts seemed so lame in comparison. Even when the clothing a couple of those companies made was produced from cloth so cheap it felt like paper, the factories' products always came back so crisp and sleekly made, it was as if they were mocking my out-of-office-hours endeavours.

But last week I realised I no longer feel like that. It's not that my skills have greatly improved. On the contrary, I'm appalled at how little I seem to have learnt (dealing with stretch fabric aside) since I stitched the last seam on my final collection at university and took my wares down to London Graduate Fashion Week almost a decade ago. I think my expectations for my garments have changed due to a widening of my knowledge of and involvement in the issues that surround handmade culture and consumption. I have accepted that I don't have access to the fancy binding machines, fusing presses and other industrial equipment that make mass-manufactured clothing appear so slick (at least before they get worn and washed). But that's ok. I know that I can make a damn good approximation that would (I assume because I never ask them) fool the casual observer. I pretty sure everyone is far too busy to stop and try and figure out the origin of my garments! But even if they did figure out that I made everything I'm standing in, except for my bra and flipflops, that's something that these days I'm more than happy to broadcast.

I am far more forgiving of the homemade-y looking elements of my clothes because they exhibit the truth that it is possible to avoid mass-manufactured clothing. That badly applied bias binding or concealed zip reminds me that I'm contributing, in some small way, to the debate about our culture's sustainability. Not only do I forgive the signs that put my clothes into the homemade/handmade catagory, but I guess I've learnt to almost embrace them.
Of course, my awareness of fitting and finishing flaws of a newly finished garment is as heightened as the next seamstress's. I still cringe when my skirt twists about when I walk because I made it a little too big. Sometimes even, I look at all my handmade clothes (which now form the majority of my wardrobe) hanging up and feel that it's all just shoddy shit and I have no 'real' clothes. But that doesn't last long and I acknowledge that is my social conditioning speaking, not really me.

Take this newly finished red and black top pictured here as an example. Where I tried to deal with the sleeveheads' ease and put them into the armhole, I have some pretty major crinkling that refuses to disappear with pressing. Also, the seam allowance of the sleeve/armhole refuses lie correctly all the time so I have to consciously remember to tuck it up at intervals. And although these things annoy me, on balance I'm far more forgiving of them because I have a new top to wear that by and large looks pretty good and complies with the boundaries I have chosen to try to stick to.

I saw a girl the other day on the street who was wearing a blatantly homemade/handmade skirt and it made me so happy. Like finding a vintage garment has actually been hand-stitched, seeing that someone has taken the time to create or adapt a garment really pleases me for reasons that I can't fully express right now. This red and black top actually started life as this rather hideous 80's/90's over-sized blouse, complete with shoulder pads and crazy contrast collar band which I found on the street by the bins on the way to a class. Even though it's the type of synthetic fabric that I wouldn't give a second glance if it was in a fabric store plus I clearly didn't know where it had been, I was drawn to its print seeing some Rockabilly potential there. When I started to unpick it, I found it had been altered by a previous owner at some point in its life which kind of made me appreciate it more and spurred me on with my plan to lengthen its life and customise it still further.

In my experience, making a garment out of an existing garment if infinately harder than with fabric and a pattern, yet I have a mate with a pattern phobia who confines her sewing activities solely to repurposing existing clothes. Hats off to her, this was not easy. I used my adapted New Look 6808 pattern and had quite a tussle to squeeze the pieces out without throwing the giant checks out of wack. And of course there were the sleeves and seam allowance issues mentioned above. I chose these really cute anchor buttons to replace the hideous original ones, but I might change them to flatter ones without a shank in the future that don't dig into my back when I lean against a chair back. I didn't have enough fabric/patience to attempt neck facings so gave the neck edge the ol' bias binding treatment.

Although I generally dislike this type of fabric, I must say it feels really nice when worn. Cool and slinky in the sticky weather Barcelona is so good at. This is the second completed garment from my Summer Essentials challenge list and I was pleased to finish on Friday in time to wear to the last class ever with the kids I was off to teach the day I found the original blouse on the street. Of course I didn't tell them about my bagging street clothes antics, I've found 12-year-old boys tend to have different opinions than many of the thrifty sewing community towards such things! After the lesson, I met up with my boy for an impromptu end-of term celebration date. What girl doesn't enjoy wearing an (old) new garment for such an event?!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Question Time

I've been tagged by the lovely Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons to play a game of eight questions. As she wrote in her post, she chose me to answer them because I'm moving back to the UK soon and she'd like to know more about me before we arrange a blogger meet up, which kind of makes me feel like the likelihood of that blogger meet up is riding on my answers! Oh well, here goes:

1. What is your staple meal? (ie. what meal do you cook most often, when you can't be bothered to think of anything adventurous)

Tomato-ey pasta which could include almost anything in the cupboard/fridge but MUST involve onions.

2. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Funny this question came up as I’ve been putting a lot of (albeit abstract at this point) thought into this very matter seeing as I’m moving to UK in the very near future and employment of some description will have to be secured. This much I know: I’m a massive fan of working hours that are less and at different times than the norm and am happy to sacrifice a comfortable salary for this ability. I need to feel I am in some way in control of my schedule. I’d prefer to work all the hours under the sun as a waitress than 9-6 in an office. I cannot bring myself to work for a corporation or big company, no matter how much better the pay is likely to be. So, given those conclusions, at this precise point in time I guess I would like to write about sewing, self-sufficiency (and if that’s even achievable), questions of consumptions, etc. more seriously and maybe teach some sewing skills classes. This is subject to change!

3. What book are you reading at the moment (if any)?

Right now I am busy trying to read all the books I’ve borrowed from people in Spain before I have to give them back. I’m reading ‘Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson’ by various authors and I started ‘Dreams of my Father’ by Barak Obama on the train today.

4. How do you relax?

I don't consciously do anything to help relax as I have a pretty relaxed schedule at the moment so I think I'd feel a fraud if I did, although I might sleep better if I did. I guess the most relaxing activities I indulge in are sewing, reading (books and blogs), writing and wine.

5. What colour are the interior walls of your home?

Since leaving my folks’ gaff when I was 19, I have always lived in rented accommodation so haven’t had much say in interior decor to date, although I fantastise about it often. The two times I had the opportunity to paint my room I painted the walls red. I’m looking forward to doing that again sometime in the future.

6. What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Recently, I’ve been playing way too much Hearts on my laptop. Maybe it’s a form of relaxation, but whatever, I’d have a lot more sewing projects finished by now if I hadn’t discovered the Hearts function. Please, for the love of god, if you haven’t tried it, don’t! It might get you too!

Another guilty pleasure is swearing off buying vintage sewing patterns on eBay (, then falling off the wagon and buying a load more. If the seller only sends to the UK, I get them sent to my mum’s house, but if they send to Europe I get them sent here even if it’s more expensive so my mum doesn’t see them stockpiling up between my visits home when I can collect them! I guess my relocation to UK will mean my own conscious will be the only thing barring me from owning all the vintage patterns in the world!

Oh, and I guess eating lots of tasty things and drinking too much booze should go in the guilty pleasures bit too, as I almost always regret them the next day.

7. What time is bed time and getting up time?

For the last two years my ‘school’ day schedule has been midnight-ish for bedtime and 9-10am-ish for getting up. I have a really hard time getting to sleep (if at all) so it’s not quite the luxurious sleeping pattern that it may seem to some.

8. How long do you spend reading blogs (per day or per week)?

Same as the Hearts issue (see above), if I did less blog reading then more sewing would have got done by now, but I love it! Solely reading other people’s blogs, I’d say an hour a day. Including writing for my own and the Colette Patterns blogs, and checking out/commenting on Flickr groups and Burdastyle, then it’s pushing towards a figure I’d rather not admit.

Here's the bloggers, in no particular order, I will tag in turn who may or may not decide to play along (fingers crossed, no pressure, blah blah):

Cecili from Sewing and so on
Michelle from Naughty Little Epoch
EmilyKate from This is EmilyKate
Coralene from Fawn and Flower
Veronica Darling from Veronica Darling's Crafty Adventures
Jen from Grainline
Jessica from A Yen for Craft
Susannah from Cargo Cult Craft

The questions I would like to put to them are:

1. If you had to choose a famous person to be your new best friend, who would it be any why?
2. What proportion of your wardrobe is handmade?
3. Where would you live, if money, jobs and responsibilities were taken out of the equation?
4. Describe the weirdest or most horrendous place you’ve worked.
5. What is your favourite sewing technique or part of a garment to sew (eg, collars, piping, etc.)?
6. Which sewer out there do you envy the most?
7. Do you collect anything?
8. What’s your personal motto? (I stole that one from the Burdastyle featured members questions because it’s my favourite)

Because a post with no pictures is no post at all (I'm trying to make up personal mottos but I don't think that one's going to stick!), I've 'decorated' this post with paps of me in my Rockabilly tribute dress that I finally got to wear to a Burlesque night last week. Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Japanese Top Sew-along Results

Back in, ooh May sometime, I signed up to participate in a Japanese top pattern sew-along which was masterminded by the lovely Cecili. The garment was also to form part of my (revised) summer essential sew-along line up due to its potential airy, hot-weather appropriate properties. Because I went to the UK over the weekend I was unable to follow Celili's well-crafted sew-along stages timetable and cranked it out last week but didn't get the opportunity to present it to you until today. Which leads me to the statement: ta daaaaaaaaaaaa!

You may be thinking 'Damn, that fabric looks familiar'. Very observant of you, it's actually more of the duvet case from which I previously fashioned an Anda dress for my best friend. I decided I really wanted to adhere to my Stash Bustin' commitment for this project, and this pattern was BIG which excluded much of my stash, so this kind of got picked by default. The original duvet cover did feature an amusing little tag which I decided to appropriate into this garment. True, if not entirely relevant!:

Although the instructions looked rather scary to say the least, I drafting of the pattern was actually quite easy. The process was very much like following the instructions in my usual pattern cutting book for drafting a basic block. What did kind of flaw me was the (lack of) construction pointers. I spent ages staring at the tiny sketches and at the pieces of fabric in my hands trying to figure out how they should go together (I was trying to get it done before going away so this was before Cecili put up helpful tips on her blog). In the end it went ok, aside from trimming away too much of the seam allowance on the neckbands' facings. To address this issue, I ended up making two rows of topstitching (in contrast orange thread due to a lack on brown) to trap them down.

Of course, I could post up pictures of myself wearing this top, but I think it would be much more amusing to show it modelled by my boy, who decided to try it on after I left it on my mannequin and turned my back. Thankfully I had my camera to hand, and he's not the shy type:

I think he was aiming for some classic catalogue poses, but upon analysis of the pictures, we came to the conclusion that the photos have more than a hint of '70's cult leader about them! He has relinquished possession of the tunic for now, and if this status quo continues, I imagine I'll wear this top mainly around the flat in a bid to keep cool over the next month or so. If I don't get the opportunity to wear it myself, please keep an eye on me via this blog in case I start to exhibit strange cult-follower tendencies! It's good to know I can rely on you.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Lessons in Denim

On Day 31 of Me-Made-May I was rocking a brand new garment that I have yet to properly introduce to you. A little denim skirt using the Simplicity 2451 pattern that I treated myself to after successfully completing Me-Made-March. This pattern has a curved front yoke with hip pocket and a pleated front panel. It's kind of tulip shaped but not too, you know, poofy.

I made it using some beauuutiful soft denim that I've had in my stash for years (Stash Bustin'? Tick!). I picked up the two smallish pieces of this denim in a charity shop in Southend for a quid each, or some similarly conducive amount. I was particularly buzzed because it's broken twill denim, which has a weave that looks like zigzags or w's, rather than the usual diagonal twill weave denim is normally cranked out in. Broken twill denim is often used by Wrangler and it reminds me of the 1970's and I LOVE it. So I was clinging to these pieces for an age as they weren't long enough to make jeans from. Well, I'm happy I waited at this skirt pattern worked well in denim I think.

However, I didn't want to just whip up a dark blue tulip skirt because I've already made a dark blue tulip skirt, this needed something to make it a little different. Enter: piping! Now, I've long been an admirer of piping, I even confessed my love for it recently on the Colette Patterns blog, but I've always been a little afraid storing the concept as 'something to try in the future'. Well the future is now people!

I bought this cool bias binding and the closest thing my local haberdasher's had to cord and used this Burdastyle tutorial on how to make my own piping. Easy as. And the I used this tutorial on how to actually sew the stuff in. Now I'll be honest with you, I didn't do all the hand tacking that they advised, only on the trickiest parts, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. Of course, it made the make up of the skirt a lot slower, but it was totally worth it for a more interesting and nicely finished garment.

Another bit of practicing what I preach came in the form of contrast pocket bags and facings. I didn't want to use denim for these because, A) I didn't have enough, and B) they would have been too bulky. So I cut up a tiny floral skirt I found on the street and used that instead. In fact, the skirt was so tiny (but not a child's, according to the label) that there wasn't much left after I'd taken what I needed! The floral fabric had some stretch in it, so I used it cross-grain instead on the facings. It wasn't an ideal choice, but with a bit of stitching in the ditch and the facings are nicely trapped down and behaving themselves.

Another thing about this style of skirt is that it makes me wear longer tops tucked in (see top pic) so the front detail is visible and to prevent strange front bulges. This is something that I NEVER do as a rule, but it felt nice to be forced out of that bizarrely entrenched condition and look at my other garments in a slightly different way and create a silhouette I wouldn't have considered otherwise. I have a theory that it was growing up in the 1990's that makes me so adverse to tucking tops in, having any sock showing if I'm wearing trainers with a skirt or shorts or wearing back packs on two shoulders! Does any one else feel like this?

The final fit of this skirt is a leeetle big. It sits on the hips ok, until you start to walk, then it sometimes does the migrating thing, which doesn't matter if you've got your hands in your pockets to anchor it down! It's very comfortable, but when I use this pattern again, I'll make a size or half a size smaller so it sits a little higher and tighter. I am pleased however about the finish of this garment. I really took my time to make everything look as professionally finished as I could, facilities and skills permitting. I also got to learn some new skills and apply some practices that make this item, for me more than just a cute new denim skirt. Which, of course, is also what it is!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Summer Essentials: Revised

Ok, after the careful planning and laying down of my Summer Essentials 'to-sew' list, I've decided to scrap it. Well, not all of it but most of it. The decision came in an instant this afternoon. My afternoon class had to be scrapped because the rail line was randomly closed I'm assuming for maintenance (in the middle of the day in the middle of the week? Really?) so I took the opportunity to hit a merceria for supplies for my Rockabilly blouse project then wandered home. Now, I'm no meterological expert and I'm not sure of the standard units of measurements for these things, but I'd describe today as 'hella hot' and 'super sticky'. I was a sweaty mess when I got home, and the summer is only going to get more intense until I leave in August.

My initial Summer Essentials declaration of intent was based on the logical acknowledgement of the fact that my August will be spread across Europe and across a range of climates. But it's going to be a grim summer unless I get some hot-n-sticky weather friendly garments on the go to wear before 'Mission Repatriation' rolls around. So here is my revised list of essentials:
  • Rockabilly inspired top using New Look 6808 (that I first attempted for my Chinese Takeaway top) using a hideous synthetic '80s blouse I found on the street which is not too far from being finished (this remains from my initial list).
  • Tunic top from Cecili's Japanese Top Sew-along in some stash fabric and is currently in the pre-construction stage (this also remains from the initial list).
  • My African wax fabric Anda dress gets a lot of use in the hot weather because it's so little hassle to wear. I'm going to make another more mini version in the crazy pink fabric pictured below that was donated to me by my mate Anna.
  • I've only recently become aware of the concept of 'lounge wear', although I'm still not entirely sure what's the difference between that and 'stuff you sleep in'. Maybe it's more 'stuff you slob about in'? Either way, I'm beginning to feel a need for some little shorts to go with my self-made vests for the duel sleeping/slobby purposes. I reckon the super-cute Madeleine Mini Bloomers from Colette Patterns might be just the ticket.
  • More shorts! I've been wearing my two pairs of Ruby shorts almost non-stop recently, and another pair of shorts would be welcome in my wardrobe. I'm thinking high-waisted but I'll probably come to regret that decision after eating a big lunch whilst wearing them!
So there you have it (again). I'd still love to make the other top, red capris and jacket from my former list, and have the fabric and patterns for all of them, so maybe if there is time at the end. Right, I gots to get my sew on so I can look as cool as a cucumber, like the sewing lady pictured at the top!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Self-Stitched-September Flickr Group and, umm, hang on, there's something missing, what was it again?

So, as promised a week ago when Self-Stitched-September was announced, a Flickr Group is born! Woo hoo! Let the party begin! As with the Me-Made-May Flickr Group, it will function as a visual record of our self-stitched inventories, preparations and plannings, and of course the self-stitched garments/outfits worn during the month of September itself. The discussion section can be used in whatever fun and useful way participants see fit. As truly awesome as the Me-Made-May manifestation was, I feel the particpants of that challenge (me very much included) only really started to realise the discussion facility's potential part-way into the month. With a good solid two and three-quarter months before the actual garment wearing need commence, I hope the SSS Flickr Group can become a hotbed of interaction way before September 1st.

I shall also explain at this point that the group is a public one in that anyone can view the pictures we up upload and the discussions we undertake, but you must be a member to comment or participate actively. The group has obviously been created primarily for participants of the challenge, but if non-participants wish to become members so that new uploads to the group appear on their homepage and what have you, they are also permitted to join. The group is about inspiring people to sew: one month's lurker may become another month's active participant! If you wish to join the group, head over to the group here and click 'Join?' to send me a request. I will admit you within a couple of days.

Oh, yeah. There's something that I've foolishly overlooked until now: signing-up to Self-Stitched-September myself!

'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo...' blog, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear only handmade items of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010 with the exception of bras, socks, tights and shoes'.

There. That's better!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Summer Sew-alongs

I've got a fair few things on my plate at the moment, many of which are sewing related things that I've chosen with free will to heap on there. Of course, at the top of the pile is Self-Stitched-September, which I'm very happy to announce is attracting participants at an awesome rate of knots. I am also committed to Stash Bustin' with renewed vigour as the date when I must squeeze all my sewing equipment and supplies into insufficient boxes and send them back to the UK draws fear-inducingly closer. And now there are two more events (can you call them events?) that have been initiated by former Me-Made-May participants that I couldn't pass up getting involved in.

First up is the Japanese Top Sew-along concocted by the wonderful and super-stylish Cecili. Cecili wore some seriously gorgeous handmade garments during Me-Made-May (evidence can be sought at the Me-Made-May Flickr group or her blog) and I know I wasn't the only one to become enchanted with her style (to be honest I already was because I've been reading her blog for a while, but MMM reinforced it). Many of her more deceptively simple and always perfectly fitting creations were based upon Japanese patterns, so when she suggested a sew-along with one such pattern, many of us jumped at the chance to get a piece of the action. See that scary looking diagram above? That's what we are going to draft! It comes from this awesome site which has a squillion beautiful pattern diagrams for free download. I haven't yet worked out how the site makes any money, but they must do because of all the good sewing karma they are surely accruing. I'm a bit hazy about how I'm going to turn this is crazy diagram written in Japanese into a wearable tunic, but I have faith and reckon it will all become clear when I get started tomorrow.

The second sew-along I've signed up for is the Summer Essentials Sew-along created by the deeply awesome Ali. It's like Ali peered inside my head and figured out a challenge that actually helps create order from all the mess she must have found in there, rather than just adding to the clutter. To be honest, initially I was at a loss when trying to figure out what would constitute my personal 'Summer Essentials', items that I would find useful when my intensely hectic August rolls around. But then Ali came up with six useful catagories with garment ideas and I was able to mentally make a check list 'got, need, want, got' etc. etc...

The challenge is to make roughly five garments, roughly before August, which are criteria I can think I can handle, so here's my list of things I'd like to make:

  • Top using New Look 6808 (that I first attempted for my Chinese Takeaway top) using a hideous synthetic '80s blouse I found on the street (trust me).
  • Another top using New Look 6808 but a different view that has a cool collar/bow detail using some incredible mexican heart fabric my best mate bought me. And I'm going to crank out the contrast piping again now that I feel confident enough.
  • Tunic top from Cecili's Japanese Top Sew-along (see above) in some stash fabric. I have a couple of pieces in mind, but I'll choose which after the drafting stage.
  • High-ish waisted capri pants using a pattern from Burda magazine, issue 07/08 and red fabric, the purchase of which I felt the need to defend here. I'd love to share a link to the pattern, but the Burda site is all skewy at the moment.
  • Cute short-sleeved jacket using this pattern downloaded from Burdastyle. It'll be some navy fabric or other (I have quite a lot kicking around) with gold buttons and I'll probably round off the collar and go crazy with some red piping.

Ideally I'll bust out a few more summery garments than this (a light cotton top that gathers under the bust; high-waisted denim shorts; a vintage pattern dress with the blue and white polka dot fabric my boy's mum got me for Christmas.............) but I don't want to pile on the pressure by saying I will for sure. So there you have it. Happy summer (sewing) peops!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Floral Frock!

It may look like all I've been doing round here lately is concoct ways to encourage others to sew their own clothes, whilst not doing too much very much of that myself. Well, do not be mislead by that assumption. Certainly my output has slowed a little compared to what I can be capable of, but stitchery magic has been happening, let me assure you.

Way back, like two weeks ago, I showed you the results of a speedy stretch fabric sewing session. Well, after that burst of energy, I lost my sewing mofo for a while. You know, when you have a pile of fabric, a pile of patterns and design ideas, but somehow they don't seem to marry up? Well, my boy gave be some sage advise about 'the way being closed' and why not to fight it, so got on with a bit of mending and altering, waiting for the 'way' to open up again. After about five days, I came home early because my last class had been cancelled only to discover all the mending and altering had earnt me enough sewing-karmic-credit and the 'way' was open! Yay! I did most of the ground work that evening, and finished it off in two short sessions over the following days, speeded by the fact that I could probably whip this pattern up with my eyes closed.

The result was this tunic dress. I used two small pieces of sheer floral printed fabric which I'd got for 50p from a bargain bin in a really nice fabric shop in London about three years ago. Plus I deployed the ubiquitous Simplicity 3835 (my 8th version) as a base and used my own drafted sleeve pattern which I have used for five of those eight versions now. I think the fullness of the my sleeve pattern gives the resulting garment a nice, and possibly more retro, silhouette, and the gathering at the bottom into the cuff band reflects the gathering of the garments neckline.

I have to admit, I'm in love with the result! (And it's not even nautical themed!.) I really liked this fabric ever since I bought it, but my adoration for it has grown since it's been in my possession, possibly because my growing adoration of navy (and of gold/mustard/orange for that matter now I come to think of it). I'm really pleased I didn't jump into using it before the stars alined and paired it with this pattern, it might have been an irreversible mistake and a waste. Why is it that the cheaper the fabric, somehow the more I want to do something awesome with it?

Anyway, this all leads to the obvious question, if this was completed well and truly within May, why didn't I wear this beloved new garment during Me-Made-May? Good question. The answer is this: it's very sheer and for modesty's sake I feel it needs to worn with jeggings with a vest underneath. The do have three me-mades vests, but none of them appropriate plain or subdued enough. I did consider trying it without a vest, but when I raised a concern that my belly would be firmly on show (not my favourite feature), my boyfriend told me not to worry, that no-one would be looking at my belly (!), I promptly scrapped that idea altogether!

Well, now Me-Made-May is over, and my plain black vest are permitted again. However, the weather has turned super-hot now, so this garment may need to remain unworn until it cools down, or I return to UK (I'm pretty sure it's the latter that will come first!). But that's ok. This fabric's been waiting in the wings for three years already, a couple more months won't hurt.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Self-Stitched-September Wigit: How to Get Yours

If you are one of the awesome crafters who have already signed up for the next handmade challenge, Self-Stitched-September, then may I interest you in one of these cute button/wigit things for your blog? The benefits of which include:
  • It will continually stand as your statement of intent without you needing to constantly remind your readers what you're up to (of course, you may want to do that too!).
  • Linking to the original Self-Stitched-September 'Join-me' post gives a full explanation of what it's all about and how to sign-up, meaning you won't need to repeatedly explain to your readers what it is you've sign-up for. They can click on your button and all will become clear whilst you sit back and relax.
  • It will serve to advertise the challenge to the readers of your (no doubt awesome) blog, helping us to inch closer to that 100 participant target. More is (at least in this case) merrier!
  • It will help link participants as they can see at a glance that you are 'in' when they check out your blog.
  • It's pretty cute.

So, if you would like one, follow these steps:

1# Copy the following HTML code:

<a href="" target="_blank"> <img border="0" alt="Photobucket" src="" width="170" height="80" /> </a>

2# (This is for blogger, not sure about other blog hosts). Click on 'Customise' on your own blog; click on 'Layout'; click on 'Add Gadget'; choose HTML/Javascript; paste the code in; click on 'save changes'; ta da!!!!

Happy sewing/crafting/blogging/reading/supporting/learning/teaching and all the other awesome activities that are part of enjoying the on-line crafting community!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 30 & 31: The End

So here we are, the final installment of my personal Me-Made-May documentation. Day 30:

Me-made Ruby shorts, nautical blouse and pants. This combination of garments was dreamed up whilst trying to create photographable outfits out of a jumble of separates for my recent photo shoot project. I thought it might feel a little too pin-up for a sloppy Sunday, but the blouse is fitted but not tight and the cotton sateen is so soft that is doesn't really feel like a blouse. This is definately an outfit that reflects how I feel a lot of the time these days.

Day 31:

Me-made skirt, cotton blouse and pants. As with the final day of Me-Made-March, I added a new garment into the mix at the 11th hour. It was great to have this new skirt and made me wear the blouse tucked in, which is something I've never done so somehow it too sunsequently felt like a new garment! I devote a post to the skirt in a near future as it was a sewing triumph in many ways and I'd like to share with you this particular learning curve.

I spent most of the last day of Me-Made-May in high street clothing shops doing trend research, which I always feel is a little ironic (and at times possibly hypocritical even, but let's leave that debate for another day) seeing as I wear so much handmade clothes and was in the process of rounding off a whole month wearing exclusively handmade things. Funnily enough, this outfit made me feel the more at ease pretending to shop than I have for a very long time. Perhaps that's because this skirt could be perceived as being quite 'on-trend'? Whatever. But I must say that this final outfit was one of my favourites from the whole month, and if wasn't for the desire to expand my clothing selection for the tail end of the challenge, I may not have got round to making the skirt at all.

There are a million things I could write about regarding this challenge, about the awesome people and blogs I have discovered or about the knowledge, inspiration and support that has spread because of it. What I will say is that there are some really interesting and thought-provoking analysis and reflections going on round about now on participants blogs and the Flickr group about what can been taken from the Me-Made-May experience. If you have found this challenge of interest, I would encourage you to seek some of them out. I really do want to thank all those who participated and everyone who left nice comments, y'all are amazing!

On a personal level, I believe I succeeded in making my own efforts bigger, brighter and more fun. Of course, the warmer weather facilitated a lot of that, but I really pushed myself to create more varied and colourful clothing combinations. In fact, I somehow managed to only repeat one outfit the whole month! I don't think I realised how many separates I have. I also made more of an effort with my hair and made sure I wore makeup more often, two things that I know have a direct relationship to how I feel during the day. Funny the changes you make when you realise more people are watching! Predictably there were lots of things I had planned to create before and during May, like a dressing gown, that might have been useful and/or provided more variety, but I got by just fine without them.

By now you may have noticed that I have thrown down another challenge: Self-Stitched-September. I have many thoughts and plans regarding this and the other challenges I have recently signed up for as a result of my experiences of Me-Made-May, but I'll save all that jazz for another day. I must admit it took me a few minutes this morning to realise that I was 'allowed' to wear non-handmade things today, and that actual made me quite sad. Long live the handmade revolution!

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