The Refashion Checklist – ’80s peplum blouse

80s blouse 1I love it when a refashion comes together.

What once was a monstrosity of an ’80s blouse, complete with shoulder pads which made me look eligible for the Lions, is now a cute peplum blouse with a touch of the ’50s about it. Much better.

blouse backTo begin with, the blouse was fairly shapeless. Rather than darts, it had some tucks gathering it at the waist, where it was attached to the peplum. On Instagram, Clare suggested sleeves off and sides taken in to take the blouse back 30 years to the ’50s.

In the end, I decided to rip the whole thing apart, taking off the peplum and ironing out the tucks. Using a bodice block pattern, I turned the top back to front, adding waist and bust darts, as well as a pair of darts at the back. I kept the buttons at the back as well as part of the collar, enclosing the raw edges around the sleeves and the neckline with black bias binding.

I ended up sewing most of the seams with my overlocker, as the fabric was pretty bad for fraying. It’s not a tool I use as often as I’d like – I forgot how satisfying it can be to have a seam stitched, trimmed and finished in one fell swoop!

80s peplum blouse refashion

One reattached peplum later, et voila! A blouse I will actually wear. Please excuse the unflattering jeans/jeggings I’m sporting in the pics – they’re the only “jeans” I actually own, but fit horribly because they’ve got an elasticated waist. Fit.

DSC00076I hope the nice pictures make up for the lack of Me Made May posts this year. Truth be told, for the latter part of May at least, I absolutely did not want to take pictures of myself at all.

On the plus side, things are on the up – not least due to a fancy pants new camera! I had lots of fun having a play with it this weekend.

That’s one item off the refashion checklist. Huzzah!

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The Refashioning Checklist, or, six garments I need to chop up

One of the great benefits of sewing is being able to take a pair of scissors to an unwanted garment and create something worth wearing.

That’s the logic, anyway. But more often than not, I’ll buy or adopt something second-hand with the best refashioning intentions – yet it ends up at the bottom of my wardrobe all the same. Usually, it’s discarded in favour of a sewing project with new and shiny fabric. As Zoe pointed out recently, adding to the stash is not that much different to buying new.

To remedy this, I’ve rummaged in the deepest depths of my darkest drawers to find six items I need to refashion, pronto, lest they be banished to the wardrobe whirlpool until they get eaten by moths or something.

They include second-hand purchases I’ve since had second thought about, donated items, found items and even a very recent me-made. The main thing is, I can’t just leave these unworn in my wardrobe much longer – otherwise, what’s the point of having them at all?

The 80s hangover blouse

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Me Made May ’12 – Second-hand as good as new

If I’ve learnt anything while doing the Seamless pledge, it’s that second-hand clothing is just as good as new, if not better.

charity shop oxfam boutique

Most people who’ve been around the sewing blogosphere long enough for the likes of Wardrobe Refashion, New Dress a Day and Sew I Thought will know charity and second-hand shops are a godsend for anyone keeping an eye on their clothing consumption. It’s starting to become more and more mainstream as belts continue to tighten, with the likes of Marks and Spencer’s “shwopping campaign”, as Zoe wrote about on her blog recently, becoming de rigueur.

I do most of my second-hand shopping at charity shops, being lucky enough to live around the corner from Albany Road in Cardiff, where some real treasures can be found on the numerous charity shops along the street. But charity shops are obviously a two-way thing and they rely on our old and unwanted clothing to keep going and keep raising money.

Last year, 64 per cent of you told me you donate your old clothes to charity, but I also found charity shops are struggling somewhat when it comes to donations. Hard times mean less shopping and fewer wardrobe clearouts.

This month, cancer charity Tenovus is running a campaign in my area to try and get people donating. Liz Rawlins, the charity’s PR and Communications Manager (and fellow blogger!) explained the difference one bag of clothing could make to a charity shop:

“Every single item donated to any one of our shops raises vital funds that enable us to support cancer patients and their families across Wales.

“One bag of clothing makes on average £20, and that £20 means we can continue to provide services such as treating people closer to home on our Mobile
Cancer Support Unit, bereavement counseling and keeping our freephone cancer support line open 7 days a week”.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much, much rather be helping to make this extra £20 for a charity than contributing some extra pennies to a multi-national company.

For the “Worn by You, Loved by Us” campaign, Tenovus set up a great little fashion shoot in Cardiff using clothing from their shops, modelled by staff from Tenovus. All the photos were taken by Amy Davies of Cardiff Arcades fame, so they’re pretty schnazzy to say the least, showing off second-hand clothing AND one of Cardiff’s amazing arcades.

As it happens, Me Made May Day 24 happened to be all about the charity shops, as I donned my refashioned vintage skirt and skinny men’s belt for a day of exam mocks and revision. In fact, aside from the cardigan, my whole outfit had passed through other hands before they arrived in my wardrobe.

The scarf is yet another vintage one from Lush, the necklace and my cream lace top were both birthday presents and my Mum bought me the shoes this time last year when she noticed how full of holes my favourite pair of pumps were.

But here’s the fun bit – I was heading back from the Students’ Union when someone working for More! magazine stopped me to ask if they could take a photo of my outfit. For those of you who aren’t familiar with More!, it’s a fashion/celeb women’s magazine which is pretty popular over here.

I won’t lie, it felt like a small victory to attract the attention of someone employed by a magazine with a direct interest in promoting fashion and the high street.  Score one for second-hand fashion!

So I’ve divulged my favourite charity shop haunt, what about yours? Where do you, without fail, manage to find something fab to refashion. I promise I won’t tell…

Where do your clothes come from?

Do you know where your clothes come from?

Click on the image to see the interactive version

As sewers, generally the answer is a resounding yes. You’re not likely to forget after hours of stitching now are you? But if you’re anything like me, your wardrobe is probably mostly made up of mass-made and high-street clothing – and this is where the answer becomes less clear.

I tuned into new documentary Mary’s Bottom Line the other day, featuring high-street guru Mary Portas’s attempts to bring clothing manufacturing back to Britain. As you know, this isn’t the first time Portas has featured on this blog – this time, I wanted to see how my own wardrobe measured up to the issues she faces in her programme.

It was simple really, I just checked the labels to see where my clothes were made, jotting up the totals. I left out underwear, but counted garments I’d bought in charity shops. Obviously self-made garments came under their own category.

To be honest, the first thing which struck me was the sheer amount of clothing I own! I counted about 70 garments – who really needs 70 items of clothing?

As for where they came from – in terms of where I bought them, the vast majority come from high-street names like New Look, H&M and Topshop. With the exception of clothing I bought while living in Germany, the majority of it was bought here in the U.K.

But my clothes come from parts of the globe I’ve never even been to. Truth be told, I wasn’t overly surprised. After all, in the UK, 90% of our clothing is manufactured abroad. There just aren’t a great deal of British companies making clothing at home anymore.

When you actually break down the contents of my wardrobe, no less than 18 countries are represented. One blouse bought from New Look came from Bangladesh while another garment hailed from Turkey. The only British garments in my wardrobe came from small clothing labels Rare, Love Label and Quiz. Ironically, a dress I own from Lipsy London was made in China.

As I said, it’s not particularly surprising, yet it wasn’t anything I’d really considered before. Generally I don’t have a problem with buying something made abroad if it was made by people being paid a fair wage (and that’s a topic which deserves its own blog), but I didn’t quite realise how little I own is actually made in the U.K.

On the plus side, the self-made portion of my wardrobe is growing, slowly but surely. Progress!

What do you think? Does it matter if most of my clothes weren’t made in the U.K? Where do your clothes come from?

Cardiff charity shops are already doing what Mary Portas wants

charity shop oxfam boutique

The Portas Review was released this week, outlining Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas’s recommendations to brighten up the UK’s failing high streets.

What Portas wants for the British high street is a vibrant sense of community – but I’ve noticed a couple of charity shops here in Cardiff are already working towards this.

Just a load of second-hand junk?

It’s difficult to find a British high street without at least one charity shop. In fact, it was rumoured Portas would recommend a cap on charity shops, something which wasn’t taken well by the Charity Retail Association.

In the end, Portas hasn’t recommended this cap, but it was clear she saw an abundance of charity shops as one sign of a high street in decline. She said:

“When a high street has too much of one thing it tips the balance of the location and inevitably puts off potential retailers and investors. Too many charity shops on one high street are an obvious example of this. Funnily enough, too many fried chicken shops have the same effect.”
Despite having her own line of charity shops, Portas pretty much puts them in the same category as the kind of eateries on Chippy Lane. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Caroline Street in Cardiff – it ain’t classy.

Does she have a point?

You obviously know how much I love charity shops, but what did my Twitter followers think?

https://twitter.com/#!/sprinklecone/status/147007511734657024

https://twitter.com/#!/sarahditum/status/146922893677309952

https://twitter.com/#!/mirshad/status/147012881089699840

You can read the other responses in this Storify!

Overall, their attitudes are pretty positive, yet there is still this overriding perception of charity shops being full of other people’s unwanted items.

How are charity shops doing compared to the rest of the high street?

what do you do with your old clothes?

Research suggests British charity shops are having as tough a time as everyone else on the high street. When I asked you what happens to your old clothes, 64 per cent of you said you donated them to charity, yet some shops are struggling to keep up with demand.

The Charity Retail Association conducts their own research into donation trends and have seen how the recession has affected both sales and donations. After all, if people are buying less clothes in general, then they may not be donating as much.

According to the Charity Retail Assocation’s Projects and Policy Officer, Isabelle Adam, some of the larger charities have had a few problems in this department due to the recession. She said:

“Over the last quarter (July-Sept) the larger charities we surveyed have reported problems with getting sufficient stock. Donations are affected by peoples’ spending habits; if they are not buying in new they are often not prompted to donate, and if they cannot afford to move this also means there is no prompt for a clear-out.”

Charity shops with a difference

It seems then charity shops have double the problem to deal with! But here in Cardiff, there are two clear examples of charity shops who are using innovation and a touch of the crafting spirit to shake off this negative perception.

Best of all? The kind of projects they’re engaging in are the kind Portas wants to see for the entire high street.

Oxfam Boutique in CardiffCase study number one comes in the form of Oxfam Boutique, situated in the heart of Cardiff city centre. One of a new breed of charity shops, Oxfam Boutique concentrates on high-end charitable donations.

I spoke to Deputy Manager Alec Boyne about the shop, its partnership with Marks and Spencers and their weekly Stitch ‘n Bitch group.

Prefab Clothing on Albany Road, CardiffThen we have PreFab Clothing, a retro style charity shop a little outside of Cardiff on Albany Road. When I chatted to David Morris, who works in the store, he emphasised how the shop didn’t fit the traditional mould of a charity shop.

All of PreFab Clothing’s proceeds go directly to the local YMCA project. In fact, David told me he’d gone from having no job and no house seven months ago to a steady job and a home today, all through PreFab Clothing.

Images courtesy of PreFab Clothing’s Facebook page

There’s one other key aspect to these shops, one which Portas entirely ignores in her report. The fact is, they are playing a vital role in ensuring old clothing doesn’t just end up in South Wales’s swelling landfills.


Recycling at PreFab Clothing

Oxfam Boutique’s partnership with M&S ensures a lot of clothing from a busy department store do not go to waste. PreFab Clothing aim to use everything they receive – whether it’s turning old superhero t-shirts into bags or making pumpkin decorations from unwanted materials.

It’s pretty clear charity shops don’t have to be the kind of places which arrive on a high street when no other retailer can take up some empty space. Oxfam Boutique and PreFab Clothing are more than just placeholders – they’re vibrant parts of the community which do more than just take care of our old tat.

What about the rest of you? Is there a really unique charity shop in your area? If you’d like to write a profile of a stand-out charity shop in your area, email me or comment below.

Pledge Progress Report – The beginning!

As more people sign up to the Seamless pledge (big thanks to Zoe for the shoutout!), I wanted to give you guys a few details on documenting your own pledge progress and to post the first of my progress reports!

Here’s the little video I made for the Seamless Pledge in case you missed it!

New pledgers!

Those of you starting out on the pledge – hello! Nice to see you and lovely to have you on board! A fair few new blogs have been added to my RSS feed today and I’m really looking forward to seeing how you all get along!

A lot of you will be documenting the pledge through your blogs, but it’d be great if you could join me in documenting it via Flickr and Facebook as well!

flickr group seamless screenshot

Hopefully you’re members of the Flickr group and like the Facebook page – the reason I set these up was so we could have places to bring our content together and encourage each other during the pledge.

The Flickr group was one of the aspects I really enjoyed about Zoe’s Self Stitched and Me Made Challenges, so I’ve followed in her suit. I discovered so many new blogs through those groups during the challenges so it’d be lovely if the same happened during the Seamless pledge!

While I may be a bit lonely on the Flickr group pool at the moment, I hope you’ll be joining me on there soon enough! At present, there’s no Seamless Twitter, but I am using the #seamlesspledge hashtag quite a bit.

Pledge Progress Report – The first refashion!

Officially, I began the Seamless pledge about three weeks ago.

Do I miss buying new clothes? Well, a day in the life of a trainee journalist doesn’t leave much time for shopping.  In between shorthand, a visit to court and wandering around my news patch, new clothes have been the last thing on my mind.  I predict it’ll really start to kick in at Christmas, when you’re expected to buy a new party dress for your Christmas ‘do.

When I wasn’t furiously shorthanding away or editing audio interviews last week, I managed to set aside some time for some refashioning!

vintage floral pleated skirt from oxfam boutique

Meet this pleated number courtesy of Cardiff’s Oxfam Boutique. The Oxfam Boutique isn’t my usual haunt for refashioning possibilities mostly because the price range is a little bit higher than regular Oxfam shops. If I’m just going to chop something up, I’m not going to spend more than £10 on it.

At £6.99, this floral wonder in the vintage section of the shop was right up my street. Though the label says it’s a size 14 from St Michael, as vintage sizes run smaller than their modern equivalents, there was no need to resize the waist. Excellent!

refashion pleated skirt after

Some snips, ironing and a baby hem later and tah-dah! One happy Elena! I know longer skirts are a la mode right now and some ladies pull them off fabulously, but alas, I am just too short.

For those new to refashioning and sewing, I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to hem a pleated skirt in a couple of days – but I wondered if any of the more experienced refashioners out there have any tips for pleated hems? Comment away, and I’ll add them to the post!

Clothes Swapping

Clothes swapping has become an increasingly popular way to spice up your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

clothes swapping swishing

How many times have you bought something on a whim, only never bothered wearing it? I know I have. Everyone seems to have at least a few garments lurking, unworn at the back of their wardrobe. Maybe you bought it because it was on sale or because it fit into whatever trend was en vogue at the time.

Charity shops are full to the brim with unwanted clothes. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is where clothes swapping comes in. Also known as swishing, clothes swapping has become popular both online and offline, with swapping sites like Big Wardrobe and Swishing popping up left right and centre.

A couple of days after I began my pledge, I went along to my first ever fashion swap, armed with some unwanted clothes rescued from the back of my wardrobe. The concept is simple: you get a certain amount of ‘points’ or tokens in exchange for the items you bring along. After you’ve collected your points, the rifling begins and you hunt down your bargains.

The Cardiff Fashion Swap at the Vulcan Lounge charged only £2 in entry fees, meaning those who brought an armful of clothes got more than their money’s worth. Swappers had brought garments aplenty and we were surrounded with potential swap items. A touch of vintage was represented with a stall courtesy of Vintage Gem Cardiff – a boutique in Radyr I definitely plan on visiting in the future.

vintage brooch mannequin

On the high street, shopping is made easy for you. After all, it’s in a shop’s best interests to make clothes easy for you to find. Rifling through a mixture of clothes at a fashion swap is a completely different experience. I don’t know about you, but I find it much more satisfying to find a lovely item or two after a good search through clothes rather than the high street’s spoon feeding.

The Cardiff Fashion Swap was organised by recent Cardiff graduate Ellie May Williams with the help of Cardiff’s Oxfam Boutique.She tweets under @elliemay_13, and I’d keep an eye on her Twitter if I were you, as she has an Oxfam Boutique and more clothes swaps in the works. Ellie told me:

“It was lovely to see Cardiff get its swap on! Can’t wait for future swaps, where we’re hoping to get more high quality items and maybe even some vintage pieces so we can raise even more money for Oxfam!”

The night itself was pretty successful all around. Ellie told me they made £100 on the night itself and items left over will raise at least another £150 for the charity. So it’s no surprise Ellie’s planning on holding a few more in the future.

cardiff fashion swap garments dress and shoes

I know what you’re all thinking… what did I nab myself? I didn’t do too badly, nabbing myself a dress and a pair of shoes. Not exactly Winter wear, but hey! It was free and some of my unwanted clothes went to a better home!

People in the Cardiff area should keep an eye out for more fashion swaps. As for those of you from further afield, have you attended any fashion swaps? Or do you organise one of your own? Get in touch, and let me know which items you swapped your way to!

The photos of the event are courtesy of my lovely friend Magda, who blogs here!