Thursday, 17 April 2014

Me-Made-May'14: My Pledge

It hopefully hasn't escaped your attention that Me-Made-May'14 is firmly on the horizon. If you wish to participate in the challenge this year but have yet to sign up, fear not, you have until 30th April to throw your metaphorical hat into the ring.

I've been thinking for a while about the specifics of my own challenge pledge this year. Even though I've been wearing almost exclusively me-mades for a few years now, I haven't had to think too hard about how to amp up my challenge, life has done that for me. I was pregnant during MMM'13, which meant that my altering shape kept me on my toes. The range of garments that fit me at the beginning of the month slowly dwindled towards the end of the month, and I had to make new items to keep me in sufficient clothing options as I got larger.

(I should have realised that the waist of these trousers had stretched when I wore them well into the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy!) 

This year my wardrobe needs are different still. At the moment I only wear clothes that are comfortable and quick to combine, as the time I have each morning to consider my appearance is very limited. I am also currently breast feeding my 6 month old daughter, so 'access' is very much an issue. But I am looking forward to MMMay'14 to giving me a push towards dressing in a way that makes me feel more 'me' again. Whoever 'me' is these days! So....

 'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo...' blog, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear only me-made clothing (excluding bras and knitwear) each day for the duration of May 2014'

In addition to the above, I intend to...

  • Dress Dolores in something made by me as many days as possible (laundry permitting). I'm not pledging to do this daily as she has been given so many hand-me-downs recently that she currently has sufficient clothing. Plus, it would be a waste of sewing time and fabric to make a whole load of things for the sake of the challenge, when anything I make her would only fit her for a couple of months. 
  • Wear every item of knitwear that I own at least once throughout the month. All my knitwear items are secondhand but wardrobe space is at a premium so if any aren't getting used I need to figure out if they need to be reworked, made in to baby wear or donated back to a charity shop. 
  • Highlight any me-mades that need to be reworked (like my mustard trousers, pictured above, that have stretched out at the waist) or mended (like my school boy trousers, pictured below, that have a few holes appearing at the seams). 
  • Take inspiration from the Big Spring Contest WINNER Miriam (!!!!!) and generally be mindful about using what I own. I read somewhere once that women tend to wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time, and 80% of their clothes 20% of the time and I'd say that's about right! I'm not about to chuck out everything that hasn't been worn since the last MMM'13, but I would like to push my ratio of regularly worn clothes towards 50% of what I own. 

(Ah! The red door! That was three addresses ago now)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Perfect Pattern Parcel #2: Girl's Wear for a Good Cause

Have you heard of Perfect Pattern Parcels? Well I must admit that I hadn't until a couple of months ago, and it is a very cool thing indeed. The organisers put together a package of PDF sewing patterns along a theme which have been created by indie designers. You can then purchase the pattern parcel for a price of your choice for a limited time only, and then ALL the profits go to supporting a charity called Donors Choose which funds and supports educational projects in the US.

The current pattern parcel (#2) comprises of patterns for little girl's clothing (pictured above) and there's some real beauts in there. I chose to make the September dress/tunic pattern (the turquoise garment on the left), designed by Too Sweets Patterns. I wanted to make a simple, unfussy interpretation that clearly showed the bones of the design. However, I think this pattern would also make a very good canvas for all sorts of interpretations (applied pockets, bib or ruffle details, contrast yokes, omit the sleeve sections, braid or ribbon applied in various ways etc. etc.). It's also a pretty simple make, therefore a nice project for a beginner, or a pleasingly quick make if you are a fairly experienced seamster. Either way, it's a perfect project if you are making this as a fun gift or for your own little handful.

This pattern ranges in sizes from 12 months to 10/12 years. I made the size for 2 years and will be keeping it safe for the next year and a half for a certain little missy. I made it in some lovely, good quality striped shirting that's been lurking in my stash for a couple of years. I used the stripes in different directions as the only real design addition of my own. This was also a great project to give me the kick up the bum I needed to figure out how to make buttonholes on my new (to me) sewing machine. I used 6 greyish mother of pearl buttons as the fastening up the back.

I'd definitely recommend making this pattern, such a fast and fun project. Plus I'll be making some of the other patterns for sure. If you wish to see what the other styles look like made up, check out Shawnta Sew's version of the Hosh trousers and Hanami blouse, plus she helpfully links to a whole load of the other sewing bloggers who have been making their own versions of the various patterns.

I'm totally behind this project for a number of reasons. I love that it supports and promotes independent sewing pattern designers: that is allows them an interesting, imaginative and unusual platform for us sewers to discover and use their products. The charitable element is also fantastic and I wish the whole endeavour lots of success going forwards. Remember that there is a very limited window of opportunity to purchase these super cute patterns, so if you are interested, don't delay!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Big Spring Contest: Vote for Miriam!!!

So you remember the Big Spring Contest that I was a judge for? And you remember how Miriam was chosen to make her 'Everyday Awesome' entry using some gorgeous organic hand-block printed cotton? AND you remember how lovely and thought-provoking her thoughts on what 'Everyday Awesome' means to her were? Well, it's time to get voting people....

What you are seeing here is the result of Miriam's mad sewing skills, how she turned the delightful fabric into a stunningly cute dress to help make her day and everyone else's who sees her in it that bit more awesome. But aside from creating a beautiful, wearable garment (Check out the fit! Check out the pattern panel matching!), I feel that Miriam deserves to win the heap of prizes that are up for grabs because she has put real heart and spirit in to her entry (check out the blog post here for her full write up plus construction details):

"When I read Zoe’s theme – everyday awesome – I loved it. What better thought to carry around in your heart than: there are ways as creative people to make everyday awesome. We are given this day, others were not. Some people’s days are taken from them by death, by force, by poverty, by slavery, by chance. We are given this day. This is a day to celebrate. As a mama I have well known the pyjama filled days, those days of distaste at the stretch marks that have turned my tummy into something that resembles a deflating balloon. But I also know that getting up and dressing up for the day, choosing that favourite dress, those shoes that make you feel indestructible, those earrings given to you by someone who thinks you are wonderful – those days are better days. Sometimes by being everyday awesome and wearing something special instead of saving it for a ‘proper’ occasion, we make someone smile. 

And so I was so thrilled to be chosen to make a dress from Offset Warehouse’s collection. Because I believe creativity is important and I am excited to see people helping us to do that in better ways – ethically, sustainably, leaving a gentle footprint. I am trying to make choices that reflect my respect for this great human family and for this wonderful earth we are charged to steward. 

For the last 3 years I have journeyed through 10,000s of earthquakes in Christchurch, as the earth has destroyed grandma’s china, houses, sewer lines and lives it has also built communities that are knit together, it has made empty spaces that creative people have filled and it has taught us that what matters and what remains unshakeable are relationships. It has taught me that joy and love and shared laughter are my gifts to the world and I will give them with all the generosity and in every creative way I can think of. It has taught me that I can, and should, use and enjoy my special things everyday or I can save them, only to find they are destroyed anyway. The value is not in the things themselves, it is in the use and pleasure we derive from them. It has taught me to use, wear, enjoy, and share today. I’m not waiting for a special occasion. Today is awesome. Every day is awesome. I am not the youngest, oldest, wisest, strongest, prettiest, cleverest, slimmest woman in the world and so I owe it to myself, to other women, to my children and to others to declare (often with how I dress,) to say I’m not waiting for a special occasion, a better body, a better day. I am taking hold of today and I am declaring it to be awesome."

Amen to that! So PLEASE go to the Offset Warehouse's Facebook page and vote for Miriam (D) so she can win the lovely prizes I feel she so deserves. You know that she will treasure and use the prizes, and anything she doesn't I have no doubt she will not allow to sit around her home gathering dust, she'll pass them on so others can derive pleasure from them. Go on, please vote for Miriam!!!!!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Me-Made-May'14! SIGN UP HERE

Yes indeed my friends, here it is! 2014's official Me-Made challenge that celebrates all the love and hard work that so many of us put into crafting unique, special handmade clothing and accessories. If you want to improve your relationship with your me-made items, then this challenge is for you!

What is MMM'14?

Me-Made-May'14 (MMM'14 for short) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to actually wear and love them. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for over four 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 2014. 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 (more on this below).

What isn't MMM'14? 
  • The Me-Made-May challenges are NOT all about taking daily outfit photographs. However, many participants do choose to document their challenge with daily/weekly/as-often-as-you-like photos and share them on their blog if they have one or on Flickr if they are a member. The challenge is about wearing your handmade clothing more often than you usually do, if you choose to take documentation photos, then that is fabulous and we'd love to see 'em, but taking photos isn't necessary or compulsory and really isn't the point of the challenge. 
  • MMM'14 also isn't reason to panic-sew/knit/crochet/refashion etc. This challenge is about wearing the items that you have already created, not about stock-piling more makes. However, if you want to use taking part in MMM'14 as the kick in the butt you need to finally hem that half-finished skirt, or rework an ill-fitting garment, then great. Remember, this challenge is meant to be fun, and panic-anything isn't fun! 
  • A competition. It doesn't matter how many self-stitched items you already have or haven't. You can take part even if you just have one solitary self-made item! You just need to set your pledge to make it challenging for YOU, no matter what criteria other participants have set themselves. 

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:
  • Do your handmade items often get left in the wardrobe rather than worn as part of your everyday wardrobe? Participating in this challenge can give you a bit of a nudge to help you to integrate your self-stitched items into your daily life.
  • This challenge may also be useful for discovering the 'holes' in your wardrobe so in the future you are able to focus your precious garment-creating time towards making things that will be useful. 
  • If you feel that what you tend to wear, day-to-day, doesn't really suit you or represent who you are, this challenge is a way to spend a month focussing on getting out of your wardrobe rut
  • You may enjoy an excuse to focus on finishing off lingering UFOs (un-finished objects), or to start a project you've had on your mind for ages. 
  • If you have been creating clothing for some time and already wear a lot of your me-mades, this challenge might help you to bring newer self-stitched items into regular rotation. If you tend to make all kinds of garments, you may even want to see if you can get by all month entirely without shop-bought garments (with undies or outerwear as notable exceptions, but not necessarily!). 
  • There is also guaranteed to be a lovely online community of fellow participants to give support, advice and inspiration.

I've taken part in 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 documenting your challenge with photos. 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. 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 '14. I endeavour to wear......................................................... each day for the duration of May 2014'

Points to consider when creating your pledge:
  • This is YOUR challenge, write the pledge 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 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!

I've signed up, what do I do now then?

Nothing in particular until 1st May 2014, except let an underlying sense of excitement brew! You may decide to finish up that UFO, but please people, NO PANIC-SEWING/MAKING NECESSARY OR CONDONED!!

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'14 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 for explanations for Blogspot/Blogger and Wordpress blogs.

How do I interact with other participants throughout the challenge?

If you would like to see what other participants are up to throughout the month and/or show others how you are getting on then there are several ways to do so. 
  • Blogs. If you have a blog, then why not tell/show your readers what you are up to? Reading about others' experiences of these challenges is always so interesting and often useful. If you'd like to discover some blogs of other participants, you will be able to find lots by looking through the comments section of this sign-up post. Some participants like to post their outfit photos on their blogs, and remember if you want to do that 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).
  • Flickr. If you wish to be a part of the MMM'14 Flickr group, head over there and request membership. I'll 'let you in' within two 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 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. 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!
  • Pinterest. New for 2014, we have a Me-Made-May'14 Pinterest board that has been kindly set up by the lovely and very helpful Jennifer from Jennifer Lauren Vintage. To pin your garment/outfit pictures on there, you will need to 'follow' the board. It'll take up to two days for you to be allowed access, so don't panic if you can't pin on there immediately. Please add the #mmmay14 hashtag to your pins. 
  • Twitter. It would also be totally ace if Twitter users discussed the challenge using the #MMMay14 hashtag.

Anything else I should know?

!!!! 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, Pinterest board or via 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.

Let the signing up commence!!!!!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Refashion Friday: Sleeping Tops to Baby Trousers

So here's something I've learnt about babies: they grow really fast. So fast that if you watched them constantly, you could probably see it happening. Clothes that seemed a bit big on Dolores one day can be far too small a couple of weeks later. Thankfully we have positioned ourselves down-stream of a flow of garments from her 20-month old cousin, however a healthy dose of charity shopping or mum-makes is required to fill in the gaps. 

A very good thing about babies is that they had absolutely no sartorial opinions. Therefore you can make their clothes out of anything and they won't complain! Clothes that are super shabby, like these two sleeping tops that I've owned for longer than I care to remember, can be given a second life when hacked up and used as baba-garms. 

For the pattern, I started with an Ottobre magazine pattern that I redrafted to alter the style and improve the fit. I incorporated the original hem ribbing from the pink towelling zip-through and the original hem finishing from the grey ribbed striped top saving me some construction time on both the pairs of trousers. If you'd like to get an idea of what it feels like to wear these trousers, here's a wearer's-eye-view (kind of):

I've written a lot in the past about how much I love the idea of turning old garments in to new ones, especially new ones intended for loved ones to wear. It's very satisfying to cut away the worn bits and end up with something that's got a whole heap of new life in it (literally!). Clothing that is passed it's best can be such a great source of sewable fabric, particularly if the things you are making are for a tiny person. I can see A LOT more reworking of my old clothes into useful things for Dolores in the future, hopefully most of them will end up as useful as these trousers have been so far.   

What about you? Have you reused old clothes for babies and/or children? What do you like about it? Have you any tips or ideas to share with the rest of the class?!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Big Spring Contest: 'Everyday Awesome' Finalist and runners up

I don't normally write about who has won the giveaways and competitions I host on my blog because usually I don't think it makes for very interesting reading, but the Big Spring Contest is a different kettle of fish. For this contest, entrants had to dig deeper than usual and really think about what garment they'd make using Offset Warehouse fabric to fulfil the brief of 'Everyday Awesome'. The entries were fantastic. I received lots interesting, ingenious and super-creative responses, many of which with beautiful illustrations to put across their plans. But sadly I could only choose one 'Everyday Awesome' finalist who will go on to receive the fabric of their choice to make the garment and enter the second phase of the contest against the other three finalists.

So the 'Everyday Awesome' finalist is.......

Miriam! Here's what she wrote:

'I would love to use the hand blocked scarlet organic cotton (pictured below) to make an everyday awesome dress. My theory with dresses and fashion is all about everyday is a celebration, everyday is worth dressing up for, everyday is awesome. As a person I love to dress up and living through the thousands of earthquakes (in Christchurch, New Zealand) that destroyed so many possessions it has really confirmed to me the value of treasuring AND using your lovely things. If it's in your wardrobe wear it, or let someone else enjoy it. Not saving them only to find they are smashed in a disaster or eaten by a moth! 

I like the aesthetic of the hand blocked fabric and the colour but also I think something so lovely should be out and about everyday, also it tells it's own story, it should be touched and worn and it would look perfect on a bicycle. The little people at my sons' new school have started to ask me 'did you make that' as they chat to me. 

It excites me that ethical fabric can be so beautiful and made into something that doesn't scream 'hippy dress', even though I am kind of a hippy! 

(image source: Create, Hope, Inspire)

This is the pattern I would use (pictured above). Halter neck, fullish skirt, 1950s style, not everyday for everyone but everyday for me. Living our lives car free in a new city - this dress would tell a story that everyday is worth celebrating, ethical can be beautiful, and cycling can be done in style!'

I chose Miriam because her sentiments, about making the most of the possessions you have, have stayed with me every since I received her entry. I think everyone (myself firmly included) should be reminded every now and again that we only get one life so let's make the most of the lovely things we own by enjoying them everyday, and not save them for some special day that may never come. Every day is special (and awesome!)! I also really like her commitment to living an ethical lifestyle by riding a bike rather than driving a car around her city.

I really want to thank everyone who took the time to enter. I genuinely wish I could have got their choice of fabric sent to all of them so that everyone's idea of 'Everyday Awesome' could be actualised.

You can see the other three theme finalists on Offset Warehouse's Facebook page. A list of my highly commended submissions will also be on there in the next few days - and you might be on it! Also please don’t forget to VOTE for Miriam (or one of the other three finalists) from the 9th April!! The judging is open to public votes, and I really think she deserves to win, don't you?!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Book Review: The Great British Sewing Bee, Sew Your Own Wardrobe

What it is, basically?

To be honest, when I was sent a review copy of this year's Great British Sewing Bee book, my expectations were low. I was cynically expecting it to be a fluffy, glossy series companion with bios on this year's contestants and plenty of 'swoon-worthy' pictures of Patrick Grant: a homage to the show and little more. I hold my hands up, I was wrong. There, I said it.

It is actually a book about sewing. As in, it teaches you how to sew. I guess the clue is in the tag line 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe', which somehow I must have missed at first. And there aren't even that many pictures of Patrick in it. The best bit is that it has a very generous separate patterns pack which includes loads of multi-sized patterns for women, men and children, all of which have been (or will be, I assume) featured in the challenges set in this year's series. You'd really struggle not to find at least a couple of the styles worth having a go at (personally, I think I'll give the leggings a whirl...). Plus the patterns are printed very clearly, it's not a headache-inducing mess of lines like the pattern sheets from a Burda magazine. With the pattern pieces traced off, the book then assists the reader with the construction of those garments using clear diagrams and helpful written explanations.

Who is it for?

Unless you've been sewing for as long as May Martin (Patrick's super-skilled sewing teacher co-judge) or Anne (the 80-something winner from series one), this book is bound to be useful. All it assumes from the reader is that they own a sewing machine, can thread it already (or can find out elsewhere how to thread it) and aren't afraid to put the pedal to the metal. Ideally it'd make a great gift for someone who has watched the show and expressed an interest in getting into sewing themselves, or perhaps for someone who has already made a few things but lacks confidence in expanding their repertoire.

Is it any good?

Yes, for the reasons given above. Plus it's only £25, which I think is a really good price for so much detailed information and heaps of useful sewing patterns. However, if I were to pick holes in this book, I might say that it's not an overly stylish publication in terms of the book design and the garment styles involved (but we've got Tilly's book on the way for that). But in a way, that is also this book's strength, because I'd imagine it will then appeal to a wider range of would-be sewing enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong, the book does include lots of beautiful photographs that inspire you to run to your sewing corner (or carve yourself out a sewing corner) and immerse yourself in buttons, but it doesn't have a strong particular look, if you get what I mean.

Neither does it particularly encourage the reader to unleash their creativity and f^*k shit up with their sewing machine. By which I mean, it doesn't offer variations on these basic patterns by suggesting alternative collars, sleeve styles, skirt lengths, pocket additions etc. But that's not what this book is concerned with and it doesn't need to be. It's teaching you to make a really wide range of great, wearable garments by acquiring and applying a whole heap of sewing techniques. If you are creatively inclined beyond that, I don't think you really need a book to give you permission to then take things further.

For me, my favourite part of the book is actually the foreword written by May:

'...It's so rewarding making an item of clothing, for yourself or somebody else, that is all your own work. If you keep it, you can give yourself a pat on the back and if you're making it for someone else, you're giving them a part of yourself...'

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