2 November 2011

A Meeting of Minds: UK Discussion Forum Needs YOU!

Exciting announcement time!! Currently underway are plans for an awesome creative meet-up, the like of which may never have been witnessed in the UK before! And we need YOU to help make it the most fantastic, useful, engaging, thought-provoking, joy-inducing event it can be…

Zoe and I are planning to organise a discussion forum for people who make their own clothes. The online creative community is such an enriching and wonderful entity, but sometimes it’s good to talk face-to-face. We’ve loved chatting to people at the IRL sewing meet-ups that we’ve attended, but it can be difficult to discuss anything in depth when there is lovely fabric competing for our attention!

What would happen if the creative clothing DIY community in UK had the opportunity to meet en masse to talk? What would come from being able to have more in-depth discussions over a participant-directed range of topics and a larger scale than previous crafting meet-ups have achieved? Let’s find out!

Zoe and I are passionate about creating an event that is as democratic and user-led as possible. We are in the early stages of discussion about how to arrange and organise this, but we are certain that everybody should get the opportunity to shape the content of the discussions by submitting topics and everybody will get an opportunity to contribute to those discussions once underway. So, in this spirit, now is the perfect time to ask you for your input...

When will the discussion forum be?
Spring 2012, date TBC, but probably a Saturday day time.

Where will it be?
London. We’re not trying to be metro-centric, it's just the easiest place to get to for most people.

Who is it aimed at?
Anyone who makes their own clothes - sewers, knitters, crocheters, refashioners... You don’t have to have to be a blogger or even read blogs regularly, but topics on blogging may feature.

How much will it cost to attend?
We're aiming to make it free to attend, although can't promise anything. We've got a few ideas about venues and potential sponsors, but if you have any thoughts or contacts we'd love to know.

Who will the speakers be?
You! Everyone! The idea behind the event is to involve everyone in the discussion, to share ideas as a group, rather than have "expert" panellists.

What will the topics of discussion be?
What do you want to discuss? We'd like you to help programme the event. Tell us what you want to discuss, and we'll pick the most popular issues. Just as some ideas to get you thinking, topics could include:
- What role does sewing/knitting play in your life?
- Is making your own clothes a passing trend or here to stay?
- What impact does making your own clothes have on the world?
- What draws you to read a blog/blog post?
- What's the future, where do you want this movement to go?

Will I get to learn about hemming techniques, bound buttonholes etc?
No. This won't be a practical workshop, it will be all about thinking, talking, discussing.

Sounds like a genius idea! How can I help make this happen?
Why thank you! Please tell us:
1) Whether you think you'll attend, so we can get an idea of numbers for venues;
2) What burning issues you would like to discuss (remember: this is not about practical techniques);
3) If you have any genius ideas about venues, sponsors, anything else we may not have thought of that would make this event amazing...

Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

Tilly + Zoe


  1. I would really really like to try to attend this! Its a bit expensive to get to London from Edinburgh, but it would be worth it! I know you and Zoe are both really into making clothing that has meaning and value and sustainability, as an alternate to fast fashion so I am definitely looking forward to discussing that.

    I'm also interested in perhaps why the activity of making your own items can be more expensive than buying it? E.g. its cheaper to buy an H&M t-shirt than to buy a metre of jersey knit fabric? In this economic climate that really discourages making, and how can we change this? Are things like fabric and wool expensive because they they cost a lot to produce, or are they expensive because large companies know they can overcharge? Also, what is out there for the crafters who want to source responsible (organic, fair trade, soil assoc. certified) materials for their making...

  2. I'd love to attend this, it's a great idea.
    I'd be interested in the issue of teaching children how to sew, how we are passing on skills and how this in turn makes them look at 'fast fashions', where it comes from and what the real cost is.

  3. That sounds like a great idea, I like the idea of getting together to chat about sewing stuff but I also like the idea of workshops, it would be great for someone to demonstrate a tricky technique even if it was in a group environment as sometimes there's no substitute for seeing it in the flesh rather than reading about it. I don't have anyone IRL that sews so logs have provided me with an easy way to find like minded people. I've never been brave enough to attend a meet-up but I might be brave enough to come to this!

  4. This is an excellent idea - I love the idea of going to a sewing conference, and of course a really good idea to meet likeminded people. If you have any academic friends it might be worth looking into whether they would be able to help you organise this as an academic type conference? It might help with a venue and even with funding - lots of universities are really keen on anything cross-disciplinary and this could be, because you could look at art, psychology, design, economics, history, sociology... anything at all you can think of really!

  5. I might be able to come if its announced far enough in advance...

  6. I would love to be a part of this, I really don't know any like mixed people when it comes to sewing and making your own clothes, so meeting a whole big group en-mass would be wonderful!

  7. YES - brilliant idea. Will you be needing a hand with organisation? I do events for my day job so am aware of what a mammoth undertaking they can be! I second the idea of looking into a possible academic cross-over - good thinking from Roisin.

    I'd be interested in a session talking about why making your own clothes is superior to buying them on the high street in terms of quality and style- I know this won't be a practical workshop but would be good to exchange ideas and tips on the value of hand-made, similar to Zoe's recent blog post.

  8. Like Kristen, I would love to attend this but need to check out the costs associated (i.e. travel). I would also love to discuss how to support independent and UK-based fabric industries (after learning that places like China are producing more wool now than traditional industry hot spots like the UK; that only 1/3 of the process of making 'Irish' linen needs to take place in Ireland, etc.) I would love to discuss how we as consumers can help to build locally sustainable and community-driven businesses. I don't want John Lewis or online to be my only fabric buying options.....

  9. I would definitely come to an event like this. And I'd be really interested in discussing how we can pass our skills on to young people, and keep needlework , etc, from becoming a specialist hobby.

  10. There are 39 colleges and halls in Oxford, most of whom offer conference facilities with accommodation at much lower prices than a 'commercial' city centre establishment .. Oxford is much more central than London, easily accessible by public transport and as a previous commenter said, if you can make this into a 'teaching' event (include some workshops) then you may be eligible for VAT exemption which would save you 20% straight off. You can get this without having an academic 'contact but you have to be savvy and ask for the form.

    You can make a blanket enquiry with http://www.conference-oxford.com/ who operate a FREE service and will contact all of the available/suitable colleges on your behalf, saving you a heck of alot of leg work. Cambridge offer a similar service (conference-cambridge.com) but Cambridge is much more difficult to get to than Oxford.

    I don't work for Oxford tourist board, or Oxford University, but as an ex conference and event manager in Oxford for the last 15 years, I can highly recommend this option. It'd be worth it just for the VAT exemption :)

    Oh also, the accommodation is much cheaper and comes in various 'levels' to suit all budgets.

    Hope all this info is helpful. I think it's a great idea and was wondering who would one day be brave enough to put it together!


  11. ps: sorry to harp on .. also in an academic establishment you get to have dinner together at big long tables, a bit like Hogwarts if you pick the right place.

    I'll shut up now.

  12. I would certainly be interested in attending such an event - if only to meet like-minded people.

  13. Ooh this sounds great! I'd love to attend but it is dependent on money and work. I have no idea what I want to talk about or hear about but as I share the beliefs of you both that clothing should be made sustainably I'm happy to go along for the ride secure that there will be discussions on subjects that interest me!

  14. Fabulous idea, but methinks I won't be able to make it... I have a big secret why not... I just hope I can make another one. I've always thought it would be great to do to discuss ideas, etc, etc. Good luck, I just hope you get the support it deserves!

  15. Sounds like great fun! Good luck with it, Tilly!

  16. I'm in! It seems that a lot of the home crafting (for want of a better phrase) are also into vintage looks etc. I am sure some folks like Susan Crawford (does vintage knitting books par excellence) http://justcallmeruby.blogspot.com/ wouldn't mind being approached and sharing their passion. Maybe invite some vintage lovers who might not make clothes but seem like minded! http://www.thevintagemafia.com/

  17. Please count me in, Tilly and Zoe. I love the world of blog but appreciate how different and how much more engaging it is to discuss anything sewing face to face with someone who shares the same passion. All the above topics would be of interest to me and Im sure I can come up with some other topics... I do like a chat!

  18. Wow, I'm loving reading all these suggestions - so glad we asked you to contribute so early on in the process! Really great ideas for discussion topics coming through.

    Personally I find the academic conference idea appealing, but I'm concerned that it's not for everyone and would put off quite a few people. Also we wanted this event to be more of a discussion with everyone rather than have presentations from "experts". But maybe there's a way of incorporating both... or saving the academic conference idea for later, once this one has happened.

    Kathryn - offers of help very welcome, thank you!

    Keep the ideas coming, y'all...

  19. This sounds AWESOME! I am totally and utterly IN.

    My husband attends web/geek/UK conferences similar to this concept several times a month, and I would totally rock a similar concept for sewing. Let me know if you'd like any organisational or speaking help.

  20. I'd love to attend a sewing conference, what a fabulous idea! I'll get back to you with any potential discussion ideas, but like Ooobop!, I'm just excited at the thought of chatting with other sewists all day! x

  21. I think this is a fab idea - I just need to be brave enough to join in!

  22. Ooh ooh ooh, yes please, I'd LOVE to come. Sounds awesome! I could probably only make a London venue though.

  23. With some advance notice I will be able to attend this. And also, more than happy to do so. How exciting!

    I would like to discuss issues around sustainability specifically about how can we support or develop weaving in the UK or independent designers.

  24. I think this is a brilliant idea!
    Whether London or Oxford (tho personally, I'd prefer Oxford), getting the creative minds together for chatting and possibly planning world domination one sock at a time, it should be such a worthwhile undertaking.
    Possible topics that come to my mind:
    - old vs. new. We Bloggers use modern high tech for discussing and publishing how to make garments, exchange experiences, and evangelize, and at the same not only a few of us seem particularly drawn to the fashions of previous eras - would be interesting to discuss how that comes together, and why it seems such a fertile combination.

    Also, have you considered getting in touch with the BarCamp people? Your concept sounds like it could benefit from their input.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp and http://barcamp.org/w/page/402984/FrontPage might be helpful.

    Keep going, I'd love to attend!

  25. I love this idea too. I regularly go into London for work from the north and know that trains are deadly expensive... however if the dates and times are published a few months ahead we should all be able to buy advance and good value tickets... Saturdays are better than weekdays in this regard. Standard weekday train to London from Derby £160, pre booked Saturday £16!!

  26. What a great idea! I would definitely be interested if the date works. As to topics, I think that kristenmakes is spot-on in her comment - sustainability and the 'value' of home-made goods in various senses would be really interesting.

  27. I would certainly like to attend. And probably can, so long as it is not during the school half term/easter break which is the first of 2 weeks of April.
    I'm open to a whole range of topics. Techniques, material sourcing, trends, resource, etc. are all good for me. I am more interested in the clothing side of sewing than the crafting side of sewing.

  28. Count me in! I would love to attend and meet up with all the crafty people out there. Such a great idea. Thank you in advance !

  29. I'd love to come too. When I read sewing blogs etc it sometimes makes me feel that it's only in America that people sew! Great idea. Kristen makes a really good point about cheaper to buy or make.

  30. What a BRILLIANT idea! Thank you thank you thank you for organising this. I will make it a priority for sure on my calendar, as long as it's not from the 17th to 20th of May. I'll be at a conference to present a paper (about sewing, actually!) on those dates, but I'm willing to help out in any shape or form -- just let me know!

  31. I stayed in Oxford at one of those chain motel places...er... Travelodge.£19 for a room and four shared - so def a consideration.I would love to come, just depends on the pennies -which is one reason I sew...


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