Thursday 30 December 2010

2011: Resolute!

Wowzers! Where the hell did 2010 go? It was an amazing an eventful year for me. It started in Spain, and I saw the new year in as a Burdastyle featured member. The birth of Stash Bustin' followed shortly. I also concocted an idea to attempt Me-Made-March, inspired by the fascinating Makeshift project. My own endeavour pushed me out of my sewing comfort-zone, and made me attempt new areas of previously unconsidered makery, like undies and coats. After a fascinating and valueable month, a new challenge was born: Me-Made-May. This time, I was not alone. I also spent a sizeable amount of time during the first half of the year writing for the Colette Patterns blog, not to forget a short-lived stint as a regular writer for Mixtapezine.

My summer was a crazy time of work, play, culling, packing, saying goodbye and travelling through France to set up a new life in Brighton, UK. September brought another challenge along the same theme: Self-Stitched-September. This time, I was even less alone. It was a tricky month for me work and life-wise, but never more had I felt the relevance of doing these challenges. A while later I scored the best job in the world, which miraculously brought together my love of sewing and my deeply held feelings towards sustainability and somehow allows me get paid for my efforts. Phew!

Looking back at the beginning of the year and where I stand now, aside from the glaring geographical and meterological differences, I feel a world away from the start of 2010. I've finally started to get a clear sense of my own style, and am finally producing garments for myself that I love to wear. My principals, beliefs and interests are much more alligned than they ever have been. I feel I've set myself up pretty well to pursue more easily in 2011 the investigations and experiments into living more fulfullingly. I've been nourished by the incredibly creative people in crafty/DIY/eco blogland more than I can express, and hope to have inspired others in a similar vein.

So, what of 2011? I love the begining of a new year as an opportunity to review my recent past and to evaluate my hopes for the future. So if you'll indulge me, here are my sewing/sustainability based resolutions for 2011 (in no logical order):
  • 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!
There's probably some stuff I thought of earlier today which I've forgotten (it's pretty late now), so I reserve the right to ammend and add to the above list as I see fit. This year I seem to have gone for quite challenging, attention-focussing resolutions. After all that 2010 brought, I kind of feel ready to bite off some big chunks of challenge! If you are also a fan of making resolutions (like Tilly clearly is!), what are they? Do yours tend to be specific aims, or wider broad brush strokes? What did you learn from 2010?

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Leopardy Layering

Clearly I'm not very able to show you through photos the details of my new top, so I'll have to rely on my powers of description to explain what's happening here. Last week at work we had a delivery of lots of sample lengths of fabric that had been donated to TRAID by a fabric producer. Most of it was ditsy floral jersey and lengths of muted solids, wierd lace and some randoms. And THIS leopard fabric! My boss and I both virtually lept on it, thankfully it was a couple of metres long so we were able to purloin it and divide and conquer.

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.

To summarise, I will definately be making another version if this top if some similar weight fabric comes my way. However, I will make a small adjustment to the width of the neckline, and perhaps will make the width of the neckband slightly narrower, though maybe not. All I want to do right now is dream of summer holidays and sew pretty short-sleeved blouses, cotton dresses and high-waisted shorts, but I know my time will be spent more wisely cranking out a few of these. How is your Winter sewing going? Have you stumbled across any styles or patterns than are keeping you toasty?

Wednesday 22 December 2010

There Ain't Gon' Be No Revolution Tonight

K, I gots some things to say right here, so I’m just going to say them. This is the situation, albeit a very simplied version, as I see it. Maybe you see things differently, if so please leave a comment, I’m all for sparking debate on this and the myriad of related topics. Right, ready? Consumerism and production. BAM! ‘Nice topic round Christmas time, Zoe!’, yep I know but I had to go there.

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

New School Vintage: Lace Embellished Shift Dress

'Oh, this old dress? I picked it up from a vintage shop the other day'. Sound convincing? Lies, all lies!!!! Let me explain: recently, I've been a bit obsessed with making garments that look like straight-up vintage items. Normally, I tend to aim for adding my own spin on vintage/retro styles, for example by using vintage sewing patterns with new fabric, or applying vintage buttons to a modern pattern, or something along those lines. But for some unknown reason, I've been desiring some items that could be confused for original vintage clothing. Similarly, I've also found myself drawn more than usual to other peoples' creations which also seem to blur the new/vintage line. So, I've decided to work on some projects that I'm naming 'New School Vintage', alongside whatever other things I may decide to make. These will be created from vintage fabric and use vintage patterns, simple as that!

'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

Crafty Fairing

T'is the season for a squillion craft fairs! Yay! I remember the ones I used to go to when I was little with my mum at the Cliffs Pavillion in Southend. The vast majority of visitors were over 65 and the crafts on offer were so different, I can scarely draw a parallel with the stuff you tend to see today. I remember things like pebbles glued together with eyes painted on to look (very vaguely) like animals, and handmade wooden cheese boards with the word 'Cheese' burned into them. And those pictures made from lots of layers of the same image cut out and stuck on top of each other to give a wierd 3D effect. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED going to those craft fairs back in the day, and maybe those type of fairs still exist. They modern craft fairs can be a very different beast, eh?

Over the last few weeks, alongside my intrepid craft fairin' friend Michelle, I have been to a couple of fairs which I shall report on here. You might be all 'Big deal, Zoe. Why would I want to hear about craft fairs that have already been and gone?', well both of these are annual or bi-annual so you might want to store this info up for the future.

The first was MADE10, which is a yearly fair here in (not particularly) sunny Brighton, UK. Ok, I have to tell you something before I continue: tickets on the door were £6!!!!! If you aren't from the UK and don't generally deal in quids, that's a shit-load. Well, everything in UK is a shit-load of quids these days, but in my opinion that's way lots for what is basically merely entry into a building with the ability to part with many more quids on actual stuff. I got tickets in advance (I had to go to the box office though, you can't even buy these online!) which made them a slightly more palatable £5, but still...

Despite the (apparantly not) prohibitive cost, it was rammed in there! I'd recommend going early or later in the day, the crowds definately thinned a bit the longer we were there. But the stalls were slick, the whole thing was incredibly high-end. Some really incredibly amazing stuff and everything was really good quality, the very best of British Handmade, if slick is your preffered aesthetic. If you are into jewellery, I would definately recommend heading down there next year. See below for a couple of my favourite sellers who had stalls at MADE10 (click on the images for links to their sites):

The second craft fair I visited was Bust magazine's Craftacular in Bethnal Green, London, (England, UK, Europe, The Earth, The Universe etc. Did you ever write your address like that when you were little? I really am regressing today). I was so excited about going to this as I love Bust magazine and their approach towards crafty culture and beforehand I poured over it's site and checked out lots of the vendors links. Wierd fact: the Bust Craftacular was held in part of the same building as my old gym from when I worked in Bethnal Green a few years ago.

Craftacular was also rammed, it opened at 12pm and when I got there about 10 minutes to 12pm, there was a massive queue which curled round the side of the building. But the queue moved quickly and entrance was a much more affordable £2. What was pretty funny about this fair was that about 98% of visitors were cool, interestingly dressed chicas in their mid to late twenties. Bust readers basically.
There was a lot more interactive stuff like raffles and craft demonstrations, but not as much as I'd built up myself up to expect by pouring over the website so much. The stalls themselves were pretty cool with a good range of price points, but I would really have liked to have seen more variety in the stock being sold. I recognised many of the stall holders from my days selling at UpMarket and the Backyard market at Brick Lane, which disappointed me as I was hoping for a different experience from one you could have any Sunday if you bothered to make the journey to Brick Lane. I don't know why it should have surprised me, as surely there can only be so many hip designer/makers in the London area.

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

Walking in a Winter (Coat) Wonderland

Can you believe it?! It's FINALLY finished! After a couple of months grappling with the extensive sewing instructions, my winter coat (as announced in this Cunning Coat Planning post) was finished just in time for the temperature drop and snow fall the UK experienced a couple of weeks ago.

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

Saving and Sewing

As I was chatting about last week, the LAST EVER Mixtape zine is currently on sale. In case you were wondering what type of business can be found within it's pages, allow me to present to you my last ever Mixtape zine contribution entitled 'Saving and Sewing':

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.

Garment fabric

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

GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!! Zip Roses

Hi peops! I haven't hosted a giveaway for months and that just ain't right in my book. So, on this chilly Sunday morning I plan to correct that. This giveaway is for a whole load (that's technically a quantity, more than 'a bunch' but less than 'masses') of 'roses' that I made from sections of metal teeth zips. They range in size and colour, as you can see in the picture below, the largest being about 6cms wide. I made these a fair few years ago with the intention of adorning some garments I'd made, but I never got that far and kind of forgot about them.

They were rediscovered whilst going through my haberdashery stash that I left at my mum's whilst I was in Spain, and I thought it's a shame to have them sitting around unused. With so many crafty creatives out there at the moment busy making lovely handmade Christmas presents, I thought someone could use them in an ingenious gift or to embellish their own party outfit.

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

Sad Times....

..are upon us. Two of the most significant and inspirational players in the creative sustainability world are coming to an end. I've already announced that awesome Mixtape zine will no longer be producing issues. And now the almightly Wardrobe Refashion blog/community is also shutting up shop. It must be noted that both these entities are ending for very understandable reasons, the amount of time and effort such things take to create and maintain for a period of years has proved Justine and Nikki are nothing short of superwomen!

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.

Monday 29 November 2010

Melanie Daniels lives (dies) again

A month ago I did something for the first time that many US sewers probably do annually: I made a Halloween costume! It's not so much of a big deal in the UK, I myself haven't worn a Halloween costume since my 11th birthday party. But my mate Anna and her husband wangled themselves invites to Seal and Heidi Klume's star-studded Halloween shindig in New York (honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up even if I wanted to). With only a week left to sort out her costume after an ebay search proved fruitless, she turned to me to assist. Luckily (?) I was between jobs, impatiently waiting to hear if I got my current job, so had the time to take on this commission.

After a lengthly debate, she settled on going as Tippi Hedren's character Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. I, of course, have my own thoughts on Melanie Daniels, but admired Anna's kitsch but classy choice nevertheless. An internet search furnished her with a couple of different types of fake bird (one of which was produced in the US so she got them delivered straight to her NY hotel instead of to London!), so it was just down to me to make the dress and jacket.

Thankfully, I already had this pattern pictured above in my collection (thus neatly justifying my obsessive vintage pattern buying habit) on which to base this project and got to work with the fabric Anna had bought. 18 hours later (I timed it) I came up for air and the suit was finished with just enough time to get it to her before her flight. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for a fitting and it came out a bit big and long, but her handy local tailors rectified the length issue minutes before she had to set off for the airport.

I hadn't used this pattern before and the whole project certainly took way more time than I expected it to be. I had to make adjustments to the pattern because Anna is very tall and has different proportions to a 1960's lady (who doesn't?!) Also, upon request I lined the skirt section as the main fabric was a little thin. The pattern includes facings AND binding at the neck and sleeve opennings, both of which I faithfully included for fear of a poor finish. There was a lot of hand stitching involved to get the facings to lie nicely and the get the bindings to trap in all that fabric. If I were to make it again, I'd probably omit either the facings or the binding. The jacket, however, came out really nicely in my opinion, a really clean finish. I also made a self belt, like Melanie's but buckle-less.

I think you'll agree, Anna looks amazing and makes an awesome Melanie Daniels. Hmm, I wonder how I'd look as Annie Hayworth! Maybes this won't be the last Halloween outfit I make!

Tuesday 23 November 2010

If You've Got It..... may as well put it in some high waisted shorts and get on with your day. That's my new saying. Catchy, don't you think?!

Actually, I'm not sure if I'm: A) confident enough to wear these in public, or B) it'll ever be warm enough again to wear them outside. I always feel like that about seasons though, in the Winter I forget having ever been hot and in the Summer I can not remember what it feels like to be cold.

So how did these crazy shorts come about? Well, I bought this vintage trousers/shorts pattern pictured above from ebay with the intention of making some capri pants next Spring. I got the pattern delivered to my work because I don't trust packages in the communal post situation at home. Well, I was conjuring up garment ideas that I quite fancied trying to make to pitch to my boss, and high waisted shorts sprung to mind. I recently made some skirts using a high waisted skirt pattern that came out really well. She was fine with me making some so I developed a pattern combining the vintage trousers/shorts pattern for the rise and hip curve and the skirt pattern for the high-waist part.

Then I hunted the fabric stash for options and came across this mental vintagey wool check. I'm absolutely obsessed right now with red and blue (and all things nautical, in case you haven't noticed) and gushed over it so hard that she suggested I cut myself out a pair whilst making the ones for the range. Which is why I now have some. WIN!

As for the confidence issue, I kind of find them too funny not to wear at some point, if you get what I mean. I don't really have an appropriate top to wear with them at the moment, so I plan to make a stretchy red thing to go with them. If anyone has any thoughts on what they'd wear these shorts with, I'd love to hear. However, I have got the leg wear covered. HAVE YOU NOTICED MY NEW TIGHTS?!!!!!! They are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These shorts show off their full incredibleness, so that's reason alone to get the shorts on.

But back to the tights. They were a gift from Michelle, one of the loveliest and most thoughtful ladies in the universe. She came down to Brighton from the Big Smoke to hang with me out on Saturday. Whilst looking around the shops we saw these tights and she insisted on buying them for me as she thought I had to have them! We are talking seriously lovely lady here.

They are hand printed with old school tattoo designs, and if you are desparate for some too and have a spare £46, you can get a black ink version here. (Fear not, mine were in the sale, but were still a very considerable price for tights, thanks again Michelle!.) I can't wait to try them with my red Beignet skirt and red side Ruby shorts (both of which you can see here, if you care to). However they are seriously making me want more and bigger tattoos on my arms to balance things out a bit, the rest of me looks too bare now! Gertie or Coralene could rock these hard!

Saturday 20 November 2010

Les boutons et plus

WARNING: Picture heavy post.

I don't know why I added that warning actually, I don't think an excess of images ever caused health problems of any description. Nevermind. It's a few months ago now, but I thought I'd share with you how I went from Barcelona to UK through France back in August this year. I tend to keep this 'ere blog fairly sewing/creation/sustainability/inspiration specific, so don't tend to share holiday paps and the like (in no way criticising those who choose to do so, I LOVE to live varicariously and cyber-travel to places that I haven't been to via other peoples' blogs, particularly Cheap Opulance and Christine's) but as Michelle so eloquently noted, trips can often be catalysts for great bursts inspiration, both during and afterwards.

So here we go (note the sizable chunk of possessions we lugged with us, that big case I'm leaning on could have housed a small family) in Estació de França train station patiently waiting for the delayed train:

Three trains and some crazy border crossing action later, we hit the super-cool city of Lyon! Oh, at this point I should mention that all these photos were taken by my boyfriend who kindly let me steal them, which would explain why I'm in a high percentage of them (he likes to use me as 'foreground' apparantly).

Now, in terms of fueling my sewing obsession, Lyon wasn't directly very useful. The only haberdashers I found was closed for the WHOLE OF AUGUST. Seriously. They thought no-one might need some elastic or a zip for an entire month. But I forgive Lyon for this oversight because I did provide us with one of the most exciting phenomena I've ever experienced: TRABOULES! Secret doors, passageways and internal courtyards to be discovered that you are kind of allowed to snoop around? Hell YES please!!!! I could write whole posts on how interesting these things are, the fascinating history of them and our two-day adventure entering secret doors and coming out in entirely different streets. But I won't. Yet.

In short, Lyon was awesome. If someone told me I had to live there for a year, I certainly wouldn't be pissed off (plus it might mean I'd actually get to the see the inside of that haberdashers!). So, can you guess where we went next? Here's a clue:

I visited Paris briefly once when I was a moody teenager for a college trip, and was dying to explore it as a (considerably less moody) adult. So, culture blah blah blah, art blah blah blah, history blah blah blah blah, architecture blah blah, food blah blah blah blah. Can I talk about sewing now?

There are numerous well written, helpful and informative blog posts already out there about where's hot and where's not to buy fabric and haberdashery in Paris (I know, I read a lot of them before my trip) so I'm not going to try and make another, other than to say, head to the Montmartre area. If you can't see a million fabric shops, walk about a bit until you do. They helpfully clumped them all together. After doing the obligatory walk up to the basilica and squinting my eyes to try and picture what the area looked like when Toulouse Lautrec was wandering about, I hit this shop above. Umm, an eccentric but shoddy and over-priced buttons shop, boo. And then I went into another haberdashers.....

BLAM! Amazingness. I (unhelpfully) can't remember what this shop was called, but I'm pretty sure the French for haberdashers, which I think is 'mercerie', is in massive letters on the facade. This shop had so much of everything. ''Everything', you say?' Yes. 'Even ribbon with baby squirrels on it? Surely not'. Wrong sucker!

Despite only coming away with a couple of metre of bias binding with anchors on (predictable? Moi?!) I left that shop hyped. Check the unconcealable excitement on my face as I approach the jewel in the area's fabric-selling crown:

I'd read awesome things about this epic multi-floored fabric and haberdashery shop. Somehow, despite rolls of fabric numbered in the 1000's, I didn't see any that floated my boat particularly, finding the selection generally conservative. The strange child sized mannequins that I'd been promised however certainly lived up to my expectations:

But heading up to the haberdashery floor certainly didn't disappoint. One word: Boutons.

The last few weeks of life in Barcelona flew by in a rapid whirl of work, destashing and goodbye shindigs and we really didn't spend much time researching Paris and Lyon for our six days in France. But the one thing I didn't fail to figure out in advance was where to shop for sewing stuff. Like a kid on Christmas eve, I had been badly concealing my excitement and impatience for the part of our trip, on the final day, that had been allocated for me to indulge in this activity. I had been subjected to countless linguistic facts about things like 'how many cognates there are between French and English' and 'how to conjugate French -re ending verbs in the Present Tense' for days and days, and I was just itching to get to the pretty buttons. Which is why, when we got to the sewing shops area and my boyfriend begun to feel really strange, light-headed and nauceous, he didn't feel he could tell me until I was done and we had retreated to a bar. He didn't want to risk the mood I would be in if I had to cut this shopping trip short. So the poor boy simply tried to keep his shit together in claustrophobic and busy shop after claustrophobic and busy shop, whilst I inspected every last button Paris had to offer, none the wiser to his situation, with him even mustering up the strength to take these awesome pics (from a batch of many more) to document this day. Thanks Patty! I will endure every language acquisition fact you can throw at me! Promise xxx

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