28 September 2012

An Alternative Take on London Fashion Week

Last week the press was flooded with fabulous frocks and pouty pics for London Fashion Week. Craftivist Collective (whose founder I interviewed here) took the opportunity to raise awareness of some of the inequalities associated with fashion. As usual, their charming, inimitable, stitchy style of protest made me smile... and of course sit up and take notice. Sarah tells us what they got up to...

Sarah Corbett: "I love the beauty and creativity that comes from fashion and I eagerly await the latest issue of Vogue every month, but I'm also so saddened that the workers that create the clothes we wear are often underpaid and made to work horrendous conditions. Tilly is so brilliant at showing how you can make your own clothes to be part of the solution to a just fashion industry.

It can be easy to ignore the ugly side of fashion (I often do!) so some of us Craftivistas decided to make time to stitch Mini Protest Banners to remind us of how we can be part of the fight for a better fashion industry rather than buying into the unjust side - making time to stitch on our own or in a group we reflected, whilst stitching, on the fashion industry. We put our banners up near particular fashion stores and around fashion related buildings with the hope that people might see them quietly waving in the wind and think about the side of fashion that is often too easily dismissed by the industry, in a non-threatening but sensitively challenging provocative way.

Robin (our photographer) and me went out as a duo this Friday to Somerset House to put up this mini protest banner [below] inside the heart of London Fashion Week. This is where a lot of the catwalk shows are, where the media hub is and where the fashionista footfall is huge! Unlike many activists who get a kick out of breaking the law or being rebellious, Robin and I hate it. We don’t like having to be sneaky and were pretty nervous going inside in case someone asked us what we were doing. But in the name of fashion justice we plucked up the courage, tried to look as fashionable as we could and walk in like we were part of the fashion industry. It was surprisingly easy. No one blinked an eyelid and there were so many photographers walking around taking photos of beautiful tall, super thin women that we went unnoticed, left the mini protest banner up and walked out happy and relieved. Hopefully lots of people see it over the next week and it provokes some thought & conversation.

I also made this mini protest banner [top] with help from War on Want who gave me up to date facts to use. This fact impacted me the most - how can a company selling not-cheap clothes double their profits (with the help of free advertising from Kate Middleton, who wears Reiss clothes a lot) in a year but still pay their garment workers less than £1 an hour? I was worried picking this quote to cross-stitch on that people would think “£1 an hour? That’s pretty good,” but it’s not! Yes it might be better than Mauritian workers getting 21p (!) but it’s still abuse. We’re not trying to demonise Kate Middleton as a consumer or Reiss as a brand.

Regardless of where the garment workers live this is still a tiny amount and I just don’t know how companies can justify making over £4 million profit and pay their workers such a tiny percentage of the company’s earnings. I love fashion but the inequality within the fashion industry is so ugly to me I’m not sure I can look at the clothes in Reiss in the same way I used to ☹ We would love you to make your own banner and put it up where you are (you don’t have to be in London!) to get people thinking.

Check out our video to see how easy it is to put up a banner.

Craftivists Collective: Protest Stunt LFW 2012 from Mari Shibata on Vimeo.

Don’t worry if you’re too busy with doing all of your other craft projects (I currently have 6 half done projects!). You can still be a ‘craptivist’ and provoke discussion by sharing this blog, video and the images across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like to spread the word far and wide & start a conversation with your fashion loving friends. I hate asking this type of stuff in case it sounds pushy and arrogant but we would be really grateful and we would love other fashion-lovers to challenge themselves and the industry on the ugly side of fashion and think about how we can make it prettier."

Thanks, Sarah. I think the mini protest banners are absolute genius. What do you think, readers?

25 September 2012

How to Ruche a Sleeve

Ruching partway up a sleeve is a detail I love in some of my shop-bought clothing. So I decided to add this feature to my pussy bow blouse. It's very easy to do and can turn a boring sleeve into something a little prettier. Here's what I did...

You will need:
- Elastic (I used 4mm thick stuff)
- Unstitched sleeve pieces
- Thread in the colour of your fabric

1. The easiest stage to attach the elastic is after you've added any gather stitches to the sleeve caps but before you've stitched the underarm seams and sleeve hems.

2. Draw a line in chalk or washable pen vertically up the centre of your sleeve, marking the points where you want the gathering to start and end (I also marked these points with tailor's tacks). The starting point should fall at a point that will be enclosed inside the sleeve hem to keep things nice and neat. I started mine 1/2" up from the raw hem and ended 4 1/2" above this point.

3. Cut your elastic. Elastics vary in how much they stretch, so test it out before cutting - pinning between the start and end points of the gathering and scrunching up the fabric in between so it lies flat will give you a rough idea of how much the fabric will gather and how much the hem will rise. Once you've decided on the length, mark the end point on your elastic, then cut about 1" longer than this so you've got something to hold onto while you're sewing.

4. Start sewing! You can use either a straight stitch or zigzag stitch. Begin at the hem, securing the end with a stitch and backstitch. Then sew carefully in a straight line while stretching the elastic up to the end point of your gathering. Secure at the top with a backstitch, then snip the threads and the extra elastic.

Et voilĂ ! You can now stitch the underarm seam and hem and attach the sleeve to your garment.

21 September 2012

Pussy Bow Blouse

It's a good job my office is so warm as I've just finished sewing a short-sleeved lightweight cotton blouse. The reason it took so long is that it's a self-drafted pattern and I'm a perfectionist. The design includes a gathered yoke line on front and back, button down front, pussy bow neckline and gathered sleeve hem. It took a lot of refining and redrawing, and even when I'd finished this version I could still see parts I wanted to change further. But having worn the blouse all day today it's really grown on me and I feel very comfortable in it. Perhaps I was just staring at it too long and imagining problems that weren't there. Does that ever happen to you?

The bow is the perfect length - it's long enough to look like a serious bow, yet not so long that there's a danger it'd dangle in my dinner. I'm also pleased with how it's constructed and am feeling rather smug about the neatness of the finish. Which makes a change!

Hurrah for finished projects!

[Soundtrack: 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' by Bob Dylan]

18 September 2012

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

I'm seriously gutted to have missed Winnie's Knickerbocker Glory this weekend. My immune system decided enough was enough and confined me to my bed for the last few days (I'm still in my PJs as I type this - oh the glamour!). But on the plus side my review copy of Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing arrived - and no illness could stop me from reading that!

If you haven't got your copy yet, you're in for a treat. The first thing to note is that this book is very much about Gertie. The introduction begins with the story of how she began her sewing blogger journey, and all the garments are modelled by her gorgeous self. As a fan, I LOVE this aspect of the book.

The second thing to note is that the book is MASSIVE!! I dread to think how many late nights Gertie must have pulled to write it all. The focus of the book is vintage-style sewing, including specialist stitches, insertion techniques and finishes - pad stitching, boning, bound buttonholes... Slow sewing, if you will. Not for the fainthearted, but certainly impressive, and lots of techniques I'd like to tackle. Considering it's clearly aimed at intermediate and advanced level stitchers, the introductory sections on tools, washing fabric etc seem a bit superfluous - I'm not sure why so many sewing books (editors?) insist on including them. But that really is a minor quibble, and they're certainly not a chore to read :)



The second part of the book is absolutely amazing - the garments. 10 patterns are included, with variations outlined for most of them. These are classic, mainly 1950s styles that Gertie is known for wearing, inspired by Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing - the book which her blog focused on in the beginning. They are seriously drool-some. Many of them won't suit my petite frame unfortunately, but there are still quite a few I'm itching to make, including the Sultry Sheath, Wiggle Dress and Shirt Dress. One of my favourite aspects of the book is that it pulls back the curtain on construction and reveals what the insides of the garments look like. It's really helpful to take a peek at how another stitcher finishes her seams and keeps the whole thing hanging together - a very clever touch.

I really love this book!!!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me to review. Rest assured I only give my honest opinions.

14 September 2012

Autumn Jackets: Sewing Pattern Inspiration

Anise by Colette Patterns

Steffi by Burda

Simplicity 7032 (aka the Betty Draper Jacket)

Watson by Papercut Patterns

I'm itching to make an Autumn jacket. Something short and chic, yet snuggly enough for the crisp mornings soon to come. These are some of the patterns I'm dreaming of at the moment. Which is your favourite? Do you have any other suggestions I might like?

[Soundtrack: 'Autumn Sweater' by Yo La Tengo]

10 September 2012

Chocolate Polka Dots, How I Love Thee So

"Don't you already have a blouse in that fabric?" said my fella. Certainly not. It may look the same, but I think you'll find the material consistency is quite different. As is that other roll of chocolate brown polka dot fabric waiting patiently in my stash.

I know what I like, okay?!

I've tweaked the toile almost to death and am now working on the first real version of my self-drafted pussy bow blouse. I'm really hoping I get to finish it before the lovely weather we've been having in London stops. Unlikely. But my office is like a sauna so I'll still get to wear it :)

In other news, I totally busted my fabric scissors. I'm too embarrassed to tell you how... Oh hang on, when has that ever stopped me before? Let's just say a little DIY sharpening backfired. Doh! No lectures, please. But I would be interested to know if you have any scissor preferences before I buy a replacement pair. Big heavy shears? Or lighter weight soft-grip handles? Ta!

[Soundtrack: 'Wolf' by First Aid Kit]

7 September 2012

Drape Drape 2

Mmm... don't you just love Japanese pattern books? Even better, ones that have been translated into English! I have to admit I haven't yet actually made anything from a Japanese book. But if, like me, you're interested in the technicalities of pattern construction, it's enough just to stare at the diagrams to get your brain whirring and your heart racing at the wonder of it all.

Drape Drape 2 by Hisako Sato has recently been translated into English. It features 14 amazing designs which all play around with the form created by hanging fabric. The designs are all loose-fitting, modern styles designed for lightweight fabric. As with the Pattern Magic books, a lot of them are a bit too futuristic for my preppy style, but there are 3 or 4 I have bookmarked to make - and it would be a satisfying challenge to do so. The book includes full scale traceable patterns for all the designs, plus clear diagrams and instructions on how to construct them.

Have you ever made a drapey garment like one of these from Drape Drape 2?

Disclosure: This book was sent to me to review by the publisher. Rest assured that I only give my honest opinions.

4 September 2012

I'm in Handmade Living!

Eep! Please forgive the shameless self-promotion and indulge me a little - I'm in Handmade Living magazine! Just a little mention, but the first time my blog has been featured in a printed magazine, so I was pretty chuffed when I saw it. It's the first time I'd seen this magazine - it's great to see a celebration of all things handmade, from artisan baking to a vintage loom, slippers to sweeties. Oh and did I mention that I'm in it? Sorry!!! :)

[Soundtrack: 'No Easy Way Down' by Dusty Springfield]