Me Made May ’15 – over for another year

Me Made May photos

Well, May pretty much raced past, didn’t it?

I think this is the first year I’ve managed to take photos almost every day of me made May, save for gaps due to illness and a Devon holiday. At the beginning of this month, I said I wanted May to be about positivity, and it mostly has been. There’s something about making an effort every day which puts a little more of a spring in your step – or at least in mine. Sometimes, making myself look good in the hope that it’ll make me feel good has a little bit of an effect.

I don’t want to pretend May went by all sweetness and light – hormones aside, there are life issues which also need taking care of. But without the pill-induced fog of sadness, what once seemed like insurmountable problems seem much more manageable.

And the fact is, the last few weeks, I’ve felt more myself than I have done in months. Which is a welcome change, and more than I could have asked for at this point.

As for the actual challenge: I succeeded! Every day, I wore at least one me-made or second hand item. Though it did make me realise there are a few more me-made items I’d like to add to my arsenal. At some point, I want to make a trench coat, a better fitting pair of trousers and more wardrobe basics. Not to mention a few more circle skirts to swoosh around in.

That said, this month’s sewing hasn’t been entirely unsuccessful: I’ve made a purple jumper, a black wiggle dress, a lemon-patterned sun dress and, a must for every wardrobe, a Powerpuff Girl costume. (Buttercup, obv. Because I’m the tough one.)

I feel more confident in my sewing than ever – it’s just the rest of it I need to sort out now! But I’ll get there. Tell you what though, looking forward to not having to take a photo every day…

I want to say a huge thank you to Zoe for hosting the challenge once more! Here’s to next year.

Me Made May ’15: the first 15 days

first 15 days of me made may

 

As if we’re more than half way through Me Made May! I think this may be the first year I’ve actually managed to photograph most of my outfits, which is a change. So far, I’ve learned:

  • I’ve got a lot more killer me-made looks than I thought
  • Wearing velveteen dresses to work is fun even if your colleagues think you dressed up especially for the election results
  • I could do a mean Peggy Carter cosplay if I wanted to
  • A fringe makes everything better
  • What I lack in me-made basics, I make up for in awesome dresses and skirts
  • When in doubt, headscarf, headscarf, headscarf

Woop! How’s Me Made May going for everyone else? If you want to follow my progress, I’m posting everything on Instagram.

Me Made May ’15: here’s to a month of positivity

Me Made May 1

This started out about my now-yearly  blog post about why I’m signing up for Me Made May, but has turned into something a little different. So please, humour me for a minute while I get completely personal on you all.

About 6 months ago, I started taking the pill again. I last took it until I was about 21 and had no discernible issues. This time, I don’t think I’ve been so lucky.

For the last few months, I’ve been struggling with some of the most intense and unpredictable mood swings I’ve ever experienced in my life. At points my mood has been lower than it has ever been before, I have struggled to concentrate at work and I’ve been more negative and cynical than I usually am. When it hits me, it feels like I’m stuck in a pit of despair and just can’t get out.

I sleep it off, try to make the most of a new day but then something triggers the cycle all over again. It’s just not me. I’m the girl who once did a six-hour Karate grading with a chest infection – I like to think I’m tough. Not that people with mental health issues aren’t tough, because my god, they are some of the toughest people I know.

It’s more this debilitating recurring feeling that I can’t do my job, my blog, anything right has shaken me to the core. Whatever has been happening for these last few months has undermined everything I thought I knew about myself and my personality. It’s jarring.

I went to my doctor yesterday, who was brilliant and gave me lots of options including counselling if I want it. Here’s hoping now I’m *officially* off the pill, my moods may get a little closer to what I’m used to. Fortunately, I’ve caught it soon enough before it did any serious damage and I’m already feeling 10 times better than this time last week.

For a few reasons, I don’t usually like writing about this stuff – and you may wonder what exactly it’s got to do with Me Made May, anyway?

What I love about Me Made May is something you find at the core of all good communities: a good idea driven by talented and like-minded people with something to share. I’ve long admired Zoe for starting it and everyone who takes part. I think we forget sometimes just how cool we are for making our own clothes. Sure, sewing’s a lot more popular than it used to be, but it’s really not that common a hobby. We kick ass!

I think celebrating my makes and the community I’m part of is probably exactly what I need right now to pick myself up from all of this nonsense. I know I’m going to be totally fine – I’ve started up yoga, been playing ukulele again (CLASSIC LONDON HIPSTER ALERT) and, of course, I’ve been sewing.

IF YOU’VE MADE IT THIS FAR, WELL DONE. Here’s my pledge:

DSC00417

‘I, Elena of Seamless, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made garment a day for the duration of May 2015. If it’s not me-made, I will try to make sure it’s at least second-hand. I will endeavour to wear a completely me-made outfit at least once a week. I will also to my best to BE POSITIVE.’

I’m hoping to wear more me-made garments than not, but I need to be a bit more realistic as I’ve had to donate a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit anymore. Nowadays, I have a better handle on what styles and prints I’m more likely to wear and I always find Me Made May a useful way to figure out my wardrobe.

How about the rest of you? Are you Me Made Maying this year?

Me Made May ’14 – bring it on

OH HELLO LONG TIME NO SEE

So remember how 2014 was going to be this super productive year of sewing and blogging? So much for that! Turns out moving to London takes a bit more adjustment than I’d thought. But hey, there’s nothing better than a cheeky challenge to get back in the saddle…

me-made-may'14

I, Elena of Seamless, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear only me-made and second-hand clothing (excluding underwear and coats) each day for the duration of May 2014.

It’s not too different from my Me Made May challenge way back in 2012 – being as I didn’t do too well last year, I thought going back to the basics would work best. I’m not adding any extra sewing challenges on top this time because I’ve got quite a big project in the works which needs finishing this month. More on that later…

Want to follow my updates? I’ll be tweeting, instagramming and all that lark using the hashtag #mmmay14. Make sure you check out the Flickr group for everyone’s updates. Happy Me-Made-May!

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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Creepy comments and favourites on Flickr photos

Sharing photos of our creations on our blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts is almost second nature to most of us now.

From outfit posts to in-progress shots, our photographs add to the conversation and create inspiration for other members in the community. But the Internet’s not so clear-cut and, well, nice as that. Take the Reddit storm which erupted recently, regarding the unmasking of a user who championed the “creepshot” – posting compromising pictures of women taken unawares.

Obviously in our little community it’s a completely different kettle of fish. We willingly share images of ourselves and our projects. There’s nothing sexual about what we do, right? Well, as some of us taking part in Me Made May ’12 found, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

A couple of months ago, I logged onto my Flickr to find someone had added quite a few of my photographs to their favourites. For those not on Flickr, you’re able to add pics to your favourites or cultivate your own galleries dedicated to certain themes. In this case, my pictures showed up in a gallery cultivated by someone with a clear fetish for scarves.

Clicking through to their profile, I saw they had added any and all photos of me wearing a scarf to a favourites filled with clothed and half-naked women draped in the seemingly innocuous accessory.

I didn’t really know what to make of it. A huge part of me obviously felt creeped out. These pictures weren’t taken for that purpose, after all. Another part of me felt like I shouldn’t be judging someone else for whatever rocked their boat – but then, I didn’t particularly want to be involved in it. So, I blocked the user, which prevents my pictures from appearing in their feed.

Feeling “creeped out”

I’m not the only whose photos have ended up in unexpected Flickr galleries. Roisin of Dolly Clackett noticed it when she started submitting photos to the Wardrobe Remix Flickr pool.

She said: “I think the worst one was someone called TIGHTSFACE, whose profile had lots of photos of naked men with tights on their heads. None of the comments have been aggressive or anything but it does creep me out when someone comments to say ‘I’d like to smell your feet’!”

Then there were the knitwear fans. “I did get a number of knitwear fetishists favouriting my photos and adding me to their galleries – the strangest one being someone who favourited a load of totally innocent photos of me wearing cardigans and added them to a gallery that included drawings and photos of naked girls wearing cardigans, and people having sex in knitted gimp suits,” she said.

There’s a whole thread on the Me Made May ’12 group on this subject, started by Gillian, who wanted to know if this sort of thing was happening to other people too. As a teacher, Gillian is at pains not to post anything she wouldn’t be comfortable with her students seeing.

I contacted her for more information, specifically, how did these “off” comments make her feel?  “It’s very insulting, demeaning, and hurtful,” she said.

“The sewing community is generally so kind and positive that it’s a real shock to realise that lurkers and creeps are out there! Luckily, I feel relatively in control with Flickr – It’s easy to block someone, and I can delete comments as well.

“Once it’s dealt with, I forget all about it. It doesn’t affect what pictures I post.”

It seems almost harmless, really. Especially when you think that some people are posting demeaning upskirt pictures of women taken when they weren’t looking or  wishing death on each other via anonymous comments. Except I can’t help but think sexual comments and Internet catcalling is the next step – in fact, I’ve seen a comment here and there which definitely weren’t about how well the drape of the fabric works.

I think there’s a mentality on the Internet that if you post pictures of yourself dressed to the nines and in some nice make up, as many of us did during any of the numerous sewing challenges, then you “deserve” this kind of unwanted attention. But people say the same thing when I dress up in real life and get catcalls and unwanted comments. Not to mention, the reality is, the most successful blogs have this personable element to them which is difficult to achieve if you’re hiding behind your mannequin.

Gillian agrees with on this one. She said: “Sure, I could make all of my pictures “private”, but that defeats the point of social blogging. I could change what pictures I put up (no head, for example, or low res crappy pics), but again, why should I have to?

“Unfortunately, there is no clear solution to harassment and sexism in either the real world or the blogosphere… so until then, I appreciate the support and commiseration of the sewing community!”

I expect to be able to walk down the street in garments I’ve made without being called sugartits – so why is the Internet any different? It all comes back to this notion of the online world being beyond any sort of social conventions we expect in day-to-day life.

Also, as Roisin points out, there is a worry that by taking offence to our pictures being added to fetish-themed gallery, we’re being judgemental of someone else’s sexual preferences. She said: “I’m trying not to be too judgemental about the creepy things people comment about. I choose to share the photos in a public space and I don’t want to be judgy about people’s sexual practices, but it definitely does make me feel uncomfortable to know that there are people out there getting kicks out of a picture of me in a cardigan.”

I’m sure there are a few people out there who sew and maybe even read some of our blogs on a regular basis but don’t want to put themselves out there for fear of this kind of reaction. As much as I love the diversity of Flickr’s community, this mixture of the innocent and the more suggestive can be hard to deal with when the two collide.

Two sides

One of my Cardiff Twitter contacts Martyn Kelly, who’d also experienced some of this on his own Flickr page, probably put it best. He said: “Flickr is one of the few communities where it embraces the dualist nature of the web in terms of filth/underbelly and friendly/safe/social, and does so with grading/rating photo streams, mature audience flags, logged in only content, etc. and advice on how to manage that.

“But things break when: 1) Someone comments something a bit creepy… or 2) The Flickr-specific problem – if a creeper favourites a photo. Because a user’s favourites are public, you find your image has been curated by a man in a mac, erection wavering outside your digital window. It all gets a bit weird.”

I emailed Flickr months ago to ask what they’d advise users do if they’re uncomfortable with a comment, but they haven’t answered. But here’s what it says in their community guidelines:

Don’t be creepy.
You know the guy. Don’t be that guy.

Your thoughts, as always, are much appreciated.