Me-Made-May seems such a long time away now, but I still owed you pictures of the second part of my DIY 10×10 challenge. Me-May-Made is an annual challenged in the maker community when we pledge to wear our hand-made wardrobe more than we usually do, be it one item each day or entirely hand-made throughout the month. My personal challenge this year was inspired by the Style Bee 10×10 Challenges, where you need to choose 10 items to be styled into 10 outfits over 10 days. So I decided to put together 3 capsules in May, which consisted of at least 70% hand-made, and style them into different outfits, each containing at least one handmade item each day. I was partially successful in my challenge, and I achieved two of the there capsules. I continued to wear all handmade for the remaining 10 days, I just could not figure out a theme to build a capsule around it with my remaining hand-made items.
What do you do when you are in an unfamiliar city where you don’t know anyone, hundreds of miles away from home?
Why, you find the nearest fabric shop, of course!
This is exactly what I did when I was travelling to a conference in Chicago in May 2018. I have been dreaming of going to America for a very long time, but for various reasons, it took so long for me to get there for the very first time. An architect friend who used to live in America once told me that it’s the most beautiful city in the States (her views, please don’t get up in arms!), so I was particularly excited to start my American adventures here.
Spoiler alert: I loved it, though it took me a bit to get acclimatised to the ‘bigger is better’ way that applies to just about everything over there.
Before I left, I did a bit of research to find some local fabric shops, but I could not find a lot of blogs with recommendations. There are of course Yelp and Google listings, but I wanted to get some views from sewing people. I also asked questions on IG and stalked #chicagosews tag, but not a lot of luck until the very last minute (read on for the whole story).
So, although I only visited two shops, they were something else, and I just had to write a post and save my impressions for other visitors.
May has been the busiest month for me for a very long time. I was travelling to three different countries in the past three weeks, and doing Me-Made-May at the same time. Yup, halfway through it and I’m still in the handmade capsule wardrobe space. However, I am only just catching up on sharing the resulting outfits with you guys (some bits and pieces on Instagram, but I just could not make me take pictures every day).
So, remember how I was aiming to do three capsule wardrobes throughout May, the first of which was based on black/white/reds? Well, I am back with my nicely photographed and accessorised outfits.
So, without further ado…
I was starting to get a bit worried I might be losing my sewing friends over the abundance of capsuling and style related posts lately. But fear not, handmade lovers, this post will actually talk about a project I made with my own two hands, and well, my sewing machine.
I have been dreaming about a pleated midi skirt for ages, and I have loads of Pinterest images saved for inspiration, but somehow I never really got around to making one. I kept looking for patterns and none seemed to hit the mark. Until I asked my friend and sewing goddess, CL Hardie (The Thrifty Stitcher) of the Sewing Bee fame, and she recommended a pattern whose skirt was just right.
I also had the added incentive of a relaxed wedding we had to go to, plus I really wanted this part of my Red Spring capsule to take it with me to the US for my trip last week. It really was the central piece around which I imagined everything else, so definitely no pressure there…
It also happened that I noticed there was a sale on the McCalls website, which usually means that if I order 3 patterns plus shipping still ends up being cheaper than buying them full price in the UK. I got two other MacCalls Spring patterns that I was lusting after, but goodness knows when will they make my sewing queue at the rate of my productivity (or lack there off) lately.
But more about this skirt…
Today I was listening to the Love to Sew podcast episode with Zoe Edwards, the creator of Me Made May. She was discussing about the philosophy of the movement and why it needs to be fun and useful, but also make you push yourself, it’s a challenge after all.
Well, after the first stint of my Me Made May 10×10 capsule wardrobe (read more here about the concept), documenting all the outfits on IG and choosing my second instalment, I am definitely feeling stretched. I am for sure struggling with the documenting part, it does take an inordinate amount of time if you want to get it right (I will be posting a nicely shot post with all my outfits very soon, but in the meantime, please check out my IG account). I was not too worried about capsule 2, as I had thought it out a while ago, but when push came to shove and I had to actually take the clothes out of the wardrobe and form a cohesive capsule, with a theme, well, it was easier said than done.
However, somehow it came together…
I have definitely left this Me-Made-May 2018 pledge to the very last minute. I’m in Chicago at the moment with work, speaking at a sustainability conference (sorry, just had to brag a bit) and it’s 6 PM here, but in the UK is already midnight and therefore already May.
It’s been a super extra early start today, up since 5am and a 9 hours flight, so do pardon me if I am slightly incoherent. It’s been a bit mad lately so I did not have the time to prepare and shoot for this post in time at home, but I did pack the lot with me, so took the pics in my hotel room in Chicago just now. I do feel a bit chuffed with my jet-setting ways, I must confess.
So, to make things official, here is my pledge.
I can’t tell if the Style Bee Spring 10×10 challenge whizzed by because I enjoyed it so much or because it made getting dressed in the mornings so much easier, or both. In any case, the fact is that it’s already over. But the good news is that I have a lot of outfits to share with you as well as my thoughts and conclusions.
What to expect in this post:
A rundown of all my 10 outfits
How did I do against my goals
What I loved and what I did not enjoy about the challenge, as a first-time participant
My favourite pics from #Sewist10x10
This is a bit of a milestone for me, as I am taking part in the now famous 10×10 Challenge for the first time this year. You might have heard Helen and Caroline talking about it on the Love to Sew podcast a while ago. Or you might even have done it yourself.
As someone who has tried and failed repeatedly to a) build a capsule wardrobe and b) complete any styling exercise ever, I am curious how this is going to go for me. I am definitely a minimalist at heart, and getting even more so as I progress through my style journey. So being limited to 10 items over 10 days does not seem daunting at all. I’m actually enjoying the idea of not having to make too many choices when dressing in the morning.
Or I might get ultra fed up and give up half-way through.
Shall I tell you about my choices?
Well, you can’t say I didn’t give this whole print thing an honest go! I used to think that it’s because I just hadn’t found the right print but when I did, I’ll fall in love.
So what better way to find that perfect print than a print on demand service, right? You might already be familiar with Spoonflower, as many people in the sewing community use them. I never tried them, but recently I was contacted by a company called Cotton Bee to give their print on demand service a go.
This little number was the result of this collaboration.
So, did it make me fall in love with prints?
There is nothing wrong with my spelling, in case you were wondering, just a bit of French. It’s also a little nod to a song that sends me back to my childhood (I’ll add the video at the end) and I thought it made for a cute pun – keep on reading to see where I’m coming from.
So why am I turning Francophone on you all of a sudden?
Well, it’s because I am taking part in my second ever blog tour (the activewear one a few weeks ago was the first) for a new to me French pattern company, called Pm-Patterns. I have waxed lyrical about how much I love Indie French patterns and so when I saw the call for the blog tour, I jumped right on it. I was very pleased to be chosen, so here I am sharing my make with you.
So let me tell you more about Pm-patterns… (and make sure you read until the end for a Giveaway!!)
Hello from snowy Milan! Here I am living and breathing the ethos of the #FabricShoppingOnTour project. I absolutely loved that all I need to do was to check the Milan entry in the Alphabetical City Index and I had all the information I needed at my fingertips.
If you are wondering what this project is all about, here’s a quick summary. Launched in December 2017, I decided to make my small contribution to the sewing community. So I started cataloguing existing fabric shopping guides written by fellow sewers that were already published (no commercial directories allowed, only genuine sewing people), with the link to the original blog and the year it was created. I am also contacting local sewists to ask them to contribute a post on their blog writing about the city they live in.
At the beginning of every month, I publish the latest contributions from the previous month, so we can grow the directory and help travelling sewists to find the best fabric souvenirs while ‘on tour’.
So here are the March updates.
Having a plan B is always my way of dealing with difficult situations. What’s the worse that can happen and how can I deal with it? Sure helps to take care of anxiety.
And I have to say I was getting a bit anxious about making this pattern already. This is part of a collaboration with Simplicity, who kindly sent me a few patterns to review. No pressure, Alex! When I chose the patterns, I thought I’d be clever and choose a coat, to give me the impetus I needed to stop procrastinating and make a darn coat already. I started early January, with all the goodwill in the world, but I kept running into all kinds of obstacles. I had planned to publish a post at the end of January and here we are, beyond mid-February and still no coat. And I’m afraid that, for various reasons, that one might be a write-off. Funny thing is that I realised just what went wrong only when I made it again in cardigan version.
Anyway, I had to figure out a really quick project with that pattern, with fabric from the stash, preferably, as I’m trying not to buy any more unless I must. I had used a bit of this grey jersey fabric to make a cardigan for my little niece and it’s been delivered and loved instantly three weeks ago when I was in Denmark. So I had it on my mind and, as it usually does, it clicked and plan B came together (plus inspo from Michelle at That Black Chick). It was a bit of a dash to sew and photograph it at the weekend, – man, I hate winter short days – but thanks to my long-suffering husband, all is well that ends well.
So let me tell you more…
Readers, last week I started running! And I made my own activewear. Now there are two things you would not have caught me dead saying – or attempting, for that matter. In both cases, it was easier than I thought. It was just a question of finding the right person to hold my hand while doing it. And in both cases, I found just that.
For running, it’s this lady called Laura (not even sure it’s her real name), who is the voice behind NHS’s Couch to 5k programme. No idea who she is, but she must be some sort of miracle worker to get me to start running. Readers, I am the opposite of a gym bunny, I used to totally dislike any form of exercise. Now, I’m not saying I am a fitness addict, but I am off the sofa and doing the programme (week one, so far) every other day. I even wake up at stupid o’clock to get it done before I go to work.
Now, I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but 6 am in the UK in February is pretty nippy. So you need something to keep the cold away.
That’s where Melissa, from FehrTrade comes in. Melissa has been the activewear queen for a long time now. Well, she kinda needs to, she runs marathons and all that, plus representing the UK at the World Transplant Games, she does need a fair bit of kit. At the end of January, she released her book, Sew Your Own Activewear, where she is sharing all her knowledge with anybody who is looking to do the same – make their own kit that is, not run marathons (though I’m sure she will have a tip or two for that as well).
I have been invited to take part in the blog tour to review the book, for which I also chose to make a project – a winter base layer top – so here goes for both.
I almost called this the killer dress, but I realised I have said this before very recently! What is it with me choosing maddening projects when I really don’t have the time to faff around, when I have about one hundred other deadlines and I honestly rather be sewing something else? Because I’m a sewing masochist, that’s why!! I have read the reviews on Pattern Review about this one, so I knew people said it was hard. It’s Vogue Designer, right, so what else can it be, it comes with the territory, of course it does. But we all get a bit tunnel visioned, don’t we? And boy, do I ever (PTSD flashback to the cherry dress from the Sewing Bee *slaps forehead*!).
People, this dress is hard! Or it was for me. I spent waaay too much time on it, some of it my fault, as I made stupid mistakes, but the rest it was this blinkin’ pattern! Now don’t get me wrong, the design is awesome! But there is something about Vogue Designer that always seems to me like scratching your left ear with your right hand going around your head (it’s a Romanian phrase, sure won’t make any sense to anyone who is not Romanian, so don’t worry too much). I’m sure no one ever actually hand-stitches in factories where the designer clothes are made (haute couture excluded), so why in the name of all that is good about sewing, are they making us do it! I’m sure there are tips and tricks in the industry on how to construct stuff without having to pick up needle and thread. Only hemming gets a free pass, as I never really mastered the blind stitch on the sewing machine.
Ok, rant over.
On to the dress… There are a few exciting things going on here, like the collaboration with MyFabrics.co.uk, which provided this beautiful fabric for me to review.
Hurray, we all survived January! I feel like I should make myself a slogan t-shirt – seeing that I’m taking part in RTW fast, and I can’t buy myself one – that should say just that. Not sure about you, but my January has been absolutely mental. It started in full swing, with a million projects on the go, and it finished like a damp squib, without having finished hardly any. That’s why I decided February will have to be #FinishItFebruary! I have a bunch of unfinished projects from January and a bunch further commitments I need to complete, but apart from that, I do want to focus on my moderate, yet still super annoying, pile of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and stuff to be mended or tweaked.
But before we get to all that, the first post of the month is dedicated to the #FabricShoppingOnTour project updates.
January is such a navel-gazing month, isn’t it? All that goal setting, planning, resolution-ing just makes us analyse our feelings, habits, relationships, you name it. Well, this January, three brave ladies (Athina, Lisa and Hattie) have decided to put their stories out there and challenged the rest of us in the sewing community to do the same. Together they created the #smyly2018 challenge, which stands for Sewing Makes You Love Yourself. I think the clue is in the name, but in a nutshell, they are asking the sewing community to share their sewing stories, especially around how it helped us with issues of body positivity, mental health difficulties and dealing with tough situations with the help of our beloved hobby. The challenge also includes making a project that makes you feel beautiful and happy.
My January sewing queue is just insane, I have a lot of commitments and also a lot of plans that got postponed because of my sewing room revamp in late November and my loooong holiday in December. So there was no way I could take on another project to be able to take part in this challenge the proper way.
However, having read so many touching, sad, intimate, raw and emotional stories since the beginning of the challenge, I really wanted to give a shout out to all the people who already laid it all bare and spread the word on behalf of the organisers, as well as making my own small contribution.
My dad told me that when I was a child, I used to walk up to ladies on the street and pet their fury coats. It was the 80s, so there were a lot of those going around, and I was 5, so it was cute, not creepy, but the point of the story is that pretty much all my life I have been attracted to soft, pettable materials.
And that is still the case, many many years later. I love soft fake fur, fleece, minky, that thing that fluffy dressing gowns are made of, you name it, I want to just lovingly stroke it.
So of course that the last time I visited Abakhan with my friend Simona, who is a lucky devil for living 10 mins walk to the Bolton shop, I just could not stop myself from getting this piece of stripy micro-furry stuff (no idea what it’s called), like a faux fur, but with short, soft, lovely hairs. I have no idea if it mimics any real animal, but as soon as I laid my hands on it, I could not care less. It was less than a meter and I had no idea what it could be made into, but I just could not let go of it. So I brought it home with me.
But, what to make with it?
One of my 2017 highlights was launching the #FabricShoppingonTour Project, whose aim is to create a repository of locally-validated fabric shops in as many cities around the world as there are sewists.
How am I going to achieve this goal?
The approach is two-fold. I am cataloguing existing guides written by fellow sewists and already published (no commercial directories allowed, only genuine sewing people), with the link to the original blog and the year it was published. This is a great way to discover new sewing bloggers and maybe meet new sewist in your city and gain an IRL friend in the process.
However, what I am most excited about is creating purpose-made local guides for places where I could not find any blog posts about. Sure, loads of people have written about Paris, London or New York, but how about Oslo, or Split in Croatia, or Buenos Aires? My first ports of call were my friends from around the world across the sewing community, who very kindly obliged with the first few instalments, but I will continue to contact sewists around the world that I know live in exciting places. And of course, I am always accepting volunteers.
So, what’s new in the Directory since the beginning of December?
Hello, hello, darlings! Freshly returned from the virtually internet-less Cuba, where I enjoyed the most wonderful 3 weeks of relaxation, you will pardon the delay in presenting you with the customary year review + goals and resolutions New Year post.
In fact, please pardon the lack of customary reviews and goals (though I will put down a few reflections, just for records’ sake).
On the plus side, I have just about celebrated my 3-year bloggoversary, on the 31st Dec, but I was too deep in the clutches of jet lag to be coherent enough to write about it. However, as it is customary, I have a little giveaway for you, courtesy of Simplicity patterns.
This does sound a bit overdramatic, doesn’t it? Well, maybe a tad.
But no other dress I ever sewed, except my wedding dress, put me through the wringer quite as much as this Sophia Dress from Burda Style Magazine Vintage Special. It took a long time, a lot of head scratching and a lot of swearing to turn from pattern+fabric into a dress I can slip into. And all for just one wear…
Was it worth it? Well, read on and tell me what do you think…
Hi everyone! My name is Irina, I live in Cluj, a lovely city from Transylvania and I am thrilled to take you along on a virtual tour of the best fabric shops the city has to offer. I’ve started sewing about a year ago, and I’ve soon become obsessed with all things fabric and notions. The fabric shops in my city have quickly become one of my happy places and I love to pop in to see what new stuff they have. Also, whenever I’m travelling somewhere I always check out the local fabric shops, I think we can all agree that fabric is the best souvenir. So, if you ever find yourself in Cluj, I hope this little guide will help you.
I for one stopped bringing souvenirs back from holidays ages ago, but I do love a bit of a foreign addition to my fabric stash. How lovely to make a project that will not only add a great new garment to your wardrobe but also bring back memories of fantastic far away holidays!
But where are the best places to go fabric shopping when you are in a foreign city? You have Lonely Planet for travelling, but what’s our sewing equivalent?
It brings me great joy to introduce to you all an idea that has been running through my head for a while and now finally it’s becoming reality!
Please welcome ‘FABRIC SHOPPING ON TOUR’ project!
I was out with my sister and her girlfriends during my recent visit to Copenhagen and of course, we love to talk. A lot. My sister is really passionate about psychology and usually, these outings tend to turn into impromptu pour-it-all-out sessions where we lay things out for analysis. And the first thing that spilt out of me was about how much sewing means to me, but also how guilty I feel about it completely taking over my life.
So I started thinking about this a bit more. Clearly, there are many positive effects of sewing on our lives. We create, we unwind, we connect, we escape reality. We surround ourselves with beautiful fabric, we create beautiful clothes that fit the bodies that we have, not that the ones that the fashion industry says we should have.
But is this all there is to it?
Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed as often as I do excited. Or anxious. Or self-pressured. In relation to sewing, of course.
And then there is the guilt. It takes so many shapes that I sometimes feel it’s not just one feeling, there are dozens. So I’ve made a list of the top 10 ones for me so we can compare notes.
Before I started sewing, if someone mentioned TNT, I would think of bombs and explosions. You know, trinitrotoluene, the stuff that is used to detonate things and would show up in cartoons, usually blowing up Wiley Coyote. How misguided I was…
In the sewing world, TNT actually stands for Tried’n’True patterns, i.e. a pattern that you have made loads of versions of and has stood the test of time, fit and wear, to become a wardrobe staple.
Why are we talking about this now?
How big is your pattern stash?
Wait, is this a rude question?
Well, I don’t mind showing you mine, but I genuinely have no idea how big it is. Or what I really have in it. I am a glutton for sugar, fabric and patterns, not necessarily in that order. So I binge, on fabric (like my upcoming trip to Abakhan in Bolton with my friend Simona from Sewing Adventures in the Attic – quivering with anticipation!), on Burda Magazines, PDF patterns, paper patterns, on cake, you name it. Problem is that I end up with a ginormous fabric stash, a massive patterns collection and a few inches on my thighs.
And although I have no answer to the latter problem, I recently found a solution for my pattern collection management.
It is, of course, an app, what else? Please allow me to elaborate…
A few years ago, in a moment of insanity, I ordered a big lot of scuba remnants off eBay. Now, all seasoned sewists know that a remnant lot will most likely be random pieces of fabric, that most of the time cannot actually be used for anything useful.
Well, somehow, I forgot this little details. And I clicked ‘Buy now’ without thinking anything of it. And, surprise, surprise, when my order arrived, there were indeed random pieces of scuba, in various colours, none bigger than about 40×30 cm and some even smaller.
I am definitely of the ‘waste not, want not’ persuasion, so for the past couple of years, I have been working my brain to figure out what to use these pieces for.
I don’t know about you guys, but I find it quite hard to define my style in a few words. I try to go for modern minimalist, but not sure if that always comes across.
However, I can easily tell you what my signature look is. Anything with a little bit of pleather on it. Man, I love faux leather and I could literally add it on to anything! Case in point, the pleather sleeves here and here, the pleather chiffon dress here, more pleather inserts here and more sleeves here.
So you would have thought that I got this pleather sewing down to a T.
Well, you would be wrong! I only realised last week that I have been making my life harder than it needed to be for no good reason.
Let me tell you what I learned that changed it all!
My train arrives in Manchester at 12.30 on a very cold, but sunny Saturday in January 2017. I am literally chomping at the bit to get off the train. With a brief, absent-minded kiss to my husband, I rush as if hypnotised out of the train station. Never mind pedestrians, traffic, Saturday tourists. I am dragging my minuscule suitcase after me at an incredible speed. I almost run, filled with giddy excitement. It feels almost like a date, my heart rate is up, my cheeks are flushed. And finally, I arrive…
My living room floor is currently covered with the ENTIRE content of my sewing room! It’s complete CHAOS! (Psst, don’t tell my husband, he’s away for a few days and I hope to have it all back to perfection before he gets back). And it all started with getting my eyes checked and having pupil dilation drops put it.
Lately, I have been thinking about overhauling my sewing room more than I do about new sewing projects. I am really grateful to have a sewing room – our spare bedroom – but that leaves us with the issue of where do our guests sleep. Currently, it’s an airbed on the sewing room floor. I have been working my brain for ages to figure out how to put in a better sleeping solution. Well, try as I might that’s not happening, but I am getting a built-in wardrobe to tidy things up a bit. And I am shuffling things around to make a bit more room on the floor for a bigger air bed. Not ideal, but I will have a really nice sewing room.
Sometimes you just need a short and sweet little make in your (sewing) life. Something that sews up quickly and it’s also satisfying, and if it happens to be a wardrobe filler, well, then, that’s a Brucie bonus. You would not believe that this little top ticks all those boxes, buy my oh my, it so does. I had a completely different idea when I first picked up this pattern but in the end, I just left it as it was and super happy with it. (more…)