Tuesday, 29 January 2013

I'm in The Jar!

If you ever read sewing blogs (umm, and my guess is that you do!) you'll probably have seen the above little widget/gadget/logo popping up all over the damn place. It's the badge of honour for those of us who, at least metaphorically, now reside in The Jar! The truly awesome Karen of 'Did you make that?' blog had an ingenious idea which she launched on 1st January to help makers-of-clothing to define and stick to their garment-making ambitions for 2013. 

A whopping 187 sewers, knitters, crocheters and refashioners shared their creative aims for the new year with Karen, and bless her she diligently wrote every single one of those names on pieces of paper and put us all in The Jar. 

In a further, fascinating blog post on the subject complete with statistics and graphs, Karen shared what the most popular pledges/aims were. My own pledge, 12 wearable self-made garments in 12 months, was one of the clear favourites, comprising of just over a fifth of pledges. 

I found it really interesting that, with so many individuals taking part, that there were so many of us choosing the same pledges/aims. The other popular pledges, like conquering fit, making a successful pair of trousers or a coat, it shows how so many of us get stuck with certain projects and the sense of not being alone will hopefully create the push needed to achieve our creative desires. 

As for me and my pledge, I honestly don't think that creating 12 garments in 12 months will be too challenging. What is important in this pledge for me is that they must be wearable. And by wearable, I mean they have to be successful enough in comfort, fit and in reflecting my sense of style, that they become regularly worn items, not just items that get dragged out for Me-Made-May each year (yes I confess that there are some!). 

So, the massive Me-Made clear out I recently had (part 1 and part 2) has cleared lots of space for new, wearable items. I'm not going to map out a year-long sewing plan, as I like to be freer with my sewing decisions, but I do know for sure that there won't be any skirts made this year. Having said that... You see?! I can't be held down.

If you are also in The Jar, I wish you a happy year of meeting your creative aims and fulfilling your wardrobe desires. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Refashion Friday Is Away. However...

Source: madebylex.com via Zoe on Pinterest

Technically Refashion Friday is on holiday. I'm actually in Iceland for a few days with Patty and Mumma E and I've been a super busy bee recently so haven't had time to rig up a detailed Refashion Friday post in advance. However, I understand that you came over to my blog today because you wanted a refashioning fix, dammit! I understand, really I do. So may I suggest you head over to my Pinterest board entitled Refashioning Project Ideas where I have collated some awesome images and links from the interwebs (including the ones pictured here) that will doubtlessly get your refashioning whistle thoroughly wetted.

If you plan to get some refashioning done this weekend, I wish you a successful and happy session! See you when I return from the cold, dark, intriguing place...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Me-Made Clear Out: Round Two

This post is the second part of my cathartic clear out of much-and-not-so-much-loved me-made garments. I really appreciate the supportive comments that the first instalment received. I know that it's not the most fascinating topic for not only one but TWO blog posts, and I am grateful to everyone for letting me get this out of my system!

A couple of commenters asked me about what I did with dead garments. I took them to a TRAID (my former employers) textiles bank. I roughly explained the process of what happens to items that are donated into the banks in this blog post (with pictures!). But in short, if textile items aren't appropriate for resale in their current state (and I'd been hella surprised if mine are considered as such!), they are sorted into ENORMOUS piles that get sold on to a recycling processing plant. This recoiling plant will then shred up the old textiles to create fibres that will be used in a variety of purposes, from creating polar fleece to stuffing sofas. And the charity then makes a bit of cash even, if the garment can't directly be sold in their shops. This is why I always bag up my left over scraps from sewing projects and chuck those into textiles recycling banks rather than the bin because I know it'll do more good going in there than heading to the landfill.

So, on with the cull....

It really pains me to part with this ruffle front jumper. It absolutely saved my life during the first ever Me-Made-March, which I undertook as a solo effort before thinking perhaps others might like to join me and give it a go (hence the birth of the Me-Made-May and Self-Stitched-September challenges). Why oh why can you wash a garment a squillion times, then one time you wash it again on exactly the same setting you always use and it shrinks beyond wearability?! Riddle me THAT!

This was the Port Elizabeth T-shirt pattern that was available for free via Burdastyle a couple of years ago (though kindly designed and uploaded by a member, not Burdastyle itself I am quick to add), but good luck finding free stuff on that site anymore! I made it because I was intrigued by the silhouette, wondering if it would suit me. Plus it looked like a super-quick project to make (it was) and I was just about to start a new job that required black clothing of which I had none. Turns out it suited neither my sense of style nor my body shape, although I still have a fondness for it!

How I loved these cheeky Ruby shorts! I spent my 30th birthday party in them and many other happy times. I would never have approached making or wearing such revealing clothing before living in Barcelona. But I guess a combination of suddenly living somewhere where everybody is showing far more flesh for a big part of the year than I was previously used to, plus it being just way too hot for wearing my usual jeans, I had to get used to exposing my own limbs!

Ah, the school boy trousers. These are still as comfortable as pyjama bottoms, but I've come to realise they aren't particularly flattering (saggy bum by the end of the day!) and not really the kind of silhouette I want to wear these days, although a 20 year old me would have lived and died in them. Does anyone else have an attachment to a garment because they know a younger version of themselves would have adored it?! Anyways, I also got some bloody latex glue split on them at my part-time hat-making job, which really hammered the final nail in the coffin. That said, I'm still going to wear them to that job, seeing as any newly made nicer trousers would be at risk of the same fate. 

I love this use of two unwanted mens shirts to create this cute blouse, however mine was always a good size too big for me. I'd rather make another than try and fanny around with this one trying to achieve a better fit. 

Oh my poor darling Ship Shape blouse! I virtually lived in this when I lived in Spain. It was made from the softest navy cotton sateen, and was a joy to wear as well as neatly reflecting my personal style whilst simultaneously being work-appropriate when I went to the posher of my English-teaching clients at that time. So many trips round the washing machine meant the detail on the buttons wore clean away and the collar had started to fray, along with other terminal signs of over-use. 

What can I say? My machining machine hates me.

Ok, I had to finally admit I made this refashioned sweatshirt top too short. This has found a new loving home with my friend Kirstin though, so this one has a happy ending.

I must admit I had very low expectations of the lifespan of this stripey T-shirt. When Breton and stripey jersey tops came into Vogue again a few years ago, I fell in love and yearned for my own. However, the selection available in the fabric stores I frequented in Barcelona was pretty limited at that time. This jersey was some of that fairly nasty, papery feeling stuff that gets super stiff when it dries after washing. The weave was also really wonky, so cutting out the pieces was a real challenge, and trying to get properly horizontal stripes resulted in twisty annoying sleeve seams. I really expected this top to last perhaps twenty wears, however several years of near constant wear and washing and it's only just given up the ghost. RIP, stripey T-shirt. I have already made a kind of replacement, and there will be more stripey jersey tops made this year, of that I am sure.

Thanks for your indulgence, dear readers!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Me-Made Clear Out: Round One

The new year is as good a time as any for a clear out of unworn garments. Especially if one of your New Year's Resolutions is to populate your wardrobe with garments that more accurately reflect how you truly want to dress. But when most of your current clothing selection has been hand made by your very self, a big clear out can some times be harder to face, as Winnie noted in the fabulous guest post she wrote whilst I was away honeymooning last year.

It's probably because we know full well how many (wo)man-hours went into each element of the creation that it can be so hard to part with them, even though they are gathering dust and you know they aren't going to be worn again. But when my drawer where my clothes that won't fit on my rail began to refuse to close, I knew it was time to sift out the bad items and take them to the textiles recycling bank, and make way for the lovely creations I plan to make this year. So, come Me-Made-May '13, what won't you be seeing anymore...

Awesome fabric, cute style, BAD FIT. I'm never going to wear this blouse again because it's way too large round the shoulders and I can't muster the motivation to unpick and rework it as much as would be required. 

Not that it ever stopped me from wearing it, but if I'm honest with myself, my black sateen Jenny skirt never fitted very well round the waist. So it's out on two counts. 

Oh my precious Leopard Collar Batwing top, how I love thee!!! Yet I had to accept that much wearing and laundering have taken their toll and the once lovely, drapey fabric now clings and hangs in an unpleasant fashion. Fear not though, I intend to harvest the collar and recreate this lovely garment when I dig out some suitably drapey jersey from the depths of my stash. 

It may sounds like an exaggeration, but this is hands down the best and most versatile top I've ever owned. Will recreate, the hole it leaves in my wardrobe is too great. 

I can scarcely believe I am saying this, but my denim sailor trousers have to go. I have worn them so often since I made them a few years ago, that  the gap they would leave is too great so I have to make a similar garment to ease their passing. They've been washed so many times that they're really faded in a not entirely attractive way, plus they are now too short, despite having let down the hem as much as physically possible. I might see what they look like if I cut the legs off and make them into little sailor shorts.  

Oh goodness, look at that saggy fabric around the crotch area! NOT NICE. The denim version I made of these shorts also have to go for the same reason. I've already graded the pattern down, so I may try and recreate these in the future. Though with the amount of snow on the ground right now, I can't imagine EVER needing a pair of shorts! 

This lovely mustard jersey was just too damn drapey for this style of top. It would have been ideal for a slinky batwing top, but there was never enough for that anyhow. This top was always too short as well. Bye bye. 

I have a lot of fun designing this ice cream sellers top, and it gave the opportunity to try out a couple of ideas, so I don't regret the process. However, since this photo was taken I never wore it, perhaps because the sleeve cuffs prevented cardigan layering, perhaps because I actually hate wearing pastel colours and have nothing to match with it. Probably a combination. Ah well... 

Having declared that these capri pants/cropped trousers might be the most comfortable trousers in the world, I've eventually come to understand that their innate comfort stems from being at least one whole size too big. And not too big in a 'nip them in at the side seams' type big, as in a 'totally started with the wrong size and the whole crotch area is too damn large' type big. To be honest, I'm done with trying to tweak the Colette Patterns Clover capri pattern. I'm going to start elsewhere for my quest to create the perfect capri pants. 

This little remade jumper served me well, and I thank it for it's hard work. However it is time for it to retire, particularly because my belly keeps popping out from underneath since it shrunk in the wash!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

An Ode to Emerald and Jade

Source: wwepw.com via Zoe on Pinterest

The occurrence is about as rare as a blue moon (every two to three years, if Wikipedia is to be believed), but on occasion I genuinely like what is considering to be 'in', stylistically speaking. Not really since the bib fronted dresses and blouses with Peter Pan Collars and self-covered buttons looks that were floating around a few years ago has my stylistic tendencies aligned themselves with popular taste.

Source: us.asos.com via Zoe on Pinterest

My love for wearing emerald and jade tones started a couple of years ago when I bought the second hand Vans pictured below on eBay. But it took a blog post on the Burdastyle website (which I pretty much never check) to catch my eye to learn that popular culture is apparently now in agreement with me.

The introduction of these into my wardrobe showed me how good this colour goes with the other colours I usually wear (black, navy, white, red and mustard, nautical stripey and leopard print... yes I do consider those last two colours!). As a woman with 'Winter' colouring (!), I'm meant to wear clear, bright jewel colours, which I agree I look best in. Since then, emerald and jade have been welcome new comers to my wardrobe when suitable fabric and second hand items avail themselves.

Sewing-wise, I've made a jade coloured peplum stretch top (pictured above) and a jade bolero shrug (pictured below), and thrifting-wise I recently scored an emerald shrug from a charity shop in York over Christmas. Having a hunt through my Pinterest boards, it appears my subconscious has been sourcing garments in these shades for a while! It's also more recently been considering how to introduce them into outfits.

Source: kaboodle.com via Zoe on Pinterest

Friday, 18 January 2013

Refashion Friday: Replace Boring Buttons!

Ok, so I'm not reinventing the wheel with the idea covered in this post, but I wanted to talk about the simplest way to reinvigorate a cardigan (or shirt or blouse). If you have such a garment that has fallen out of favour and wardrobe rotation, or you picked up something in a charity shop (just as I did recently, see garment below) and it feels a bit 'meh', changing the buttons for nicer ones can make it look and feel almost like a totally new item of clothing.

The tomato red cardigan that I scored in a charity shop last month was in many ways perfect: a lovely '50's shape, soft texture, warm and the perfect size for me. However the buttons were a strange off-orange tone that made the whole garment look really 'granny-ish' (close up below). 

I am lucky enough to have a sizeable stash of buttons, many of which I've harvested from garments that were heading to the recycling bank, and I sifted through to find a set that were appropriate in size, quantity and look. It may not surprise you to learn that I have quite a few sets of anchor buttons, but unfortunately they were all sets of six, and this cardi requires seven. In the end I decided on this cute red and white plastic set (pictured below) that have already had a former incarnation on at least one of my garments before this. I really like these buttons, probably because they remind me of sweets!  

Two great things about changing the buttons on a garment is that, A) it doesn't take very long, and B) you can do it again and again if you get bored quickly or find cuter sets of buttons later on than the set you originally plumbed for. One point to mention about sizing: if you find new buttons that are a little smaller than the ones you wish to replace, it's not a problem if you are prepared to spend a little extra time stitching the buttonholes together a little, thus reducing their capacity so the cardigan (or shirt or blouse) doesn't pop open with annoying frequency. However, if you find some fabulous new buttons you want to use that are bigger than the initial buttons, creating bigger holes may prove to be quite a headache and you risk fraying the buttonholes. That said, you could stitch the buttonholes closed completely, stitch the new bigger buttons on top of the former buttonholes, and apply poppers/press studs behind for a functional closure.  

Because I'm basically a button junky, and simply looking a pretty buttons can provide some sort of fix, I checked out the current stock at vintage button purveyor The Polished Button's Etsy shop, to see what kind of cardigan appropriate items they may have. My favourites right now are, the gold stud buttons pictured at the top of this post, the black and gold mod style buttons pictured above and the white oval buttons pictured below.

One final idea for replacing buttons even if you don't have an appropriate set in your stash and don't want to buy any especially is to create a cute mixed look like the cardigan pictured below. (Yes this is the third time I've used this Pinterest pin to illustrate a blog post in recent months. That is how enamoured I am by it.)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Nautical Knot Dress

If anyone thought my love of nautical stylings may be on the wane, then think again! I would like to introduce you to my latest boating-based wardrobe addition: the Nautical Knot Dress! Boats. Knots. More boats. More knots... 

As I mentioned in my round up of 2012 post, for a couple of reasons, my sewing mojo all but disappeared at the tail end of last year. This is the only thing I made in 2012 after all my wedding hoopla was completed. It's taken a few months to find an opportunity to get some decent pictures, day light levels being as they are in Winter. 


The pattern I used was a vintage McCall's, number 6636, that's been in my stash for about a year. I scored it pretty cheaply from eBay after becoming intrigued by the interesting bust shaping and enchanted by the pattern envelope illustration. 

Pattern Sizing and Changes: 

It is a bust 34", which always seems the best starting point for me when it comes to vintage patterns. I would usually fold out 2 cms from the depth of the bodice to accommodate my short-waisteness (AKA naturally high waist) but something told me not to do that this time, and I'm glad I didn't because the waist seam sits just fine, a little high even, with no adjustment made. One change to the pattern I did make was to add 4 cms in total around the waist because vintage patterns can often be so unforgiving for a lady such as I who likes cake! However it's come out a bit too big around the waist, but at least I can go to lunch without feeling restricted (which I did today with the very lovely Kathryn and some of her equally lovely London laydeez). I also removed an enormous chunk off the length of the full skirt!

Fabric Choice:

So I've temporarily stopped pussying around with fabric featuring nautical style stripes and tiny anchors. Time to man up and stick some frikkin' boats on my body!!! And like I said a while back, curtaining can be an excellent source of garment sewing fabric, and I think I've proved that here! This fabric started life as a HUGE curtain my mum scored from a charity shop. I think she got it with half an eye to making some cushion covers for the cosy little interior of my dad's boat, but there is really only so many scatter cushions a small boat requires and I ended up with this fabric instead. Happy day! 

I'm not sure if you can see clearly enough in these pics, apols for a lack of close-ups, but the fabric design features line drawings AND water colours of yachts, plus some fancy rope work sketches AND some boaty stuff written in French. Damn. I made sure I positioned the front pattern piece so a rope work knot was in clear view. 

Did it look like the illustration on the pattern envelope when you were done?

Does it ever?! Umm, not entirely but then I never make a toile so I know it's therefore always slightly my fault. Even though it is against my natural inclination, I chose to make the full skirted version rather than the slim skirt version. This was for two reasons: the first being that I had so much damn fabric I may as well; and the second was that I just couldn't see that gathered-waist-into-a-slim-skirt effect going well. 

The main area of interest of this pattern is of course the crazy bust area with it's seaming and weird little bust darts. The seams actually go up into a point at the armpit area, which was really tricky to sew. I had a suspicion that the bust point of this pattern would be way higher than is natural for today's body shapes, but there was no way I was going to fanny around trying to lower it. Those suspicions were well founded as the bust darts are crazy-high. It might be a problem if I'd made this in a solid fabric, but the print hides it and I'm just not that bothered about a perfect fit on a dress that was kind of an experiment any how and I'll probably only wear a few times a year. 

Would I sew this pattern again?

No. I have too many untried patterns in my stash to spend a large chunk of time trying to perfect the fit of this pattern. It was a fun experiment and the result is a dress I'll definitely wear so it's all good. I would be tempted to therefore give the pattern away so someone else can fill their boots, but I love the envelope illustration so much I'm planning on framing it and putting it up with a few more favourites above my desk in my desk share space. I will, however, probably use the skirt pattern pieces again. Previously I'd only ever made full skirts from gathering up long rectangles. This skirt has such a lovely fullness to it, even if it does look a bit like a little girl's party dress!  

Oh yeah, I've just realised a lack of garment makery means a lack of self-photos so there hasn't been any photos of me on this blog taken since September. Maybes the fact that I've 'ombre'd' my hair may come of a shock to you. I can only apologise. And I promise the awkward side-fringe/growing-out effect is just a phase. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Charity Shop Successes

Although the vast majority of my wardrobe is me-made, I do go hunting in charity shops for second hand gems to supplement my self-created wearables. When I visit charity shops (AKA thrift stores, op shops) I look for things that I can't make myself, in particular knitwear (especially fine knits that I'll never be able to recreate even if I learn to knit), footwear and some other manufactured things like belts and purses. It may sound mental, but I probably wouldn't ever by a second hand skirt or t-shirt, no matter how nice they were, because I can make those types of garments and I dislike wearing things I didn't make myself. However, when I'm in the charity shop, I do scout about for fabric, textiles (curtains, bedding, etc.) or garments that have remaking/refashioning potential. 

Seeing as I was pretty disdainful recently about the 'gentrification' or 'bland-ification' of lots of charity shops round my way, I felt I should balance things out a bit by sharing some major charity shop hauls I had recently. 

First up, I want to show you the scores I acquired when visiting York (in the North) over the Christmas break. I have to say that, from the few I went in anyway, most of them had the boring appearance of the  Southern ones I was previously moaning about, and they seemed to favour newish things in the same manner, but there seemed to be a bit more variety generally, and they were definitely cheaper. A cardigan in the British Heart Foundation in Brighton will set you back about £5. In the British Heart Foundation in York? £3.50. Perversely, the lower price tag meant I went mental and bought loads of stuff when usually I'd hold myself back and buy only one or two items. So, what did I buy?

Red 1950's style cardigan. This is super soft and my preferred shape of cardigan! The buttons need changing though, but I kind of like it more because I need to alter it in some way. 

Emerald cardigan/shrug. This was originally from a fairly pricey shop, which would usually mean the shop assistants would hike the price up, but in the shops in York the garment's brand didn't seem to effect the second hand price at all. This is a blend of all kinds of soft stuff like Angora. The kind of fibres I could never justify buying new. Not that I buy anything new. 

Big black cardigan. This is super soft and cosy and is going to keep me warm at my desk space, which can get mighty chilly. It's made by (or more specifically, for) one of those cheap supermarket brands which I'd normally steer clear of, but this is virtually unworn and not at all bobbley from laundering.  

Stripey Anchor jumper. Say what?! Yep that anchor is gold. Yep it now belongs to me. 

Snake print ballet flats. These look like they've been worn twice, tops. Not amazingly comfy just yet because they are synthetic, but I'm hoping I can break them in. Or they can break my feet in. Either way. 

Leather bow detail purse/wallet. This is just the kind of purse I've been looking for as it's got lots of those compartments for your bank cards and coffee shop loyalty cards inside. Plus it's brand new (there's a sales sticker from the previous shop still on the inside), my favourite colour, real leather, has a cute bow detail AND Patty offered to pay for it for me. Aww!

So all the above happened in York in just two shops within a space of about 20 mins. I was basically high afterwards! My faith in charity shops for still containing stuff I want at a price that doesn't almost match the original price when it was new has been restored. I'm just going to stop going in the ones in Brighton.

But that isn't everything I've scored of late. Here are some beauts I got when I was back visiting in the Motherland (Essex) before Christmas. I hooked up with charity shop deviant (yeah, she's that good!) Miss P and we blitzed Leigh on Sea, my old stomping ground. 

Navy cardigan with white scallop edging. This has definitely seen better days but it's a lovely shape, perfect colour for my wardrobe and I love the scallop detail so I'm hoping I can get whatever-I-paid-for-it's worth of wear before it properly dies. 

Mustard linen table cloth with white pattern. This is just big enough to hopefully squeeze a summer top out of. I think its slinky, drapey linen texture will best suit something tunicy and loose-ish fitting. I don't really wear things like that too much these days, but I'll make an exception for this lovely colour that will look ace with navy jeggings (that I haven't made yet) or denim sailor shorts (that I also haven't made yet).  So that's two potential outfits created by combining three garments, none of which currently exist!

1980's faux-leather navy and white clutch. Umm, how great is this?! I have a thing for perforated leather (or faux-leather in this case). Not sure how much use it'll see, but I can always re-donate it back to charity if it doesn't see the light of day much. 

The one that got away:

I know. In hindsight I fu&%ed up. 

How about you? Have you had any excellent charity shop/thift store/op shop scores recently?
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