Friday, 28 October 2011

Poker Top!

An uncharacteristically short blog post from me today for two reasons: A) there isn't very much to tell you about this recent creation, and B) it's my birthday so I've got better things to be doing than spending ages staring at my laptop.

Seeing as how much I love my leopard collar batwing top, you couldn't be declared a genius for predicting that I'd make another top along the same lines. For this top I used the same pattern but gave it a slash neck, akin to the batwing dress I made for September's installment of the Poetry and Clothing project. This awesome printed fabric had been in my stash for about a month before I figured out this was to be its destiny. It's a sample length from a fabric printing company and I'm not sure it has been been finished properly as it's the wierdest, floppiest fabric that will get all mis-shapen if you so much as turn your back. Needless to say it was a 'challenge' to sew. Goodness knows what's going to happen when I wash this garment. It should be ok with lots of gentle coaxing back to shape with a warm iron.

I've already got a few wears from this top, the fabric was free and the whole thing was very quick to make, so if it does get mis-shapen beyond wearability, I won't be too upset. The star that shines half as long, shines twice as bright! I just have to make sure I wear this top to a poker game before meets its end...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sew Over It

The recent explosion of sewing classes and sewing cafes is an interesting phenomenon. I'm pleased to see a growing trend towards a DIY mentality and the increased desire to learn the skills our grandmothers relied on (if that is what this represents). I thought that maybe I could pick up a sewing-teaching gig at one of these places if I ever lost my job, and I enjoy looking at cute buttons and trims that they often sell as much as the next sewer, but I haven't really kept a close eye on the proliferation of these establishments.

However, I have recently been doing a bit of research because I've been brewing a plan to do a bit of sewing teaching in a different kind of environment and heard about Sew Over It through my enquiries. Based in Clapham, London, it seems to provide the best range of classes that I've seen, including mini-courses of around two hours focussing on specific skills like making button holes or inserting zips. I could see those being really useful for beginner-sewers who want to flesh out their skill-set without having to sign-up to make an entire blouse or skirt making course. They also run a mens' survival sewing class, which is SUCH a great idea. Plus, Sew Over It offers a drop-in option where you can use the space and machinery for £5 an hour and includes free tea and coffee. This is how I spent a chunk of last Sunday.

Normally, I wouldn't usually be interested in forking out to use a sewing space when I'm lucky enough to have that at work and home, but I was heading up to London to see Michelle (pictured above) and we've never really sewn/crafted together before AND she may be moving to that area and was pleased for the opportunity to explore a little more, so it all kind of made sense to go and pay Sew Over It a visit.

It is a nice place. It is very clean and pretty with lots of light. The downstairs area was being used for a class so we stayed upstairs which serves as the cafe, shop and drop-in sewing area. All around were examples of the garments and products that you can learn to make in their classes, or make at home using their pre-prepared kits and packs. IMO, the decor and feel of the place is pretty representative of the dominant aesthetic of current mainstream craft culture (Amy Bulter prints, teapots, cupcakes, you know). Which is fine. It's very feminine, cute and no-doubt inviting to many. But I do fear that this look puts off a some people who don't want to make things that are very girlie in style. And I'd be surprised if many guys turn up for their mens' survival sewing class and feel entirely comfortable sitting there surrounded by so much pink!This gripe isn't specific to Sew Over It: I'm just concerned how much experimentation and freedom to make mistakes you can feel in such a cute and pristine environment. I'm also worried that the message about using these skills to preserve your existing clothes and live more sustainably isn't really being put across when everything on display and for sale is brand new. They do offer a customisation class, but neatly sell 'customisation packs' with new lace embellishments and strings of pearls.

So, did I buy?! Yep. No I don't buy new fabric, but I do indulge in new patterns and notions from time to time. Sew Over It stock a decent selection of the newer Colette Patterns. I bought the Violet blouse pattern for Michelle for Christmas (don't worry about her reading this, she knows!) and the Clover trousers for myself. I've been eyeing this pattern up on the internet for a while, but with shipping from the US to UK, it was pricier than I could justify so I treated myself when I saw it for sale without the postage. And these leopard buttons! They are shell and so awesome that I'm sure they'd make the plainest garment special. I think I'll save them for when a thrifted solid colour cardigan comes my way and needs jazzing up.

So, what about you? Have you spent time in any sewing cafes? What was your overall experience? What did you like about it?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Poetry and Clothing Project: September

One of the things I really like about this Poetry and Clothing project, is that it gives me a reason to create garments that aren't necessarily something I'd wear myself. You could say I am fairly limited in what I personally wear: generally I like a retro 50's/60's silhouette, prefer certain colours (navy, red, black, mustard), and have quite a low tolerance to garments without anchors. So making garments for other people, in this case my friend Harriet, is a good excuse for me to bring life to different ideas. It's another way for me to express myself, to have a kind of visual conversation about what I feel.

September's P&C garment is just such a piece. I'm really pleased with this batwing dress. The style is really cool: it's loose and casual yet slinky. The fabric is a jersey, super soft, very fine and ever-so-slightly sheer, so the overall effect is subtley sexy without being revealing. You could also get a fair bit of trans-season wear from it with wool tights and boots when Autumn comes 'a knocking. However, I can't take all the credit for the design: my boss developed a batwing top pattern inspired by an H&M garment she saw. Then I refined it a little and elongated it into a dress version.

As you can see, the fullness of the batwing is gathered into the sleeve sections. The whole thing was stitched together with an overlocker using really fine jersey needles in about 15mins. I then used a normal flatlock machine to turn up the hem and sleeve edges.

I also found a bit of tomato red poly/cotton twill from goodness-knows-when in my stash. I'd been messing around with the pattern that I made my navy capri's from, so thought I'd make Harriet a pair in red. Now, this was always going to be a long shot, making well-fitting trousers for someone who's in another country isn't the easiest task (spoiler alert: they didn't fit, but she's going to find a suitable recipient).

And on to the poetry side of the bargain. This one was written about the top I made and sent in August. Now, apparantly Harriet has recently developed a skin sensitivity to some synthetic fabrics, and unfortunately that includes whatever the hell that fabric is I used for her August top. Around that time, she was host to a French cyclist called Sylvie who was making a stop in Barcelona whilst on her way down to Morocco. After a long time spent cycling around, Sylvie was in need of a bit of freshen up and make over, so Harriet passed on a few garments she could no longer wear, including this top which Sylvie apparantly totally loves. She has promised to take a photo of herself wearing it when she reaches Morocco! It's sad that Harriet lost out on a top she thought was cute, but it's great a happy owner was found. I really love the idea of putting beautiful lovingly made garments out there for inspirational people to enjoy as they push boundaries and have an adventure!

Sylvie (August)

What makes one itch
makes two happy
we spent three days
talking about how two wheels
are better than four
scratching each other's itches.
She was so small
fit into five-year-old clothes.
She left on the 6th September
at seven in the morning
and before she left, we ate
cereal with dried fruits for breakfast.
At 9am I thought of her,
wearing a new top, then
wrapped inside her bivouac tent

And I will count the days that I have lost
against the ones that she will gain
and each time I look insdie
my moth-eaten wardrobe, I will imagine
all those bird-like white shapes
flying over a sea of mint green
and I am certain
that when I see her again
she will have grown

I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, but I LOVE this poem and I love this particular month in the project. It was an unexpected twist, the addition of another garment recipient, one who clearly left her mark. I really hope she does take that photo and sends it to us.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vintage Vogue Winter Coat Pattern

So, recently I've been chatting on about making outerwear to deal with the fast-approaching chilly-season. I made myself a little lined navy wool jacket, entitled Captain jacket, which I've already worn at least six times (thus proving my theory that it's totally worth the extra effort outerwear requires to sew for the extra wears you get out of them).

That little jacket brings my self-stitched outerwear total up to four: the yellow curtain jacket (unlined), the infamous leopard coat, Captain jacket (aforementioned) and the warmest of all, my midnight blue wool Winter coat. These garments all satisfy different needs in terms of weather and outfit combos, but I still have plans to make one or two more outerwear garments that I hope will last me several years.

In an attempt to create good karma for myself for my next two outwear garment projects, I am making a sacrifice to the gods of sewing. I am offering up the pattern I used for my wool coat last Winter. I had the idea to do this a few weeks ago, and Camelias and Crinolines excellent post recently reminded me how I feel about owning stuff (in particular, vintage sewing patterns) that I'm not going to use again that others could be enjoying instead so I have eventually got my arse in gear to rig up this giveaway.

If you like the look of this coat pattern you may need to over-look my moaning about how complex the construction of this garment was. I'm not going to lie to you, making this coat was a bit of a beast in terms of the persistance required, but I'm not the most patient of sewers and I must admit the outcome really was worth it.

So. This giveaway is for Vogue 7448 (undated but probably from around 1970) in Size 12 (Bust 34", Waist 36"). It is in used but good condition. I cut the pattern at the shortest length but carefully numbered and retained the lower sections so they can easily be stuck back on if you wish to make the longer versions. I only want to give this pattern to someone who will actually USE this it, so if you would like to enter, leave a comment below which will convince me that you actually would make this coat. Bonus points to the comments which make me laugh. I don't care if you live in Outer-Mongolia (what's the postage rate to send stuff there anyway?), this giveaway is open to all with no expense required. But LEAVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in the comment unless I can find your email address within two mouse-clicks or less. I'm not trawling the internets to seek you out. The end date for this giveaway is midnight (GMT) Sunday 30th October. Good luck, sewers! xxx

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Jogging top!

What?! You didn't think I was the type to go jogging?! How dare you! I'll have you know that I am very much the type who kind of sometimes makes themselves feel guilty enough to find some old stretchy clothes and go for a jog. In fact, maybes you recall, that one of my aims for the duration of Self-Stitched-September '11 was to make myself at least one jogging appropriate garment and give it a test run before the end of the month. FAIL. I did start this jogging top during September, but the weather was so warm that I wouldn't have been able to wear something with long sleeves to go jogging before the month was up so I didn't see the point in rushing to get it done. I didn't want to make something with short sleeves, as I already have a couple of those to wear for jogging, hence making a variation that I don't already have.

But now it is finished. It's a basic long-sleeved T-shirt made from a pattern I developed yonks ago by tracing the shape of a favourite old T-shirt to get the right fit for the body, then using one of the patterns in Sew U: Home Stretch for the sleeve head and armhole shapes. If you are a stretch/jersey fabric virgin but fancy giving it a go, you really could do worse than get yourself a copy of that book, BTW (I'll pick up my commission later, Wendy!).

The most interesting feature of this top is the little pocket I made on the sleeve for my MP3 player. If I'm jogging during the summer (i.e. without a hoodie on) I rarely take my MP3 player out with me because I don't have anywhere to wedge it as I'm going along. I could of course make one of those arm strap MP3 holders, but A) I'm not too sure where I'd start, and B) my MP3 is really little and light, nothing like a big heavy i-pod, so a pocket on my garment would be more than adequate and far easier to construct.

This little pocket didn't require much effort. It's a bit bigger than the MP3 player (obviously) with a button hole inside it so I can thread the headphone wires through and up to the neck hole to keep the wires from getting in my way when I jog. I can't claim the button hole idea as my own, my boss came up with that stroke of genius.

The fabric is from the streetwear company Howies who, if I've got this right, are now owned by Timberland. Timberland have a relationship with Traid, the charity I work for, and often donate their garment samples and seconds for resale and de/reconstruction. We got sent rolls and rolls of this fabric in three colour ways to make into stuff for our range, TRAIDremade. The other two colour ways were vile so we sent those to be recycled. Meanwhile we have about 40 metres of this stuff! We created a fair few garments for the range out of it, but there's only so many garments you can make from exactly the same fabric and manage to make them look different. So now I am making personal projects from this stuff: vests, pants, baby trousers, this jogging top...... I may make some pyjamas too. I think the print is quite cute. And if you substitute the TV for a laptop, which the fabric is telling me to switch off in favour of donning my running shoes, I can see some relevance!

Overall, it's a pretty good top that I hope will serve me well when the weather is too chilly for going out in short sleeves but too cold for a hoodie, OR when it's so chilly I need a long-sleeved top AND a hoodie. Either way, I'm ready. I must admit, the sleeves are a bit short and the neck hole could be a little wider, but neither would prevent me from enjoying wearing this top. And no, I haven't tested it yet. I will at the weekend, promise!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Homemade Vs. Mass-Produced: Final Showdown

Do you want to know something that really saddens me? When creative people put lots of effort, time and energy into making their own clothes, then compare those clothes unfavourably with mass-produced garments made in a factory then feel pretty rubbish about their work. And do you want to know something that seriously pisses me off? Well, it's the other side of the same coin really. But what pisses me off is the attitude that so many of the general public hold that home-made garments (and yes, for the purposes of this post I am going to refer to our creations as homemade because, let's face it, they are made at home) are inferior to factory made clothes without really being able to express why. I would argue that so many unthinking people who have adopted this view are actually the recipients of a lot of brainwashing delivered through a couple of generations worth of advertising. That advertising has been designed to train us into rabid consumers, perpetually several purchases away from happiness. I want to spend a bit of time today explaining why I feel homemade garments are just as good, if not far better, than mass-produced garments.

  • Ok. I would really like to talk to some teenagers about where they think those sweatshirts in Nike Town come from and how they actually got into the shop. I think the responses would be pretty funny if, in fact, they were able to offer more than a shrug and a confused expression. Garments aren't popped out of a factory fully formed, kids. Garments, whether made in a factory in Asia or on your mum's kitchen table all start life as a bunch of fabric, some reels of thread, and any other things like zips or toggles that are needed for the final product. The differences between those two scenerios is quantity (1000's of metres of fabric or 2 metres of fabric, for example), quality (the stuff on the kitchen table is likely to be better) and cost (the fabric, thread and notions on the kitchen table will be many times more expensive).

  • Creating a garment is simply a series of procedures. Cutting out the pattern pieces, stitching seams, pressing sections, applying interfacing: all procedures that must occur for a garment to come into being. The difference between a homemade garment and a factory made one is that at home, usually it's just one pair of hands that completes those procedures, and a factory it's tens or even hundreds of pairs of hands that each complete a procedure. Which follows...

  • ....the maker of the homemade garment is usually more highly skilled than many of those pairs of hands in that factory. At home, he/she making a garment must figure out how to complete each step and in what order to do them. Most garment factory workers are classed as unskilled as they usually perform one repetative task day in day out. This is sadly one of the reasons many are exploited around the globe, but that is a whole area I'll go into more directly another day.

  • If you've ever spent time unpicking mass-produced garments, you'll often find they have been constructed in a way that is different to how you would approach constructing a similar garment. That doesn't make your approach in any way inferior. A factory's methods of construction and order of each proceedure has been calculated to save the company time, and therefore money. It doesn't make those garments any sturdier or destined for longer life. The order of construction most of us home sewers are likely to employ are also much more likely to facilitate alteration if needed at a later date. Similarly, seam allowances in mass-produced garments are often 1cm (3/5 "), rather than the 1.5cms (5/8") we often work with at home, simply to allow for tighter lay plans (when all the pieces are fitted together like a jigsaw in the most economic way) and therefore to save on overall fabric usage.

  • Possibly the main reason mass produced clothing can sometimes have a slightly crisper appearance to homemade clothing, is that the factory has all manner of machinery home sewers don't have access to. And because of the quantities in question, it is worth their while to employ technicians to tweak those machines so each procedure is completed with maximum efficiency. For example, there will be machines that have been set up to work perfectly with chiffon, because that is probably all that machine will sew all year. It doesn't need to work on denim the following week, or shirting the week after, like our hardworking domestic machines. And as nice as that brand new, ultra-crisp look can be, we all know that it doesn't last the first go through the laundry.

  • Little known fact about me: my parents used to regularly take the mick out of me for always smelling stuff when I was young. I think I may rely on that sense more than most people do, so believe me when I say that I enjoy the 'box-fresh' smell of a brand new mass-produced garment. Why do they have that smell? Because mass produced garments are made from new fabric which has not been washed before going into production. It would be viewed as an unnecessary cost. Almost all fabric is tested before going into production, the percentage a garment is likely to shrink by after washing due to the fabric is calculated and factored into the pattern. Homemade garments don't really have that 'box-fresh' smell because the fabric hasn't come directly from the fabric manufacturers and most home sewers pre-wash their fabric before starting (hands up who learnt that lesson the hard way?!).

  • Many (I hesitate to write 'most' because I don't know for sure) suppliers of high street fashion knowingly create clothes from cheap fabric that has performed poorly in the legally required testing. Fabric is tested by independent companies and can be tested for many things, but there are about four specifics tests it must be put through, however the scores it needs to achieve in those are actually really low to be deemed acceptable for commercial garments. Many suppliers are fully aware, but do not care, that the garments they produce will not retain anything like their original appearance five or ten washes later. Most home sewers, by contrast, go out of their way to pick good quality fabric to invest their sewing time and effort into for a final garment (as opposed to a toile/muslin).

  • Talking of cheap fabric. Many high street suppliers will also rely heavily on using fabric with a very big lycra/elastane content for garments that are meant to be woven but close fitting, like sheath dresses or tighter trousers. This way they can create an acceptable fit for a wider range of customer body shapes. But home sewers do not need to rely on super-stretchy fabric or hoping their measurements fit the manufacturer's standards (which most people don't). Even relatively inexperienced home sewers can create garments with a superior fit to much of what is on offer on the high street.

  • Most retailers will order garments from their suppliers in quantities of 1000's or 10,000's. Which makes the likelihood of seeing someone else wearing 'your' top pretty high. When was the last time you walked into a cafe and felt embarrassed because another woman was wearing a Simplicity 3835 as well?!

I could go on, I really could, but I need some sleep. If anyone still feels less than proud of their homemade clothing, then they are crazy and I can't help them.

Massive love to everyone who has invested their time and creativity into making their own clothing. You look incredibly hot, BTW!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Captain Jacket

Alrightly peops!!! Time to fill you in on the creation I hinted at during my recent outerwear pattern inventory. As I discussed during that post, I view any time spent sewing outerwear as time well spent. For example, since completing my 'final' skirt, I've worn it approx. three times. Since rediscovering my yellow jacket about a year ago, I'd estimate I've worn it eighty times. The jacket probably took twice the length of time to make as that skirt, but in that case, the jacket is still seventy four wears up!

Of course, the more outerwear I have, the fewer times each jacket or coat will see action, but the less they see action, the longer each garment will last (are you following my logic there?!). Plus I felt a void in my wardrobe for a lined jacket (warmer than the yellow jacket) that would look good with trousers/jeans (unlike my leopard coat which looks far better when worn with skirts). My vision was for a boxy style with nautical stylings so I reached for Built by Wendy/Simplicity 4109 (pictured above). I used this pattern for my yellow jacket, and although I felt I made a size too large, I was generally really happy with the fit and proportions. Also, this pattern has no bust darts or waist shaping, so I thought it would give me the boxy, slightly androgynous silhouette I was after.

This pattern has two body length options and two sleeve style options. I went for the shorter body length and used the straight sleeve but altered those to a 'bracelet length' (i.e, slightly longer than 3/4 length) which I hoped would keep the final jacket on the right side of cute and feminine than if I'd kept them full length. The biggest challenge was making a lined jacket from a pattern designed to be unlined. I altered the back neck facing, drafted sleeve hem facings and drafted a full lining pattern. I didn't really know what I was doing to be honest, just applied logic and took my time (this whole project took about a month's worth of lunch hour-sewing sessions) but aside from totally fluffing the insertion of the lining at the hem, the lining looks really good and seems to have the correct amount of ease.

You'll be pleased to know that this whole project came from the depths of my stash, nothing was bought specifically for this project to come to life. The navy wool AND navy poly/sateen lining fabric had been lurking for about four/five years. I think I received them when the mum of an old flatmate of mine decided she didn't want to do sewing any more (whatever, mistaken lady! but thanks). The braid came for the Selvedge magazine stall at the MADE 10 fair last year. Scruffy Badger's lovely sailor jacket reminded me that I had this braid squirrelled away and inspired me to use it in a similar vein, thanks talented lady! The plastic anchor buttons were purchased during the Brighton meetup and fabric swap I organised back in June.

I only had enough of the stripey braid to apply two rows to the sleeves and one row along the top of the patch pockets. If I'd had a bit more, I might have added some to the collar but think it's fine as it is. During construction, after I applied the braid to the sleeves but before I'd finished it all up and added the buttons, I tried it on and it looked suspiciously like something an airline pilot might wear! Which is why I've called it the Captain jacket, as 'Captain' could refer to a pilot AND or the captain of a ship! Oh, how I laugh! (Please note: sarcasm present in that last sentence.)

Today was a bright but chilly Autumnal day. The jacket performed really well when we went for a wander around sunny Brighton. Definately warmer than my yellow jacket, and far less attention seeking! But I doubt my A/W '11 forays in to outerwear end here. I think having a few jacket/coat options to reach for will cheer me up when it's chilly, cold and/or gloomy outside. The success of the Captain jacket is motivating me to make another jacket or coat this year, but the time it's taken puts me off from doing it before attacking a few simpler and quicker projects in the meantime. I'm thinking of getting a second-hand copy of this book to fill in the evident glaring gaps in my knowledge of linings before I attempt any more as well. Are you making any jackets or coats at the moment or do you have any planned for this season?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

'Sew Your Own' by John-Paul Flintoff

‘Sew Your Own’ is a sewing book with a difference. Aside from the glaring fact that it’s written by a dude (let’s be honest, you don’t have to spend too long on Amazon to see that that is a rarity). This book is about why we, or at least some people, engage in sewing, crocheting, knitting and DIY activities in general. And I’m so excited to see sewing-related books like this creeping in, compared to another book on how to do bound buttonholes, make a basic A-line skirt or spruce up your old tops with some crocheted flowers. Those types of books have their place, don’t get me wrong: they aim to arm the reader with some techniques and practical tips to give them enough confidence to give creating stuff a whirl. However, ‘Sew Your Own’ is about the emotional and intellectual journey that led one person to seek out those techniques and tips in the first place.

In this book (originally published under the title ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’), Mr Flintoff shows us why he felt it was worth altering his way of living and interacting with his physical environment. A lot of his inspiration for doing so comes from the many interesting and diverse people he meets and the array of issues he combats in his job as a feature writer for a major British newspaper. I can’t think of any other craft-related books that discuss Buddhism, Victorian industrial production, Peak Oil, feminism, children’s haircuts, voter apathy and refuse collection!

He flags up climate change issues, flaws in our global financial and political systems, the need to relearn long-forgotten practical skills and feel pride in our handiwork, so he’s already preaching to this particular choir. But he manages to do so in such a personable and non-preachy way, largely by filling the book with personal, sweet and thought-provoking anecdotes, that I think most readers would struggle not to be engaged.

Personally, now I’ve read this book I see it as a tool to help me convey to my friends and relatives many of my own motivations. AND explain to them the purpose and relevance of what I do at work, as the charity I work for (TRAID) gets a fair few mentions along the way.

Maybe you sew (or do any craft) for purely relaxation reasons. Maybe related wider issues are of no concern to you. But if they are in any way, I would recommend getting hold of a copy of this book. I’d be surprised if there was nothing you found in it which touched you.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Lace Yoke Sweatshirt Remake

Alright Autumn, I'm ready for you! You can bring on the chilliness now because I've got a cute, cosy little sweatshirt remake lined up.

This started life as a big, stained, unloved and unwanted dude's sweatshirt that we received at work. Usually, if a garment has a stain or mark on it, we'll just use the back and sleeves (if the stain is on the front, of course) and try to match it up with another garment of the same shade to create something new. However, this one was a slightly darker shade of grey marl than most, so I couldn't really see it being used in the usual way so I adopted it for my own ends and took it home to wash out the stain.

Happily is washed up well, so once dried it got the scissor treatment. I cut along the side seams and removed the sleeves. I harvested the neck binding and cut along the shoulder seams. I placed my front and back pattern pieces so the bottom edges married up with the lower edge of the ribbing. I also cut the sleeves to retain the cuff ribbing and left the sleeve seam intact. I wanted the new sleeves to be 3/4 length, seeing as I usually yank up longer sleeves on tops anyhow.

I took a length of wide lace and applied it to the yoke area of the front piece. I carefully stitched around the edge of the lace, making sure the stitching would fall within the seam allowance of all the edges that would be joined to another piece. Then I constructed the whole sweatshirt reusing the original neck binding using an overlocker. As you can see, the sleeveheads have a gathered effect by easing in the excess into the armhole as I inserted the sleeves.

I'm massively loving this little sweatshirt. I made some navy blue versions for work, but I prefer my grey marl one. I really don't need any more navy blue garments in my wardrobe. Or do I?!

UPDATE: I've just discovered that the navy blue ones I made for work are available here:
Please note that those ones have 1/2 length sleeves (not 3/4 length sleeves like my grey marl one.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Poetry and Clothing Project: August

Oh lordy, do I have some catching up to do?! Here I am in chilly, rainy October thinking about garments I made for Harriet back in summer. So, to recap, July's installment of the P&C project consisted of a vintage floral linen skirt and the infamous red swing linen swing trousers, the later being the subject of Harriet's most recent poem which I will share with you shortly.

In the meantime, allow me to show you how I kept my side of the bargain for this project a couple of months ago. August's garment started life as a remnant of fabric (pictured above) that I found in a dustbin bag at work heading to be pulped with a load of other scraps of unwanted fabric. It's some sort of synthetic or synthetic/cotton blend but has the feel and handle of light weight cotton. It's mint green with a nice white paintbrush effect printed design, it reminds me pretty hard of some summer dresses my mum made me in the mid-80's. The fabric looked like it had once formed a section of a dress or skirt that had since been shortened or hacked up at some point. Since the previous package contained only 'bottoms', sending Harriet a sweet summer blouse for August seemed like a plan.

No prizes for guessing what pattern I used for this top!!! Yep, that's right, it's good old Simplicity 3835 (can you believe that they are no longer printing that pattern?! It's such a good pattern for beginners). This is probably the ga-zillionth garment I've made straight or adapted from this pattern. It's a great pattern for light weight fabric like this, and pretty economical fabric-wise too.

To make it's basic form a little more interesting, I included a couple of features I've applied in the past when making things from this pattern. At the back I added a cheeky key hole, the edge of which is bound in self-bias binding. On the front I added two tiny pockets using the same tiny pocket pattern I developed for this version.

Now it's time to take a look at the poem Harriet wrote in response to July's package. She wrote this during her epic cycling trip from Toulouse to Venice and around Greece.

July (Red Trousers)

They are reminiscent of my grandmother,
both of them in fact.

The one: high waist and slim legs
The other: the way she walked as she grew older,
in printed polyester and the way such love weighed her down.

I've no use for red trousers right now -
I'm all lycra and sleeveless vests
little drops of sweat drizzling into shiny spokes
new wheels whizzing along ancient roads.

Still, the vague notion of my grandmothers
creeps in from time to time and penetrates
the day with a sense of thread
tying them to me, stitching this experience
to something they perhaps dreamt of -
a pattern of a fantasy filed
on a shelf but never sewn.

Likewise, I sometimes see the red trousers
strolling towards me across rice fields, pines,
wading through fast running streams,
flagging up some future fantasy
so far unfathomable

or caught in the bottomless sky
like a bright scrap of home.

I think it's so lovely that those trousers have triggered memories of distant grandmothers, in lands that are so far in space and time from the grandmothers' realities of life when they were Harriet's age. It reminds me how lucky we are now, or conversely how unlucky they were, to not have the choices open to them that women like Harriet and I have open to us today. The poem reminds me to take those opportunities with both hands. Not just to travel, because that often has its own set of debates attached to it these days, with the approaching reality of Peak Oil (which I am feeling a bit guilty about right now, having just returned from four days in Istanbul. But to make choices about how to live your life in a way that is most authentic to you, not to let time whizz by like the passing scenery.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

SSS '11: Days 29 & 30 THE END!!!!!

'Tis the final installment in this month of self-stitched craziness. Thanks so mucb to anyone who has followed my progress this month, however vaguely. And MASSIVE thanks to those how left comments along the way, the support is supremely appreciated.

Day 29:

What I wore:

Me-made stripey boat neck T-shirt, navy sateen skirt and pants. Thrifted red cardi occurred briefly but it was far too hot (in the temperature sense!). I FINALLY cut off the anchor buttons I'd stitched to the shoulders of this top, they were just too painful when carrying a heavy shoulder bag, which I do everyday.


So on Day 29 my boss and I travelled to deepest North London to visit the warehouse where all the donated textiles and crap get sorted and processed for the charity we work for. It was a fascinating day and I'll probably blog about the process in the future so won't go into it here. Anyways, whilst we were there we had to sorted through crates and boxes of fabric that had been donated to figure out what we could use and what we couldn't. I cannot understate how dusty and dirty the environment in that warehouse it, plus it was a scorcher so I got really sweaty (hmmm, nice!). Seriously, I haven't felt that clammy since leaving Spain! Anyways, we had a staff social event to attend after so I changed my top:

I am now wearing my tie-collar shirt blouse with the same skirt. Sorry for the ridiculous photo, it was all the documenting I could manage at 11pm on the train home!

Day 30:

What I wore:

For the final day I decided to evoke the spirit of Frida in my Frida Kahlo dress (plus me-made pants and thrifted red cardi, of course).


I really don't wear this dress very often, I think this was only it's third outting. It takes an extra slice of 'I don't care if anyone stares at my dress' determination which is sometimes difficult to muster first thing in the morning. Even my boss temporarily loses her sense of liberalism and eyes it questioningly when I wander in wearing it. But it is so much fun to wear so it will see more action that is currently does.

So there we go! Another me-made/self-stitched month has whizzed by almost before I've got a handle on the fact it's even begun. Once again, the Flickr group has been an absolute joy to witness. So many lovely people sharing their inspirational outfits and fascinating snapshots into their diverse lives. Plus so much support for each other, honestly, if I could bottle that and distribute it, we could end war with the stuff!!! The Facebook group was also a surprise success. To be honest, I didn't get to spend much time there personally, but it's obvious that many preferred that format for participating in this challenge, so having those options was great. I did see some really beautiful images over there that weren't on the Flickr group and vice versa.

There is little I can say about this challenge from a community perspective that I haven't said before in summary to the previous me-made and self-stitched months. It really is so heartening to see people wearing their creations, being proud of them and themselves, looking incredible and showing their individual personalities. I take my hat off to them all and hope that they have got a lot from the experience as I'm sure those following their progress, such as myself, also have.

From a personal view point, it's been an interesting month. One year ago, I participated in Self-Stitched-September '10 with a skeleton wardrobe and under trying circumstances. A year on I am personally more stable and have a year's worth of additional self-stitched garments that I feel reflect me pretty well in this stage of my life. This month I have had a lot more ammunition to work with so I challenged myself to wear a different outfit/combo of garms each day to get me out of my rut of usually reaching for the tried and tested outfits each morning. I succeeded in this element of my personal challenge and in the process learnt a lot about what goes together and what doesn't, plus I've got the body of 30 photos to squeeze out any more of those lessons which may still need absorbing. In fact, I reckon I could keep going creating new combinations of clothing for a couple of weeks if I tried. I also have two dresses that I didn't get round to wearing because the weather really warmed up during the last week.

I made a couple of new garments for myself during the challenge, including a new jacket which I have yet to wear and photograph because of the recent heat wave. Watch this space for that, I'll get some photos today. But thing I failed to do that I said I would at the beginning of this challenge was to make a garment to wear whilst jogging and to use it before the month was out. I have cut it out and am in the process of constructing a long-sleeved running top with snazzy special pocket detail. I could have rushed and got it finished before the month was out, but this warm weather would was prevented me wearing it, so there seemed little point in that.

What else can I say? Well, I can address the future of these challenges I guess. As I said previously, SSS '11 was the last me-made self-stitched challenge I'll be hosting this year. The end of the year always seems to snowball with so much going on and I wouldn't want to host something I couldn't devote enough time and effort to. The three challenges I've hosted this year (Me-Made-March '11, Me-Made-June '11 and Self-Stitched-September '11) all had their different flavours which was due to the different weather going on in various countries for those months, and the different collectives of participants who signed up for the different challenges. It's not set in stone, but for next year I'm currently erring towards hosting just one challenge. Just think, all that awesomeness condensed into one incredible month?! I know whatever month I pick it won't be everyone's 'favourite' but I really can't help that. I'm thinking May. One giant Me-Made-May '12. If anyone is thinking of participating next year, there would be only one chance to stand up to be challenged. I think it could be the stuff legends are made from!

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