- Spend more time 'giving back to my community'!!! By that I mean making some of my self-drafted patterns into free downloadable PDF's and making some How-To's
- Continue to organise challenges which encourage the use and appreciation of handmade and refashioned garments
- Work hard on currently-undisclosed exciting organising project with my recently made new homegirls Steph and Lisa
- Work hard on currently-undisclosed exciting writing project with my super-talented graphic designer homegirl Silvs
- Work hard on currently-undisclosed exciting sewing project that may hopefully make a tiny bit of money
- Investigate the possibility of renting some workshop space, which would only be justified if the above resolution came to fruitition
- Read, write and talk more about sustainability, economics and ecological concerns, topics and possibilities
- Research what's happening in my local community on above issues and get involved
- Meet more creative homegirls and homeboys in my adopted city
- Meet in the flesh some of the amazing creative peops I've 'met' online
- Make the most of my current fortunate situation, and sew almost exclusively with secondhand fabrics, rather than regularly indulging in fabric shop purchases
- Make a pair of vaguely wearable shoes, even if they can only be worn for short distances in absolute dry conditions!
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
As well as this exciting acquisition, last week also saw the shrinking of my only two wool cardigans, beyond respectable wearability. So being cold has been firmly on my mind as this stinking Winter continues therefore I thought this fabric might serve me well whipped into a long sleeved T-shirt to provide a toastier alternative to a T-shirt layer.
I have no idea what type of fabric it is, other than something between a knit and thick T-shirt jersey but with a lovely cotton-y handle. I cut the pieces out by hybrid-ing about three different patterns, all of which I had developed and adapted using 'Sew U: Home Stretch' and existing garments as a base. Actually, if I'd spent a little longer at the prep-stage, rather than trying to get it during my lunch hour with a sandwich in one hand, the neckline would have come out a little better. You can't really see it from the photos because my hair's in the way, but I find it just a little too wide at the shoulder points.
I'm not going to lie to you, once all the pieces were cut and ready to go, the actually construction only took about 20mins flat. The cuffs are finished by making a band which gets folded in half and overlocked to the ends of the sleeves, right sides together. The neckline is finished by cutting two bias strips, one for the front neckline, one for the back. I measured both sections of neckline, and cut the bias strips 2cm shorter than each measurement (this helps the neckline stay tight and not go loose). Like the cuffs, these strips are double the width that you want the final neck band to be, plus maybe 1cm for seam allowance. These strips are folded in half width ways and overlocker the front and back necklines, easing the strips around the neckline curve, making sure I matched up the CF and CB points to the midway notches I made on the strips. For the bottom hem, I just overlocked the edge and flatlocked it. Had I been at home using my sewing machine, I would have used a three-step zigzag stitch to provide a little more stretchability, but I was at work and don't have that stitch on any of the machines there. If you aren't just skim-reading this construction bit, and actually are interested in the construction method of this top but am a bit confused by my rubbish description, leave a comment and I'll try to elaborate. Alternatively, if you would like me to make a How-To with pics (like my Undies-making one), let me know and if enough peops are interested, I'll make it happen.
As I say, this top was meant to be just a casual layer, which is why I didn't go crazy with Peter Pan collars or button details, but that evening my boy and I were going out for a pre-Christmas dinner and I didn't know what to wear. I find it really tricky trying to work out what to wear to look nice and keep warm, so I decided to try this (meaning I could still get away with wearing my vest! Umm, wait, I think a vest to me is a singlet to Yanks and Aussies, but I could be wrong) with my Beignet skirt and heels, but to yank it in at the waist with a wide belt to make it look more feminine for the occasion.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Every day, it becomes more apparent that those of us in the 1st world, need to buy less stuff. We need to consume less because we need to stem the damage caused by both the production of all that stuff, and the disposal of the stuff we no longer want. The depressing thing is, even though most intelligent and switched on individuals understand this, the individuals, corporations, businesses and governments with the most power to enforce change, largely chose not to. Which is due to economics.
Governments and international bodies have not and are not forcing the changes necessary because it will cost them the support, financial backing and votes that they need to keep them in power. If the G20 really did put the screws on global production and fossil fuel usage, the individual governments would lose the support of big business as well as be blamed for the resultant unemployment (from the production, transportation and selling of all that stuff) and for the increase in taxes and fuels bills. This is obviously a vast simplification of the situation, but that’s the basics, as I see them.
I don’t have the answer for preventing a rise in unemployment that most countries would experience, or for preventing public backlash against the raise in the cost of living that switching over to renewable fuels sources would probably bring. But we cannot let ‘economics ’ be the reason we will be forced to give our kids when they ask us in the future why we knowingly let our planet go to shit. Free market capitalism isn’t currently the planet’s best friend (or the majority of the world’s population who live in poverty). I don’t currently have an answer for the question of which economic system would reduce the present inequality in standard of living over the globe and encourage rather than prevent us from making the changes necessary to stem the environmental damage caused to the planet.
Despite a lack of strong leadership from our systems of power, I don’t think our current situation is hopeless. I know that people can be very effective when they put their minds to it. I don’t see that we have any choice but, as individual tenants of earth, to make what changes we can to how we live our lives, and to keep talking and listening and learning about these topics: all of which will make a positive impact on the situation AND also hopefully build up pressure on Big Business to change its practices and government to create and implement effective legislation.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
'So, why don't you just go vintage shopping, Zoe?', I hear you ask. Well, #1) where's the challenge in that?, #2) I will have more control over the style of garment I end up with rather than relying solely on chance, #3) I can guarantee a better fit by making my own. I'm very lucky to currently have a job in which I am surrounded by fabric, and if a nice piece of vintage fabric that fits the bill comes by, I can 'buy' it by giving a donation to the charity that I work for. This project would be more difficult if I were relying on charity shops and second-hand shops as vintage fabric sources, and more expensive if I were to look online, so whilst I'm in this fortunate position, I plan to make hay whilst the sun shines!
So, the first garment in my 'New School Vintage' range is this lace embellished navy A-line shift dress. The pattern I used is Simplicity 7511 which is dated 1968. I chose the wider neckline (what's up with those super-choking high necklines?) through choice and the shorter sleeve through necessity as I didn't have enough fabric for longer ones. I traced the whole pattern except for the neck facing pieces and made three changes to the pattern. The first change was to finally heed the lessons from past vintage pattern sewing projects and lower the bust dart points about 4cms. The pattern instructions actually showed me how to do this, basically by keeping the position of the darts at the side seam the same, but lowering the point, folding the dart closed and redrawing the side seam to figure out the new adjusted cutting line. I actually could have lowered the bust darts even more, were women's breasticles really so much higher forty years ago? Remind me to ask my mum.
The second was to make it a little wider from the bust line down to the hem to accommodate my lower lady-curves (I ignored the recommendation that this pattern is for 'young junior/teens'!). The third was the redraft the sleeve to remove most of the excessive ease in the sleevehead. In hindsight, I think I took too much out and should have left a bit more in, but there you go.
The fabric is some horrendous synthetic knit stuff that I imagine is from roughly this era, though being a solid rather than print is trickier to date. It behaves like double knit, and therefore is pretty comfortable to wear, though probably intensely flamable! It is a lovely deep inky navy, which is one of my absolute favourite colours to wear, as my Winter coat project may have hinted at. The lace is also from work, once again, no idea how old it actually it, but I think it is authentic enough.
This whole project took very little time to whip up, even with the application of a very inauthentic for the period device: a domestic overlocker. Makes me realise how my mum used to make herself a new dress every Saturday for a period of time during the mid-sixties. I think she used to use pinking sheers on all her seams, which might actually have been more time consuming than overlocking, now I come to think of it. One sewing habit that I use at work for speed's sake is making closed rather than open seams for all but the centre-back one. I've now started to use this method for my projects at home and I'm pretty convinced it's quicker and makes no different to the quality of the finished garment.
There's something not entirely perfect about the fit of this garment around the upper bodice/shoulder area, possibly linked to me taking out almost all the sleeveheas ease, but it's really not enough of an issue in my opinion to warant further investigation. An A-line shift dress technically isn't the most flattering of garment silhouettes for my curvy shape, but as I've said before, I really think that the majority of most women can rock pretty much any silhouette they fancy with a few adjustments and fitting tweaks, and a whole dollup of pizzazz! For this style, I made sure I kept the final hemline not too short. Also, this pattern has an interesting long curved dart that starts at the top hip area and finishes at the bust (maybes you can see more clearly in the close up of the pattern illustration pictured above) which kind of hints at the waist, unlike many shift dress variants.
This dress has had one outting so far (oh look, it's Matty lurking again! Say hi, ladies, he needs the attention!) and I think it's the perfect garment for the festive season. I've never figured out why, on the lead up to Christmas, clothes shops are absolutely rammed full of overly sparkly, glitzy and dazzling sequinned or bejewelled concoctions. Maybe it's just the lame life I lead, but I only find the need to crank out some party wear once or twice over the festive season. Most of my festive get-togthers seem to be quiet (and not-so-quiet) boozy pub sessions or house parties of which I would be laughed out of if I turned up sparkling all over. But there really is something nice and put-together about wearing a dress, even a relatively casual one like this. Through it on with some thick tights, cardi and flat boots or shoes, and PAM! I'm ready!
Monday, 13 December 2010
I will definately check this craft fair out again, and I think this one is a bi-annual affair so we won't need to wait a whole year. Has anyone been to the Bust Craftaculars in the US (or anywhere else if they have them)? What was it like? Did it live up to your expectations? What did you like/dislike about any of the craft fairs you've been to recently? Have you been selling at any craft fairs recently? How did it go?
Saturday, 11 December 2010
My goodness, was it a challenge. Not so much a challenge of sewing ability (seriously, what can't be figured out after an internet search or phone call to your mum?!), but a challenge of sheer perseverance to keep going. I've only ever made one other coat before so I'm hardly an expert, but jeez did this pattern call for an incredible number of steps before completion. Indeed, it did include lots of nice tailoring elements, like pad-stitching to hell and back, that I'm sure make all the difference in terms of ultimate garment quality, but it really was the promise of colder weather to come that provided the motivation to get to the end. That and the cost. All told, the fabric, lining and interfacing probably came to about £60-70-ish. I could of bought a coat for that, which was of course NOT THE POINT. Ever. The point is: I made a fully functioning and (thankfully) warm winter coat with my own two hands. I Win. Probably.
So. Aside from grueling, what's up with this creation? Well, I made one basic change to the pattern which I am very pleased I did. I added anout 1.5cms to each of the side seams at the waist on both the bodice and skirt parts of this coat. I have accepted that I do not have quite the nipped-in waist vintage patterns assume. Plus, being a winter coat, muchos layers of jumpers worn underneath are a very real likelihood. Another thing I should have done, which didn't come to mind until too late, is lower the bust points. Why I didn't remember this from the Leopard coat fitting issues, I cannot say. From now on, I vow to at least make a cursory check of the bust dart placements on a vintage pattern before fabric cutting goes ahead. (I've just realised how ridiculously vintage sewing-specific that last sentence was, and how, if they bother to read this post, the vast majority of my friends will be so bored by this point! Anyways....)
As for my whole Todobedobedo list tactic, to be honest I didn't keep up with it after the 'Buy lining fabric' and 'Cut out lining' to-dos were completed. I even gave up with making it at home, mainly because I was bored with it, but also because dark blue is really tricky to work with after dark in our tiny, poorly-lit cave of a flat. I took it to work and worked on it in daily lunch-break increments. Doing just half an hour each day was much easier to stomach than longer sessions, and I'll definately be implementing this set-up with future endurance sewing projects. Of course, I am lucky that I work somewhere with a large cutting table (usually covered with mid-project crap, mind) and a sewing machine and iron easily to hand. But hey, if you've got it, flaunt it, no?!
Oh, have you seen the slinky red satin lining? And the cute little label that came with the Vogue pattern? A very cool feature, in my view. (Haha! I just noticed, if you look closely in the pic above, you can see my vintage Star Wars pillow case.) And the belt buckle! So good! I bought this at Britex in San Francisco when I was on holiday with my mum a squillion years ago. I've been hoarding it for just the right project, and bringing a pop of contrast colour to this otherwise potentially drab garment finally felt like the right application for it's amazingness.
Good luck everyone who is currently embarking on a winter coat or jacket project. Keep with it, the snugness will be worth it! As for me, I won't be attempting another coat project until I have forgotten how much effort this one required! So probably some time next year then!
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
There are inarguably many benefits to be enjoyed by sewing a garment yourself rather than buying one from a shop. However, with the accumulative cost of commercial garment patterns, fabric, mock-up fabric, linings and notions compared to the relatively low cost of many retail garments, saving money is not often one of those benefits. So, is sewing a pastime only to be indulged in when you’re feeling flush? HELL NO it isn't!!! With some creative shopping with a keen eye and open-mind, there are many ways to potentially cut some of those sewing costs because, ultimately, less cost equals more creations!
Doing the rounds of your local thrift stores/charity shops/Op shops is likely to be second nature for the creative and resourceful people likely to be reading this, but it can sometimes take a few trips to realise the full potential of what is hopefully waiting for the sewers among us.
Commercial sewing patterns can be off-puttingly expensive, either new or vintage. Somewhere in your local charity shop, possibly in an old basket hidden under a clothing rack mixed in with some aged knitting patterns, there may be a score of donated vintage sewing patterns awaiting salvation. This is the Holy Grail for many charity-shopping seamstresses, and if you find some you have truly been blessed! However, as many vintage pattern lovers know from heartbreaking experience, older patterns are usually single sizes, so it’s a real possibility that your thrifted pattern may not be your size. However, if the size difference between yourself and the pattern isn’t too great and if you’re up for it, a touch of pattern grading and altering may be all that stands between you and a successful project.
Another oft-overlooked source of sewing patterns to be found in charity shops are the second-hand garments themselves. Want to make some new trousers but don’t have a pattern? Trawl through the trouser rails and find some in your size and try them on to find a pair that fits you well, irrespective of the how nasty/inappropriate/dated/cheap the garment fabric is. Have a good look at them to check the construction techniques required to make them are either within the capacity of your skills, or are ones you are willing to research to add to your repertoire. (Don’t forget, if you don’t fancy making a fly-front for example, could substitute it for a mock-fly front or even a side zip instead? ) If all looks well, once you get them home you can use one of the many how-to’s on the internet for tracing a pattern from an existing garment, or unpick the thrifted garment for even more ease.
This may sound obvious to many, but your creations are not limited to the dress fabrics prescribed to you by, sometimes over-priced, fabric shops. Some charity shops sell donated lengths of fabric, but often you need to look to less obvious sources to find the garment making options. Thriftable curtains, bed sheets and table cloths as well as large existing garments can also provide a wealth of low-cost alternatives. It can sometimes be a little difficult to see the potential through the item’s present form, but once this sixth sense has been developed, hunter-gatherers are often frequently rewarded! Curtains are often a good heavy weight which could translate well into a jacket, coat or crisp A-line skirt. The qualities of many bed sheets and table cloths are be begging to become a summery dress or sweet blouse. And if you have found a large garment, maybe some clever cutting could utilise an existing collar, pockets, shoulder seams or some such, saving you some work further down the line.
Toiling/muslin fabric and Lining
Making a toile or muslin of a garment before steaming into your preferred fabric is obviously the best way to ensure a successful garment sewing project. But buying calico or muslin to sew something that, by its very definition, is not meant to be worn outside the house can seem a massive waste of money and resources. Enter the aforementioned thriftable curtains, bedsheets, table cloths and large garments! The most important quality of a toiling/muslin fabric is that is its weight and handle is similar to your intended final fabric. Perhaps you’ve bought a length of pretty printed cotton with plans to make a summery dress. Making a mock-up of your pattern from a thrifted faded bed sheet that you picked up for 50p that is a similar weight to your fabric before you go hacking into that pretty cotton may save that project’s life!
Similarly, don’t go forgetting that garment lining needn’t be the standard poly taffeta fayre every time. Think about what thriftable alternatives might work to the project’s advantage. Once I bought some curtains in a charity shop that were lined with the nicest softest cotton sateen. Due the enormous size of the curtains, I had enough sateen to line about ten large bags. Now I think about it, I regret not using it to make a blouse instead. Damn.
As with the sewing patterns and fabric, you might be lucky to find a charity shop/op shop/thrift store that sells donated zips, buttons, buckles and so forth. If you are lucky enough to find such a shop with a range of haberdashery my advice would be: GRAB THEM! Even if you can’t envisage using them over the course of your next few projects, they may very well prove just the ticket further down the line. And if they don’t, then you can just donate them back.
Finding cheap second hand clothes with interesting buttons, dress zips, appliqués, lace sections, buckles etc. which can be removed may prove cheaper than the new store-bought equivalent.
Obviously, relying solely on thrifted fabric and notions for your sewing projects may prove impossibly frustrating (although I must say I’m strangely drawn to such a challenge). And if you have a specific idea for a garment you wish to create, the wait for the right materials to drop into your local charity shop will most likely out-last your initial desire to make the garment in the first place. As with most thrifting experiences, you’re rarely going to walk out of the shop with the thing you were hoping to find when you walked in. But if the thrifting gods are with you, you just might find the ideal item for a fantastic sewing project. Not to mention the fact that by recycling, reusing and repurposing rather than buying brand new, you are helping to cut the cost to more than just your pocket.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Sally at Already Pretty made this cool zip necklace tutorial pictured below. Maybes these zip roses in question could be used in a similar fashion?
So, if you would like these zip roses to be sent to your door, no expense required on your part, no matter where in the world you live, here's what you must do. Leave a comment in the comments section of this post including your email address (so I can reach you to get your postal address, I will not do anything else with the email addresses, I promise!) and telling me how you would use these zip roses. I will pick a recipient at 11pm (GMT) Wednesday 8th December and contact them immediately, so hopefully they will recieve the goods in decent time before Christmas. Good luck! xxx
Thursday, 2 December 2010
But that does not detract from what a void they will leave. I want to massively thank both these women for the contribution they have made in creating and sustaining the DIY/creative community, and wish them all the happiness and best wishes in their new projects, crafty adventures and lives.
It is no exaggeration when I say it that discovering Wardrobe Refashion back in 2007 changed my life. Maybe I would have got to the point I am at today anyhow via a slower route, but Nikki certainly put a voice to undercurrents that were bubbling away and speeded up the process for many eco-minded creative people out there I'm sure. Personally, it had such an impact on me, even contributing in a round about way to me ending up living in Barcelona! Anyways... It will be interesting to see what venture comes along to fill the gap WR leaves behind. I've already heard of one exciting project so far (more details as and when the creators deem it ready) that should see that online refashioning peops have somewhere to call 'home' to share ideas, tips and inspiration. However, the pledge part of WR is where much of it's real genius lay: the mental kick in the butt that 'signing up' to something gives. The ending of that will be the biggest loss as far as I'm concerned.
And as for Mixtape. There were plans for another PDF only issue to be released, but recent word has come that the current and final printed issue will now be the very last Mixtape zine. What can I say other maybe, I don't know, perhaps you could BUY IT!!!!!! It's your last chance to get hold of a lovely, thoughtful and inspirational publication made with love and talent about craft, pop culture, DIY and sustainability.