Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Zero waste - pros and cons

Yesterdays post was more focused on my individual zero waste exercise and did not really discuss my thoughts and feelings about the subject which I really want to talk about now!

So I mentioned about last week being fashion revolution week and how it's raised a lot of awareness about key issues surrounding the fashion/clothing industry and one of the key issues to me is waste. We produce a lot of it! I am guilty of being pretty mindless when if comes to fabric shopping. In the back of my mind is a little voice saying buy responsibly, buy secondhand and then I see a  pretty new print and fall off my perch. Well I am finally ready to take a pledge to buy no more 'new' fabric and make more of a concerted effort to sew from my stash. With my halo firmly on I can honestly say that most of my pattern development toiles and samples are made from vintage fabrics and generally finished off well enough to be donated rather than scrapped, so I'm happy about that bit!

What I plan to do for the next 6 months is shop my stash and buy second hand/responsibly if I need to buy at all. One caveat though is that I am going to a sewing meet up at the weekend and if I see any decent denim I'm buying it for some jeans for James. Good denim is hard to come by! My theory is that if I have a 6 month plan then it will become a habit I will not want t break out of after that time is over!

My own fabric stash has bothered me for a while and never used to grow beyond an old chest it lived in. Now it has it's own cupboard and it doesn't seem to shrink! I have some lovely, lovely pieces that I should really focus my energies on using.

Now I come back to the idea of zero waste. It appeals to me as a concept as the obvious reduction in scraps is brilliant and also encourages a greater respect for the materials you are working with (I feel anyway). However... The dress I made in this post used a full 2.5 metres of fabric. Whilst not outrageously consuming that is definitely not the most economic yardage for a wearable dress. When I was looking through the book (Zero waste fashion design) it was one of the first things that hit me actually. Not all, but some of the more innovative designs (this is not a sewing project book) were very fabric heavy (one particular design I can recall using 7 metres). Whilst little or no fabric was going in the bin, the energy and resources to produce that extra material seemed a bit counter productive. All this depends on the angle you are looking at it however, as we can not move on or innovate if limited to standard guidelines of what we can use and how much. It all gives great food for thought and it's stirring up questions that make me want to discover more.

I also want to encourage you all to think about how you cut your clothes. Do you follow cutting lay plans? I never do, even though I produce them! I have to plan a cutting lay in the most logical way that will lead to a guaranteed successful garment. This means limited folds in the fabric and all the pattern pieces following the grain correctly, which is by far the most economical way. When I cut myself, I will fold and refold and sometimes refold again as I go. Another way to do it, is to cut all the pattern pieces as whole pieces (the whole bodice front, back etc...). That way you can shift it all around your fabric until they all fit. As for following the grain along the length, I do not always do that, especially with facings or pocket linings. I shall happily turn the pieces to go along the width or use scraps of a different fabric if I'm a bit short of my main. I guess I am used to buying fabric too, so at a rough guess I normally judge that I can get a narrow knee length dress from 1.5 metres of fabric (150cm wide) and a fuller dress or trousers from about 2 metres. This generally works out pretty well and if the fabric is narrower then I add on a bit more.

Basically what I have taken from all this "thinking" is that it isn't good for me to just relax and fall into a routine way of doing things. I need to constantly question whether my way is the best way or whether I can improve at all. I realise that not everyone is going to have the same concerns or view point and it's important to remember that sewing is a terribly important skill to keep going. For some of you, the joy of learning that skill is of key importance at the moment and you may not need to be plagued with guilt about where you have bought your fabric! I do sense that too. Life is hard and busy at times and this post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty about anything, but more to open up some wider thinking! ;-)

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Zero waste dress and handmade buttons

Hello, hello. I am really looking forward to sharing this blog post. Last week was brilliant on Instagram and totally buzzing with conversation about sustainable fashion, what we can do to improve our own personal practice and a general increase in awareness of humanitarian and environmental issues to do with the fashion industry (search #fashrev #makersforfashrev). It was a great week and really got the creative juices flowing. I was participating in a week long daily photo challenge organised by the lovely Emily of 'In the folds' and I wasn't really expecting to get as much out of it as I did, but it really helped me to re-evaluate how I work and address how I want to work going forward. My attention also returned back to the issue of zero waste fashion. It's something that has been on my mind, but it requires a lot of thought and consideration and I manage to make myself too busy all the time to really get into it!

 I opened up the discussion on Instagram a month or so ago and was directed to the book 'Zero waste fashion design'. I subsequently bought it, had a good look through and then put it on the shelf. I knew I needed to step back from it to really get a sense of where I wanted to go with it and how I can execute an idea successfully.

It seemed easier to think of making a dress just to explore the concept a bit and I knew that I was going to use a sizeable length of fabric from my stash (I used 2.5 metres of a 110cm wide fabric). I then needed to plan all the seam and edge finishes before I started cutting, plus a garment style and also how I wanted to use the fabric.

In the book mentioned above there are all sorts of examples of garments with the cutting plans. Some garments are made from lots of smallish bits creatively cut, but for my first go I wanted to use the whole piece of fabric as is and cut into it/manipulate it.

My process was to start with the neck and shoulders and work my way down. I haven't taken step by step photos of this garment, but as I was cutting the neck line I was careful to build the neckline facings into the design. The interesting folds along the sleeves and lapels are basically a result of this thinking and a really nice detail.




Another consideration was to include enough volume in the front and back by way of a pleat, which was calculated when cutting the neck opening.




Once I had worked out how I was going to cut these areas the pressure was eased somewhat when fumbling with what to do for the rest of the garment.

There was a lot of trying on and pinning once the neck and shoulders were established! Eventually I cut into the body and got pinning again and decided on pockets and sleeve shape etc...




What I have ended up with is some kind of sewing origami and I'm really pleased with how it has come together and the fact that it is wearable. One of my biggest fears was to waste the fabric on an exercise to reduce waste!





It is difficult to go into too much more detail as this is the beginning of something for me really. It is a wearable prototype I would say and now I have achieved a concept I like I can refine it to have stronger junctions at the neck and underarms and more planned seams rather than topstitched areas. Also different sleeve lengths with different fabric widths as this is not my favourite length!




 I'm excited to have new direction and I really want to explore this idea further and build upon the experience. It is a muslin, but I'm wearing it now, so I guess it must be a success! Two rather irksome scraps were left over however!!! I turned them into a lavender bag, so don't worry, they weren't wasted! ;-)

Just room for a bit more sustainable ramble???

I need to show you these buttons!


These are a result of a prompt from last weeks discussions and without thinking how it would be possible I mentioned I wanted to make buttons from shells! What? Crazy? My husband thought so, which got me more determined than ever. The shells were collected on a recent family holiday to Tenby in Wales and they are very sea worn and flat oyster shells.


A bit of sawing and gentle piercing with an awl followed by a gentle file turned them into beautiful hand made buttons. I only used two or three of the shells we collected because I didn't want to go overboard, but I have enough smaller buttons for a light garment and some larger for a jacket or something.



It was great to be doing something new and I feel I learnt whole load about the structure of a shell. The very same day a couple of other lovely sewists also posted some buttons they had recently finished, so there is definitely something in the air. One set was made from a lovely found piece f wood, whilst the others were beautifully crafted from porcelain. Maybe we are all feeling the desire to connect with the materials we are working with?

How about you? Are you questioning a lot more or wanting to try something new with your sewing/garment making?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Knitted - rockhopper shawl

Hi friends! I have recently finished a knitting project. They can be few and far between, but I have been working on this since around Christmas time and have been keen to finish it. It took a recent week away with the family to finally reach the finish line.


This is the rockhopper shawl from the rather charming knitting book 'Penguin A Knit Collection' by the equally charming Anna Maltz. I have not met her, but I hope to one day and from what I can tell she's pretty charming. The book was only released before Christmas and I only discovered Anna just prior to this. As soon as I saw her stuff I was inspired and pre-ordered the book. It's enchanting and full of interesting penguin facts and bright colours. I cherish it!


What I have since discovered is that Anna is a fun knitter and this was huge fun to knit! Yes it's a plain garter stitch shawl, but the construction of the colour work is so clean and intriguing. I won't spoil how it's done (although you may be better at figuring it out than I), but I enjoyed knitting this from start to finish.

Now here are some awkward poses with my shawl in the sun, but I expect this will come into it's own next winter when it will be surgically attached to me.






Check out Anna's blog for more info on the other patterns in the book here. I have a jumper to finish up and then I plan to start on the Humboldt, which is knitted using Anna's marlisle colourwork technique. Oh I love this book!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Mercury collection pattern

Hi hi, I'm here today to introduce my newest sewing pattern for the Mercury collection. I officially set it live last week, but today I have been able to put the paper versions up in the shop. That's right, I have paper copies!!! So exciting, but first here's the pattern...



As you can see there are two top variations and two bottoms. Choose between a plain or turn-up cuff on the sleeve and plain or split back for the top as well as a wide palazzo leg or baggy pleated cuff leg for the trousers. There are no fastenings on the top and the trousers have an elasticated back waist for an easy pull on style.

The wide leg trousers can be down to the floor of you like them long or just at the ankle if like me you like to show off your shoes. This checked pair was made from a synthetic crepe with a lovely drape. Very important for this style I feel.


The leg with the pleated cuff is a baggy more casual style and more tapered in shape than the wide leg, but still loose at the ankle. I chose to make a sample in this gorgeous checked double gauze fabric (sold out from miss matabi), which in no way shows off the pleats so quickly made another sample in a thin cotton chambray.




 The top is easy fitting and comfortable to wear with a bit of flare coming out at the waist for a flattering shape. I have made it up in a green silk crepe de chine (view A) and a cotton/linen union fabric (view B). It's a nice contrast between the two fabrics and really shows how this style can be dressed up or down. If I was still working in an office then the below outfit would be a go to for sure.


View D can be made up without the hem pleats if you like them baggy. These are not  detailed in the instructions, but it's just a case of ignoring the pleats and finishing off. The trouser hems of view D are finished with a facing and facing pieces are provided for both pleated and un-pleated versions. The below pair are made from a textured synthetic crepe and are bit of a wardrobe staple.


I think the wide palazzo pants are my favourite part of the pattern as they are pretty smart made up in a nice fabric and worn with a silky crop top or camisole. I shall be offering a link to some additional pattern pieces in the next week or so with darts on the trouser back and a side zip insertion. I love the elasticated pull on style, but it may not work for those with a smaller than average waist in relation to their hips. It's not really possible to grade down on the waist and be able to pull your trousers on, so I shall be offering a way around that scenario. Keep your eyes peeled!


Did I mention paper? Oh yes here are the paper patterns. It was never my intention to stock hard copied of my patterns actually, but after the release of the Roberts pattern people were requesting it a lot and I couldn't ignore so I've gone into very small scale production. I'm just going to briefly touch upon it now because I think it's important to show that it is possible no matter what the size of your business is. I had no idea how to go about it for the numbers I was thinking so I found a company who print technical plans to print the patterns on A0 paper and I print the envelopes myself with a mix of screen printing and stamping. I even have to fold the patterns myself so it is a bit labour intensive and not for everyone, but if you want to offer more for your customers then it is definitely possible. I love being in complete control of everything and I found a product that works for me, but there are many other ways to do it. Anyway, if you are also a pattern designer wondering if you can print micro runs then the answer is yes, go for it!!!


I hope you like the new pattern and any questions give me a shout! :-)