Me Made May ’13 – A celebration of all things refashioning

Last minute to the party, as per usual. Count me in for Me Made May ’13! Woohoo!

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Now, as many of you know, last year I was a scatty student who could justifiably spend all day indoors “revising” in some of my more questionable makes. These days, I’m an actual grown-up who needs to look somewhat presentable.

Why oh why is past Len such a slapdash sewist? Last year, I found myself rummaging in my drawers for makes I had long since written off because they were a bit rubbish. I’m sure the same will happen again this year.

For the sake of maintaining a professional wardrobe in the office, I plan on including refashioned and second-hand items along with my me-mades – I was lucky enough to get a good haul of office-appropriate garments in Guildford, which means I shan’t be caught short in the mad morning rush for work.

Without further ado, here is the pledge:

 I, Elena of seamlessblog.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made, refashioned or second hand item each day for the duration of May 2013. To document my challenge, I shall tweet/instagram/flickr/facebook the bejeezus out of my daily outfits, even if it means taking mirror pics in work’s loos. I will also endeavour to make my way and finish all of the refashions I haven’t quite got around to and document how I did so, even if I mess it up.

It’s no blogging every day for May, but I’ll sure as hell be tweeting. You can follow me on Instagram or Flickr too for daily outfit posts and I’ll collate them each Sunday here on the blog.

And did you spot the little extra I popped in there? That’s right, I’ve got a whole bundle of refashions to get through. They’re mostly things I’ve bought or have been given with the best intentions of refashioning, yet haven’t quite got around to it just yet. Here’s a sneak peek at one, as modelled by my lovely new mannequin (who will have an introduction post soon, promise!)

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Isn’t it just delightfully HIDEOUS?! It used to have shoulder pads. I was one perm away from being an ’80s throwback when I tried this bad boy on.

Alright, hands up – who’s doing Me Made May this year?

Why don’t my shoes last?

If my shoes aren’t well-worn, there’s (usually) something wrong with them.

20130110-230124.jpgWell, except for these bad boys. They can take ANYTHING

Perhaps it’s all the stomping I do, but it doesn’t take too long before my shoes are well and truly scuffed, as I’m wobbling on uneven heels and just hoping the holes will stay away for another day. Being a pair of my shoes can’t be easy.

Rather than buy multiple pairs of shoes, I tend to wear one pair to death before grudgingly moving on to the next. Usually, this process can take about a year at the most. But lately, I’ve noticed my shoes wearing down quicker and quicker.

Is it just me, or are shoes just not made to last? It makes sense really – if they’re cheaply made, the prices will be down in the shops and people won’t really mind spending £2 on something they’ll chuck away in a matter of months.

Sound familiar? This is more or less exactly how I saw my shopping habits pre-Seamless pledge.

This is the reason shoes are exempt from my pledge – but I don’t really buy them often anymore. Even when I make a conscious decision to splash out a little more on a new pair of shoes, they just don’t seem to be able to handle my endless tramping around.

Then I’m back to square one, buying tacky shoes which won’t last two minutes because it’s not worth parting with more cash for a pair which won’t last much longer.

That said, there must be some reputable brands out there which aren’t going to fall apart at the drop of a hat? I got lucky with a pair of second-hand floral Doctor Martens on eBay a few months ago and they’re the best pair of shoes I think I’ve ever bought, but not quite work appropriate.

I’ve also got a battered pair of Converse which really should have given up by now – they’re a real pair of troopers, already scuffed when I bought from for five Euro at a flea market in Dortmund. But they’re still going strong!

What are your favourite shoes? When it comes to your shoe rack, is it a case of less is more, or do you need to stock up just so you can do some damage limitation by rotating which ones you wear?

Coveting a dressmaker’s dummy

There’s something human-shaped missing from my sewing life. I’ve been coveting my very own adjustable dressmaker’s dummy for some time now.

Once upon a time, I found a ratty mannequin at a flea market in Germany. I snapped it up for 25 euro and got some funny looks on the way home, clutching this tea-stained dress form as the metro whizzed underneath Dortmund.

I ended up naming it Sally, as you do. Sally was a bit broader in the back than I was, so I couldn’t really drape accurately using the form, but it was so handy to have a general idea of what a garment would look like without having to put it on and inspect it in front of the only full-length mirror in the house.

At the moment, fitting a garment is an odious case of trial and error as I guesstimate how much needs to be taken from a waist of a dress for it not to look like a potato sack. I often feel like a human pincushion as I wiggle my way in and out of half-finished items in an effort to get the fit just right.

So I guess it’s safe to say I’m in the market for a new Sally. There are a few options I could go for:

Buy new

Probably the most expensive and un-Seamless option, there are plenty of places I could get a brand-new dress form. John Lewis have a whole host of dress forms on sale starting at £139 for the Easyfit model. Not my first port of call as you’d imagine, but John Lewis do sell some good quality sewing wares so might be worth checking out.

Second-hand or vintage

Much more Seamless-like, don’t you think? Ebay always has a few vintage or second-hand dress forms on sale, but the price will fluctuate depending on how much competition there is for your chosen dummy. You never know, you might just get lucky. Also, I spotted a few ads for second-hand dummies on auction site alternative Preloved.

Do it yourself!

Yup, it’s possible to make your very own dress form. There are several tutorials available on the internet, the most popular being the duct-tape method. A more time-consuming but potentially rewarding method involves making a plaster mould of your upper half. You’ll need a good friend to help you out with either one – needless to say, it’s far cheaper than either of the first two options.

Personally, I’ll probably go on the hunt for a second-hand dress form if I can get a good price. Sad to say, I once passed up an amazing vintage wooden dress form I found in a charity shop in Swansea. It was the worst timing really, I’d just packed everything to move out of my flat and there was definitely no room for it, but I still wonder if it would have been worth the hassle anyway.

Do you own a dressmaker’s dummy? I’m dying to know if anyone’s had any success with the duct tape method!

Featured Pledger: Vicki Kate (Vicki Kate Makes)

Seamless’ second featured pledger is Vicki Kate, who’s midway through her pledge and has some serious stitching skills. Can you believe her dress is made from two bedsheets? Have a read about her pledge experiences:

Name: Vicki Kate

Website: http://vickikatemakes.wordpress.com

One year, from 30th birthday to 31st on the 24 Nov ’12 – new decade, new lifestyle commitment!

Why did you take the Seamless Pledge?

It was a mixture of fortuitous timing in discovering the pledge and wanting to take more responsibility for our world just as I hit 30. Being a Mum has completely changed my perspective on pretty much everything.  I need to lead by example to ensure my son grows up with a sense of responsibility, not just to his immediate community but the worldwide one too. It also gives me incentive (which is now habit) to shop second hand, search charity stores and eBay rather than buying new.  My sewing of garments has gone up a gear too, which was part of the plan!

What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life?

I’m a much more thoughtful shopper and not just when it comes to clothing. It’s spread to my grocery shopping (with regards to origin rather than it being pre-loved!) and also made me go to my fabric stash rather than shops for my material. I am so envious of the estate sale and thrift store hauls our US friends score! There’s nothing like that in my experience in Norfolk, UK. A positive is my limited funds go further.

Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-made clothing?

Examine what you wear! I bet it’s 10% of your total. Look for items that work with that 10% but limit where you look.  If you freak out about charity shops (my sister does), go for eBay as, while you’ll pay more, there is better choice.  Also, develop some patience as sometimes you have to look for a while to find what you want. I’m still looking for the perfect red Mary Jane shoes!  Failing that, learn to sew! But that in itself leads to other consumer issues.

I’d heartily recommend Zoe’s blog for someone wanting to know how to live sustainably and Miss P’s blog for refashioning tips to make those charity shop finds perfect. Finally, train yourself to look beyond a garment’s (or pattern for that matter) first appearance. With a little ingenuity that granny tartan skirt could be amazing! 

Make sure you check out Vicki Kate’s blog for more on her creations. Want to be a featured pledger? Get in touch.