Tuesday 30 April 2013

Me-Made-May'13: The Record Breaking Challenge starts TOMORROW!!!!!!!

I don't know about you, but I am EXCITED!!!! So many former participants have amped up their pledges ready to flash their me-mades in new and interesting ways, plus HEAPS of first-timers new to the party are about to show us their unique take on handmade style. Honestly, what's not to be excited about?!

It's pretty impossible to give you an exact number of participants of MMMay'13 as some of the 440+ comments on the sign up post are duplicates or people commenting but not actually signing up. But hot DAMN that's still a LOT of people signing up! By comparison, last year's MMMay'12 sign up post received 290 comments. Plus there are more members of this year's challenge's Flickr group than ever before as well (MMM'13's Flickr group currently has over +100 more than MMM'12's!)! It's going to be one hell of a self-stitched fest.

It's so wonderful to see this (dare I say?) movement growing, and doing so organically. It shows that increasing numbers of people genuinely want to get a better relationship with handmade things, to bring them into their everyday lives rather than relying solely on mass-manufactured items. As participants, we are all stepping away from the prescribed formulae of consumption that benefits the large global corporations and their share holders that own most clothing retailers yet is so detrimental to the workers making that clothing and the shoppers who find that quality is consistently being sacrificed for profit. Instead we have discovered a more positive and authentic route of making our clothes ourselves. We are about to embark on a whole month of celebrating these facts! ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday 28 April 2013

African Wax Fabric Washi Dress

Round these parts the mild-maternity sewing is rapidly turning into mid-maternity sewing as I have now been growing a human inside me for 18 weeks (18 weeks as in 2 weeks away from half way!). 

Pattern, Sizing and Changes: 

One of the patterns I included in the mild-maternity sewing post that I knew I would definitely have a go at was the Washi Dress pattern by Made By Rae (pictured below). 

Source: made-by-rae.com via Zoe on Pinterest

I used a straight-up size M as the bottom area where I'd potentially widen a pattern is already very loose on this style. The only change I made to the pattern was to adjust the seam allowances to 1cm (3/8") or 1.5cms (5/8") before cutting the pattern out, rather than trying to get my head round sewing with the 1/2" or 1/4" seam allowances that had been allocated which I'm not used to. 

The pattern was a joy to sew. The only change I made was to zig zag strips of 1/4" elastic along the back (pictured below) rather than using shirring elastic as the pattern instructions prescribed. I did this for two reasons, 1) I already had a whole load of 1/4" elastic, and 2) I hate using shirring elastic.

Fabric Choice:

My fabric choice is A) awesome, and b) inspired. I used the second half of the batch of African wax fabric my friend Anna bought back from her honeymoon in Ghana. The eagle-eyed of you will recognise that I used the rest of the fabric for my Simplicity 2444 dress. It's such a lovely weight of cotton, stiff enough to make the most of a pattern's clean lines (like the neckline shaping and front pleats on this style), but soft enough not to need ironing every five seconds. Well, that's all for this fabric now, it's been busted right out of my stash. 


I love this Washi dress! I can see at least one more garment using this pattern as a basis on my sewing-horizons. I've worn it outside once so far, but unfortunately I didn't get a photo of me wearing actually wearing it so you'll have to trust that it looks ace until MMM'13 when I'll probably be rocking it with annoying frequency (weather permitting). 

Friday 26 April 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Shawl Collar Denim Shirt Remake

Oh hai peops!!! This is the last instalment of Refashion Friday before MMM'13 kicks off next Wednesday, so I wanted to share an idea that would be a super-quick make for anyone looking to whip up an extra item before the challenge begins. Panic-sewing is in no way encouraged or endorsed, but I understand the urge to get something new-to-you finished to wear during the month. 

The 'raw ingredients' for this project are as follows: an unwanted mens button up shirt, New Look 6808 pattern (pictured above) and about half a metre of contrast cotton fabric. I've noticed that lots of sewers already have this sewing pattern in their pattern stash, no doubt because it's a great basic shape plus very versatile with all the different neckline and sleeve combinations that are possible.

If you are thinking that this project looks familiar, well you should congratulate yourself on your Sherlock Holmes-style abilities. It is, in fact, basically exactly the same as this version I made for myself in 2011. The main differences are that this version uses a denim shirt rather than work shirt as the starting point, plus with the denim version I simply overlocked the raw armhole edges, turned them over and top-stitched them down rather than making self-bias binding to finish the armholes as I did with the work shirt version. Oh, and this one was made for my friend Jennie as payment for an illustration she did for me. That's the other main difference. 

I used the front and back body pattern pieces as a guide to recut the shirt, but omitted the waist shaping darts to get a looser more casual fit. Like with most of my shirt refashions, I incorporated the original buttons/button stand and hem. I also deliberately picked a shirt with a pocket because I love the misplacement of it when the garment is recut: it forms a clear indication that this garment had a former life, which I feel should be celebrated rather than hidden where applicable.  

The collar piece doesn't take much fabric, so it's a great opportunity to use up some smaller pretty pieces you may have in your stash that aren't big enough to make a whole garment from. Ok that's all from me today, now resume panic-sewing Me-Made-Mayers! (ONLY KIDDING!!!!!!)

Thursday 25 April 2013

Undies Update

At risk of making you jealous, I recently went on a lovely mini-break to Berlin. The highlight of the weekend for me was going to an fantastic flea market on the Sunday attended by what appeared to be most of Berlin's under-40's. It was more than a flea market though, it was also a vintage fair, designer-maker handmade event and food market all rolled into one - heaven!!!

I was transfixed by the stall pictured at the top that sold handmade pants (knickers/undies) and vests (camisoles/singlets) in a rainbow of colours and eye-assault of patterns. The items in question are made in Berlin by the ethically-minded company Berlin Underwear. Even though I am more than capable of making my own pants and vests, I wanted to support their work and ethos so bought the beautiful pair pictured above.

I've found it really interesting looking at their cutting and construction method. They haven't used any elastic, instead used strips of jersey or dance-wear fabric with a high elastane content to form the leg holes and waistband. They have also used their overlocker on a setting that creates a stitch that is visible on the outside, I've totally forgotten what that technique/stitch is called though! Anyone?

Berlin Underwear's super colourful approach inspired me to get a teensy bit more creative and colourful with my own undies makery. I've found that recently some of my smaller pants no longer fit (which I'm hoping is the result of pregnancy rather than cake-intake!) plus the expansion of my belly and rib cage has had a similar effects with my vests, so I made a new set (pictured above). I used my free downloadable pants and vest patterns (of course!) for these. Normally I'd use the size 12 pants pattern if the fabric I was using had a decent elastane/lycra content, and the size 14 if the fabric didn't (e.g. if I were using an old mens T-shirt to make the pants). This time I went straight to the size 14 even though the fabrics I used were plenty stretchy. 

Similarly, the vests I've made in the passed have been created using the size 12 vest pattern graded out to the size 14 around the hips. To accommodate my newly expanded form, I cut the size 14 at the top graded out to the size 16 around the belly and hips plus I added a couple of extra cms to the length. Most of my previously made pants and vests are still more than wearable so far, so I'm hoping I'm not going to need to make crap-loads of new sets before this baby decides to evacuate! 

That said, I also made another set of pants from a scrap of this beautiful Liberty floral print jersey and matching grey-blue FOE (fold-over elastic) I had in my stash. This is such a lovely weighty jersey, these are now my favourite pants. I was careful not to pull on the FOE too much when applying it so the leg holes didn't end up too tight (something I find I've done with some of the pairs I've made in the past). 

But don't think it's been all self-stitchery round these parts lately. Patty's pants collection was also in dire need of an update. I think I've finally perfected the fit, dimensions and construction method of the dude pants I've been making, and was able to make the two pairs (once again from Liberty jersey) pictured below in about an hour and a half. 

The last pair were made using a small scrap of black striped jersey I'd had lurking in my stash for yonks. This time I used some grey camouflage print elastic, which I hope don't look too 'teenage boy'! As you can see, I cut the front and bum panels on the opposite grain so the stripes run vertically, because I isn't fancy trying to match stripes up on a pair of undies! Life is just too short, surely?! 

If you are interested in making dude-pants for your own dude, all you need to do is snaffle away a pair of existing pants that they find comfy and trace a pattern from them. This is, of course, far easier to do if you 'decommission' that existing pair entirely and cut them up along the seam lines so you can trace around the panels. Don't forget to add seam allowance and hem allowance, and give yourself some extra cms around the waist for attaching the elastic. Whether or not you create an 'access window' in the front panel is up to you. Mr So Zo wasn't that bothered about having one of those so I haven't been arsed to figure out how to incorporate that into my pattern, but I'm sure it'd be easy enough to create of your dude wanted that. 

Happy undies-making my friends!!!!

Monday 22 April 2013

Tova Dress

Ok, so unlike the jersey batwing tops I recently made, this is the first garment I have to show you that is a definite pregnancy-directed diversion from my usual style of clothing. As I warned might happen: shit just got pretty tunic-y up in here!


I mentioned in my Mild-Maternity plans post that I was considering buying and making the Tova tunic/dress pattern by Wiksten. It received a lot of love in the comments section of that post so I was convinced! Also, it's available as a printable PDF which I tend to prefer because they are often cheaper and I don't have to wait for it to be delivered. Plus, if I totally mess it up I can print off another copy.

So first up, I have to say I really enjoyed making this dress. Despite sewing being my main passion and something I love to do, some projects can be a bit of chore to get through, can't they? This was not. Even though I tend to wear jersey or stretch/knit garments more often day-to-day, and firmly appreciate the comparative quickness of sewing such a garment, I also sometimes LOVE to get my teeth into a project like this: that requires lots of super-neatness in the form of pressing every damn step and careful top stitching. Although I don't wear them much, from time to time I adore creating woven garments with a really clean finish. That was kind of my niche when working at TRAIDremade, although I did of course turn my hand to jersey, knit and sweat makes whilst working there, especially when my boss left to go on maternity leave. Anyway, I digress. I think with this type of project the trick is to not be in a rush and to take your time. I wanted to get this dress made before I went away to Berlin a couple of weekends ago because I thought it would be really comfy to travel in (it was), but I gave myself a good few days to finish it without stress.

Fabric Choice: 

I made this using the same fabric I used for my first attempt at the Ultimate trousers, a super-soft pale grey something-or-other! This dress is therefore made from stash fabric, but I can't say I've busted it out of there because there is STILL enough remaining for at least one more dress or pair of trousers. I have to say, this fabric works way better for a dress than it did for the fitted cropped trousers, although I think the rest of it may be destined for a pair of looser wide legged trousers at some point, post-pregnancy. I'm thinking something like these but with black buttons.

Pattern Sizing and Changes:

I cut out the medium for the top section but added 1 cm to each side seam from the waist area down to accommodate my growing belly and bootay a bit more to get as much wear from this make as possible before I become enormous. Being that it's not a maternity pattern, I'm sure I'll get lots of wear from it post-pregnancy too, however perhaps not for a while because if I am able to breast feed, this dress'll be pretty useless whilst the baby is boob-dependant.

The only other change I made was to add a little popper about a quarter of the way up from the bottom of the placket (after I took the above photos) to stop the opening from flapping open too much. I'll be tempted to make button holes and apply buttons along the placket for my next version.


Normally I use sewing pattern instructions as a mere suggestion, but I followed them pretty closely this time because I liked the explanations and order of construction. The only time I diverted from the instructions was to complete the neckline before inserting the sleeves, just because I wanted to avoid the raw neckline stretching out of shape. Oh, and I also took some advice from one of the reviewers of this pattern on patternreview.com to stitch the gathered section to the inset panel and then stitch the two sides, rather than doing it in one continuous and scary process. Next time I'll add some interfacing to the placket and collar, especially if I use a thinner fabric, which I probably will because I think this fabric's thickness is the upper limit of appropriateness for this pattern. Thank goodness I didn't make it in denim like I originally intended!


Even though I am not convinced this dress is what I'd consider to be 'my style', I do really like it and have worn it heaps since its completion. I thought the smock style might look a bit 'farm-hand', but Pat actually declared it to be sexy, in a sophisticated kind of way. Hmm, are anchors not sexy then?! I'll ponder that another day I think... Anyways, the pattern is a 'win' and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who has been considering purchasing it. Expect to see this dress crop up a lot in the documentation pics during MMM'13!

Saturday 20 April 2013

My MMMay'13 Pledge!

It's been utterly awesome to see so many creative peops signing up for this year's Me-Made challenge! In fact, I think we may be on track for a record number of participants, which is so damned exciting. Think of all those fabulous self-stitched items that will be getting a well-deserved airing for the duration of May, I CANNOT WAIT to see them! The signees currently range from people who have professed to have been knitting and sewing for 'a hundred years' but find they never get round to actually wearing any of their creations (hi Gill), to a signee who has yet to even make their first garment (!) (welcome and well done Flossie!) and every type of stitcher in between. If you intend to sign up, you have until midnight 30th April!

Don't worry, I hadn't forgotten to make my own MMMay'13 pledge! My, that would be embarrassing wouldn't it, if the creator/hostess of the challenge forgot to take part!? I delayed making this year's pledge because I was taking a slice of my own advice and having a good think about how to create a do-able but challenging pledge for myself this year. Here's what I've come up with...

 'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo...' blog sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear all me-made clothing with the exception of bras, socks, hosiery and knitwear each day for the duration of May 2013. I will also allow myself to occasionally wear second-hand jeggings but no more than 3 times a week.'

As you probably know, repeat participants of these challenges are encouraged to amp-up/alter their pledges each year to prevent their challenges from becoming easy and not a useful experience. It may seem to you that my pledge this year will result in less of a personal challenge than the pledges I've made in previous years, but believe me it'll be plenty-challenging!

In the past, I have really pushed myself to make increasingly difficult challenge pledges, like when I really restricted the use of shop-bought knitwear (I don't knit plus always feel cold, so coming up with solutions for that was most definitely a challenge!) or like last year when I gave myself the organisational headache of getting one friend or family member to also wear something I'd made for them each day.

At other times, life has thrown up things that have naturally made the challenges harder without me needing to come up with ways to do it for myself! Self-Stitched-September'10 was one such year. I'd just moved back to the UK having had to make a major wardrobe cull before dragging our belongings from Barcelona, through France, to the UK via trains, coaches and more trains. This year is firmly in the 'life making things challenging' category. Due to growing a human inside me, I'm finding that recently less and less of my wardrobe is now wearable. As garments have become too tight or short I've been putting them away in a cupboard and what is left on my clothing rail is increasingly looking like the type of vastly limited selection I was left with in September 2010! I've been making some mild-maternity friendly garments (some of which I have yet to blog) but I'm just not sure how long they will be wearable, hopefully until the end of May at least!

Anyways, if you have signed up for this year's challenge, I'm sending you a massive welcome, it's fabulous to have you on board. I'd love to head over and visit every single one of your blogs and leave a personal comment if you have one (which is of course no requirement for taking part in this challenge) but with nearly 200, there simply isn't time to do that plus eat, sleep and sew!

Friday 19 April 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Contrast Bow Tunic Top Shirt Remake

Here's a cute little Spring-like refashion/remake for you this (Refashion) Friday. If you are one of the hundreds (thousands?) of lucky folks who have a copy of Simplicity 3835 (which you can buy in PDF form here, BTW) or a similar tunic top pattern, there is nothing stopping you from making this project yourself if you fancied, save for the acquisition of an unwanted mens button-up shirt. Like most refashions, the bigger your starting-point garment is, the better. unless you are a teensy lady/child then probably any shirt would be fine for this project.  

You'll need to position the CF of the top along the centre of the button stand. Position the front and back pieces low on the shirt so you can incorporate the curved hemline as well. The contrast bow detail was made using the cuff from another shirt, but you could use any contrasting fabric to make a simple bow or corsage for a cute and interesting detail. Another shirt remake project that started with this pattern as a basis can be found here.  

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Stash Bustin' Peter Pan Collar Batwing Tops

Alrighty! Time to show you the first garments I've made with the conscious intention of accommodating a baby-bump. Out of all the plans and schemes I've come up with for the first half of my pregnancy, these are the items I'd be most likely to make if I wasn't pregnant. With so much to get my head round at the moment, it seemed to make sense to ease myself in gently into maternity sewing!

So here we have two batwing jersey tops with contrast woven Peter Pan collars from a self-drafted pattern. All the fabric used has been lurking in my stash for over six months and required bustin' outta there! In essence there are no differences between these tops and my previous leopard collar batwing top, except these are longer in length and a bit of extra width has been added from the waist down to make room for my bump. I have no idea how far into my pregnancy I'll be able to wear these, perhaps all the way through. However, they'll definitely be wearable again when I 'come out the other side', possibly requiring to be taken in again a little at the side seams if the jersey gets a bit stretched out. My aim is to sew exclusively with stash fabric for all my maternity needs as far as possible, but I only intend to use fabric I REALLY love if I KNOW it's a garment design I'd love to wear even if I wasn't pregnant and will be able to get heaps of wear from in the future. 

As I mentioned last month, I've got a total colour-crush on mustard-yellow. My recent mustard mariniere trousers creation weren't the only mustard plans I had in the pipe-line, knowing full well I had a decent length of this slinky jersey also residing dans le stash. Taking note of some of the helpful comments from my 'An Ode to Mustard-Yellow and Old Gold' post, I took to heart many people's lack of success wearing the colour next to their face. So I drafted a simple Peter Pan collar (see my how-to/tutorial here for my method) and used some white and navy spotty cotton to keep the mustard away from my skin tone. 

I really love this mustard top. The colour looks fabulous with my dark blue jeggings. Unfortunately the jersey fabric is so slinky that it shows up the lumps and bumps of the jeggings underneath, but stash busters can't be perfectionists!  

I can foresee a sad day in the future when my breton top is no longer wearable because it'll be too short before long. I'm very pleased to be able to add another dose of stripes into my wardrobe in the form of this batwing top. The anchor fabric that I made the collar from was harvested from a second-hand mens shirt I bought on a stall at a junk fair. The shirt itself was a bit worn and faded in places so I had to find a use for it that required picking and choosing sections rather than using the garment as a whole.

But wait! I still had some of the stripey fabric left! It's not a stash bust if there's a garment's worth remaining, IMO. I've been wanting to make my best mate a garment for a months now as it's been ages since I last made her anything. There wasn't enough of the jersey fabric to make the long sleeves, but I'd been wondering for a while what a T-shirt version of this style might look like. 

I made a bateau/slash neckline bound with the same fabric using the stripes in a different direction. I would have done the same for the the cuffs but there wasn't sufficient fabric to cut them in that direction. In the past I've made Vic lots of tops that have been too short in the body for her. I've finally come to realise that I have a high natural waist and she has a low natural waist, so even though we are more or less the same height, things that finish in a good place on me won't necessarily do so on her. FINALLY I hope I've learnt that lesson by making this top using the same longer length version of the pattern.  

So there we go. Three wearable tops made entirely from stash fabric (and therefore free!), two of which should accommodate my growing belly for a fair few months to come, and about 3.5 metres of fabric no longer clogging up the jersey shelf of my stash. Hurrah! 

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Me-Made-May'13! SIGN UP HERE

Yes indeed my friends, here it is! 2013's official Me-Made/Self-Stitched challenge that celebrates the hard work and man(or lady-)hours that so many of us put into crafting unique, beautiful and special handmade clothing and accessories.

Yeah, but what exactly is MMM'13?

Me-Made-May '13 (MMM'13 for short) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle/insert-other-creative-discipline-here garments for themselves to actually wear and love them. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for over three years now and they work on both a personal and community level.

The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge pledge, so that the month is appropriate and challenging for them (more on this below). A very common pledge is for a participant to aim to wear one self-stitched or refashioned garment each day for the duration of May 2013. The participants can also choose to document their challenge with daily photos (though this is in no way compulsory for taking part) and share them with other participants, through either their blog if they have one (having your own blog is by no means necessary to particpate), or the MMM'13 Flickr group which has been created for this purpose.

I haven't taken part in any of these before, why should I take part?

Ohh, there are squillions of reasons why you might choose take part! They may include:

  • Many participants find the results of their sewing/crochetting/knitting/upcycling/refashioning often get left in their wardrobe rather than worn as part of their everyday wardrobes. Some people would like to start integrating those self-stitched items into their daily life but feel they need a bit of a nudge to do so. 
  • Some challenge participants want to discover the 'holes' in their wardrobe so in the future they are able to focus their precious garment-creating time towards making things that will be more useful. 
  • Others feel what they tend to wear, day-to-day, doesn't really suit them or represent who they are, and want to spend a month focussing on getting out of their rut
  • Some participants enjoy the push they find these challenges give them to finish off lingering unfinished projects to add some more self-stitched weapons to their garment-arsenal. 
  • Others (myself included) may find they need a reason to integrate their newer self-stitched items into regular rotation, or even want to see if they can get by all month entirely without shop-bought garments (often with undies or outerwear as notable exceptions, but not always!). 
  • There is also guaranteed to be a lovely online community of fellow participants to give support, advice and inspiration.

I've done these in the past, why should I take part this year?

Did you enjoy it last time/the previous times you took part?

  • If the answer is 'Yes': Then you'll have lots of fun again this year, whilst challenging yourself in a different way and learning something new about yourself and your style/skills/preferences/wardrobe. You just need to think about how you can alter and/or amp up your pledge specifics to get the most out of this year's challenge.
  • If the answer is 'No': Well if that's a 'no' because the challenge you set yourself was too hard, then that is easily rectified this time round; set your pledge so that it is tricky but do-able. If it's a 'no' because you didn't enjoy the pressure you felt to take photos each day, then simply don't worry about the photos part. You'll learn lots of lessons and get satisfaction from taking part in the challenge and completing your pledge, not from the documentation of it (although some participants have found that seeing the daily images of themselves has really helped them figure out what suits them and what doesn't work so well). If you'd like to do a little bit of documenting, then why not just photograph your favourite outfit/garment you wore at the end of the week, or some other version that doesn't make you feel under pressure. If it's a 'no' for any other reason, I can probably objection-handle all day...! But seriously, if you didn't like taking part in it and don't want to try again, fair enough! 

Ok, you've convinced me, how do I sign up?

All you have to do is copy the pledge below and post it in the comments section of this post adapted to include your details and the personal specification of your challenge before 1st May:

 'I, (insert name here and blog address if you have one), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear......................................................... each day for the duration of May 2013'

Points to consider when creating your pledge:

  • This is YOUR challenge, write the script any way you want, just remember: IT IS A CHALLENGE and not meant to be easy or what you do usually. In the past I have received the odd comment saying 'Oh, I already do this so I may as well sign up', however those people had clearly missed the point which is to challenge yourself, and therefore they would be unlikely to learn very much or feel much satisfaction or pride at the end of the month. 
  • THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. It is a personal attempt to achieve a better relationship with your handmade creations, which you may or may not choose to share with the creative online community. What I mean is, don't set a pledge that you've seen other people make that sounds good but in reality is unobtainable for you and your lifestyle. For example, if you have to wear a uniform for work each day, you may prefer to pledge to wear self-stitched items at the weekends or days off only. 
  • There's no rush to sign up immediately, as long as you do so before 1st May. Have a think for a while about your current relationship with your creations, then think how you might want to improve that relationship.
  • If you have taken part before, or already wear a fair amount of self-made clothing and/or accessories, think how you can up the ante from the standard 'one self-stitched garment a day' pledge. How about wearing two or more self-made garments each day? Or pledge to try making a new type of garment by the end of the month to wear on the final day? Or pledge to finish all your UFO's by 31st May? Pledge to focus on wearing your 'meh' garments to see if you can fall back in love with some of them? Pledge to only wear separates to force yourself to get creative with your mix-and-matching? Pledge to only wear each garment or garment-combo once? Pledge to wear an outfit including one sewn or knitted garment AND one refashion each day? There are near-infinite ways to amp things up for yourself. 
If you have a blog, why not re-post your pledge there so your readers and followers can see what you are up to and be inspired by your endeavour? Please include a link to this post so others can also sign-up if they are interested. If there's one thing I've learnt from these challenges, the more people involved, the better the party!

What do I do now then?

Nothing in particular except let an underlying sense of excitement brew!

If you wish to be a part of the MMM'13 Flickr group, head over there and request membership. I'll 'let you in' within a few days so you can begin posting your outfits/garments from 1st May. If you wish to start a discussion over there before 1st May, please feel free to do so!

If you would like to advertise your participation on your blog if you have one, why not treat yourself to the addition of the MMM'13 widget/gadget/button? The code can be found at the top of the right hand column of this blog's home page. The widget/gadget/button not only looks cute, but it shows other participants/potential-participants at a glance that you are taking part this year. Plus when clicked on, it will ping you to this sign-up post so others can read what this whole damn thing is about without you needing to go into too much of an explanation yourself. If you aren't sure how to apply/insert a widget/gadget/button code, check this post from last year with explanations for Blogspot/Blogger and Wordpress blogs.

This year I haven't created a Facebook page, because there didn't seem to be much actual interaction on the Me-Made-May'12 Facebook page. But if a decent amount of people leave a comment saying that they would like one this year too, I'll happily rig one up and announce it's existence before 1st May.

Other than those optional things, there's really nothing to do until 1st May 2013! Although you may decide to finish up that UFO, maybe a skirt waiting to be hemmed or the blouse that needs the buttons stitched on! But please people, NO PANIC-SEWING NECESSARY OR CONDONED!!

How do I participate and interact throughout the challenge?

That's totally up to you. As I mentioned above, you may choose to document your challenge with daily/weeky/as-often-as-you-like photos, which you could either then share with the readers of your blog if you have one, or on the aforementioned Flickr group (you have to sign up to Flickr to upload photos and comments to the group, which is free). If you choose not to sign up to the Flickr group, you will still be able to see all the photos added by other participants and read the discussions being had over there, however you will not be able to comment on the photos or add to the discussions. We need to do this I'm afraid as Flickr sadly has the odd troll that may make inappropriate comments, and we'd like to avoid that. But don't let that put you off joining up! The Flickr groups are always heaps of fun and such a lovely way to see lots of participants all in one go participating in different countries and climates. Plus it can be a fabulous way to discover new inspirational bloggers and blogs to follow, and generally make some new e-friends!

This sign-up post's comments has lots of blog addresses of participants if you'd like to find some new blogs to visit and bloggers to 'meet' that way.

A couple of extra notes about photos: If you want to take documentation photos but don't like being photographed yourself, there's always the options of re-creating that outfit on a tailor's dummy, hanging the garment/s up or laying them on the floor to photograph. If you have a blog and wish to share your outfit photos on it but don't have the time or desire to post daily, you could post more manageable summaries once or twice a week (which I prefer to do, BTW).

It would also be totally ace if Twitter users discussed the challenge using the #MMMay13 hashtag.

Anything else I should know?

HAVE FUN!!!! This challenge is meant to be explorative, illuminating and beneficial, but above that it's meant to be fun! Getting dressed can often be fun, and if you haven't felt any clothes-based fun for a while, why not see if this challenge can help inject some of that back? 'Hanging out' online with the other participants can be a big part of that fun by seeing what they are wearing (either by visiting their personal blogs or through the Flickr group or Twitter) and by sharing your own unique take on this challenge.

If you are concerned or confused about any aspect of this challenge, please email me at sozoblog (at) g mail (dot) com.

Otherwise, let the signing up commence!!!!!

Sunday 7 April 2013

Mild-Maternity: Small-to-Medium Bump

(Simplicity 5063 - I made this tunic/smock once before and it came out really nicely, but it was a surprisingly time-consuming sewing project so not sure I can be arsed to make it again. Would be great for up to a medium sized belly though I think, maybe beyond)

Massive thanks to the squillions of awesome people who stopped by to offer their congratulations and leave lovely messages on my previous post, it was thoroughly overwhelming. Here's the more considered follow-up pregnancy planning post I promised. So, as I said in that last post, I'm thinking of my pregnancy and maternity sewing in two stages: small-to-medium bump and medium-to-big bump. This way hopefully I won't get overwhelmed with plans and schemes. Plus as my belly becomes enormous, I have no idea how much other junk may appear in my trunk, so there's no point worrying about that for a while.

(Made by Rae Washi Dress and Tunic pattern - I just bought this. I've had my eye on this pattern for a while, even though it's not really what I'd consider to be 'my style' these days, it's just so pretty. I think both a dress and tunic version would be great, plus there's some nice pattern hacks out there including adding sleeves and a Peter Pan collar)

The main thing I've been getting my head round regarding any sewing I'll be doing in the next six months is the change of silhouette. As you may know, my dream wardrobe would be filled with (self-stitched) late-50's/early-60's retro style garments. I loves me an hourglass hugging wiggle dress, capri pants, fitted little blouses, cute cardi's and so on. To be honest that's not how I dress very often in real life. Most of the time I'm in skinny jeans, jersey tops or blouses and cardigans. But my main sewing aim for this year was to try and connect 'what I actually wear' with 'what I'd like to wear'. Plus as we all know, sewing is often about fantasy, and although I'm usually pretty good at making things I'll actually wear, fantasies must be indulged from time to time. But I've realised I'm going to have to let go of that for sometime and step away from the retro-hottie image I'd like to think I was just a few garments away from embodying! I can of course bring in elements of my ideal styles into what I make for pregnancy. But I'm not going to be using any of my precious vintage fabric, for example. It's time to concentrate on super practical sewing. Shit's going to get pretty smock-y up in here!

(Style 3590 - I must have bought this during an eBay frenzy, mighty glad I did though. I think it's got great mild-maternity potential with lots of variation options. Should I make a dress or tunic version do you think? Are we thinking contrast neckline and sleeve cuffs or not? Or make a feature from some ace contrast buttons?)

So I been having a good old think about what I reckon I'll need and realistically how much I'll be able to get sewn over the next couple of months. Plus just as I don't know how big I'm going to become towards the end of my pregnancy, I also don't have a clue what kind of shape/size I'll be post-pregnancy. Therefore I'm hoping that with some strategic sewing for this first pregnancy stage, of some the garments that are more 'roomy' than specifically 'maternity', I'm hoping most will be wearable when I 'come out the other side'! My aim, as usual, is also to do all this sewing exclusively with fabric from my enormous stash, rather than buying any new fabric, as far as possible. Here's what I think I'll need:
  • A few pairs of jeans/jeggings/trousers: I'm plotting a reproduction of my super-comfy elasticated-waist jeggings but with a lowered and wider waist-band. I also have a couple of second-hand pairs of shop-bought jeggings that were previously too big for me which should fit at certain intervals of large-ness. As I approach medium-to-big bump, I'm planning on cutting them down and adding jersey bands to the tops like this or cutting away the pocket mouths and adding jersey to the area like this

(Wiksten Tova Pattern - I used to be obsessed with this top before she released it as an actual pattern, and by the time she did my style had changed. It's mighty nice though. I've heard it's quite an involved project, which I could potentially be bothered to undertake. However, can anyone who has made this please let me know if you think it could accommodate a small-to-medium baby bump as it is, or would I have to do some adjusting? Thanks in advance for your thoughts)

  • A few long T-shirts/jersey tops: Later down the line I'll obvs be cracking out my maternity jersey top tutorial to make some accommodating tops, but in the meantime I'm pretty sure some longer length jersey tops with a bit more width around the middle should see me through. Jersey tops are so comfortable and can be layered so easily with vests underneath and cardigans on top when needed. They are my staple garment at all other times so I can't see that during pregnancy I'm going to feel differently towards them!  
  • A few woven tunics/tops: These will be a bit dressier than jersey tops which I may need for going out and for teaching in. Once again I'm going to focus on longer length styles, a 'deficit' of fabric isn't going to be welcome, especially if my jersey-topped jeans refashions don't come out looking very professional! My lady-like pussy bow blouse already fits this bill for the smaller stage of bump actually, as it is quite loose and a good length. I've also been hunting the internets and my own pattern collection for tunic-y styles that I may choose to make (this post is illustrated with them). 

(Butterick B5639 - I'm showing you this lady's beautiful version because the pattern envelope is incredibly uninspiring. Has anyone used this pattern? Do you think it's any size of baby-belly friendly? Or could be with some hacking and spreading out?)

  • A couple of dresses: Allegedly Spring will come and it apparently that means it'll get warmer, plus some variety from jeggings and tops might be welcome, so a couple of dresses might be nice. Patty and I have a little trip to Madrid planned for the end of May to visit a friend, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get to see some sunshine then at least. Initially I'm thinking about woven dresses, but I may have a go at something in jersey if the whim takes me. Some of the tunic patterns I either already have or have my sights on are also dress patterns, or they could easily become so. 
  • Tights: If the dresses go well, tights are going to be needed, for the UK at least. I'm going to take some of my existing pairs and try a mini-version of the jersey top jeans refashion on them. If that doesn't go well, I'll go old-school and actually buy some from a shop. Who knew that was an option?!

(Simplicity 3799 - Now PLEASE try to ignore the horrendous envelope design and fabric choices. Look at those top and dress patterns, totally maternity. Could be made much cooler in lovely fabric with a contrast neck band. Might amplify the maternity-ness of this and make it towards the end of my pregnancy when I've got a trip to Alicante in Southern Spain planned)

For everything else (jackets, cardigans, vests, pants, pyjamas etc.) my existing stuff should be fine. 

So, those who have been a pregnant lady, what are your thoughts on my list? Do you think those items will see me through up to medium-bump? Am I missing something glaringly obvious? Also, if anyone else is in a similar point in life (or hopes to be soon) and is interested in following my maternity sewing considerations more closely, you can follow my 'Preggers Stuff' Pinterest board. It has lots more patterns, tutorials and ideas for maternity sewing with some preliminary baby sewing ideas thrown in there too.

(Sew Libertated The Esme Top - Pretty similar to the Wiksten Tova pattern, except it's not available as a PDF which is a shame. I like it for the same reasons as the Tova and most of the others, it also looks hella wearable post-pregnancy. What do you think, Tova or Esme? Who wins?)

Friday 5 April 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Lace Embellished T-shirts

It's been a while since I shared a refashion/remake undertaken by myself for Refashion Friday. So to make up for it today I'm going to share three that I've shoved under the umbrella title of 'Lace Embellished T-shirts'. I made these whilst working for TRAID last year. We had an abundance of unwanted mens T-shirts and lots of lengths of random donated lace, so I decided to see if I could make some wearable tops by combining them.  

The paler grey marl T-shirt at the top of this post was created using the 'ingredients' pictured above. I recut the old T-shirt using a self-drafted boat-neck T-shirt pattern. Before I stitched the garment pieces together, I applied some of the lace top-stitching it down in place.  

The darker grey T-shirt pictured above was made in the same way, except I used a scoop neck pattern and I applied two strips of the wider lace in a vertical formation. You can see below that I applied the lace before stitching the pieces together, but if you already had a T-shirt that is a good fit and doesn't require recutting/stitching, you could easily create the same effect by cutting the lace away at the edges rather than trapping it into the seams.   

None of these T-shirts were for me, but if I had to choose one, I'd say the below style was my favourite. It is made using sections of a deeper lace around the yoke area. It appears at the shoulders on the front, either side of a nice round scoop neck (probs my favourite neckline for T-shirts). Because the lace I used didn't have any stretch content, I knew that by positioning it around a lot of the neckline I was effectively restricting the ability to get the garment over the head, but the scoop neckline is low enough to pull and and off without stretching the neckline anyhow. 

The same lace then covers the top back yoke area as well. I really like garments that have back details, although it's something I always forget to address when making garments for myself! Probably because I feel the cold lots, and anything interesting going on on the back would be hidden by all the cardigans I layer on top!

This third T-shirt also has very subtle gathered-head sleeves. I think the contrast of the pale cream lace looks really striking again the black jersey.  

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Self-Employment: How it Works (or Doesn't!)

(awesome print by Popcorny, we have this on our wall!)

Right, so this post is kind of an extension of my 'Self-Employment Update: Six Months in' post from last week. It's most likely only going to interest people who feel they might like to be self-employed/free-lance, but you never know! I, for one, am always intrigued to hear about other peoples' lives, even if they aren't doing something I'm directly interested in doing myself (which is probably why I love Tilly's 'A Day in the Life Of' series of posts as much as I do; I seriously think they are some of the best stuff on the internets!).

So please believe when I say that I'm writing this post very far from the perspective of an 'expert' at self-employment, or as someone who is even doing it very successfully. But I do think that sharing some of my experiences and thoughts on this subject will be useful to someone considering venturing into creative self-employment specifically, and perhaps some other kind of self-employment or free-lancedom more generally.

Our Situation

I think it is important to explain that both myself AND Pat (Mr So Zo) became self-employed around the same time last year. Therefore our experience might be very different from someone who has a salaried partner/financial dependents/is single. I bring in income from a variety of sources (see last post) but Pat is a writer who works with one single publisher.

How it Works (or Doesn't!) Financially

It may be considered vulgar (like as a hangover from the 50's or something!) to discussed finances, but I can't really give a thorough picture of life as a self-employed person/couple without addressing the subject. Obvs I'm not going to go into figures, but here's how the income arrives:


  • Most of my income presently comes from teaching sewing and pattern cutting classes. I don't teach regularly, my schedule is mixed. A few weeks could go by with no classes, or I could find myself teaching three or even four times a week. I invoice Sew Over It for my teaching every week or two weeks worth of work. I use eventbrite to organise my profits from classes I organise and teach at Super+Super HQ. 
  • A few days after each Brighton Craftaganza event I organise I pay any outstanding invoices and calculate the profit I've made. These bursts of income are obviously as regular as the events themselves. Plus, the amount I end up with has a lot of variables, the main one being whether it was a one-day or two-day event (not as simple as two days being double the profit!). The profit I get from organising these events may be quite little compared to the amount of hours I put in, but the amount always makes that month a bit easier!
  • I get a small amount of income from the selected sponsors of this blog. 
  • Pat completes a title approx. every six weeks/two months. When he finishes a title he can invoice for an advance. 'An advance' sounds very impressive, but isn't really unless you are Stephen King or something. Presently it compares to about one month's wages from his old shitty job in telesales. 
  • Occasionally he is asked to do a small amount of work for other titles, like writing the introduction or something. This will be for a small one-off amount. 
  • The books then take a whole bunch of months to be released. The ones he wrote all the copy for will then earn him royalties after the advance has been recouped. Obviously depending on how popular the title becomes but also how the book distributors have been dealt with, the monthly royalty cheques could be the equivalent of several month's worth of of shitty telesales wages or a small fraction of it!
As you can imagine (or maybe relate to), it can be difficult when we are both having 'lean' months. But when either of us are having a flush time, I employ a very important technique: squirrelling. As you may imagine from the name I have given it, squirrelling involves taking chunks of money to distribute into other (less accessible) places for the future. When I was a waitress getting paid in cash at the end of the week and receiving my tips in coins at the end of each shift, I literally had a multitude of envelopes, boxes and drawers to squirrel money away in. These days I have four active bank accounts for the purposes of squirrelling. It makes me feel secure knowing there are a few 'pads' of money around, even if I've been allocating some of it for a holiday or something. 

But there has been some scary patches since we became self-employed. Plus if your partner is going through a lean period, the urge can be to step up your own earnings, but that isn't always possible and can lead to extra stress. Likewise, knowing your own contribution is way down can make you feel guilty and stressed in a different way! Sometimes it feels like you really can't win. But when you do have a good month, knowing that your creativity and skills are solely responsible for that makes it all the sweeter and more exhilarating. As scary as it can be not knowing if your bills will be covered next month and as messed up as my sleep pattern can get because of it, NOT having the safety net of a dollop of a set salary to expect at the end of the month makes me feel much more alive, and somehow more adult. I feel like I'm participating in life more somehow. 

In My Experience... /Points to Consider 

There are some other points to make and lessons I've learnt over the last six months that I'd like to mention that could be relevant if you are trying to decide whether or not to quit your day job:

  • Pat and I comparatively don't have much in the way of overheads, no loan repayments or credit cards to pay off. We don't have a car to run or keep taxed and insured. 
  • Pat works entirely from home or a local cafe with good wifi, therefore his transportation costs are zilch. My work locations are more mixed. I work from home or Super+Super which is in walking distance. When I work in London the classes are always at weekends or in the evenings so my train fares (which can be extortionate in the UK) are always off-peak fares so I don't have to work for very long before I've recouped that outlay. 
  • Recently we moved into a bigger (and therefore more costly) flat, even though we have chosen to live in one of the most expensive areas of one of the most expensive countries you could pick to live in! We made that decision because, seeing as both of us work from home at least some of the time, it was going to be better for our mental health to have some more space. Our new place has a little separate room that is now my sewing studio. To afford and justify this I no longer have a desk space at Super+Super HQ, which was a hard decision to make because I love those peops so much. But I found I wasn't using that desk space as often as I could've and it was being used in part as very expensive storage for my sewing patterns and laptop! Nowadays we can work in effectively the same room but he's at the other end so my sewing machine and swearing don't disturb his concentration as much as they used to! Plus our living room and bedroom aren't filled with bags of fabric constantly in sight like the last flat we lived in had become. 
  • Going back to finances, although this of course makes sense anyway, being self-employed makes it particularly essential to have a clear idea of how much is in your bank account/s at all times! You have to either keep in your mind (which I am good at) or check regularly (which Pat has taught himself to do) what work you've completed, who you've invoiced and when you can expect to get paid. 
  • Similarly, you need to keep a eye on when big outlays are looming. Whether that's something big and scary like your self-assessment tax bill, or a bi-annual utility bill, or something fun like a holiday or trip to visit friends you've planned. It helps you assess exactly how flush or lean things currently are and theoretically helps you get prepared. 
  • Keeping an eye on how much work is coming up in the near to mid-future is a good idea too. If I know I've got a whole bunch of classes coming up for example, can help me decide whether or not I need to release some squirrelled away funds in the meantime or not.  
  • This may be controversial, but unless you're running a business that relies on a long term business plan for momentum, I would suggest not to stress or even bother thinking about anything say, six to nine months or more into the future. Crazy I know but I think it just a waste of time. If there is anything that life taught me last year is that it can catch you off guard and throw up all kinds of potholes, but also exciting opportunities. Plus you'll naturally do some evaluating at regular intervals, so why bother to plan deep into the future when it may become clear that one element isn't working or you want/need to change tack from the path you'd previously set yourself on?
  • There are HEAPS of awesome resources out there to help a self-employed person, be they of the crafty persuasion or not! Red Velvet has a lovely, inspiration e-course for carving out your dream creative job. The Design Trust is a killer website for aspiring self-employed designers/designer-makers, I well recommend signing up to their newsletter. Anyone who works from home could find support, advice and inspiration from this site, following the site author @judyheminsley on twitter is a good idea. 
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