Sunday 30 January 2011

Tatts Out, Rockabilly Style!

Now, this 'ere blog of mine isn't really a diary type affair. I don't share what I've had for dinner, and only tend to show my outfits within the context of a self-stitched challenge or if a garment's fresh from the sewing machine. And I don't post amusing pics of my cat in a potentially off-putting quantity (but that is only because I don't have a cat, yet). Not that there's anything wrong with those subjects as blog content. Sometimes seeing someone's dinner (like Jen's) triggers in me a new obsession or reinitiates an old one. Outfit posts can also give tips on how to combine garments, which is an area I don't think I excell at. And as for funny cat pics, I truly believe there can never be a sufficient number. Plus, if I blogged my regular goings on, you would soon get bored of hearing about my love-hate relationship with ANTM and seeing pics of me drinking cheap white wine. Yet, I will post my comings and goings if I deem them to be of a sizeably signicant nature (like my 30th), and loosely related to topics I like to cover here.

All of which is a very round-the-houses way to introduce the subject of what I did yesterday. Which in turn is little more than an a flimsy excuse to share these awesome pics we took.

So, my beautiful best mate and her boy (pictured above) came down to B-town to attend the Brighton Tattoo Convention with us. She hooked herself up with an incredible Limerick-based artist who did truly one of the top three bestest tattoos I've ever seen (FYI, the other two are my mum's and my swallows). She had been fantasizing about this tattoo for so long she was having dreams in which she had already had it done, then would wake up and be pissed off that it wasn't there yet.

This was the second tattoo convention I've been to, the first was in Barcelona in 2009, (the day I took these pics, incidentally) where there was a fair smattering of girls at that one dressed up in rockabilly and pin-up styles. That had a real impact on me at a key moment when I was starting to become really interested in those style elements. True to my expectations, the Brighton convention had a very decent helping of rockabilly and pin-up ladies looking incredible. My aim for this Brighton convention was to take heaps of awesomely inspirational shots of these women. Totally didn't happen. I didn't take my camera, and Pat's is too big to take sneaky shots with and I just don't have the lack of inhibitions required to casually go up to strangers and ask to take their photo.

So, later that night the four of us got stuck into some Pat-made mojitos, played an excellent game of YouTube Challenge ©, and got done up to go to Born Bad!, a Rockabilly night that Pat and I have been wanting to go to since we moved here. Three words: SO. MUCH. FUN.

Sporting Zoe-styled hair and 75% handmade garments (my skirt and blouse and Vic's skirt), let's hear it for the laydeez! Vic looked so incredible with her red rose theme: new rose tattoo, rose buckle belt and rose hair decoration. I went for a (predictable) nautical theme pairing my red Beignet skirt with ship shape blouse, two garments I made ages ago but inexplicably never wore together. Plus anchor necklace, anchor tattoo and old school tattoo design tights (which feature anchors, in case you were wondering).

Not to over-look the arm candy, of course:

Unfortunately, no photos were taken during the night out either, but then I do question how much fun people are actually having when you see them out in clubs taking photos of the themselves and their mates for the majority of the night. Put the camera down and get your arse to the dance floor, people! (Ooh, maybe there's a T-shirt slogan in there somewhere.)

I know what you're thinking: 'So, remind me why you're telling us about your night in/out, wearing clothes we've seen in a squillion MMM or SSS pics, Zo?'. Shut up and look at the pictures, ok?!

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Help!!! Leather Dye Disaster

I firmly believe that you develop a closer relationship with clothing you've made yourself than stuff you've bought in a shop. So much of yourself has gone into them, the initial vision, choosing the right fabric, making decisions about fit, details and fastenings, not to mention all the time and effort. And when they turn out a success and serve you well time and time again, well it's a pretty special thing in my book!

Which is why I'm so upset and confused about my bird skirt. My bird skirt first rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a project fail, coming to life when my lace applique detail attempt couldn't stand up to laundering. Since that time, the bird skirt has been a good friend to me, particularly throughout Me-Made-March and Me-Made-May. It even provided the inspiration for another.

So what's up? Let me explain. Obviously I laundered this skirt a squillion times whilst living in Spain, if I recall correctly, sometimes using washing liquid meant for babies and sometimes using normal washing powder and god-knows what heat setting on the washing machine. No problems. I returned to the UK in August and washed this skirt at my mum's using non-bio powder and a low-heat setting on the machine: CRISIS!!!!!! The skirt came out with black marks obviously where the leather appliques had touched the red fabric during the washing cycle. The only way we were able to get rid of these black smeery marks was to leave the whole skirt in a very mild bleach solution. This did pretty well, but when we washed the skirt again, more marks came back. WTF, people???!!!!

I can't put it in a bleach solution again as the red has already started to turn an unpleasant un-red shade and I don't think it could handle any more. I think I've finally accepted this incarnation of the bird skirt is dead, but I really want to figure out why as I have other projects using this technique up my sleeves.

What I can't fingure out, is why, after many many washing cycles in Spain, did the leather suddenly release a load of dye once it reached English soil? My best friend also has a couple of these skirts I made using leather appliques on poly-cotton twill fabric, and she has had no problems in the past with either or hers too. Does anyone have any ideas? What if I'd always hand washed it? Would that prevent it from ever happening? But why, if I clearly didn't need to for the vast majority of it's life?

These pics don't show the smeery marks very well, but maybes it gives you an idea. If you have even an inkling why this has happened and how to avoid it again, please please leave a comment. I can't have any more beloved garments go the way of this one!

Saturday 22 January 2011

Brighton Craftaganza!!!

Ok, peops, time for me to do a little unveiling. Permit me to take you way back to December 2010 when I posted about my New Years resolutions for 2011. A few in there were of a somewhat secretive nature because they weren't at the stage of development where I would feel comfortable sharing the details at that point. However, the first is now ready to have its shroud of secrecy removed!

In that list of resolutions I vowed to:

'Work hard on currently-undisclosed exciting organising project with my recently made new homegirls Steph and Lisa'

I can promise you I have been doing just that, so now, may I present to you: Brighton Craftaganza!!!. Since last Autumn, we have been organising a new craft market to be held in my relatively new hometown of Brighton, UK, the first of which is scheduled for March 26th 2011. The venue for the market will be Fabrica, an amazing old church right in the very centre of one of the main and busiest shopping areas of Brighton. It's a very cool space that is more regularly used for contemporary art exhibitions, but is also host to various other events, including previous craft markets and vintage fairs.

So, how did this come about? Well, long story short, I met a talented multi-disciplined crafter named Steph by emailing her through the Burdastyle Sewing Groups thing, in the hope of meeting some (or at least one) sewing peop here in my new hometown. I didn't hear a reply (her internet was down) but I bizarrely met her dressed as a fake blood covered zombie on White Night through some random friend of a friend. Anyways, when we met up again (fake blood-free), we discussed the possibility of creating a new sewing group (I'm a veteran at this now, with one in London and one in Barcelona now notched up) which kind of got put aside in favour of an idea she'd been considering of starting up a craft market, and thus getting involved with and developing a creative community that way.

Steph had already floated this idea to her boss Lisa, owner of U-handbag, an online stockist of everything you would need to create amazing professional-looking bags. Lisa is also the author of the genius-ly titled U-handblog AND a real-life published book called The Bag Making Bible. Phew! I am among greatness with these creative ladies, let me tell you.

So, many hot chocolates, mulled ciders and discussions later, we have got this to the point that it's a REAL THING! If you've managed to somehow avoid my links so far, let me inform you we have a beautiful new Brighton Craftaganza blog from which we will share information about the market, feature the market's sellers, share crafty inspiration and knowledge, and generally hang out and soak up local, national and international crafting vibes.

If you happen to be a Southern UK resident and are able to come along, it would be awesome to see you at Brighton's first Craftaganza on Saturday March 26th, and if you are interested in renting a stall, check out our Seller Info section or email us at craftaganza (at) gmail (dot) come to answer any questions you may have. If you're not a UK resident or lucky enough to have a fluke holiday to the South of UK booked for around that time, you can see what we are up to by checking the blog from time to time, should you so desire!

Oh, wait, did I mention we have a blog?!?!

Tuesday 18 January 2011

The Nature of The Beast

(image sourced here)

A couple of weeks ago via the medium of blogging, I raised the issue of consumerism and tried to provide a definition of it. I also attempted to indicate that it is one in a large group of interlinked issues that are contributing to potentially irresversible ecological damage and exploitation of some of the inhabitants of developing nations. The many thought provoking and heart-felt comments that blog post received (thanks so much! Keep 'em coming!) really emphasised to me this myriad of interwoven global concerns.

If it is at all possible to do so, I think it would be beneficial to attempt to outline these main topics that we are dealing with. As I say, these issues and problems are clearly entwined, some causing and/or perpetuating others. Therefore it is pretty much impossible to research or discuss one in isolation. That said, I do see it as advantageous to try to define particular topics and threads, because they can provide an 'in' for our investigations, self-education and discussions. Without having somewhere to start (or a key-word to type in!), the whole big mess looks pretty daunting, and even potentially hopeless.

So, as far as I can figure out, here are the main topics that those interested in sustainability are concerned with:

  • The exploitation of workers in developing countries, many of whom work in dangerous and unpleasant conditions for excessive lengths of time with little or no security, breaks, holiday etc. for very low wages to produce the goods that shoppers in developed countries are then able to purchase at low cost.
  • The disposibility of consumer goods, either due to their design and lifestyle application, or because of perceived 'value'.
  • Environmental damage resulting from the sourcing of raw materials, production processes and tranportation of products.
  • Insufficient recycling schemes in many areas.
  • Landfills, areas of countryside, towns and bodies of water clogged with discarded products and packaging.
  • Lack of agreement within or legislation from our governments and international organisations to enforce corporations or individuals responsible to implement positive changes.
  • The grip of power corporations have over our goverments and economies which prevents action in the interest of the environment or human rights over profit.
  • Lack of consensus about what, if anything, we can do as groups or individuals to change the current situation.
  • Lack of easily accessible knowledge on who/what/how to avoid the most damaging companies/products/services.
  • Limited or lacking education for young people on how to live sustainably and economically (for example, sewing, cooking, gardening or DIY lessons in schools).
  • The way in which the media and advertising (working for companies looking to expand market share and profit) invent, perpetuate and exaggerate both the view that we are entitled to whatever we want, and the confusion between the concepts of 'want' VS 'need'. Also, the perception that old and secondhand things are subsequently 'dirty' and to be avoided or discarded, and that new things hold a higher value, even if they are inferior in quality.

The comments I received from my 'Consumerism and Craft' post included many fascinating thoughts and ideas on what could be done to implement change, and lots of useful sources of information and links. All of this I will address and investigate in blog posts to come, which I hope will instigate more sharing of thoughts and information. This post, however, as you can see is basically just a list of issues. If you feel I have missed a related and important issue that doesn't come under the points I above, please leave a comment. Let's figure out what the hell we are dealing with here.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The State of Independence

So this weekend I achieved two awesome things in one fell swoop: I kept up with my new year's resolution to meet someone in the flesh that I've met online AND I went somewhere new and inspirational. I can take no credit for the latter because the venue was suggested by the subject of the former.

There she is! Helene, AKA carottesauvage. If you've ever been near Burdastyle, you may well have encountered her before. She is a hella talented lady of multi-disciplined greatness, sewing and knitting creations with an incredible level of professionalism. Her creations regularly feature in the 'Top Ten' project choices of featured members including my own (to be found in the photo section of Burdastyle) for their sheer perfection. For more on what makes this interesting lady tick, check out her Q&A from when she herself was Burdastyle's featured member last week.

I can't remember quite how we first 'met' (e-met? net-met? Is there an established term for it yet?), but we've been commenting on each others' stuff for yonks and decided we should hook up in the flesh upon my return to the UK. I got to hear all about her recently finished Fine Art course and got the skinny on her New York adventure where she interned for the aforementioned Burdastyle, among many other topics.

We met at Helene's local: The Scooterworks bar and cafe near Waterloo Station. It's a former scooter repair workshop which used to function as such with a tiny cafe area inside. The scooters have since been moved elsewhere and more tables have replaced them. Despite this move, it is an incredibly interesting and eccentric, yet welcoming place.

Its decor is the randomest miss match of antique and junk shop furniture and tat alongside pieces of scooter memorabilia between which the three residents cats skulk about. The hot drinks are of an authentically continental nature (I had a couple of delicious piccolos) and all cost less than £2 (yes really, in central-frikkin'-London!). If you want something to eat but fancy something other than their pastries, you are welcome to go and buy something from elsewhere and bring it back to eat there as long as you're drinking something. Oh, and don't feel you need to pay as you order, OR feel you must immediately re-order once your cup has been drained.

This might not sound exactly revolutionary, but you must put all this in the context of central London, or in fact the UK. I haven't been anywhere like this in the UK for an incredibly long time, and I'm struggling to think of a parallel. The only places I can think of that are similarly genuinely relaxed and quirky are ones I have discovered abroad, like the panther milk bars in Barcelona. What I'm sayin' is you just don't get these kind of places here. With sky-high business rates and property rental at a premium on this squished in little island, generally independent businesses need to say 'buy buy', else they'll be saying 'bye bye'. I guess the owner (a kiwi, apparently) has a great passion and vision matched by his bank balance, for which I'm thankful.

It made me very happy to experience this place. When I moved to Barcelona, I was struck and enamoured by the variety and sheer quantity of little independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. I couldn't get my head round how there could be so many places with only a few tables, low prices and such unattentive bar staff, under no threat of apparent closure. I had hardened myself to the prospect of returning to the UK and saying goodbye to that wealth of independence, affordability and choice. But the Scooterworks gave me a little welcome reminder of what I'd been missing. Thanks Scooterworks and thanks Helene!

Sunday 9 January 2011

Second-hand Sailor Sencha

Hai peeps! In case you thought that all I do round here is theorise on the world's ills without getting any sewing done, I'm here today to disspell that myth. Here's a cheeky little Sencha blouse from Colette Patterns I started to make before Christmas and got finished over the holidays whilst at my folks' house.

Forgive the lack of modelled shots, to be honest I haven't worn it yet because it's just too cold. But I wanted to make this project to remind myself that warm days will return at some point, and when they do I will have nice nautical inspired garments to rock. I had to take these shots at work as my mannequin is currently stored away until we move into a place bigger than most broom cupboards. This mannequin is, as you can probably tell, somewhat smaller than myself, so I tried to pin it as such so you get an idea of how the fabric drapes in this garment.

The fabric is some vintage second-hand synthetic stuff that I found buried in a pile at work. It has a crepe-y texture, with a soft handle and nice drape. There's a wierd sparkliness to it as well. Any ideas what the hell it could be?! (Starting to wish I hadn't avoided the Fabric Technology classes I shunned in favour of Photography in my second year.) Anyways, it's awesome. I LOVE that this fabric is basically my current perfect colour combo, and will bring some much needed white to my wardrobe to lighten things up. I've seen some lovely versions of the Sencha blouse including pretty florals and cute polka dots, and this is an interesting graphic-y feeling version I think.

I bought the buttons from a flea market in Barcelona ages ago, and I've nearly used them on lots of projects but I'm so glad I didn't because they look so perfect with this blouse. They aren't quite as orange in real life at the below picture suggests. Although they are post/shank buttons, they are fairly flat so they shouldn't be too uncomfortable when I'm wearing this top and lean back against a chair.

So now I've shown you round the garment, let me address the pattern itself. I made a couple of changes (surprise). For one, I didn't bother with a neck facing, I trimmed away half the seaam allowance, overlocked the raw edge, then turned it under and stitched it down before pressing. Since starting my new job, I've learnt that garments don't always need a squillion facings just to eliminate a row of stitching. If the stitching is neat, it doesn't bother me to see it. As for giving the neckline extra strength, this fabric is so floppy and silly, I'm pretty sure a self-facing would give more grief than benefit, probably slipping about and needing lots of tacks to keep it in place.

I also change the sleeves a bit. After a lot of thought, I couldn't see what the point was of such a large sleeve hem allowance. As with the neck, I removed most of this allowance, overlocked the raw edge, turned it back and stitched it down and pressed it neatly. One more small alternation I made was the finishing of the side seams. I can't remember now and don't have the pattern to hand, but I think it called for open seams (where the edges of the seam allowance are finished separately and pressed open, rather than a closed seam where the edges are finished together and pressed as a unit to one side or the other). I opted for closed seams pressed towards the back, as I do with pretty much everything I make nowadays.

Now, I am a MASSIVE fan of grown-on sleeves (AKA kimono sleeves, AKA Dolman sleeves etc.) like these, in fact I wrote a homage to them a while back. But the trickiest bit about them for me is what to do about the seam allowance at the underarm angle. It needs to be either snipped into or trimmed away so you can turn the sleeve through to the right side without it looking horrible and bunched up. A vintage pattern I used a whie ago which had these type of grown-on sleeves and called for the underarm seam allowance to be snipped into almost to the stitching line, but this looked prety unprofessional, especially after the garment had been washed and that part of the seam allowance started to fray a little. So this time, when overlocking the side-seam seam allowances together, when I got to the underarm bit, I used the overlocker to trim the seam allowance away so the inside edge of the overlocking stitch ran inlibe with the actual stitching line, so there was only 0.5cm of allowance left. This meant there was very little problem turning the sleeve through to the right side, and all the allowances were overlocked so no fraying will occur. I'm pretty pleased with this method for dealing with this part, but was wondering what other people have done or read should be done. If you have any knowledge or thoughts on this please let me know (if you can work out what on earth I'm talking about, this probably isn't the clearest paragraph I've ever written).

So, in short, although making a garment that cannot be worn for a few months is probably a bit naughty, I did manage to produce a hopefully wearable and comfortable item that fits with my wardrobe colour scheme. As per my New Years Resolutions, it was made from second-hand fabric and buttons from the stash. All in all, cheap and cheerfully guilt-free.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Consumerism and Craft


-the fact or practice of an increasing consumption of goods
-the concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy.

Since taking the Wardrobe Refashion pledge a few years ago (paradoxically whilst working for a clothing company which produced low quality, virtually disposable fashion), the consumption of cheap readily available goods that nobody particularly needs is something that I’ve found increasingly grating. I understand that many people derive a lot of pleasure from buying things like clothes and shoes, god knows I did my fair share of excessive non-essential consuming in my teens and early twenties. But nowadays, in this media age when news travels fast from every corner of the globe, almost everyone in the developed world has some level of awareness that the production, transportation and discarding of these endlessly available cheap goods are damaging the planet AND have questionable human rights footprints.

At this point, however I’d like to say that I’m not ragging on trading as a concept. Of course it’s partly what makes us human, rather than just some type of funny-looking apes. I don’t think there is anything innately wrong with exchanging things for something else, be that other goods, services or currency. Indeed, we are all ‘consumers’ in the purist sense of the word: we all consume food and drink for example. We all require things that make it possible and more pleasurable to conduct our day to day lives. It’s not consumption as such that’s a problem, but the growing, mindless, snatching then discarding-type consumerism of products manufactured at the expense of the planet that seems to be a defining element of 21st Century Western culture. There is also the questionable morality of increasing the consumption of non-necessities (often with a nauseating sense of entitlement), particularly whilst so many of the world’s inhabitants hardly have the essentials for a healthy existence. It is these characteristics of modern consumption that I, and many others, are referring to when using the term ‘consumerism’.

This is a topic that I’ve touched upon to varying degrees during the short life of this blog, but it’s something I’m finding increasingly important to talk, listen, read and write about. Consumerism, sustainability, DIY, craft and style are of course very much interlinked, my main current preoccupation is thinking about what we can do as culture and as individuals to affect a positive change. So if it’s a subject you feel strongly about, please share your views, via a comment, a blog post, a conversation with a friend, whatever. And if it’s not something you feel strongly about, you might want to delete me from your RSS feed. Just giving you a heads up coz these are issues I'm going to be returning to from time to time.

Fear not, I’m still all about rocking smokin’ handmade garments and talking the sewing chit chat. In fact I feel that sewing and DIY have a very important role to play in this sorting out this whole mess. And looking and feeling good in homemade garments is a pretty powerful political act, in my book. Discuss....

Monday 3 January 2011

GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!! 70's Dress Patterns

Happy New Year lovely peops! I hope 2011 is treating you well so far. Having recently banged on about my extensive resolutions I realise there is one I forgot to mention: being honest about my sewing stash and passing on the things I am not going to use. Can you imagine if you only had things you really loved staring back at you each time you checked your sewing/creating stash? How inspirational would that feel?! Plus how nice is giving away stuff to grateful recipients, knowing they will use the thing that was previously just sitting around?

So I've been going through my extensive vintage pattern collection, and figuring out which ones realistically are unlikely to see use whilst in my possession. This maybe because I'm no longer feeling the style of garment, or because the size is wrong for me and I can't find the motivation to get grading. I plan to steadily give away patterns throughout the year, so keep an eye out on my blog from time to time (as if you wouldn't anyway!) if vintage patterns are your bag.

This week's giveaway is for two vintage dress patterns from the 1970's. The first is Style 4818, a pinafore dress in two lengths plus blouse, bust 36", dated 1974. The second is See & Sew by Butterrick 5797, a back-wrap halter dress, size 12-14, undated but my guess would be about 1976. The Style pattern is used but complete and in excellent condition. The See & Sew is uncut.

Thrown into the mix is this funny little tote bag I made yonks ago and recently refound at my mum's house. It's black denim with a lightening applique and sparkly bits. It is fully lined with pink leopard print and just the size for keeping a few patterns! If you win these patterns and the bag ain't your thing, maybe you know someone who might rock it instead.

So, if you would like these two patterns and bag (sorry, no mix and match, it's all or nothing) sent to your door at no cost to yourself, leave a comment saying why you deserve them! Don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you to obtain your postal address. I don't have the time to trawl the interwebs to find your contact deets, so if you do not include your email address, your entry will not be considered. I will choose a winner on Sunday 9th January at 12pm (GMT). Good luck!
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