Monday 31 May 2010

Join Me: Self-Stitched-September!!!

This is it! The last day of Me-Made-May. I know I am not alone in saying that it has been an incredibly enjoyable, interesting, inspirational and fun experience, made incalculably more so because of the (dare I use the term) community that has formed through the Flickr group and participants blogs.

So, what next? Well, there are some interesting sew-alongs springing up as a result of some participants’ desire to continue the supportive aspects of this challenge. Check out the Me-Made-May Flickr Group’s discussion threads for more details.

For my part, I am also reluctant to discontinue my involvement with the Me-Made-May support group and the direct contact with many of these awesome peops. So I’ve come up with another challenge that I hope will appeal to them and others. Those of you who may have picked up on my predisposition towards alliteration made have seen this one coming, but I would like to present....... Self-Stitched-September! The title is a bit more of a mouthful than its cousin Me-Made-May, but effective enough I believe. In case you were wondering, I did consider Self-Sewn-September but realised that moniker would prohibit the inclusion of knitted or crocheted items, which would be a tragedy.

I think it’s important to retain the open aspect of the Me-Made-May terms of use, in the sense that individuals should be free to determine what will form a challenge for themselves. But I have created a template to use which will hopefully make it easier than last time to declare your personal challenge strategy:

'I, (insert name here and blog address if you have one), sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear (enter ‘only’ or a number) handmade (add ‘and refashioned’ if you wish) item(s) of clothing (add ‘or accessories/ jewellery’ if you wish) every day for the duration of September 2010'.

I really hope that those who have participated in Me-Made-May and enjoyed doing so will come on board for this next challenge, and equally I would LOVE to expand the participation to include more crafters. The last challenge had approximately 80 active participants (plus some lovely supporters and well wishers). Let’s see if this time round we can break through the big 100! I will create a new Flickr group by the end of the week so, as with Me-Made-May, we can enjoy each others’ photos and use the discussions threads any way members see fit. Watch out for an announcement on that.

In the meantime, if you would like to sign-up, please copy and paste the template into the comments section of this post and fill in/edit to suit your personal aims. Don’t worry, you won’t be held to this! If you wish to change your aims and do something different when September rocks around, it’s no problem. Then, if you so desire, paste your personalised template with any additions or qualifiers you wish to make onto your own blog if you have one: this is your statement of intent! And please include a link to this post so your lovely readers can find out more and perhaps become participants themselves if it interests them. If you do not wish to or cannot participate yourself but consider this challenge interesting, a linky-dink would also be greatly appreciated to help us get over the 100 participant target! So, who’s in?!

Sunday 30 May 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 28 & 29

I didn't realise that I've created a wardrobe consisting almost entirely of mix 'n' match separates, but given the evidence, that seems to be what has happened. No bad thing I guess, it has certainly made it easier to create unique outfits during May. But creating a wardrobe of combinable separates seems such a sensible thing to do that I'm very surprised that that's exactly what I have unconsciously done, considering how impulsive and emotive my sewing decisions tend to be.

Day 28:

Me-made Jenny skirt, bird blouse and pants. I almost hoped it would get a bit colder so I would have to wear my black jacket which is made in the same fabric as the skirt and has cool swallow patches on the shoulders. It would look like a wierdly smart bird themed suit emsemble. I'll keep that outfit in mind. Looking at this pap, it really is an exact case in point regarding mix and match separates. The skirt is actually very high waisted, but wearing the blouse over the top makes it (boringly) teacher-appropriate. Also, I've found that higher waisted skirts somehow seems to anchor themselves differently, and I don't have the annoying twisting round that my a-line skirts that sit lower down are prone to do.

Day 29:

Me-made Ruby shorts, blouse and pants. Saturday! I had an awesome day hanging in nice cafes whilst consuming nice food and drink, talking to nice and interesting people. Made of WIN! After an afternoon nap, I got done up to go and imbibe more deliciousness with other great peops (and Matty).

Me-made Macaron dress and (different) pants. It's going to be wierd in June when I don't have the constant concern in the back of mind about whether or not I have clean me-made pants for the next morning! Anyways, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I do love to get dressed up to go out of an eve, despite the fact that I regularly illicit many stares by being over-dressed in comparison to everyone else in the room. I got over that feeling a long time ago. The last time I wore this dress I styled it up quite 1950's, but this time I wanted something a little less cutesy and attempted a slightly tousled 1960's up-do with my usual 'going out' 1960's inspired makeup effect. This was also the first outting of my new beautiful shoes. How much fun is dressing up?! And Margaritas?!

Saturday 29 May 2010

Leopard Dress!

Oh Lordy, have I got a treat for you today?! (Yes.) A new garment AND an early peek at the fruits of our recent photo shoot project. But first, permit me to give you a little background on this creation.

Since I was big enough to be able to grapple with my mum's massive (it's actually probably quite a reasonable size to an adult) 'History of Fashion' book, I've been into checking out vintage style. As I have got older and my tastes have refined themselves, I am confident in declaring that my interests lie predominantly, if not exclusively, in the mid-twentieth century: 1940's-1970's inclusive. I am a devoted admirer and collector of the images, and of course sewing patterns, from these eras, but have never felt the desire to go full-on into creating and wearing vintage/retro garments. My other style influences seemed too disparate and I didn't feel I had the effort or commitment required to go fully down the vintage/retro route.

It is only in the last year that I've felt the desire to encorporate vintage/retro styles into my regular wardrobe. Maybe that's a natural reaction of growing up and finally 'ticking off' a lot of styles and silhouettes that I now realise are not for me. That, or the way that certain vintage/retro styles interact and counteract with current mainstream styles make them more appealing to myself and other more 'alternative' types.

I guess another related concept here is that of clothing as 'play': a way to act out the various manifestations of your personality, the various 'characters' even. In particular, I have always enjoyed getting dressed up for a night out, a chance to form a persona without the practical constraints daytime life often requires from our clothing.

But back to my current leanings to include vintage/retro elements into my wardrobe. I do not strive to create an historically accurate effect, or even a 'total look'. Blending mid-twentieth century style elements with some of my other influences (like my recent obsession with nautical themes) is my aim. One influence in which I have been finding a lot of inspiration of late is the Rockabilly subculture. Upon anaylsis, I guess it is Rockabilly's adoption, interpretation and subversion of mid-century aesthetics that strikes a chord. There is certainly a strong sense of play involved as well as many elements of Rockabilly 'style' which I adore, for example: the strong colours, pin-up influence, predominantly hourglass silhouette, old-school tattoo's etc. As I say, I do not wish to be tied to any one 'look' but this subculture's style certainly resonates with me deeply, so I decided to create a dress that firmly threw my hat in the ring, in terms of declaring my Rockabilly interest. Which is all a very long way round introducing my leopard dress!:

Seen here modelled by the stunning Linnea. I wish I could get beautiful and stylish women and professional photographers to shoot all my latest creations! Alas I cannot, which is why I'm making the most of this rare opportunity!

The dress itself was created using the same pattern (including adaptions) as this coral dress, with the addition of a bustier seam line. The main fabric is black sateen with a slight stretch, the same stuff I used for my Jenny skirt, and the leopard print is remnants from the Leopard coat. Seeing as the leopard print fabric is actually meant to be furnishing fabric, I thought it might be too thick for this application. I decided to use satin bias binding for the neckedge to eliminate the need for a potentially bulky facing finish and the fabric appears to be fine afterall.

I made this dress for me, but with one eye towards including it in the photo shoot, so I made it to my shape. Linnea is more slender, curvier and shorter than me, so we were surprised that it actually fit her very well. Actually, I really like the longer more 1940's-esque hem line that it adopted when she wore it. One more thing, did you see her shoes?! Incredible. Thanks Andres and Linnea!

Friday 28 May 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 25, 26 & 27

Is it wierd that I'm mourning the passing of Me-Made-May whilst it's still running? It's just that I've been enjoying it so much, with all the other lovely, talented, funny and creative Me-Made-Mayers 'playing' along. Seeing the fruits of everyones sewing machines and needles in real-life outfits has obviously been great, but the opportunity to discuss the myriad of issues and topics surrounding handmade clothing and DIY and reading everyone's unique opinions has been invalueable for me. For example, just this very morning, I read Jessica's awesome and thought provoking post about the diffusion and proliferation of (crafting) trends, and I have Me-Made-May to thank for exposing me to her blog. See what I'm sayin'?

Day 25:

Me-made African wax fabric Anda dress and pants. When I made my me-made wardrobe inventory I didn't even include this dress, it was tucked away in storage. But arriving back after our weekend away, it really felt like we were coming back to summer, an entirely different season from the torential rain we had just a couple of weeks ago. This dress is the easiest garment to wear, not even any pesky fastenings to slow down proceedings. Also accomodates any (croissant-related) weight fluctuations!

Day 26:

Me-made sailor trousers, cotton top and pants. Similarly, this top escaped the inventory for the same reason: I wasn't expecting May to be hot enough to wear it. Funny how tights, my leopard coat and my jumper were deployed at the beginning of the month, now it's all about cranking out the opposite end of my wardrobe spectrum (not sure the season quite warrants me in shorts yet though).

Day 27:

Me-made Beignet skirt, nautical blouse, vest and pants (the nautical set, in case you were wondering). Oh, and my jacket got a look in due to the excessively air conditioned train ride home. Check out this photo I accidentally took inside my bag! (no editing, aside from an image resize):

Thursday 27 May 2010

Open and Ready for Business!

Hi peops. The more observant of you may have noticed a new addition to my side bar over on the right. An Etsy shop widgit! It's official, I am no longer one of the dwindling number of craft bloggers who do not have their own Etsy shop. If you did notice it and wondered why I didn't mention it, I wasn't trying to be subtle (I'm not very good at that at the best of times!) but I wanted the opportunity to devote a whole post to the announcement, separate from my Me-Made-May updates. So, in short, I have my own Etsy shop! If you've got a couple of minutes to kill, I'd like to take you through the stock if you'll permit me.

Perhaps you are one of the lovely commenters who have in the past declared their affection for my bird skirt? Well, I have produced some similar a-line skirts for sale, with the wire and bird silhouette motif running across the hip. Available in red or grey and presently in sizes Small and Medium.

Also available are these mini skirts with leather tattoo-esque swallow silhouettes applied by hand, in the same way as the bird silhouette a-line skirts. They are available in red and grey, and presently in sizes Small and Medium.

Using my hard-earned powers of machine-satin-stitchery, these mini skirts are emblazoned with 'witty' lettering using my fourth favourite font, blippo. Hmm, I feel a font post coming on. Anyways, these are only available in black with red stitching but can be procured in sizes Small and Medium.

Arguably a diversion from the general theme, my last offering is a mini skirt produced in genuine African Wax fabric. It features a decorative front pleat detail which abstracts the fabric print. Currently only available in this particular fabric print, in sizes Small and Medium.

If you are interested in finding out more about my products, please click on any of the images or word links to be zipped through the magic internet portals to arrive at my Etsy shop! I must apologise for the limited sizing I currently have on offer. I did make some of the styles in larger sizes, but my friends bought them off me before they made it to Etsy. New products will be added in the near future. Thanks for checking it out!

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Me-Made-may: Days 22, 23 & 24 (Handmade Holiday!)

This weekend I took Me-Made-May on the road. ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!! Although to be honest I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a road trip rather than a holiday that you get to and around by car! Anyways, semantics aside, I embarked on a three-day road trip that headed north into Southern France with my wonderful 'dads' and my boy:

Saturday (AKA Day 22) took us from Barcelona across to border and into the incredible Medieval town of Carcassonne just in time for lunch. Then onwards to Toulouse.

Me-made nautical Jenny skirt, stripy top, pants and jacket. Argueably not the most road trip-appropriate gettup, but displaying a certain French air I believe!

On Sunday (Day 23) we headed further West and (including the car breaking down) eventually got to Lourdes. Back in the day a little peasant girl Lourdes resident called Bernadette allegedly saw a vision of the Virgin Mary seventeen times. This resulted in her earning herself a sainthood and Lourdes becoming the second most visited place in France (after Paris) because of all the squillions of religious types that go there to feel blessed and stuff.

At this point I feel I must explain that none of us are religious (despite 50% of our number being raised Catholic), but we all appreciate Catholic ephemera and thought it'd be fun to visit and see what all the crack was about.

Me-made sailor trousers, light cotton blouse and pants. I deliberately made sure I wore something that covered my arms seeing as I was going to a religious place and would most likely find myself in a church at some point despite it being really hot, but it seemed that that majority of the non-nun females there didn't share my concern and I needn't have bothered.

Now, I loves me some iconography and was excited by this trip as an opportunity to add to my collection, but by the end of a day saturated with statues and novelty holy water canisters, even I had had my fill and this final religious icon factory and exhibition was almost too much, hence my spazzed out expression in the documentation shot above. Time to retreat!

The final day (Day 24) was spent in Toulouse, but pretty much everything (well, shops) was inexplicably closed. So we wandered about the deserted but incredibly beautiful streets fueled by butter croissants and jacked up on caffeine. This was particularly exciting for me as I'm pretty much caffeine intolerant and usually have to be very careful about how much and when I drink caffeine, if at all, but I'd procured some sleeping pills and thought 'What the hell?! I'm on holiday!'.

Me-made sailor trousers, tunic top and pants. I know what your thinking, 'Umm, Zo, not sure about this garment combo', and I agree, the tunic would have looked better with my jeggings. But at the end of a weekend of crepes, croissants, moules and frites consumption meant they weren't happening!

So there you go folks. Sorry if I've bored you with the mini-tale of my trip (believe me it could have been longer!) but I wanted to explain the variety of situations that my me-mades successfully performed in. Wishing anyone else heading away soon a very happy Handmade Holiday!

Friday 21 May 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 20 & 21

Are there any me-made garments left that I haven't worn yet during May? Umm, yes! Here's two! Day 20:

Me-made JJ blouse, bubbles skirt, pants and Saint cardi when I got cold in the evening. How had I managed to over look TWO me-made garments crying out to be included? Probably because neither are very comfortable to wear. The blouse is pretty but the sleeves are a little constrictive, as is the collar. The skirt sits very loosely on the hips so has a tendancy to 'wander' about when I'm walking. It's actually pretty funny, one minute you look down and it's like you're wearing a plain black skirt with the (side) zip facing to the front with the spots (presumably) somewhere round the back. A minute or so later after a readjustment, you look down and it's all spotty craziness at the front and the zip is nowhere to be seen!

Another thing about this skirt, now that I have your attention, is that a couple of months after I posted it on Burdastyle someone else posted an almost exact (but to be honest, more shoddy) copy of it. They'd even given their creation almost the same title. WITH NO CREDITS. Now, I'm happy to inspire creativity, and obviously if you put something out into a public forum you have no real ability to gripe if your design gets ripped, but it irks me when people don't credit the source of that inspiration. This might sound incredibly two-faced considering that just this very morning I announced in a discussion over at the Flickr Group that I intended to have a go at recreating a couple of commercially produced garments, but in my defense I wouldn't attempt to pass off the design as my own or display my garment on the web without citing the initial source. Plus, now I don't know how y'all feel about this, but for some reason I make a distinction between commercial and handmade clothing. Maybe it's because commercial garments seem more impersonal and distanced than the results of a home-seamstress's efforts, but recreating and not crediting the latter feels more wrong than doing so to the former. Any thoughts?

In the meantime, another previously unworn me-made shows it's pretty face, the nautical blouse! Day 21:

Me-made nautical blouse, sailor trousers, nautical vest and pants (also nautical, FYI!). I almost wore this blouse earlier in the month. I put it on and then realised that the gap between the buttons shows a bit of inappropriate bra action. At that time I forgot about my nautical vest and changed into something else instead. I think I have finally created the last word in nautical with this outfit, for me at least! This is the culmination of my style obsession, and only by actually getting on a frikkin' boat could I get more nautical!

There's going to be a bit of radio silence for a few days, as I'm off on a little holiday. To steal Clare's concept for a second, a Handmade-Holiday in fact, as I take my me-mades on the road! Over and out.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 17, 18 & 19

Umm, how is May going so fast? It's apparently defying the laws of space and time and I'm not too happy about it. Or rather, why hasn't some influencial institution not realised that by creating and participating in Me-Made-May, I am in fact doing important work that is contributing to the social discourse on creativity and sustainability and given me a grant? That way I wouldn't have to work for the duration of May, and instead could devote my time to making new exciting garments and writing more about the whole topic than I already am. I'm sure the children/teenagers/adults I teach English to would be fine without me for a month. Stick on a DVD for them instead.

Talking of new garms, well orphaned ones anyhow, check Day 17:

Me-made jeggings, stripey T-shirt, pullover and pants. I haven't worn this jacket/pullover thing since I made it from a vintage pattern back in October (all the biz here). The lifestyle that I imagined would require such an item has yet to transpire, and it really isn't the sort of uber casual garment I wear so I had to kind of force myself to wear it. Actually, I quite liked it, though it is about 10cms shorter than I would prefer.

Day 18:

Me-made Beignet skirt, ruffle front T-shirt, pants and coat. A desparate attempt to make a new outfit combo. It was a bit of a fail because the skirt is high waisted (but tucking the T-shirt inside looked inappropriately figure-hugging for daylight hours) and it caused the T-shirt to ruck up at every opportunity.

Day 19:

Me-made bird skirt, bird blouse, pants and coat. I envisioned this outfit some time ago but for whatever reason forgot to make it happen. Can you tell I like birds? It must be all this talk of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' that I seem to be instigating at the moment.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Annie Hayworth vs Suzanne Pleshette

This week my contribution to the Colette Patterns blog was a homage to one of my favourite characters on the silver screen: Annie Hayworth! She is the lovely but melancholic local school teacher in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) who moved to sleepy Bodega Bay to be close to the male protagonist, Mitch Brenner, despite having been jilted by him. The warm, earthy brunette provides a perfect contrast to the icy blonde beauty Melanie Daniels (played by Melanie Griffith's mum, Tippi Hedren), Brenner's new love interest.

A helpful commenter on the Colette Patterns post named lsaspacey perseptively noted:

'Hitchcock set up the same situation in two other of his films. Though these character’s were definitely NOT the same as Annie in looks and sexuality, he did play dark-haired Thelma Ritter (Stella) against Grace Kelly (Lisa) in Rear Window and dirty blond Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge and Dallas’ Miss Ellie!) against Kim Novak (Judy/Madeleine) in Vertigo. The cool blond versus the stand-up, straight-talking earthy girl.'

But, seriously Mitch? Why on earth would you choose Melanie over Annie? LOOK AT HER! She oozes sex and mystery, intelligence and passion. To me, Melanie Daniels oozes spoilt overgrown Daddy's princess, and probably way too accustomed to getting her own way. The only explanation I can come up with is that Hitchcock's intention for the character of Annie Hayworth was something a lot more pedestrian and homey. He just hadn't banked on the actress Suzanne Pleshette's innate sensual qualities that just could not be supressed for the role!

Need proof? Check out these three images are from a pulp fiction novel-turned-pulp film entitled A Rage To Live in which she starred in 1965 to see just what she is capable.

Columnist Hedda Hopper described Suzanne Pleshette as a young actress in 1962 thus:

“Suzanne Pleshette is the sort to make truck drivers whistle and wolves come running, but there’s a lot more than that. There’s intrigue and delicate sophistication, sound balance, and a keen mind along with star talent.”

For her part, Pleshette had an awareness of herself that belied her twenty-five years.

“I think my personality precedes my looks. I’m candid to a fault without being cruel. I have a faculty for saying what I think without editing what I say. I have a great zest for life. I look forward to every day and the people that I meet. I love any situation that affords humor and I’ll respond to it.”

With her obvious intelligence, self-knowledge and stunning looks combined with her distinct husky voice and well documented penchant for smutty jokes, upon closer analysis I feel my adoration for Annie Hayworth has been eclipsed by my admiration for Pleshette herself.

Monday 17 May 2010

Me-Made-May: Days 14, 15 & 16

Friday (AKA Day 14) couldn't have come a moment too soon:

Me-made ruffle front jumper, ikea fabric skirt, vest, pants and coat. I don't know why, but morale was low last week. Anyway, this type of outfit feels the closest thing I have to a uniform. My mum told me ages ago that when I was little (like, toddler little) she used to almost always dress me by this formular: a pinafore dress that was basically a vest with skirt attached, a jumper over the top and wooly tights. Exchange the wooly tights for opaque, and make the skirt and vest separate items and you've basically got my outfit here. I guess it's no coincidence then that these kinds of jumper/skirt/tights combos are, what the yanks might call, my 'go-to' outfits!

Day 15:
Me-made tunic top, jeggings, pants and jacket. I was feeling pretty jazzy what with it being Saturday, getting my fringe cut (finally. Yay! Vision!) and heading to a BBQ.

Day 16:

Me-made blouse, sailor trousers, vest and pants. Because we were a good boy and girl and got all our writing tasks complete (him: two blogs posts and an article for a book on street art, me: one blog post, research for another and an article for Mixtape zine and a blog post) we decided to go for a wee drinkie. Whilst waiting an age for him to come out of the shower, I started to do my makeup in preparation. Because he took so long, I ended up with quite a done-up look which looked out of place with my casual outfit, so I had to get changed to balance things out!:

Me-made Jenny skirt, stripey T-shirt, vest (what? I was cold) pants and leopard coat. And the (very clean) boy wore the shirt I made him. Kind of like a Me-Made accessory:

What?! You think I was just playing dress-up and didn't actually go anywhere?! How DARE you!:

Alright? Believe me now? Oh, and Matty came out to play too. I would like to take this opportunity to officially apologise for calling Matty an 'attention-seeking goon' in the comments section of a previous post in which he featured. How can I make it up to him? By affording him some more attention!:

Sunday 16 May 2010

Super Speedy Stretch

Hmm, why does your favourite pastime sometimes feel like hard work? Maybe it's just me. Maybe my tendency to over-think things and run each stage of a creation through my head turns a harmless project into a succession of difficult tasks. Maybe I'm mental and my own worst enemy. Maybe now isn't the time to address these issues!

Anyways, after the exhausting fit analysis of the Chinese takeaway top, and a pesky UFO (Un-Finished Object, for any poor non-sewer who has somehow found themselves reading my blog, probably a friend or loved one through a sense of obligation!) that is causing me extensive and extended headaches, I felt the urge to produce some garments QUICKLY. You know, nice and wearable garments, just really quickly.

The chance came Monday evening. Still on a high from finishing up the aforementioned Chinese takeaway top before I left for work earlier the same day, I found that my last class was cancelled and I was thus propelled home an hour earlier than expected. Got home, still day light, boy not due back for a while, what to do?! Get busy with the scissors, clar. So I cut out one T-shirt and two vests from some stretch fabric that actually belongs to my flatmate, but which through either his carelessness or lack of care has been absorbed into my stash. Opps. Tuesday morning this type of thing happened with great intensity:

To make the process even quicker, despite the fact that I was using two wildly different colours of stretch fabric and a contrast FOE (Fold Over Elastic, noob), I threaded up my overlocker and flatlock machine with red thread for the whole lot 'to create a contrast effect'. (No really, aesthetics were my only concern!). And when I came up for air a couple of hours later.... ta daaaaaa:

Even though I'm slap bang in the middle of Me-Made-May and should perhaps be focusing any sewing activity towards producing a wider and more exciting array of outfit options, I have produced a long sleeved sleeping T-shirt that I had a vague notion might be useful in the Autumn, a vest for myself even though I already have two self-made vests which are proving perfectly sufficient, and a vest for a mate that I'm probably not going to see for ages anyway. I can't say the logic is flawless, but I have to say that bashing these out in less than 24 hours was very satisfying. I have in fact found the long sleeved T-shirt useful this week for putting on over my (me-made) sleepwear in the mornings to consume my breakfast and coffee before having a shower. And my new vest (the pink one, BTW), although not essential, has already seen action too. In fact I think I'm wearing it now, let me check. Yep, I am. Maybe there's a moral here somewhere. Maybe not.

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