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!

me-made-may'13

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!)

80sshirt.jpg

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?

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!

Inspiring Makes on Pinterest

The social media aficonados among you are sure to be avid fans of image-based site Pinterest already.

For those of you who aren’t pinning like there’s no tomorrow, it’s basically an online inspiration board, akin to a scrapbook or a mood board. It’s a nice way to bookmark your favourite tutorials on a visual basis, for example.

Eagle-eyed readers and those of you who follow me on Pinterest already will notice my first board is dedicated to inspiring makes, where I’ve started collating some of my favourite sewing makes from the big talents on the sewing blogosphere. Sometimes, the best way to improve your stitching is by taking inspiration from other stitchers.

Source: sewithought.com via Elena on Pinterest

Take Angela from Sew I Thought, for example. After a bit of a blogging hiatus, she’s back with some blooming beautiful creations, including this bowtastic blouse made from Simplicity 2154, a reissue of a 1960s pattern. It’s very Mad Men, don’t you think?

 

Continuing with the vintage theme, how fantastic is Erika’s blue rose party dress? She’s really made the most of the panelled fabric and the little ric-rac details add a real professional touch.

If you want to see more Inspiring Makes, check out my board on Pinterest and get following if you have an account. Would you guys be interested in regular updates on the blog about inspiring projects I’ve been pinning?

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!

The joy of vintage patterns

Until now, I’ve always purchased my vintage patterns online. Sewing patterns are not items commonly found in Cardiff’s charity shops, which normally host scores of rejected items from Primark instead. The vintage and retro shops I have previously frequented in the city centre don’t tend to extend their stock to the kind of goodies those vintage-savvy seamstresses amongst us would be searching for. Yet I recently came across a beauty stocked to the brim with all kinds of vintage goodies, sewing patterns included, tucked away in one of Cardiff’s old arcades, renowned for housing unique shops and boutiques.

The arcades have always been, for me, part of Cardiff’s charm, and I’m not the only one who thought so. Photographer and journalist Amy Davies took up a project to document Cardiff’s arcades with the Cardiff Arcades Project, and the photographs are just beautiful! The shop which caught my eye, A Vintage Affair, has been documented through photograph in a post here.

Understandably, I spent about an hour being distracted by A Vintage Affair’s clothing, jewellery and accessories dotted around the shop. Popping into vintage and second hand shops normally scares me a little bit, possibly because of experiences had in various second hand shops in Germany, which were always so small I felt my every move was being scrutinised! Luckily this wasn’t the case here, and when I did speak to some of those working in the shop, I found they were lovely and approachable anyway! My favourite kind of shop.

Eventually, I came across the vintage patterns in the corner of the shop, kept in boxes overflowing with not only patterns, but also sewing and knitting magazines. There’s something quite unique about rifling through (sometimes) decade old patterns by hand. While I’ll always love the Internet for leading me to discover some beautiful vintage patterns in the past, you can’t quite beat actually touching the wrinkled, often ripped, packaging, surrounded by that musky smell of patterns pre-loved. This particular shop had stacks and stacks of vintage fabric, a sorely tempting prospect, but I thought better of it considering the extensive stash I’ve built up at home!

I did, however, come home with three well-worn patterns, all of them shift dresses, although each one comes with a little twist! The tucked bodice detail on the Style 1804 panel shift dress pattern was very tempting. I doubt I’ll go for the long sleeves – with the puff sleeves and all, I can’t see it being a little much overall. The vintage Butterick 4029 sports some varied neckline choices on a simple shift dress, while the collar on my other Style number 1937 is to die for.

Thanks to the Vintage Patterns wiki, I found out Butterick 4029 is a pattern dating from the 1960s, and one a fellow blogger has already whipped up to great effect, using the pointed collar design I’ve been quietly coveting. Kitty stayed faithful to the design portrayed on the pattern envelope,

While my two Style patterns were absent from the list, the back of 1937 tells me it’s also a ‘60s pattern (1967 to be exact), and I’m assuming the same of 1804, which is missing dates. If anyone has any idea of when this pattern was made, I’d be grateful, as I’m neither a historian or a vintage pattern expert! The only real clue I have is the front of the pattern states it was designed by a ‘Vanda Harvey’, and a quick google brought up an artist of the same name who doesn’t seem to have contributed to the world of sewing patterns.

I have a few other things to get through before I get cracking on these patterns. Which do you think I should go for first?