Moving house and laptop repairs

Just when you’re getting into the swing of things, something inevitably comes along to stall progress! Betty, my beloved Macbook, is at the Apple doctors at the moment after months of attempting to work with a faulty trackpad. (a nightmare when editing images, let me tell you)

I’ve also moved out of my Cardiff place and back with my parents until I get full-time work. Hands up who hates packing? Yeah, me too…

I’ll get back on track as soon as Betty’s back in town. In the meantime, check out the following:

  • Sarai of Colette Patterns has touched on an issue I’ve been thinking about lately, sustainability in clothing. Do you make your clothes to last? I try to, but I’ve definitely had a few zips break on me lately…
  • Julia over at Thread Carefully made a fab dress for her friend to wear at her civil partnership. Check out the results and her progress here.
  • Zoe’s released her first-ever free pattern! It’s a vest top, a great basic if you need some extra layers in Winter or a cool top for Summer.

Me Made May ’12 – Olympic fever hits Wales!

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a bit of a hoo-ha about this Olympics shindig.

Photo by Adam Care

Yesterday, the Olympic torch reached Wales. As excellent journalists well-acquainted with what will be dominating the headlines this Summer, some of the CJS boys and I popped to Cardiff city centre to watch someone peg it past with the flame.

The best bit was when we caught a glimpse of Welsh rugby captain Sam Warburton on the bus carrying the torch bearers. PHWOAR

It’s been absolutely gorgeous this whole week and there’s nothing like waiting in the heat for the briefest glimpse of an Olympic torch to make you realise how ill-suited your wardrobe is for Summer. I wore my favourite black jersey pencil skirt and a Me-made, refashioned purple shirt. Using the Sorbetto pattern, I turned a purple men’s shirt into a sleeveless blouse.

Unfortunately, I was cutting it from the same pattern as my leopard print Sorbetto, meaning it’s also a bit of a squeeze around the bust. Sizing issues are always a little bit frustrating, particularly when a garment is a bit too small.

Let me tell you, a tight blouse really isn’t the best outfit choice when it comes to a hot and sticky summer’s day. My future projects are definitely going to be more Summer-appropriate, that’s for sure.

I didn’t get a decent picture, but fellow Cardiff student Adam, who blogs about the Olympics here, took a few and he kindly said I could use them for today’s post.

Even the boys not standing on a bin are ridiculously taller than I am! This did not bode so well while standing on tip-toes trying to see the torch.

How’s the Olympic fever for the rest of you? Anyone in London for the Games?

Me Made May ’12 – A Tale of Many T-Shirts

Day two of Me Made May coincides with one of the most anticipated events of a Swansea student’s year – Welsh Varsity.

Billed as the clash of the Welsh titans, essentially it’s a case of Swansea students making their way to the capital city to face old nemesis Cardiff in a variety of sporting events, culminating in a rugby match in the Millennium Stadium.

My student card may class me as a Cardiff postgraduate student, but there was no doubt who I was supporting today…

Welsh Varsity 2012

Alas, we didn’t win. Boo!

Every Swansea ticket comes with a free t-shirt everyone wears on the day to support the ‘green and white army’. As you may be able to tell, ladies normally hack a pair of scissors at them – I’d like to say some sort of design acumen was involved here, but quite frankly, I hacked at the neckline with a small pair of scissors as soon as I met my friends in a Cardiff bar… because I’m well classy like that. I paired it with the wannabe hack pencil skirt, thanking my lucky stars I had something which went with that colour green!

Like many Swansea students, my wardrobe is bloody full of the free t-shirts the Swansea Union events team dish out as part of their busy events schedule. No cash-strapped student is going to sniff at a free t-shirt after all. In fact, I’d bet you  any Swansea student taking the Seamless pledge could probably keep their wardrobe replenished on a stock of Swansea union t-shirts alone.

One of my good friends ran for election two years running – he’s set to be President of Swansea Union next year in fact! Anyway, the t-shirts he made for both elections now hang up in his office, one hand painted and stained with oodles of blue paint and the other decorated with fuzzy felt sewn on by his lovely girlfriend. As I said before, clothes hold memories, and you can bet you gain a lot of them as an undergraduate at Swansea.

But, as a thrifty Seamless pledger, I’m dying to get something done with these t-shirts. It would be a little easier if they were plain, but normally they’ve got some schnazzy design thought up by the hardworking team in Uni. Despite this, I hate the idea of them just languishing in my cupboard, only coming out when I need to dye my hair!

If any of you have any cracking tutorials which could help solve my problem, then feel free to send them my way!

Also – REALLY fun story with this photo. My lovely friend Rosie said almost straight away when I saw her: “OOH! What are you wearing today that you made? HAVE YOU TAKEN THE PICTURE YET? Can I take the picture?”

I heart Rosie. See, I have people outside of the blogosphere checking up on me too…

Let’s meet up! How about a crafting meetup?

WOAH – apologies for the ridiculous amount of double posts on this one! I was using WordPress’s new post thing and for some reason it decided I wanted to post this like 10 TIMES. Sorry if it clogged your emails!

Have you ever been to a blogger meetup?

I love a good meetup. Last week, I popped along to a Cardiff Blogs meetup, which brought bloggers from all over Cardiff to chat about, well, blogging!

For a while now, I’ve been wondering if we could sort something similar here in Cardiff, but for crafters. Lucky for me, fellow blogger Amy Davies was up for it too and now we’re getting cracking on sorting it out! Basically, we’d like to get crafters together somewhere in Cardiff to chat over a cuppa tea on around a monthly basis.

We know of some crafting evenings already in the city, so there’s some potential interest here, but I thought I’d extend the invitation to Seamless readers – I know you guys come from all over the place, but if you were able to come along, would you?

Amy has a poll up on her blog here to get the ball rolling. The basics we want to know are:

  • how often you’d like a meetup
  • where in Cardiff could we go
  • what day of the week would be best

Apologies for such a Cardiff-centric shout out this time around! I’m thinking if the Cardiff crafting meetup kicks off, we could organise some sort of Seamless pledgers meetup in the future?

Thanks for all your lovely comments on the Meringue skirt, I’m glad the disaster turned out well in the end! How’s Sew Colette going for the rest of you?

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.

Could you spend five hundred pounds on clothes?

On Monday, I wore almost £500 worth of clothes.

FIVE. HUNDRED. QUID. Never in my life have I spent that much money on an outfit. Before you all start thinking I went and blew my pledge on an epic shopping spree, I should probably explain.

Over the past few weeks at Cardiff we’ve been working on different features for a Christmas supplement we’ll be putting together next week. Secret Santa style, we had to pick our articles from a hat! My friend and colleague Ellie was lucky enough to pick out women’s fashion, a topic I think all the girls were eyeing up!

A couple of us were asked to be models for the feature, so off we popped to John Lewis (where I saw Ellie Williams from the clothes swap again!) in Cardiff to get suited and booted in some donated clothes for a quick photo shoot in the furniture section. It was a bit surreal trying on various clothing from the department store, because I haven’t been shopping in so long!

mango reiss carvelaCheeky mirror photo while our lovely make-up artist Nicola does her own war paint!

What I wore:

This all added up to a whopping £495.80!

Ok, so this includes the shoes and accessories, but even £300 or so on a jacket, top and leggings seems a bit much to me. Before the pledge, I’d hesitate before spending £30 on a dress, let alone £120 on a top alone!

I did wonder… could I possibly re-make this outfit myself? The leggings would be easy if I found the right fabric, as there are plenty of leggings patterns around. Take this one at BurdaStyle for example!

The peacock top would be fairly easy to make, but I’d probably go for a cheaper fabric than silk, but with a similar drape! This pattern would actually be pretty easy to draft myself! I’ve already tried my hand at drafting a skirt (more on this soon…), so it’s about time I tried to draft a top! Otherwise, I’d probably use a lengthened version of Goldfinch and Eagle’s Port Elizabeth Pattern.

As for the trickiest part of the outfit… the jacket. I’ve eyed up a certain biker jacket pattern at BurdaStyle since they released it a few years ago, but have always shyed away because I just don’t have confidence in my sewing abilities. They’ve used a very thick woolen fabric for their version here, but the Mango jacket was made out of quite a thin leather. If I could find some leather look fabric which was as soft and comfortable, then theoretically be all set…

Have you ever remade a garment you saw on the high street? How did it go? If not… ‘fess up and tell me what’s the most you’ve ever spent on clothes in one go!

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!