Saturday, 28 April 2012

Poetry & Clothing Project: January

Now, it cannot have escaped your notice that I'm pretty behind with the documentation of mine and Harriet's Poetry & Clothing project. Perhaps you were fearing the worst and had assumed that it had be derailed in some way. Fear not my friends!!! It is alive and well and I shall endeavour to catch up with the documentation over the next month or so. Onwards to January's garment-based and December's poetry-based delights.

For January, I created Harriet an outfit comprising of a long sleeved jersey top and high-waisted tweed shorts (pictured at the top). Conscious of not creating any wardrobe orphans, I wanted to make sure Harriet had at least one garment that the shorts would look ok with, even if she ultimately chose to never pair these garments together in this way.

The jersey was made using a pattern that I've developed myself. It has seasonally appropriate long sleeves, gathered-head sleeves and a flattering scoop neck. I made it using some black jersey that had been dwelling in my stash for some months that had been very kindly donated to me by Jessica from A Yen for Craft. Sent all the way from San Francisco, apparantly this jersey had been living in her stash for years, so it was lovely to be able to finally turn into a wearable garment.  

The shorts were made from the same pattern as the denim pair from first ever edition of the P&C project back in April 2011. They were made a little smaller after feedback from the denim version, and in a smarter fabric for a different look. I really enjoy making these high-waisted shorts, so I was really pleased that Harriet was so into her first pair and hinted that another wouldn't go amiss!

The greyish-blue wool tweed was so nice to work with, I really pushed myself to create a very clean finish, even adding hanging loops and one of my 'Blatant Self Promotion' clothing labels.

Now for some culture: Harriet's poetic response to her December/Christmas check wooly cape.


Where the wings would sprout
in a mustard speckled second
my tail, my fur
wrap around these brittle bones

Oh to be a bird
(that well-worn, waxy wish)
in which
the sun came undone
knotted up the shoulder blades
the humps and bumps
curl up inside
a loosely woven consolation
the kind to keep the wind
at arms length
from a nap in a field
in the cool yellow spring

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My MMMay'12 Pledge!

Something I nearly do each time I launch a Me-Made or Self-Stitched challenge is forget to actually sign up myself! You'd think that all the signing up comments that ping into my inbox for the best part of a month would remind me to do so myself, wouldn't you?! And yet.

With MMMay'12 fast approaching, I've been having a good old think about how I can make my own personal version of this challenge a useful endeavour and interesting both for me and for those who may want to keep an eye on my progress. As I emphasised in the sign-up post, MMMay'12 is a challenge not just a participatory exercise, so those of us who have taken part in the past (me firmly included) need to think a bit harder to figure out how we can raise our game and up the ante.

I've been really heartened and impressed by the thought and consideration serial-participaters have clearly put in when carving out their personal pledges for 2012's challenge. I feel that those who have thought about what they hope to learn and gain from the month going into this challenge, are likely to get the most out of it. So it is in this spirit that I've written my own pledge. Forgive me, it's pretty long-winded:

'I, Zoe from 'So, Zo...What do you know?' sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '12. I endeavour to wear only me-made clothing (excluding bras, socks, tights, jogging trousers and shoes aside from my new sandals) each day for the duration of May 2012. I will allow myself to wear a second hand cardigan two times a week. I will not repeat any outfits. ALSO, someone I know will wear one me-made garment each day for the duration of the month'.

So, as I say, pretty long-winded but calculated to challenge the living-hell out of myself. Wearing only me-made clothing (with the exceptions stated) is do-able, but I don't think I could avoid repeated outfits without using any mass-produced knitwear. And seeing as I feel the no-repeats element is important to force me to work out new wardrobe combinations (for me, one of the major benefits of doing these challenges), I've pledged to keep the wearing of my mass-produced knitwear to a very reduced level. 

Adding the dimension of getting other people involved wearing the clothes I've made them, well that's kind of blown my own mind, so I'm not sure how you're feeling right now. That came about through the realisation that an awful lot of my personal sewing (as opposed to the sewing in my job) is done on behalf of others. Sometimes I get paid for those things, sometimes I get lunch and wine in return, sometimes it's part of a project or exchange, and sometimes it's just a plain old gift. I haven't fully figured out the logistics of documenting this part of my challenge yet, I'm going to keep it away from the MMMay'12 flickr group, but I definately intend to document it here on this blog.  

Phew! I feel challenged!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

MMMay'12 Flickr group and Facebook page are here!!!!

Peops! Apols for the delay, but better tardy than never. The opportunity to sign up to the MMMay'12 Flickr group and MMMay'12 Facebook page has arrived! These are two entirely optional methods for documenting your personal version of the MMMay'12 challenge and interacting with other participants.

Let me explain a little further. If you have signed up to the MMMay'12 challenge (and if you haven't but plan to, make sure you do so before the witching hour of 30th April!) you may wish to take photos of your outfits/garments/creations each day to document all your hard work. It may be that you prefer to take photos of your favourite outfits only, or something less time-consuming than the daily pics that have often been assumed you 'must' take if you want to take part ('pah' and 'phooey', you can take as many or as few photos as you wish, and taking none at all is totally cool, it's YOUR challenge). But if you have chosen to take photos, of whatever frequency, it is very likely that you will want to share those photos with others

Participants with blogs often choose to share those photos on there. If you would like further interaction with other participants, whether you have your own personal blog or not, the flickr group or Facebook page are the places for you!

The flickr group will allow you to upload your photos (max. 2 per day of the challenge) into the Group Pool. You can also comment on each others photos and receive comments on your own. there is also a Discussion function which can be used for all manner of questions, observations and debates that are related to the challenge (however losely!). I have always found the flickr group of each me-made/self-stitched challenge to be a real community of support and fun.

Also worth noting about the flickr group: it is a public group but invitation only. That means that anyone can view the photos and read the comments and discussions, but only those who have admitted to the group can add these images, write those comments or start or contribute to those discussions. You will need to request membership and I will confirm it within 3 days. The purpose of the flickr group is to share images of garments and creations worn during the May challenge only, so for obvious reasons, no images are to be added to the pool before 1st May.

The Facebook page option may appeal to you if you don't have a flickr account and don't wish to get one. It may also be a faster alternative if you are pretty strapped for time. You are welcome to post photos or add links to your blog posts. It can be a fun way to discover new blogs too. There is no need to 'sign up' to anything to be contribute to the Facebook page.

If you have any questions that haven't been covered above, please email at sozoblog (at) g mail (dot) com.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Handmade Nautical Sandals!!!

Now, don't flip out. I want you to be calm. Ok? Good. Because I have something to tell you. Ready?:

I MADE SHOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously. One week ago, I made some shoes. Real shoes like shoes that you could buy in a shop. Except you can't buy these in a shop. Because I made them and they are unique. I was able to choose the colours and (with time considered) the style. They are heavily inspired by a pair I saw on the ASOS website which looked comfortable, cute and relatively simple to make, but ultimately they are one of a kind.
So how did this incredible event come to pass? Let me explain. More than once on this blog I've mentioned my recurring obsession with making footwear. I guess through my desire to be 'wardrobe self-sufficient', making footwear became like some sort of handmade holy grail. I've got files of images and website links saved all containing clues as to how I might go about creating my own footwear. But I had yet to attempt to make anything because I couldn't see how anything I would be able to make would be either wearable or not looking like something belonging to a viking! Or like I'd wandered outside in my slippers.
Well, a very lovely lady called Emily, who reads my blog and must have seen my online longings for self-made footwear, emailed me offering me her assistance to make my dream become a reality! You see Emily studied cordwainery in both her native Australia and in London, and currently works for a theatrical footwear makers.
Lucky for us all, Emily has a wonderful blog where she documents the truly amazing footwear she and her colleagues create for stage and film. And more recently her ventures into sewing. And even luckier for us, she has signed up for Me-Made-May '12! I'll wager that she'll be the only participants who regular wears hand-crafted footwear as part of the challenge. I can't wait to see her documentation photos from the month.
So, keeping in mind how cool it'd be to be able to wear my sandals (weather permitting) during Me-Made-May, we consulted our diaries and hooked up in London last weekend for the shoemaking sesh. I'm not going to explain the process because it took a whole day and I've probably forgotten some of the stages, but I've more or less documented some of it plus some glimpses from the fascinating workshop. The day was soooo interesting, seriously one of the enjoyable days of my life! A HUGE thank you to Emily is in order for donating a chunk of her spare time and much patience to someone she didn't previously know to help make them VERY happy!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Girl With The Golden Bum

So, as promised, today I'm offering to those who are interested, a closer look at the Super Hero dress. One of the two that I made for the Simplicity blog hop/giveaway promo, according to the comments that post received, this pattern was a suprise to many, not least to me.

Pattern Description:

I used Simplicity #2282, a crazy concoction of a dress pattern with some outlandish details to pick and choose from. I chose to make a version that included the peplum (in my opinion, the bestest part of this pattern) and the cap sleeves. Usually I’d be drawn to the puff sleeves, but something about the proportions of the rest of the dress and my fabric choice warned me off from fear of it looking too 1980’s.

Pattern Sizing:

Well, having recently started paying more attention to how I can affect the fit of a garment BEFORE I actually start to sew, I traced out the pattern and made some alterations. I used the size 12 for the upper bodice, and blended that out to a size 14 for the hips and bum area to account for all that I have been blessed with in those departments. I also folded out 2cms from the length of the bodice because I’m short-waisted and this looks verryyyyy long in the body. It was important to make these changes before cutting out the fabric, because the construction process of this dress pattern means a simple ‘pin it in here, let it out there’ along the side seams isn’t an option.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it?

Kind of, although mine turned way better than the pictures! The pattern envelope photos and illustrations also don’t really show how A-line this garment actually is. I ended up taking the skirt in at the hem quite a bit, and would have liked to have made it even more pencil skirt shaped, but I would have had trouble walking and sitting without making a back vent, slit or pleat and I didn’t have the time or patience for going back and addressing that.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Generally yes, they were easy to follow, as I’ve come to expect from modern Simplicity patterns, even if I don’t agree with the construction method being explained. However, I did find the diagram and explanation of a couple of the trickiest sections of this make a bit lacking, and I was left quite confused at points and on my own to figure it out.

The difficulties come from trying to attach the front bodice, which has been attached to the back skirt pieces, to the side bodice, which has been attached to the back bodice pieces. At this point, you’ve already made the front skirt pleats and attached the peplum section, but that peplum is obscuring quite a lot and it’s difficult to work out where you are aiming at with your stitching line. The construction method for this section made neatening the seam allowances very hard, but doing so was essential for this project because my chosen fabric was a massive fan of fraying.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I love the peplum. I think a lot of women would fear a peplum, assuming it’d make their hips look super-wide. But I really like the way the peplum exaggerates an hourglass silhouette. I think the jury is out on whether a sizable peplum like this would suit all body shapes, but personally, I’m sold.

I dislike the funny flap version of this pattern, but I can easily avoid that by simply not making it! Having said that, maybe someone could make a version in red with contrast navy piping and a gold anchor button on each flap and I’d be sold!
I’d prefer to have this pattern with a pencil skirt and without the front pleats. Those pleats seem to be a bit unnecessary considering you’ll have either a peplum or funny flaps hiding them, and I don’t think the bring much to the party, shape-wise.

Fabric Used:

I think you’d need a team of scientists to figure out what on earth this fabric is! The closest to a description I can come to is ‘some sort of matelassé/brocade-y stuff’. It’s black with gold spots (or gold with black spots if you used the reverse) and I found it in a bargain bin of a fabric shop in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco about five years ago, shortly before having the best nachos of my life. The fabric is quite narrow so I bought way more than would normally. As precious as it is, this had been in my stash for long enough for me to go crazy and make this dress without first toiling it up. I still have a fair bit left. This pattern is pretty fabric efficient.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

No, I don’t think I’ll sew it again, not because I dislike this dress at all or don’t think I’ll get any wear from it, but because it is such a distinctive design that more than one would be a bit pointless. If I were more into the puff sleeves or the funny flap alternatives, maybe I could make another that looked sufficiently different.

I would recommend it to others; I think those who are brave enough should attempt to rock the peplum! This dress received a lot of compliments when I wore it to the opening bash for the Super+Super HQ, a new creative hub here in B-town.

Thought on styling

Well. It’s not a subtle dress, so I think you really need to be committed to carrying off the look with strong hair and strong makeup and high heels. I’m not sure how you could make a subtle version of this dress so I think that formular should probably be prescribed to all who make it!


I had a great time at the party with Rehanon (in her eye-popping 'Joanie' Mad Men dress), Kirstin, Sarah, Patty and others. I got some killer photos but for some frustrating reason the file containing them was corrupted and I couldn’t open it, so much of the craziness will have to be consigned to memory. The dress felt very special, and wasn’t as itchy as I had feared. It IS pretty tight though, so it’ll probably best be worn whilst enjoying cocktails standing at the bar rather than sitting down for a meal!

Sew Good with Zo!

It's probably impossible not to notice, particularly if you live in a city, the recent proliferation of sewing schools, studios and classes popping up all over the shop. This is reflecting the rise in interest in recapturing the crafts of our foremothers; to obtain hands-on skills in an increasingly virtual world AND to create and maintain our own clothing, freeing us from the exhaustive quantity of often poor quality mass-manufactured garments that have been produced though questionable means.

Personally, I'm very much heartened and excited by this increase in sewing schools, studios, classes and courses. For a beginner, this new range of choice of how and where to learn serves to facilitate the seeds of a new hobby, if not way of life. Plus, the amount of classes springing up means the teachers are becoming more innovative with the selection available. Therefore, some more advanced courses and single-skill sessions are popping up for the benefit of those who have a bit more sewing experience and don't need to learn how to thread their machines.

Even though there are lots more sewing classes and schools popping up, the world is far from saturated. Not until EVERYONE knows how to maintain their clothes will there be enough, in my book! So, today I'm going to tell you about a new sewing studio that's just opened up in London. This one is unique in two main senses: #1, it is run by a charity, so your class fee will not only go to running the course and studio, but will profit development projects in the Third World, and #2, I'm going to be teaching there!!!

Yes Siree, TRAID (the charity I work for) has launched the Sew Good Studio, 'A permanent creative workshop offering sustainable fashion courses teaching sewing and up-cycling skills'. The Sew Good Studio is housed above the TRAID charity shop in Kilburn, North West London and was set up the to fulfil demand for the taster sessions Lyla, Head of Education, had been running with her assistants to teach participants basic sewing skills to mend, revamp and adjust their wardrobes. Back in February, I headed up to London to help out at one of those sessions, and as cool as it was, it was evident that a permanent set up, rather than shifting sewing machines and boxes to set up temporary work stations in charity shops outside of opening hours, would improve what could be offered to the public.

It makes a lot of sense for a textile recycling charity like TRAID to offer sewing courses, because their entire focus is already on sustainability, reducing textile waste and re-purposing clothing. And the selection of classes to be held at the Sew Good studio is as impressive as the rest of the private sewing schools, including how to make a quilted laptop bag and how to make a panelled jumper dress. As with most non-for-profit organisations, everybody at TRAID has several job roles, are pretty overloaded and have to work within very limited budgets. Therefore, advertising the classes fell behind somewhat, but you can see the full listing for April here.

And me? What will I be teaching? My session is rather grandly titled 'The TRAIDremade Masterclass: Rework Your Wardrobe'. I'll be helping people bring life back into their unworn and unloved clothing by teaching a variety of skills to mend, alter, re-fit, hem and upcycle the items they bring along.

My first class is meant to be next Saturday (21st April), however due to the late pressing of the schedule, it's a possibility not enough people will sign up for that session to go ahead. The following 'TRAIDremade Masterclass' sessions are booked in for 19th May and 23rd June, basically every third Saturday in the month. My sessions will last a value-packed four hours. That's a whole lot of clothes-rescuing right there!

If you are interested in booking any of the Sew Good classes, or require more info, email or call Lyla on 020 8733 2591. Happy clothes-saving, peops.

Oh, I just realised that the hands in the Sew Good flyer pictured above are mine!!! Some photographer was sent to our studio for something completely different months and months ago and took a bunch of pictures which I can barely remember. But I just recognised that pattern master, then I checked the little mole on my arm to confirm it's me! You can tell it was a photoshoot because I NEVER use pins when cutting out!

Walthamstow Blogger Meet-up and Swap: Plus Confession!!!!

I was very fortunate to spend Saturday in the company of many lovely sewing ladies in London. Hot on the tails of our successful Brighton De-Stash Meet-up, the formidable Claire organised another along the same lines to be held in cheap-fabric-Mecca, Walthamstow. Attendance was excellent, despite the drizzle and chill. Above from left to right you can see: Melizza, Alana, Suzy, Karen, Jane, Rehanon, Claire, Michelle, Kat, Marie, Rachel, Catherine and Camilla.

Shortly after meeting, we all headed to a lovely cafe for sustenance. Then it was time for the swap. Oooh, I love a swap! It's like shopping without the guilt, and as you can see from the photo above, so much fun!

I'm pleased to say that I was able to go home with quite a bit less than I brought along. Below you can see my score: a lovely piece of blue sateen (destined to be a fancy dress for my best mate), some stretchy elastic from Jane (destined to be on some pants!) a copy of Sew Hip (destined to sit about the studio at work for months until I find where I put my other copies) and three sewing patterns (two of which are destined to inspire creations for work and the dress one might get used for a personal project).

Oh, and I mentioned guilt before. I fell off my no-new-fabric wagon with a bang. As soon as we were done swapping and had settled the bill at the cafe, we went to an excellent fabric shop called Saeed's. By the time I wandered in I saw some worried expressions on the faces of my companions. Anchors. On. Fabric.

They were right to be worried. I couldn't resist. 1.5 metres of wonderful blue and white anchor jersey was purchased by me after probably about three years of strict no-buying new fabric. But it didn't stop there. Birds were there. I like birds about as much as I like anchors on fabric, and Saeed, that checky devil, had sourced some wonderful quality jersey with magpies on it. 'Another 1.5 metres please, Mr Saeed. Oh, can I leave my back-bone here, I won't be needing that anymore.'

So, I feel a bit shit. Oh, and also excited that I have some incredible new fabric, of course. But why do I feel a bit shit? I guess it's because I feel so strongly that comfortably-off people living in developed countries have a responsibility to cut down their consumption of new products. And since I have tried to 'be the change I want to see' for a long while, breaking that inevitably feels a bit wrong. When I think about it objectively, I know that 3 metres of new fabric is not going to make much of an impact on the world, and of course it's not like I live a carbon-neutral lifestyle (for example, I have recently been the very grateful recipient of a plane ticket to NY for our honeymoon). But I am more conscious than most in many aspects of life, and I guess clothing and sewing were always the areas I put most effort into when trying to be a good example.

However, I've decided it won't be too bad, particularly considering I just gave quite a few pieces of fabric and patterns away to new homes, if I don't let these wonderful pieces of jersey languish in my stash and actually sew them into well-loved garments. I plan to use both fairly quickly, and to eek out as much as I can from both. You'd best hold me to that!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

MMMay'12 Blog Widget/Button: Get Yours Today!!!

I'm pretty stunned and thoroughly excited about the number of participants who have signed up so far for 2012's only official me-made/self-stitched challenge. It is so cool to see participants from previous challenges come back for more, and upping the ante of their personal pledges as they do. It is also wonderful to see the many new participants who said that they'd watched from the side-lines in the past, but now feel they are ready to have a go themselves!

With both types of participant signing up (previous ones who are stepping it up, and the first-timers), it shows how our awesome online sewing/knitting/refashioning community is developing AND how increasingly significant and abundant hand-made clothing is becoming in society more broadly.

But let's see if we the influence of our personal challenges can stretch still further. If you have signed up to this year's challenge and have a blog of your own, why not add a cute little 'Me-Made-May'12' button/gadget/widget to advertise your involvement?

Here's the code for your very own MMMay'12 logo:

href="" target="_blank"> <img border="0" alt="Photobucket" src="" width="200" height="33" /> </a>

If you aren't used to applying these blog accessories, here's how to go about it:

For Blogspot/Blogger blogs:

1) On your own blog, click on 'Design'

2) Click on 'Add a Gadget'

3) Select 'HTML/Javascript'

4) In the content box, paste the code you previously selected from above and click on 'Save'

5) You may then need to drag your gadget into your desired position on your blog

Ta daaaa!


For Wordpress blogs:

1) On your dashboard, click on 'Appearance'

2) Click on 'Widgets'

3) Drag a 'Text' widget over to your desired widget area position

4) Click on the newly positioned text widget, paste the above code into the large box and press save

Ta daaaa as well!

With that in place, all your readers will be able to see what you are up to, and will easily be able to click through to the original MMMay'12 sign-up post to read for themselves what it's all about, and hopefully choose to join in the fun as well!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Blog Social and Pattern Giveaway: Update

Hiya peops. So, as previously explained, I'm taking part in the Simplicity Patterns 'Get a Vintage Look' Blog Social and Giveaway. Upon receipt of the three patterns that are being given away my job was, along with four other talented sewer-bloggers, to make one of them and blog it on a specific day.

Except I got confused. When I was initially approached to take part in this, I thought that we had to make up each of the three patterns. So I delved into my fabric stash, waded around in there for awhile, and came up with some plans. By the time I figured out that actually I was only required to make one of the patterns, I had already got really into the plans for two of them. And seeing as I had sufficient time, I went ahead and made both anyway. Here's what I made...

First up is #2282. Initially my least favourite of the patterns, the view with the peplum really grew on me. I cut a size 12 for the bodice blending out to a size 14 for the hips/bum area. I also pinched 2cms out of the length of the bodice to allow for my short-waistedness.

the construction process for this pattern was quite interesting (have a go at making it and you'll see what I mean!) and it was something of a challenge at a couple of points. Particularly tricky was the stage where you join the side and back bodice to the centre front and skirt panels whilst trying to avoid catching the peplum section awkwardly.

I used some crazy black and gold matelasse/brocade-y stuff that I bought a fabric sale in San Francisco about five years ago. It's not as scratchy as it may appear! I think the stiffness of the fabric worked well, especially for the peplum, but I'm not sure it did the front pleats any favours. If I were to make this again, I'd probably try and remove either or both the front pleats, as I think the peplum detail would benefit from a smoother skirt underneath. I also brought the side seams of the skirt in to make it less A-line. I'd liked to have made the skirt even more pencil-shaped, but that would have involved making a back pleat or vent which I had run out of time and motivation for! All in all, I'm a fan of this garment which I've entitled the Super Hero dress!

Next up is what I think is the most obviously 'vintage' inspired of the three patterns: #2444.

This dress has some really nice elements to it which make it far more interesting than you standard bodice-and-full-skirt 1950's style pattern. It's tricky to tell from the front of the pattern envelope, but the bodice has some interestingly positioned darts which come up from the waist, and those are then echoed in the pleats which control the fullness of the skirt. As Lavender perceptively wrote regarding her creation, you could so easily get carried away with adding all the design elements these Project Runway patterns offer you. However, I was pretty adamant that it should be the waist bow OR the shawl collar, and I felt my fabric choice was more day-timey, so I went with the collar option, plus I didn't want to hide those cool darts with a big bow.

I know that I have some members of the sewing community would have expected a more nautical interpretation of this dress from me, and I'm sorry to disappoint! But know this: my love of nautical is almost matched by my love of African wax fabric! ESPECIALLY if the design features birds, or something mental like oysters, brooms or stilettos (and have seen and almost bought all three). This wonderful piece of fabric was given to me by my friend Anna who brought it back from her honeymoon in Ghana last year. This stunning dress by Cassie Louise taught me back in 2008 how good African wax fabric could look when made into, and somehow subverting, an overtly feminine 1950's silhouette.

I cut a size 12 bodice, folding only 1cm out of the bodice this time to account for my short-waisted issue. Seeing as it sits so high on the natural waist, I thought anymore might be too 'little girl's party dress'. I cut in between the size 12 and size 14 for the hips and beyond. The construction of this dress was pretty simple and would be a nice pattern for someone fairly new to sewing.

There are a few bits I dislike/would change/would have noticed if I could ever be arsed to make a toile. Firstly, I don't think it was necessary to design the pattern with a centre-front seam on the skirt. That was probably a measure for fabric economy, but I feel it is unnecessary and creates problems when using a printed fabric. Secondly, the back neck gapes a bit. I cannot be bothered to unpick the zip, facing and collar to adjust it, but I'd pinch out a couple of cms at the top CB blended down to nothing at the waist before making this again. Lastly, I think the pattern is a bit stingy around the top of the front bodice, making it quite tight across the front and difficult to raise your arms very high. You can kind of see the model on the pattern envelope is also afflicted by this issue. However, this probably wouldn't be a problem if you made a sleeveless version.

I am really into this dress though. I think the length is perfect for me (I'm 5ft 5") and I don't feel too much like a bridesmaid, which I often do in full skirts.

I'll do a more analytical blog post for each of these creations in the near future. But enough of my warbling for now! Head over and see what the other ladies in this blog hop have to show you. Suzannah made a delicate beige day-dress from #1913, Sunni turned the same pattern into an elegant, office-appropriate, rust coloured delight and Lavender rocked that pattern hard into an uber-versatile and fun piped chambray affair whilst bustin' her mama's stash in the process! We'll have to wait a little longer until 10th April to see what that talented chica Tilly makes of all this!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Me-Made-May '12: Join Me!!!!!!

It's here!!!!!!!!!!!!! The ONLY official me-made/self-stitched challenge of 2012, and now's the time to sign up.

What is MMM'12?

Me-Made-May '12 (MMM'12 for short) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle/insert-other-creative-discipline-here garments for themselves. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for over two years now and they work on both a personal and community level.

On a personal level, it is up to the participants to decide the specifics of their own challenge, so that the month really is challenging for them (more on this later). Typically, a participant pledges to wear one self-stitched or refashioned garment each day for the duration of May 2012. The participants can also choose to document their challenge with daily photos (though this is not compulsory) and share them with other participants, through either their blog if they have one (having your own blog is by no means necessary to particpate), the Facebook page that will be created, or the Flickr group which will be created.

Why should I take part?

Well, there are a lot of reasons why you could take part, and lots of different reasons why past participants chose to do so. Many participants find the results of their sewing/crochetting/knitting/upcycling/refashioning all too often end up left in their wardrobe rather than worn out to work, college, to the shops etc. Some peops would like to start integrating those self-stitched items into their daily life but feel they need a bit of a nudge to do so. Some me-made/self-stitched challenge participants want to discover the 'holes' in their wardrobe so in the future they are able to focus their precious garment-creating time towards making things that will be more useful. Others feel what they tend to wear, day-to-day, doesn't really suit them or represent who they are, and want to spend a month focussing on getting out of their rut. Some participants enjoy the push this challenge gives them to finish off lingering unfinished projects to add some more self-stitched weapons to their garment-arsenal. And others (myself included) get a rush when receiving a compliment on a self-stitched garment, and want to spend a month increasingly the likelihood of receiving more!!! If the previous five challenges are anything to go by, there is also guaranteed to be a lovely online community of fellow participants to give support, advice and inspiration.

How do I sign up?

All you have to do is copy the pledge below and post it in the comments section of this post adapted to include your details and the personal specification of your challenge. This is YOUR challenge, write the script any way you want, just remember: IT IS A CHALLENGE. It is really annoying when these challenges receive the odd comment saying 'Oh, I already do this so I may as well sign up', which is clearly missing the point of challenging yourself. Also, THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. It is a personal attempt to achieve a better relationship with your handmade creations, which you may or may not choose to share with the creative online community.

So, how do you create your own challenge? Have a think for a while about your current relationship with your creations, then think how you might want to improve that relationship. For example, you could challenge yourself to wearing one self-stitched and/or refashioned garment a day, Or, if you have been making clothing for a long time or have participated in previous me-made/self-stitched challenges, you may decide to challenge yourself to two self-stitched/refashioned garments a day, or even more! If you are fairly new to garment creating and/or refashioning, make this a challenge, but don't make it impossible for yourself. Maybe you wish to only involve refashions in this challenge: no problem! Perhaps you wish to include jewellery and accessories you have made: equally, no problem! Maybe, due to your job or something, you pledge to only wear self-stitched garments at the weekends: totes no problem! If you already wear a lot of self-stitched/refashioned items, think how you can up the ante.

'I, (insert name here and blog address if you have one), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '12. I endeavour to wear......................................................... each day for the duration of May 2012'

If you have a blog, re-post your pledge so your readers and followers can see what you are up to. Please include a link to this post so others can also sign-up if they are interested. If there's one thing I've learnt from these challenges, the more people involved, the better the party!

What do I have to do next?

Nothing in particular. Over the next couple of weeks I'll create and announce the Facebook page and Flickr groups, so pop back to this blog soon for details if you wish to be part of either of them. Later this week I will post the code for a lovely 'Me-Made-May'12' widget/button of the logo pictured at the top of this post. You can that to add to your blog if you wish to advertise to your readers what you are up to. Other than those optional things, there's really nothing to do until 1st May 2012! Although you may decide to finish up that UFO (unfinished object), maybe a skirt waiting to be hemmed or the blouse that needs the buttons stitched on! But please people, NO PANIC-SEWING NECESSARY!!

How can I document and interact throughout this challenge?

As I touched upon before, how you choose to document (or not) this challenge is entirely up to you. Most participants, however, find the interaction with other participants to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the month. If you are not able or don't fancy taking a photo everyday, why not photograph your favourite one or two days from each week? If you don't like being photographed, there's always the options of re-creating that outfit on a tailor's dummy, hanging the garment/s up or laying them on the floor to photograph. If you have a blog and wish to share your outfit photos on it but don't have the time or desire to post daily, you could post more manageable summaries once or twice a week.

Similarly with the Flickr group, if you wish to be part of that, there is no need to post your pictures daily. Everyone who joins has an upload limit of 14 photos per week, so there's no need to feel panicked if you can't post on there for a while. If you wish to skip some days' photos entirely, that's totally cool. If you choose not to join the Flickr group, you can still 'pop by' and see what everyone else is wearing, although you won't be able to comment on the photos or discussions without joining. I'll explain more about the Flickr group in the post that annouces it's invention within a couple of weeks.

Anything else?

HAVE FUN!!!! This challenge is meant to be explorative, illuminating and beneficial, but so much fun to be had too. Getting dressed can often be fun, and if you haven't felt any clothes-based fun for a while, why not see if this challenge can help inject some of that back? 'Hanging out' online with the other participants can be a big part of that fun by seeing what they are wearing (either by visiting their personal blogs or through the Flickr group or Facebook page) and by sharing your own unique take on this challenge.

There will also be some special surprises, some for participants and one for all my blog readers, to be announced on 1st May. So don't forget to pop back then!

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or concerns about Me-Made-May '12 that haven't been addressed in this post (sozoblog (at) gmail (dot) com).

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Hem-isphere Project: Round 2 'Parisienne' Packages

As you may know, this year I am undertaking a sewing-related project with super-talented sewing blogger Cecile from Sewing and so on. (By the way, have you SEEN her new nautical dress?! I'm currently crippled by envy.) Every two months we will send each other a package of goodies, some or all of the contents of which will form the starting point for a sewing project. In January we sent each other these packages and by the end of February we had produced these garments.

The last round (Round 1) had no theme, but we intend to attribute a topic, idea, film, song title, quote, or whatever else to each subsequent round to inspire the choices of package contents. I was nominated to come up with the theme for Round 2, and I came up with 'Parisienne'. Cecile lives in Réunion, a French province in the Indian ocean. With the linguistic and cultural links to France, I was really interested in what she would come up with. Paris is also a city I am fascinated and inspired by and am lucky enough to have been a few times.

So what does 'Parisienne' mean to me? Each time I've been to Paris, it's been cold, grey and often raining. And very beautiful. The ornate, stone architecture is so stunning, and the awesome cafes are so inviting. But I am also aware of a coldness and aloofness; of decades of luxury, privelege and elitism.

And luxury is so evident: understated but always visible. Paris expects the finer things in life, everyday. Where else could you enjoy such incredible Art Nouveau iron work free of charge, as part of the metro system no less?! Why not make your daily commute a more beautiful experience?

So how did I translate that into my choices for the contents of Cecile's package?

My package to Cecile:

It contains a piece of beautiful cotton sateen that's been in my stash for years. I never came up with a use for something as fine and subtle as this! It's background is dark grey, which nicely reflects my memories of soggy Paris pavements. Plus it has an ivory print that is both geometric and floral, and some of the shapes I feel happily resemble some of the Art Nouveau iron work curves and shapes that form those Metro entrances.

Along with the fabric, I've included a length of delicate vintage lace and some small mother of pearl buttons. To me, including those elements reflects the kind of 'subtle luxury for everyday' that I sense in Paris. The kind of mentality that might ask 'Why use cheap or poor quality trim or buttons on a garment, when something timeless and special is available?'.

Cecile's package to me:

She has sent me a lengthy of lovely, drapey white fabric with fine black stripes, a cute 1970's tunic/dress sewing pattern and some faceted black faux-jet buttons. I'm really excited about the contents and, having dwelled on it for a week, I know exactly what I plan to do with this project!

Look what Cecile also sent me:

To commemorate the first round of this project, she made a darling collage of herself in her handmade outfit, featuring the top that was born from the first package I sent her!

Let Round 2 commence....
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