Saturday 31 December 2011

Laying it Down for 2012!

I hope everyone has had a lovely festive period, or simply a nice period if you don't celebrate anything in particular around this time of the year! But now that is over (with lots of mess and mince-pie assisted belly) and time to taking the ending of one year and beginning of another.

Of course there's always a lot of chat about how New Years' resolutions are rubbish and pointless, but I love the opportunity to take stock of the year that now lays behind us and look towards what we would like to achieve in the year ahead.

This time last year, I wrote a post detailing all the sewing/creativity related activites that occurred for me in 2010. 2011 has been a different fish. Much of my creative activity in 2011 was about expanding and furthering things that had begun the previous year (learning lots in my day job, getting a stronger sense of my personal style, continuing to host the me-made/self-stitched months, co-organising Brighton Craftaganza, developing and expressing my stance on matters like consumerism, sustainability and feminism, and so on). But some of my 2011 activities have been about building stronger ties between creative people (like the Poetry & Clothing project, hosting my first sewing blogger meet-up, organising meet-ups for the Craftaganza sellers).

It was good to take a look back at the aims I had for 2011 and to see which I managed to achieve, at least in part, and which I either over-looked or needed to alter or abort. I think the crux of why some people hate resolutions/aims for a new year, is that they'll feel bad if they don't succeed. I'm kind of innoculated against that because I've accepted that life takes unexpected twists and turns and that these aims are to be thought of as guidelines rather than self-prescribed commandments.

So, on to my creative aims for 2012:

  • Make the three Brighton Craftaganza events that are scheduled for 2012 better than the two events held in 2011. Improve the Craftaganza blog to make it more useful and enjoyable for crafters/designer-makers and provide more opportunities for sellers and local creative people to meet and get to know each other, online and in the flesh.

  • Host Me-Made-May 2012!!! As previously mentioned at the end of (Self-Stitched-) September 2011, there will only be one of these me-made/self-stitched months in 2012, so if you want to get on board, you know what to do!

  • Develop my own little product lines, either my women's wear line (Blatant-Self-Promotion) or my baby wear line (Hey Baby).

  • Teach a sewing class/workshop. The plans I had for this have had to be aborted, but hopefully an opportunity will present itself by the end of the year that will make it possible.

  • Wrap up the first year of the Poetry & Clothing project and embark on a second year.

  • Hopefully bring the discussion/forum into fruition with Tilly.

  • Start an exciting and as-yet-undisclosed project with Cecile.

  • Make some of my self-developed patterns available for free and make more tutorials/how-to's for the lovely readers of my blog.

  • Continue to write longer and hopefully thought-provoking pieces about sustainability, consumption and feminisim.

  • Oh, and sew a bunch of stuff!!!

What about you, do you have any creative plans for 2012? I wish you all a wonderful, creative and fruitful year ahead!!!!!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Santa Babies

This is the first post dealing with the topic of 'stuff I made for peops this Christmas'. I'm proud to say that a high proportion of the gifts I gave this year were handmade but I always feel like it's bad juju to blog about those creations before the recipient has their mitts on them, even if those recipients are less than a year old and subsequently are not yet avid readers of this blog.

For the three babies on my Christmas list, I made a pair of trousers and pair of shoes each. I know that when these tots get bigger, they'll probably feel disappointed by gifts of clothing. So crazy-sewing Aunt Zo must make the most of these years when they don't as yet feel fobbed off by not receiving a Thomas the Tank Engine-mutant-Power Ranger-in your pocket.

The trousers were all based on the lunch-hour baby trouser pattern I'm addicted to making. They are so quick to make, it's very satisfying to have made a new thing in the time it takes to Patty to have a shower, i.e, about half an hour (I know. In his defense, he has a lot of hair). I added little 'Hey Baby' labels that I got made yonks ago with roughly the correct sizing. I did this mainly to make it easier for the parents so they can quickly denote which way round they are meant to go.

These little navy and white striped trousers and tiny 'old-man' slippers now belong to Pat's new nephew, Dominic, who was only nine days old when we met him just before Christmas.

These cool action-baby trousers and slightly larger old-man slippers now belong to my friend Emma's little son, Samuel. The trousers used to be an unwanted men's T-shirt (see below).

The final set in the trio comprises of pretty floral print trousers and a different design of shoe for my mate Umi's little girl, Surayya.

Let's take a closer look at the shoes....

The little dudes' shoes were created using this free downloadable pattern. I changed the pattern ever-so-slightly so they had a lining, rather than making them them all from fleece as the pattern suggests. I used a scrap of check fabric for the outer layers and used fleece and the fleecey side of a sweatshirt for the lining. I also used some iron-on interfacing in the soles so they are a bit sturdier. I'd say a pair of these take about half an hour to make, including cutting out time. I love that some people share their hard work with the sewing community by allowing their patterns to be down loaded for free. I plan to do the same and share some of my self-developed patterns in the New Year, watch this space.

Anyways, these little dudes' shoes actually seem to function pretty well. You can see Samuel below rocking them in the cafe. They managed to stay on for a couple of hours right up until it was time to leave. Victory!

The second style of baby shoe was a wholely more complex affair. As you can imagine, Etsy has a squillion baby shoe pdf sewing patterns for sale. In the end I opted to buy this one. This style has flaps which close with a popper and little tongues, plus they are fully lined in a super-neat invisible way (unlike the previous style which requires trimming the seam allowances back which makes them not quite so perfectly neat, but much speedier to make). This sneaker style is a far more complex make and took me about a billion days to complete. They are made from some scraps of printed Ikea furnishing fabric I found at work. The print features birds and butterflies as well as your standard flowers-fare which appealed to me. I lined them with some brushed cotton and each pattern piece requires interfacing. I'm really pleased with the result, but I think life really is too short to bother making another pair from this pattern.

Without having the little tot nearby, I had to guess where to position the poppers and I was concerned that they wouldn't stay on, but thankfully Surayya seems to be rocking them successfully:

I know I'm biased, but how cute are these babies? TOO cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My friends mate cute babies. Fact.

Aside from being able to give a present made with love and good handmade juju, the next best thing about these gifts is that they all cost me nothing but my time. I was able to harvest scraps and leftovers of woven and jersey fabric to make some colourful, and hopefully useful, items for them to wear. What's not to love about that?!

Saturday 24 December 2011

The Rise of the WABs

‘What the hell is Zoe on about today?’ you may be thinking. Well, the idea of WABs only came to me this morning, so I’m not entirely sure myself at this point but I'll start typing and see if it resolves itself by the end of this post. Let me apply some context...

At some point in the 2000s, the British tabloid press coined the phrase ‘WAGs’, an acronym which provides a collective term for the Wives And Girlfriends of high profile sportsmen, particularly the excessively paid members of the England football team. The queen of the WAGs is, of course, Victoria Beckham but there are many who have regularly graced the pages of tabloid newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines for years and are now house-hold names. Some of these women were celebrities in their own right before they shacked up with a footballer (Mrs Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Louise Nurding), even if that fame usually arose from dancing around in their pants. Others, such as Coleen Rooney, did little aside from sit their GSCEs before their relationship threw them into the limelight, but have since gone on to be something of a success in their own right, the popular assumption being that an interview and cover photo for Vogue has elevated her above the rest.

But the reality is that most of these women are in the position they are in because they are attractive and managed to ‘snag’ a footballer. It’s unlikely that their prized and envied relationships are based on mutual and balanced respect. The power is not equally distributed between the partners: their men hold most of the cards. Every one of these WAGs has been reportedly cheated on by their partners because it would appear that the role that they serve could be fulfilled by any number of attractive and attentive young women in the depths of China White, or whatever is the latest celeb hotspot. No matter how independently powerful and successful the WAG, no Vogue interview, perfume range or Gucci catwalk appearance seems to inoculate them from infidelity.

The pressure on the WAGs to appear beautiful, polished, on-trend, in control and happy despite swarms of paparazzi and Sun journalists feasting on any signs of weakness, must be off the hook. All the while, any hiccup in your relationship, large or small, real or fictitious is gleefully scrutinised and analysed endlessly in the press. But I find it difficult to feel sorry for or respect these women when they have, at every stage, courted and welcomed fame and attention.

Why do they subject themselves to this? Why didn’t they go and find themselves a hot accountant or supermarket manager? Because they have been sucked into believing that celebrity and column inches, no matter if the contents is positive or negative, equates to popularity, acceptance, power and success. They feel that it is better to be ridiculed in OK magazine for having cellulite than to receive no mention at all. The WAGs have also fallen for the patriarchal belief that being a successful man’s ‘other half’ is the best that a woman could ever achieve, and that the most promising opportunities will come from them merely ‘being’: ‘being’ someone’s girlfriend rather than ‘doing’ something interesting and fulfilling. In short, aligning themselves to a talented and/or notorious sportsman will provide them with more national attention and free champagne than even dancing in their pants could bring and if national attention and free champagne are your social currency, then being a WAG is a golden status. What worries me most is that so many young women see this as the life model to aspire to.

But thankfully there are many intelligent women that view the values that have seen WAGs elevated to role models as bullshit. These are the WABs: Women Against Bullshit. An alternate term to ‘Feminist’ if you will. I am most definitely a WAB. I’ve been uncovering and then calling bullshit on lots of stuff of late, for example, the way the fashion press creates and exploits women’s insecurities about their appearance to hawk the products sold by their sponsors. Caitlin Moran (pictured above), is another WAB, I dare say. She’s written a whole awesome book full of things she’s uncovered as bullshit designed to make women feel bad and prevent them from achieving what they are capable of.

Sadly, Feminism has and often still does get used as a derogatory term. The image the term's detractors wish to imply is that of angry, hairy, sexually frustrated women who hate men and wish all females could live separately in some commune which resembles a Herbal Essences advert. In reality a Feminist is someone, male or female, who believes that women deserve equal status and opportunities to men. Simple as. I don’t know how we can reclaim that term and rid it of its bad press. I do think, however, that not being afraid to use the ‘f’ word and to talk openly from time to time about the negative experiences and inequalities (AKA bullshit) that you’ve experienced due to being a woman is a good place to start.

And you know what? I AM angry at a lot of those experiences and inequalities. I AM angry that women still earn on average a third less than their male colleagues. I AM angry that as a teenager I was made to feel that I was worthless unless someone fancied me. I AM angry that female friends of mine who have decided they don’t want children regularly have their decision questioned by strangers and acquaintances alike. I AM angry that a social expectancy has developed that I should spend chunks of my hard-earned wages on getting most, if not all, of my pubic hair waxed off (i.e. ripped out). That anger is ok, it is good in fact. It can be used as a motivational tool to try and uncover the causes of potential damage to women’s esteem and prospects.

So what about you? Do you suspect you maybe a WAB? What bullshit have you uncovered recently?

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Recycled Jumper Mittens

Can you tell that Patty just bought the Hipstermatic app for his new i-phone?! I love how he has managed to make this image poignant and contemplatory, when actually all that was going through my head was, 'Shit I'm freezing, where's the poxy train?'!

What it does show is how genuinely useful my recent mittens creations are. My boss bought this pattern from Etsy with an eye to finding a use for all the felted up and moth-eaten knits we receive. Oh, how we have used and abused this pattern! We've made a stack of them in all different colour/pattern/texture combinations.

This particular pair is my own. My boss gave me this felted up leopard print cardigan ages ago, knowing how into animal print I am. I was planning on cutting it up and using sections 'cut-n-shut' with other knit or sweat to make a new jumper or cardi. However, I haven't got round to that and the inspiration for how to approach that has been lacking, so most of the cardi became these mittens instead.

The outer mitten is made from three main pieces, plus the ribbing harvested from the initial cardi/jumper/sweater. The lining is made from the same three main pattern pieces, but stitched together with a slightly wider seam allowance so that the lining ends up a bit smaller and therefore fits better inside the outer mitten part. I used parts of a purple cashmere jumper that moths had attacked for the lining which makes them soooo soft inside. Because these don't use very much fabric and the pattern pieces are quite small, it's quite easy to harvest the usable parts from stained or moth eaten woollen garments that would otherwise be heading to the textiles recycle bin.

As you can see, my leopard mittens are made by using just one garment for the outer sections. But you can have lots of fun messing around with different combinations if you have a few unwanted/unwearable woollen garments at your disposal. Here's a small selection of the pairs of mittens I've made over the last few weeks:

The pattern also includes mens and childrens sizes. I'm really into making these as gifts, because people tend to be a bit more open to wearing crazy mittens when the flash of colour is limited to a small part of their whole outfit.

If, like me you are skilled in the art of unintentionally felting woollen jumpers, then you're in luck! You can give me new life to that unwearable garment whilst being comforted by the knowledge that shrunken, felted wool makes for warmer and more weather-proof mittens than unfelted wool! My felted leopard ones are so toasty. I'm never going to discard the results of my shrunken laundry accidents ever again!

Monday 19 December 2011

Poetry & Clothing Project: November

Alrighty, today I can finally share with you a garment that I made before this whole Poetry & Clothing project had even been invented. The first garment I got to make for myself whilst working at TRAIDremade was this remade sweatshirt with a contrast Peter Pan collar that made back in November 2010. Well, Harriet saw that on this lil' blog of mine and asked me to make her something similar. It took me until the following March to finally get it completed, and then the Spanish postal system managed to lose the damn thing. Thanks for that, Spanish postal system (AKA Correos). I have had many a beef with Correos, but now is not the time or place...

Anyways, I really enjoyed making the sweatshirt for her and it somehow sparked the idea for the P&C project, which I started the following month (April). Eventually, the package conatining the sweatshirt reappeared in the UK by which my sewing-thoughts had already turned to warmer weather garments, so the sweatshirt got put away until the weather got nippier again. Well, in an unprecedented show of sewing-project organisation, I spent much for my sewing time in November making a long list of Christmas gifts. To give me more time for that, I decided November's P&C garment could be the long-lost sweatshirt which Harriet had first desired a whole year before! I really hope she hasn't gone off the idea of it after all that time!

So, in much the same way at my own Peter Pan collar sweatshirt remake, this garment started life as an unwanted mens sweatshirt. I recut the pieces for a closer, cuter, more feminie silhouette with slight gathering at the sleeve head and 3/4 length sleeves. The over-sized collar is made from a scrap of red and white spotty cotton, and the buttons, which IMO look distinctly edible, reflect that pop of colour.

And on to the more interesting half of this exchange: the poetry! Harriet's poem that I am sharing with you today was written in response to October's P&C outfit:


We cover our fabrics with leaves, birds, butterflies, strawberries, animal prints and wander around urban jungles in this way, imagining ourselvesto be somehow wild and essential because of it. I follow Gaudi's curves as though they were sculpted under the majestic reign of nature herself. And yet in these reprints there is something luxurious - the way we love to refer to grass and sky as velvet. There is lavishness in simplicity - something strangley opulent and timeless about a collar which bends like the polished wood of a hand-carved pew and at the same time, something shocking about sitting in a church dressed in leopard print. What I love about this church is the way it ridicules austerity. I love the playfulness, the festivity, the way it allows for bawdiness, greed and generosity all at once. And as I sit there, I notice something strange happening. I become camoflage. I slowly morph into something as imperceptible as dust. My skin, such as it is today, is at home here. The black and orange make perfect sense among the huge pacific shells filled with holy water, the purple butterfly wings flung open against the sky and the ghosts sliding in on flakes of dust, settling on slices of glass pineapple. Like me, they are quietly measuring the circumference of light.

Saturday 17 December 2011

The Christmas Brighton Craftaganza!!!

Thanks Ryan, that would have been very helpful last Saturday when it was the Christmas Brighton Craftaganza!!! Actually, I have a 'Ryan' of my own who was incredibly helpful setting up tables, carrying boxes, handing out flyers, being 'official Craftaganza photographer', having banter with the stall-holders, furnishing me with hot chocolate to help me thaw-out when I needed it and much more besides.

If none of what I'm saying is making any sense to you, let me explain. For over a year now I've been the co-organiser of Brighton Craftaganza, a Brighton-based craft and handmade market. The aim is to promote the work of local creative peops and, more broadly, to show the non-crafting public that handmade products are just as good, if not far better, than their mass produced equivalents. What better time to do this than at Christmas, eh? Our first event was back in March, and our second event was last Saturday.

It's a very involved process, this craft-market lark, from the endless planning and organising all the elements that go into making an event like this happen, to the actual day itself: lugging tables, hustling punters into the venue, trouble shooting, trying to perpetuate a good vibe, and so on. I was meant to be co-running the TRAIDremade stall where we were selling a selection of the clothing, bags and accessories that my boss and I make for our day jobs, but that kind of went out the window and my boss and her friend Erica dealt with that on their own.

One of my favourite parts of all of this was selecting a great variety of high quality handmade product ranges to be sold at the event from all the applications we received. About a third of the sellers at this event had a stall with us last time, and the rest of the crafters/designer-makers were either previously unknown to us or new to selling their work at craft fairs/markets entirely. Picking who to assign stalls to wasn't an easy task: there's no way of knowing how attractively a seller will set out their stall on the day when all you've seen are some jpegs of individual products, but all the stalls looked wonderful last week.

When assigning the stall positions to the individual sellers, I really tried to create a mix of products, for example, no jewellery sellers next to each other, or knitwear producers and so on. Even though we tried to select designer-makers from each disciplines whose work was very different to each others', I wanted the public to be blown away by how varied and fascinating handmade products can be. It's about trying to rid the public of those preconceptions of what to expect from a craft fair in a drafty church hall (and our venue very much IS a drafty church hall!).

The other wonderful part about organising Craftaganza, and the main thing I was looking for when I agreed to get involved, is the ability it has given me to meet talented, interesting and creative people living in my local area. I'm pleased to say that almost everyone I've come into contact with through Craftaganza has been lovely. This seller even gave me a gift of several sets of AMAZING buttons to thank me for my hardwork and attentiveness! I've even met some great people who I now consider friends (especially if you define 'friends' as people you go for mulled wine and a gossip with!). I also get to meet lovely people who come to check out the market. Last week's event gave the opportunity to meet the gorgeous Alana from Lazy Stitching!

But it is pretty stressful as well, and you end up feeling really responsible for the outcome of all the stall holders' days. There are definately things that I need to focus on improving in the future to make these markets better for the sellers and more appealing to potential punters. And now that Steph and Lisa have both stepped away from their involvement in Craftaganza (for very good reasons, I may add, Steph's planning her wedding and doing a degree, and Lisa is writing a book and expecting a baby) it's going to be all on me for the future events.

I'm not concerned about taking it on single-handed. I don't think that it'll ended up feeling like that much more work. The time that was previously spent keeping each other updated about the various elements that go into planning these events can instead be spent just doing the stuff that needs to be done. Plus, there are a few changes I'd like to make. For example, I'd like to introduce a few more sellers that make very contemporary products to create a fuller spectrum of what 'handmade' can mean. Hopefully those sellers will cater more for the younger 'hipster' crowd (sing with me, 'I believe that children are our future..'!) and I'd like more sellers which create things for guys (call that the 'blue-pound' if you will).

The concept of a 'Spectrum of Handmade' really interests me. Facetiously put, that 'spectrum' might include moutasche badges at one end and hand-felted scarves at the other (no offence to anyone, there is a place for all!). The only criteria I have for what belongs at Craftaganza is that it is good quality and locally made. That local part is because I'd like to prevent lots of London-based sellers coming down for the day and monopolising the Brighton craft 'scene'. There are some incredible London-based creators of course, and a lot of excellent London-based markets for them to sell at (soem fo which I've sold at myself when I loved in London). Brighton is a popular destination for holidayers and day-trippers, and if they come along to Craftaganza, I'd like them to be able to buy something that represents this area. It would be depressing to attend a craft market in East London and another in Bristol and another in Brighton with the same sellers appearing at all three. That homogeny is the preserve of the High Street, and we are trying to create an alternative selling/buying set-up here.

Another hope I have for Craftaganza is that it can become somewhere that other crafters are drawn to visiting. This was actually one of our founding aims but I feel it got a bit lost somewhere along the lines during the actualisation of the last two events. Everyone knows that makers often go to shops, blogs and etsy for inspiration and to see what other creators are up to. Hopefully Textile Garden will choose to sell with us again (us? me? I'm not sure about the phrasing of this anymore) with their incredible selection of buttons and Japanese braids. If you are a crafter/sewer, what would you like to see at a craft market?

So, if you've read this far down into my witterings about this particular on-going project of mine, then you are a diamond and deserve lots of chocolate and/or wine. I cannot buy you all chocolate and/or wine to reward you, but let it be known that I would if I could. So instead, I'll pick your brains some more. If you visited any craft markets/fairs this year, please let me know what stood out to you about it. Maybe it was the layout, or a particular seller, or a table of free cakes, or live music, please share!!! Thanks in advance my friends.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Story So Far...

This post is a little personal reflection about the 'journey' my sewing has taken over the last few years. I didn't want to illustrate this post with images of projects I've already shown you, nor did I want to smother it with pictures of 'me in stuff I've made' or something like that! So, instead I've chosen to illustrate it with images of vintage sewing pattern I wish I owned!

About three years ago, I basically went mental about sewing. Like, properly mental. Before then, I'd been making bags and skirts for friends, myself and to sell off and on throughout the five since university. I'd enjoyed it and made a little cash from it, but all-consuming passion hadn't yet taken hold. But around 2007 my involvement in a London-based sewing group, the discovery of the online sewing community (Burdastyle inparticular) and growing concern about sustainability and sweatshop labour opened my eyes to the idea of creating a wardrobe of handmade clothing. For the year or so after, I began dabbling further into sewing different types of garments, using different techniques and working with different fabrics. But it wasn't until 2009 that I found myself in a situation that was really conducive to totally indulging this interest that had grew into an obsession.

So, why did my sewing explorations explode in 2009? At that point I was finally pretty stable in terms of living arrangements (I hadn't been made to move out of a flat for at least four months), relationship and emotions. I was working part-time so I had a solid couple of daylight hours each day in which to sew undisturbed. Also, I was living in a place (Barcelona) with two official languages, neither of which I could speak much of, beyond explaining how I took my caipirinhas. I really believe that this last point really freed up a lot of my brainspace for creating, as I wasn't watching TV, listening to radio or paying much attention to anything that I didn't choose to. Basically, I was living in a bubble of sewing, blogging, friends, food and cocktails. This self-indulgent lifestyle drew to a close in the Summer of 2010 when we moved back to the UK.

Nowadays, my life is wider and fuller, but I can say that my sewing explorations haven't suffered. In fact, I get to sew more these days than I ever imagined could be possible, and have my sewing ability tested, pushed and challenged on a daily basis thanks to my job at TRAIDremade. Actually, if I hadn't had that year and a half in that sunny, drafty, beautiful and bizarre flat in L'Eixample, Barcelona, churning out garment after garment (some more successful than others), I doubt I would have achieved the level and variety of skills required to land me the TRAIDremade job after my repatriation.

But back to that time in that Barcelona flat. I had started to get really into the idea of having an entirely self-stitched wardrobe. I had been signed up to the Wardrobe Refashion pledge as a 'lifer' since 2007, promising to not buy any new clothing again ever, aside from undies. In the UK, I had been able to make frequent additions to my wardrobe through charity shopping, but that wasn't really an option in Spain. It was becoming clear that adding to my wardrobe would only be possible if I made everything from here on out from scratch with my own hands. This wasn't a frightening prospect: I absolutely relished this challenge (still do). I got really into the idea that I was now self-reliant, and had to step-up so my sewing skill would match my clothing requirements.

At some point around this time, I concocted the idea for the very first me-made/self-stitched challenge (Me-Made-March 2010), which was initially a solo project where I decided to see if I could wear only me-made from scratch clothing (exclusing bras, tights and socks). Creating that further challenge for myself put a massive rocket up my bum to learn how to make the variety of garments I wanted to know how to make because now I had a deadline after which I would either be clothed successfully, or freezing cold/inappropriately dressed for an entire month!

Well, I can't say I was totally cosy for the whole of March 2010, but I completed that challenge successfully and have been challenging myself and encouraging other to challenge themselves in a similar vein ever since. However, my personal one-woman mission to clothe myself from head-to-toe with handmade garments has altered. I've had a few revelations/made a few revisions since 2009. For example, I always assumed that I'd learn to knit and crochet so I could provide myself with knitwear. But my desire to create my clothing sustainably (which, by my own definition means not buying any new fabric or yarn) has become more important to me than that initial quest. I love to make knitwear from cut-and-sew knit fabric when I can get my hands on it, and by refashioning/upcycling existing knitwear/sweat garments. I'm also back in a land with charity shops, so I buy second hand cardigans these days too when I find something that fits well and suits my taste.

I also envisioned that I'd eventually add self-stitched socks and bras to my repertoire, and possibly even shoes!!! But none of those things look likely in the near future. But I am by no means static when it comes to new sewing challenges outside my working day. For example, all these babies my friends have started to produce are providing mini baby-shaped challenges to clothe and make gifts for. Plus the ongoing aims to make clothing that really reflects my personal style and fits my body well are things that will never be able to be 'ticked off' some list!

Saturday 10 December 2011

Style Inspiration: Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Today’s post is a fairly picture-heavy affair. I want to document and celebrate my newest stylistic inspiration source, the band Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. These three siblings from London create awesomely fun music with a vintage R&B/swing/country and western/blues flavour. They are ridiculously young and ridiculously talented. Check this tune out:

All three of them play pretty much every instrument you can think of and when they play live, as I witnessed them doing last week, they swap positions behind each the instruments throughout the set, each having a turn at vocals as well. Oh, and their mum and dad play with them when they are on tour to produce a fuller live sound. Too. Cool.
This band were kind of drip-fed into my consciousness, I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about them but I do recall Harriet (of the Poetry and Clothing Project fame) at some point this year insisting that I ‘You-tube’ them as she was convinced I should love them. They are a fascinating bunch. They’ve been playing together onstage, as a family, for over ten years, which would mean the youngest was in single figures at that point. Lewis in particular has a deep obsession with the technical aspects of recording music (as this article proves). He even built and later expanded a recording studio using predominantly pre-1950s equipment which spread through their family home. This was whilst he should have been doing his A-levels.

How this family managed to develop and explore this jointly shared passionate for the same types of music PLUS sustain a working relationship that spans the entirety of three separate adolescences is beyond my comprehension. However it was/is achieved, it provides the Kitty, Daisy & Lewis band some depth that you hope will provide the longevity that young acts rarely achieve. All I can say is that I guess none of them spent too many evenings with their mates drinking cider and smoking fags down the park.

Their influences are worn firmly on their sleeves as well as imbedded in their music. It’s unlikely to have escaped your notice that I’m a fan of retro/rockabilly style in general and I find their take on it really fun. Kitty and Daisy wear retro-style modern garments as well as original vintage pieces. They usually through it all in the mix, with kitschy makeup and hair styles straight from 1950’s Hawaii. I love that the evolution and experimentation in their looks reflects that they are real young women (currently aged 18 and 22), not manufactured pop starlets with stylists calculating their looks for each appearance and photo shoot. These girls clearly dress themselves. They look like the most exciting characters in Grease. They are the girls at school who’ll teach you to smoke and let you hang around as long as you carry their bags and don’t expect a smile from them.

So, how are their looks comprised? They can often been seen in Pin-up girl separates like high-waisted shorts, tight scoop neck tops, halter-neck tops, diner-waitress blouses and hip-hugging capri pants.

When it’s time to go glam, they opt for stunning vintage wiggle dresses. The demure length of the mid-century wiggle dress off-sets the figure hugging silhouette, references their curves whilst still looking totally chic.

The vintage dresses they wear are usually made from the most awsome fabric, reflecting the craziness and imagination of many of the 1950s/60s fabric designers. I wonder how aware they are that their clothing reflects their music so well? Gingham (country and western), leather (roll and roll), early 1960s dress silhouettes (R&B), and so on, I find it fascinating. I'm also so happy to see a clear dose of Hawaii-iana. I'm really obsessed with that whole mid-century tiki vibe. I should make like Kitty here and russle up myself a look to reflect that in time for next summer:

Are there any bands or musicians that are inspiring you stylistically at the moment?
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