Friday 30 July 2010

'How To Be A Sewing Presenter'

Well, due to technical difficulties, both the pants pattern and how-to I vowed to share are currently still under construction. In the meantime, I thought I'd share will you some sewing-related randomness that I got involved in a couple of years ago, just before I moved to bcn.

At that time I was the organiser of a sewing group based in London (even though, for the majority of my involvement with them, I was actually based in deep Essex). One of the joys/trials of being the organiser was the interesting/crazy/funny/bizarre/annoying requests and suggestions I received via email at regular intervals (from non-members, and almost always from non-sewers). I have to say, the bizarrest suggestion I received was from a cross-dresser who clearly misinterpreted the purpose of our sewing group. His email seemed to suggest that he believed we were a group of people who sat around with no ideas of our own, waiting for some kindly soul to offer up a project for us to work on. For free. Umm, how about, 'No'? Anyways...

On the other end of the scale, I was also at the receiving end of all manner of interesting projects and offers. One such offer which I heartily accepted was to front some how-to videos for the website Videojug. Videojug's tagline is 'Get Good At Life', which is endeavours to help you do through instructional 'how-to' videos that the site hosts, many of which are produced by the company itself. Some are humourous such as 'How to give a man-hug', some helpful such as 'How to use curling tongs' or 'How to prepare a Bloody Mary', or down-right essential like 'How to make chocolate pasta' or 'How to Moonwalk'. Get the picture?

So, the peops at Videojug must have decided that their content was a bit craft-lite, so concocted some sewing/crafty how-to ideas to address this issue for which they needed a 'face' (well, mainly 'hands'). For the record, my involvement was very minimal, other than turning up with my sewing machine, eating a lot of biscuits and getting filmed. The lovely producer named Bryony did all the research and planning, and I got £100 plus a ride to Liverpool Street station in a private car (which didn't suck).

So, I would like to share with you the products of that day's filming (BTW, it was freezing in that flat, I wouldn't normally rock my Simplicity 3835 blouse with a cardi). First up, the most involved of the projects, 'How To Sew A Baby-Gro':

How To Sew A Baby-Gro
The project I had the most involvement in designing: 'How To Appliqué A Baby Bib':

How To Appliqué A Baby Bib

My massive smile at the beginning of this video goes some way to convey both how cute I think this project is, and also how amusing the idea is that someone out there might be wondering, 'Hmm, I wonder how you sew a baby hat with ears?'!:

How To Sew A Baby Hat With Ears

The other strongest contender for 'The Cutest Project of the Day' award goes to: 'How To Sew Baby Shoes'. In fact, I've seen projects similar to this one on Burdastyle, I wonder if any of them were, in fact, inspired by this video, stranger things could happen I suppose.

How To Sew Baby Shoes

And the final project that was filmed in all of five minutes at the end of the day, 'How To Make Your Own Baby Slogan T-Shirt':

Style On A Budget:
How To Make Your Own Baby Slogan T-Shirt

So there you have it, my foray into sewing stardom!

Monday 26 July 2010

A Proliferation of Pants

There's currently just two weeks left of my life in Spain. I've finished the summer school I was working at, finished my Burdastyle Book garment, and almost finished the red vermouth lurking in the cupboard. Our belongings are all over the place in preparation for boxing up, and the goodbye-drinks have resulted in a 48 hour hangover. What to do? MAKE PANTS (of course).

So, the blouse I created for the Burdastyle book is all bagged up ready for an epic journey to the Barcelona FedEx depot tomorrow (it's on an industrial estate frikkin' MILES away from the centre of Barcelona, in another town entirely). I'm pretty sure I can't show you it at this stage, so it must suffice to say that personally I'm still having trouble looking beyond the fabric colour, but I am very pleased with my handiwork (and 8 out of 10 for construction I think). With three days to spare until my sewing machines must be packed away, I had a tiny window of opportunity to finally make some form of contribution towards my Summer Essentials project and preparation for Self-Stitched-September.

If you were to peruse my Summer Essentials hit-list, there more eagle-eyed among you might notice that pants are no were to be seen. But since Ali, the genius behind the challenge, emphasises flexibility and encourages re-evaluation, I feel no shame in presenting these in the place of one of the other things I didn't get round to making. And seeing as it's three-showers-a-day-hot here at the moment, new pants are going to lighten the pressure to keep up with my laundry!

The pattern I used was a slightly enlarged version of the initial pants pattern I developed at the beginning of the year in preparation for Me-Made-March (like, an eon ago!). I used a variety of pants elastic (my favourite is still FOE) that I purchased from ebay and a market stall. I have written fairly extensively before about my enquiries into using different types of undies elastic here and here.

One of my the best things about making your own pants is that you can make them from an old T-shirt, giving it a new lease of life. The yellow pair begun life as a T-shirt belonging to my boy. When we first met, he was working for Avis, the car rental company, so for his last day in the job I made him this 'Hertz' T-shirt to wear as a joke. Apparently it went down well. But after the event, whose going to wear a wierd handmade corporate car hire company's logo emblazoned on their chest through their own free will?! Pants seemed the natural solution.

My favourites have to be the nautical ones (que sorpresa!) which use yet more of the little anchor ruffle that already adorns a few other creations. The hearts printed ribbon on the red and white pair came from a St. Jordi's day rose (basically Catalunya's valentines day) and the little lucky heart button was a souvenir from my pilgrimage to Britex in San Francisco.

Now, dear readers, I will very soon be without my sewing machines however I will have a week or so with computer access and time on my hands. I was thinking about sharing my pants pattern and making a guide to their construction and upload the whole shebang (somehow, research will be required) onto Burdastyle. I reckon I could attempt some amateur grading to make a couple of sizes, but would there be a market for it? If five people comment on this post to say that they would be interested in having access to my pants pattern and how-to, then I'll do it. But I have a lot of America's Next Top Model I could be watching instead, so if no-one is really interested, then I won't bother. This is democracy at it's very essense people!

Saturday 24 July 2010

At Colette Patterns: 'The Language of Fashion'

As I stated last week, many of my posts on the Colette Patterns blog seem to follow a vague formula. However, sometimes I write something more random. It would also appear that, on occasion, these posts can prove to be a touch provocative: mildly inflamatory, even. I most definately do not set out to do this, and do not even realise until the comments start rolling in. But, hey, stimulating healthy debate can never be a bad thing, can it?

So this week, inspired by this book I'm currently reading, I gots to thinking about the language of the fashion industry. How I personally feel towards it's use became the focus for my post. Despite introducing the crux of my arguement with the word 'personally', it certainly stirred up some interesting and conflicting opinions. Check out the post and the comments if you want to be riled/vindicated/unimpressed, depending on your viewpoint/experiences. It never ceases to amaze me how differently people can feel about the same topic. Take Sherry's (effectively critical) comment, and then Pat's (effectively supportive) comment of my original post. Both eloquent and well presented by two clearly intelligent and capable individuals, yet taking wildly different stances. fascinating, no? Oh, and then there's the commenters of course that enjoy pointing out your spelling mistakes, like Microsoft Word's spell checking failures somehow undermine the very essense of an entire arguement and set of personal experiences! Ah, fun times.

Wednesday 21 July 2010


I haven't shared many finished garments with y'all recently, and I feel the need to explain myself. Firstly, there simply hasn't been much sewing output here of late due to the (quite frankly excessive) heat and humidity. We don't have any air-conditioning in our little flat sub-section, and the direction our two rooms face means by the afternoon (i.e. after work when sewing could potentially commence) it's a bit of a sweat box. The times when I have switched on the sewing machine and iron and got down to business, it has been whilst wearing nothing but my pants!

Secondly, what I have produced I can't really show you. I did finish another of my Summer Essentials pieces, but I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to keep it, so whilst its fate remains undecided, I'd rather not present it for some reason that even I can't really understand.

The other thing that I have been working I also cannot show you, but this time for more sound and logical reasoning. Like several of the sewers whose blogs I like to follow, I also was lucky enough to be asked by Burdastyle to contribute a garment to be included in their forthcoming book. The whole thing has been a bit covert in that we weren't allowed to mention it on our blogs until the official announcement was made. After that, I didn't declare my personal involvement straight away, but then I thought that peops might be interested in the process so far.

From what I understand, the book is going to be a bit like the Built By Wendy books, with actual patterns included and step by step guides on how to stitch them together. Some members of the Burdastyle site have been asked to make variations of the patterns to provide inspiration on how these basic patterns might be adapted, giving sewing infinite options. I was sent two line drawings, one a skirt style and the other a blouse, and asked to create two new designs for each using the original styles as a basis. After I sent them back, I was informed that I would be making one of the skirts. Then they contacted me to say that they'd rather use one of the blouse designs instead as they had too many skirts. I was a little disappointed as I was vibed about making the skirt, and the blouse isn't really something I'd wear but, me da igual, it's an awesome opportunity to have something included so whatevs (is 'whatevs' in the dictionary yet?). So with the pattern printed out and the fabric finally appearing from US, I've been cracking on with the project with a keen eye on the deadline. For the record, the fabrics I've been sent (in particular the colour) are not what I would have chosen, but that's largely my fault for not being more specific when submitting my preference.

It's been very interesting getting a glimpse into the inner workings of how something like this comes about. As I assume with the whole of the publishing industry, the deadlines seem pretty intense. The Burdastyle contact I've been corresponding with seems really nice and incredibly well organised. I guess with about 60 or so members submitting creations, you'd have to be pretty on to it. It'll be very exciting seeing the final book when it is realised in Autumn 2011. So, I'm off to strip down to my pants and get this blouse finished to the best of my sewing ability. May I be excused?

Sunday 18 July 2010

No Shoes is Good News

Do you ever find yourself reading an article or blog post that you empathise with so strongly that you unwittingly start saying out loud ‘EXACTLY!’, ‘AMEN to that’ etc. ? It’s an interesting feeling, that connection that often transcends continents. I couple of days ago I read through this lovely lady’s thought-provoking, touching and honest post about her stuff and consumption, which included a link to this post by Hayley entitled ‘pulling apart my relationship with buying stuff'. Basically, it blew me away to the extent that I was glad I was sitting down when I read it (although, who reads the tinterwebs standing up?!). When my boyfriend realised I’d gone uncharacteristically quiet, he began to read the post over my shoulder and made the massive understatement, ‘Ooh this is right up your street isn’t it?’ Umm, YES.

First up, Hayley’s description of her formative patterns of consumption as an adolescent could have been an almost word for word account of my own experience. My Saturdays were invariably spent in Southend wandering around Topshop, Miss Selfridges and all the rest, which sufficed until we were old enough and solvent enough to intersperse this pattern with shopping trips to London. At university, the acquisition of my student loan (I clearly didn’t get a handle on the ‘having to pay it back someday’ clause in its terms and conditions) meant that my consumption of ‘stuff’ reached new shameful heights. I think the crux of the reason why so many young people (admittedly particularly girls) buy so much stuff, is that they are struggling to find an identity and the new things, particularly clothing, shoes and makeup, become the materials through which they experiment with the ability to semiotically communicate these possible identities with the rest of society. However, I've discussed this before.

Aside from the depth of her self-knowledge on this topic, what really impressed my about her piece, was Hayley’s thoughtful approach of the changes she felt she still had to make. Her acknowledgement that we are all in transition: that our lifestyles, beliefs and practises are constantly evolving in particular interested me. I have a tendency to forget change takes time and often has a natural flow if you allow it, but in specific regards to shopping and the consumption of things, new or otherwise, I have been aware that the changes I have been putting in place for the last four years or so are part of a personal evolution, and a fascinating one at that.

Hayley writes:

'I’d like to do more when I’m ready. And I’m working on it. But it’s understandable that I won’t be able to make lasting big changes in a short amount of time. So I’m okay with where I am right now. I’m okay with being in the process of working on my stuff. That’s where I’ll always be, after all.'

She also outlines some steps that she feels are necessary for her to work through to get closer to where she feels she would like to be in regards to shopping. Reading it I realised that I have actually already come quite far myself in letting go of a lot of the emotional baggage that contributes to the desire to buy stuff, and that was very heartening.

But I, too, see improvements to be made and further steps I can take. Which is why I have made the decision to not by any new shoes for a year. Many sewers who are trying to replace their former shopping habits with home sewing compulsions have documented how easy it can be to continue the same patterns of shopping, but instead simply refocus the hording compulsion towards fabric, patterns, notions etc. I have tried to be mindful of that trap, which is one of the main impulses that let to Stash Bustin’. I also think that putting an embargo on clothing purchases can possibly lead to heightened levels of shoe and accessory purchasing, which I can help but think somewhat undermines genuine good intentions. I can’t say if I’ve become guilty of that, but I do know that my shoe collection certainly hasn’t got any smaller in recent years. Time to go cold turkey.

So, the plan is simply to not buy any new footwear until July 2011. I am permitting myself to purchase second hand shoes and boots within limitations. For example, if I need some shoes for work or to replace one of my more practical pairs, I am allowed to hunt some out on ebay. If I happen to chance upon some that fit well in a charity shop, I am allowed them even if there is not a direct ‘need’. Your thoughts and comments on these topics and your personal experience are more than gratefully received.

Thursday 15 July 2010

At Colette Patterns: 'Mid-Century Kimono Sleeves'

In case you haven't figured it out, here's my general formular for writing a post for the Colette Patterns blog:
  • Uncover an element of sewing, clothing or style that I hadn't realised I've actually been obsessed with for ages.
  • Research it as far as possible to put the topic into some historical and/or cultural perspective.
  • Put forward my argument as to why I think it's the shit.
  • Discuss the applications/variations/methods.
  • Spend WAY too long searching google images and Flickr for supportive images, and then realise that there in fact only enough space to cram one sixth of the total images I found into the final post.

Indeed that is the formular that I used for my post on Mid-Century Kimono sleeves. Having declared all this, I'll probably do something completely different for the next post, but of course rules are made to be broken, are they not?

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Vintage Pattern Mini-Fundraiser!

Imagine this: all your beautiful fabric, pretty commercial sewing patterns, self-drafted patterns, Burda mags and Burdastyle printouts, plus most of your threads, notions and buttons AND NOT TO MENTION YOUR OVERLOCKER AND ACTUAL SEWING MACHINE need to be condensed into the equilvalent of two boxes to be transported to your new life. AND, whatever you make room for must also share this space with a good chunk of your clothes (including many of your very own creations) and 90% of your shoes. Anything that won't fit must be jettisoned. Well, I'm not imagining this because it's my reality! Tang.

Now, with such pressure to condense my preciousness in a limited time frame, one (my boyfriend) may be wondering why I am spending a disprotionate amount of that time obsessing about the fate of my commercial sewing patterns. But as any respectful seamster knows, vintage sewing patterns are one of the most special commodities on earth, and the idea of lobbing them in the recycling along with all the 'dead' magazines is the only crime that I would consider lifting my anti-corporal punishment stance.

So with a tear in my eye, I have figured out which of my vintage patterns are to be released into the wild. If you read my blog with any form of regularity you will know I am no stranger to offering up creations and creation enablers (including patterns) as giveaways, and I would love nothing more than to offer these up in a similar fashion, but the truth is I can't afford that right now. The reason why I'm being forced to limit the stuff I can ship off to such a degree is because it's going to cost about €100 per box, excluding buying the boxes themselves. So I've created the concept of a mini-fundraiser for 'Mission Repatriation' (AKA, moving back to UK) to raise a bit of money to almost cover the cost (about €16) of buying a box to fill.

Here's the deal: if you want one of these patterns for your very own, it's yours for €1 plus you cover postage and packaging. Please stake your claim in the comments section at the bottom of this post by including the number of the pattern you want and an email address that I can reach you by. It's first come first served and with no limits on how many patterns you buy, AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE A CLEAR EMAIL ADDRESS. I WILL NOT be using these email addresses for any purpose other than contacting you for the address you wish the patterns to be sent to, but I don't have all day trying to follow a cyber-trail to find you. Once I have your postal address, I will send you the pattern/s and email you the total of P&P plus €1 and you can reimburse me via paypal. I can only accept paypal I'm afraid. Please note: I'll send the pattern/s in a new padded envelope via the cheapest snail-mail rate. If you wish, you can wait until you receive the pattern/s before you send the payment. I hope that's clear, any questions can be included in the comments and I'll try to update this post to clarify the situation and update any claims that have been made on patterns as we go along.

To the goods! (note: all pieces are present unless otherwise stated):

#1: Woman's Weekly Dress from 1962, Bust 36. Update: Reserved for Roisin

#2) Style 1115 Dress from 1975, Bust 36. Mid-length sleeve pattern piece is missing, but can easily be re-created using the longer sleeve pattern piece. Update: Reserved for ilovedolly

#3) Style 4066 Dress from 1973, Bust 36. UNCUT! Update: Reserved for Helen

#4) Simplicity 8271 Pullover from 1977, Bust 92cms.

#5) Advance 3098 Dress, Bust 36. Includes bound buttonholes how-to guide. Update: Reserved for Belinda

#6) Style 1184, three lengths of Skirt from 1975, Waist 65cms (25 1/2").

#7) Simplicity 7359 'Pantdress' (!) from 1967. Bust 34. Front Armhole facing piece for the no-sleeved version is missing. Update: Reserved for Hanna

#8) Blackmore 4093 Dress, Bust 36. Update: Reserved for Yu (who is the exception to the leaving an email address rule because I can meet her in the flesh)

#9) Simplicity 7642 Tops from 1968, Bust 36. Update: Reserved for Yu (who is the exception to the leaving an email address rule because I can meet her in the flesh)

#10) Simplicity 6934 Dress from 1975, Bust 36. UNCUT! Update: reserved for Dora

#11) Style 4106 Dress from 1973, Bust 36. Update: Reserved for Roisin

#12) Butterick 4226 Dress, Top and Trousers, Bust 36. Recommended for moderate stretch knits. Update: Reserved for Bunny

Sunday 11 July 2010

In The Mix

Maybes you noticed that last year I had a little piece of writing accepted into the Melbourne-based Mixtape zine? I was, and still am, sooooper excited to be part of such a great entity that contributes to the proliferation and discussion of so much that I hold dear in such a damn cute and stylin' way.

THEN, during (Me-Made-) March this year, I was lucky enough to have another piece included. In this piece I attempt to assuage some of the doubts that may be currently preventing any potential members from signing up to the Wardrobe Refashion pledge. I don't harp on about WR as much as I used to, but I can't express enough what an important role it played in the slow development of my personal philosophy.

Anyways, Mixtape zine and its blog have been going from strength to strength, in my opinion due to its quality and appeal rather than through advertising campaigns. It's increased success has meant that the editor Justine has been able to accrue a 'staff' of regular contributors who receive (very) modest payments for their work. A couple of months ago I was over the moon to received the honor of being asked to join their ranks as a regular contributor, meaning I will have a piece (I hestiate to call something that may be 500 words an 'article') in each issue. I'm really buzzed to be part of this zine in a more involved level and I'm very excited about the freedom Justine offers us to write on more or less any topic that we wish to write about. Should you care to, you can read the little question/answer introductions for the regular contributors, including myself, here.

As for my personal contributions, as with the first two pieces, I will publish them here on this blog after they have appeared in the zine. However, of course I would encourage anyone interested in reading Mixtape itself to order a copy. Chances are, if you are reading this blog through your own free will, you'll be into the contents and vibe of this zine. Back issues are also available, some in actual paper format, and some as pdfs when the paper copies have sold out. Is anyone a reader of this zine already? What parts/articles/topics covered have you previously enjoyed? Or, come to think about it, what posts/topics covered on this ol' blog of mine have you previously enjoyed? What would you like me to write about, either for the zine or on this blog? Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Barcelona Story Time

WARNING: This post is sewing-lite. If you visited this blog today with the exclusive desire to read a new post about sewing, look away now. Truth be told, there's not been much sewing going on round here of late since the completion of a couple of black sateen Jenny skirts for some friends, it's just too frikkin' hot.

Anyhoo, Monday 5th July was the aniversary of my arrival to Barcelona, two whole years ago, which I think now makes me two years old in span-years. So, did I ever tell you about how/why I ended up here? It was kind of going on when this blog was just a wee baby and lacking in direction and content. My aim for this blog was to write about style, inspiration and creativity, and I included posts that spoke a bit about the stuff that was going on in my life as it undeniably reflected and effected my considerations on those topics. I still think some of those random postings contain some entertainment and insights, but taken as a collection, they are somewhat lacking in focus or effective explanation. So, in the style of an ol' grandpoppa, I'll share my tale, if any of y'all care to listen (well, read).

When I was about 13 my English teacher somehow had some hook ups and offered us an American pen-friend/penpal. I was pretty into penpals at the time and had a very random selection of peops all over the world with whom I used to exchange no doubt enlightening missives. I think I was the only one who said yes, and in due course I got hooked up with Lee who I soon found out had actually lived in my home town in Essex until he was six when his mum took him to live in Idaho. We had a fantastic correspondence for a number of years. He used to confess his love for Sandra Bullock (how old is she now? She looks exactly the same as 17 years ago), talk about the reporters of the high school newspaper that he was involved in, and my favourite, send photo copies of his year book (an alien concept to this little Brit) complete with hand written annotations like 'Total bitch!' or 'Really great girl, by bestest friend'. We even got hold of each other's phone numbers and had exciting long-distance chats over a crackly line.

Inevitably, the adolescent correspondence died off and contact was lost. Until some time in my early twenties my parents received a surprise phone call wondering if I could still be reached at that number. Lee and I were back! We chatted a couple of times (he'd been to university in Alaska, me in Nottingham, he was now living in France teaching English), and although at that time we couldn't get either of our impoverished arses over the English Channel to actually meet up we gripped tight to our renewed contact. A couple of years later, after some rather tumultuous goings on, Lee was living in Barcelona with a bit of spare cash and came to London with his friend and wonderful new boyfriend and we actually got to meet face to face. It was so fantastic, like meeting a long lost family member. A year or so later, he and his boyfriend (unlucky, Sandra, you missed out) came to stay with me and my then boyfriend in the town he hadn't stepped in since he was six!

About a year after that, I booked a trip to stay come and visit them in Barcelona, and between the booking and the visiting had some tumultuous goings on of my own. The trip was a welcome relief, and spending time with Lee, Isi and Harriet, a former London-dweller whom I had met through my old sewing group who had recently re-located to Barcelona, in a beautiful city was the nourishing soul-food I had been unconciously craving. Admittedly, during the eventful and unpleasant months which preceeded my visit I had begun to plot my escape to a new and freer life. I had been working every hour I could wrangle waitressing at a pizza restaurant in order to save, and attempted to conscript my friend Jack into the adventure, my former London flatmate who had become the boy who cried travel without ever getting very far. I shared my woes over tasty food and drinks with Lee and Harriet, and when told me what I really should do was move to Barcelona, I really didn't need to think twice.

So I went back to the shit, got it delt with, secured Jack in the position of co-adventurer, and less than four months after my initial trip to Barcelona, on July 5th 2008 I became one of it's many immigrants sleeping on a bunk bed in Lee and Isi's flat. So much has happened in the last two years, so many experiences, lessons, craziness and times. With the very imminent 'Mission Repatriation' looming another wave of change is about to wash over my life. I wonder what's in store for the next two years.......

(clue: probably quite a bit of sewing)

From left to right: Me, Lee, Harriet and Jack (Isi taking the photo)

Friday 2 July 2010

Self-Stitched Blue Shoulder Bag GIVEAWAY!!!

You know what? I'm feeling a bit give-y today. Last week's vintage pattern giveaway was lots of fun and this week I'm offering up this unused shoulder bag I made from vintage fabric. It's a pattern I developed myself and is the same one I used to make the purple shoulder bag I gave away back in April. To recap, a few years back, I used to have a stall at a handmade market in East London and have made a squillion of these particular bags in my time, usually in vintage fabric scored from charity shops or eBay. I have used these bags every day myself for years now, so can vouch for their practicality.

The outer fabric is vintage Barkcloth, probably from the 1960's, in various shades of turquoise and blue. It is fully lined with coordinating plain light blue cotton. The black label you can see shows the name of my little accessories brand, 'Electric Pussycat'.

If you would like this bag, either for yourself or as a gift for someone, and can guarantee it will actually get used, then to enter leave a comment on this post completing the sentence 'I would like this bag because.........'. And don't forget to include your email address to I can reach you if you are successful. I'll pick my favourite at midnight Monday 5th July. Hint: a successful answer has to make me giggle. Good luck!
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