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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An ensemble from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

I swear, you wait weeks for a project and then two come at once – my first two projects of the year are the blouse and pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing.

gertie skirt and top

Suffering from some wonky tripod syndrome…

In all, these two were a breeze to sew up – which is just as well considering how low my sewing productivity has been of late. As many reviewers have pointed out before me, Gertie’s book is a dream and full of classic and easily customisable patterns.

I put far more effort into the skirt than I did the blouse, which is refashioned out of a floor-length lace skirt I bought second-hand months ago. In the end, I decided to bother with neither a lining nor facings, instead finishing the raw edges with bias tape. The whole thing was stitched together using my overlocker, getting trustier by the minute now I’ve got the hang of it. A few adjustments were made to account for the scant fabric I actually had, as the original skirt was constructed out of four rectangles rather than the two.

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I had to fudge the sleeves a bit in the end because, lacking a muslin, the bust darts somehow ended up closer to my waist. Oops! To remedy the sagginess, I just did two tucks which I sewed on the outside of the fabric – you can barely notice really. I also widened the darts on the back of the neck, again due to some unnecessary sagging. The top’s too short to wear with anything other than a pencil skirt, but I love it.

Speaking of pencil skirts – this bad boy took a lot more effort. It was all about the muslin-making, meaning the whole thing took twice as long as it would have normally. Definitely worth it with such a form-fitting garment.

The only adjustments I really needed to make were to take in the skirt at the sides and to shorten it. I’m a petite one at 5″3, so this is a standard procedure for me by now. While I was reticent about the double darts at the front of the skirt, I actually really like them now.

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As suggested by Gertie in the book, the high waistband is boned. But instead of using Rigilene or steel boning, I opted for plastic cable ties. I know, I know, I promised I wouldn’t cut corners – but they really have worked a treat. I’ll let you know how they hold up after multiple washes, but I’ve heard good things. To give it extra strength, I ended up using the muslin’s waistband instead of iron-on interfacing.

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Then there’s the buttonhole. Er, the less said about this, the better. We all know I hate buttonholes. For some bizarre reason I thought things would turn out better if I did it by hand. It looks like it’s been sewn by a child. Perhaps these things get better with time…

I opted for a more expensive lining than usual – I forget what kind of fabric it is, but it’s so smooth and keeps static away a treat. The main body of the fabric is a floral cotton poplin, the kind which sticks to your tights if you don’t line it!

Excuse the crinkles!

Excuse the crinkles!

While it’s by no means the tidiest, for the first time, I’m not ashamed to show you how this garment looks on the inside. My new favourite toy has to be my pinking shears – you wouldn’t think it to look at them, but these bad boys are unbelievable at keeping unravelling fabric at bay. All that was left to do by the end was to cover the raw edge on the hemline with a matching pink ribbon.

As I said before, my aim was to make a perfectly fitting pencil skirt and I think I’ve achieved that. The only change I would make would be to taper the lower half of the skirt in just a touch.

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Next up on the sewing block are two sewing challenges – the first being Sew For Victory (which began yesterday, but I shall post my plans later this week!) and the second the Mad Men challenge. Woo!

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!

So Zo… What Do You Know? Interview with Zoe Edwards

I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview one of my favourite bloggers, Zoe Edwards. Zoe has been blogging about sewing at So, Zo… What do you know? for a few years, and currently works with TRAIDremade, the textile recycling branch of the charity TRAID.

The online sewing community is brimming with talent. Whether you’re posting your projects on BurdaStyle or taking part in the vintage sewing movement on Sew Retro, the internet is full of sewing inspiration.

Zoe Edwards Colette Patterns leopard print macaron

I’ve been reading Zoe’s blog for some years now –  she was a Brit living in Barcelona, at the same time as I was a language assistant in Germany. Her projects always blew me away, and I’d always pop back to So Zo… for a catchup on her sewing adventures.

Yet Zoe’s blog isn’t just about sewing. At the heart of So Zo… is the challenge to live sustainably, free from fast fashion. It’s been about five years since Zoe discovered the Wardrobe Refashion pledge, a project she says changed her life.

Anyone who has taken the Wardrobe Refashion pledge in the past or who have just started with the Seamless pledge will know how difficult it can be starting out! Living in Spain brought an extra challenge for Zoe, where charity shops are rarer and dearer.

After challenging herself to go a month wearing nothing but clothes she had made herself, Zoe decided to throw open the challenge to her readers with Me-Made-May. 80 participants signed up to the first challenge, and 2010’s Self Stitched September (which I took part in!) attracted over 160 pledgers!  The Me-Maders and Self-Stitchers kept an eye on each other’s progress through Flickr and Facebook, as well as posting daily outfit updates on their blogs.

On top of this, you’ll often find some really thought provoking posts on So Zo… which really get to the heart of the problems with fast fashion. 

Now working for TRAIDremade, Zoe continues to fight the sustainable cause. Thankfully, making sewing her job hasn’t detracted from her enthusiasm for self-stitching!

What began as a decision to avoid fast fashion has turned into a complete overhaul of shopping habits; Zoe’s said goodbye to buying new fabric and new shoes, and she’s always looking for ways to take her sustainable lifestyle to the next level.

The Seamless Pledge is all about challenging yourself – my life would be so much easier if I could just pop into a clothes shop to buy myself a dress if I fancied it, but where’s the fun in making things easy for yourself? Whenever I worry about being able to pull this off, Zoe’s blog is one of the first places I click for inspiration and is one I think any Seamless pledger  should add to their reading lists.

Big thanks to Zoe for letting me interview her! As for you guys, what do you think? Has she inspired you to shake up your shopping habits?

Challenge Accepted.

pincushion

Three years ago, I saved my sewing machine from the attic and taught myself how to thread a machine and wind a bobbin via the wonders of the Internet. Since then, I’ve used the bustling online sewing community to navigate the ins and outs of home sewing.

So I like to think I’m a dab hand with the sewing machine, even if sometimes I can’t quite manage to sew in a straight line. Let’s not even get started on the evils of buttonholes.

You’d be forgiven for thinking my mad skillz with a needle and thread (but not buttonholes) mean my wardrobe is full to the brim of self-stitched clothing. In actuality, my self-made items take up only a tiny part of my drawers. I’d estimate I made or refashioned about 5% of my wardrobe.

There are plenty of excuses I could give for this, but it’s a pretty poor statistic for someone who goes on about stitching as much as I do. Lately I’ve fallen into a sewing rut and back into my lazy clothing habits, and our generation is pretty lazy when it comes to clothing. “Make do and mend” was the motto during the second world war but nowadays we’ll settle for something which will fall apart in a matter of months if it’s colourful and cheap enough. Fast fashion reigns supreme on the high street and in our wardrobes, and mine is no exception.

Yet across the blogosphere there are plenty examples of people who have put down the shopping bags and picked up their needle and thread instead. Take Mena Trott of The Sew Weekly. In 2010 she took on the hefty challenge of filling her wardrobe solely with clothes she had sewn herself. A year on, she’s encouraging a whole communityof sewers to do the same.

Then there’s Zoe of So, Zo…, a seamstress very much concerned with sustainable fashion. You name the garment, she’s probably made it. We’re talking coats, dresses, jogging tops and even pants. In March, May and September she challenges her readers to join her in a month of wearing nothing but self made garments.

simplicity 2591

In more productive sewing days...

As for me? For the past few months I’ve been in somewhat of a sewing rut, to the point where I’m at the risk of edging out the me-made side of my wardrobe completely. This will not do!

So I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge.With the Interwebs as my witness, I plan to spend the duration of my postgraduate diploma at Cardiff, which ends in July 2012, sewing or refashioning all of my clothes. Under no circumstances am I allowed to purchase ready-made garments from any shops unless they are bonafide vintage or second-hand.

This blog will serve as evidence I’m keeping up with my pledge meaning you can all tell me off if I end up slacking. If I fail miserably, then you’re all entitled to point, laugh and tease until you’re red in the faces.

So what can you expect here at Seamless? I want to explore the avenues outside of mass made clothing, whether that’s through sewing, knitting, trawling through charity shops, gawking at vintage wares or using good old eBay. Wish me luck!