Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A sustainable wardrobe...

Since I started sewing I've been on a quest for sustainability. It started slowly, I was tired of "shopping til I dropped", buying things on a whim and never wearing them, it became a chore to go on a "shopping spree", something I had previously loved. It didn't start as consciously as wanting to be more green;  instead I bought a couple of vintage patterns on ebay and tricked my mum into a weekend of sewing- she sewed, I learnt! 
From there it grew...I began to think about this throwaway culture we take for granted, buying a new pair of shoes, just to match with one outfit, or a skirt, just for this or that holiday. Only two years later I made a pact with my husband not to buy any new clothes for a year. We thought it would be a massive sacrifice but we both were committed to trying to shake off our consumerist habits (I'm sure he has more pairs of shoes than i do!), actually it turned out not to be difficult at all, and apart from a couple of minor purchases (and a couple of pairs of shoes!) we haven't bought any clothes for about a year and a half. 
It helps that I can sew! But it has really been this challenge that we set ourselves that improved my sewing hugely. Previously if I had that feeling, you know the one, you see something in a shop window, or a magazine and feel your life won't be complete without it, I would just go out and buy. Now, when I have that feeling, and I still do (it doesn't just go away when you stop buying although maybe it does lessen), I have to make! Sometimes, that hasn't been difficult but other times, I can tell you, its been a real test.  
This change of lifestyle has really helped me to become more aware of how we have become conditioned to be insatiable consumers. Even today on Eid, the holiday is all about spending, buying, consuming, it sums up perfectly what post world war II retail analyst Victor LeBeau said “Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” Think Christmas or birthdays or any other holiday and what is it you do? Shop!
Of course, I still love clothes and I'm sure you do too. Why wouldnt we? But there are other ways to get your clothes high than buying something for $20 at H&M, that at that price doesn't even come close to paying for the cost of the thing. Here are some ideas for developing a more sustainable wardrobe: 
~ Go for quality over quantity. Buy from small independent companies or one-of-a kind things from independent designers. Check out etsy for some great stuff.
~ Buy vintage, second-hand,and refashioned clothing. This can be difficult in a place like Beirut, where I live but The Bargain Box on Bliss (opposite AUB tree, in AUH) has some decent things and is always restocking.
~ Check the labels for organic and earth-friendly fabrics, Fair Trade, and union-made clothing.
~ Find a seamstress or tailor you like and have good-quality apparel custom-made or altered to fit. The cost may be lower than you think. This is a really easy suggestion for those of us in the Middle East as there are tons!
~ Pass on clothes you no longer want by having a clothing swap, donating them to thrift and charity shops, or selling on consignment.
 ~ Do you own refashioning and reuse sewing. Make small repairs that will keep an article of clothing wearable longer. Look out for a new class coming soon!
 ~ Finally, and very importantly, learn to sew! 

Of course, I still have a way to go. Most of the fabric I buy is probably not produced in a sustainable way, and until I find a way to source that, I'm sort of stuck with that. However, I have begun buying second hand fabric, or using old sheets and pillowcases and turning them into clothes. And most of all I am committed to making all my own, and eventually, my husband's clothes. 
A me made outfit in readiness for self stitched September

Another homemade outfit on a not so willing subject!
So to mark that this month brings us Self Stitched September and I am so in!
For some more information on what happens to all the "stuff" we buy watch this great little film. At around 14 minutes it talks about fashion...excellent stuff!

Where would you classify yourself on the spectrum of sustainability? Are you a super greenchic kind of gal or guy? Or more on the way to sustainability?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Pincushion Tutorial

Last week while on my hands and knees on the floor scooping up pins that were covered with dust and fluff I had a light-bulb moment! I'd seen them before, of course, but didn't fully appreciate they're usefulness. Sewists I admire were wearing them, but I wasn't sold...until I found a cockroach leg attached to the pin in my hand I had just retrieved from under the sewing machine! Enough losing these little buggers and scrambling around trying to find them. I needed a way to keep them safe. And so these pretty little wrist pincushions were born.

What you need to make them: 
  • A circle of fabric approximately 12cm in diameter (you can make them bigger if you want a little larger cushion)
  • A strip of (contrasting) fabric approx 26cm x 7cm (make them longer if you have very thick wrists!)
  • A strip of fusible interfacing a little smaller than your strip of fabric
  • Something to stuff your cushion with- I used foamy stuff (!), but you could use old tights, fabric scraps, etc
  • 2 strips of velcro (shlick schlack!) approx 4cm long
  • A needle and thread of similar colour
  • Scissors
  • A sewing machine (or not actually!)
What you do: 
(Please forgive the rubbish photography- I didn't realise until halfway through that my camera was on manual focus! They improve halfway through)
Begin with your circle of fabric- it doesn't need to be perfect as you can see!

Fold over the edge of the circle (about 1/2cm) and make a running stitch all the way round, catching in the folded edge and the main circle. (You don't have to have a dirty little left over piece of nail polish on your thumb to do this- it doesn't really help!)

Pull your running stitch tight to create a gathered pouch.

Stuff with anything you can find- old tights, fabric scraps, bits of old t-shirts- I used cushion stuffing.
Pull your stitches tight, closing up hole as much as possible (don't worry if its not completely closed).

Take your strip of contrast fabric (excuse the terrible cutting!)

Iron your strip of interfacing onto the wrong side of the fabric strip.

Fold the strip in half, right sides together and pin.

Sew down open edge (the long side, leaving short ends open).

Turn inside out.

Tuck raw ends inside the tube of fabric and iron.

Sew the short ends closed.

Sew velcro strips onto one end of fabric in a square i.e. sew around velcro.

Sew other piece of velcro onto other end. Make sure you sew on opposite side.

Hand stitch your circle of stuffed fabric onto fabric strip, open part down. Try to get open part of cushion covered by strip.

Sew around in a circle using a small running stitch to secure the cushion onto the wrist band.

This is what the back should look like when you're done. The hole is covered by the wrist band and it is securely fastened.

Ta dah! A finished wrist pincushion.

And a whole lot of others to keep it company. Aren't they pretty?

These are great for using up any scraps you have in the house, those of you who have been to my place know that means a LOT! But mainly, I'm hoping less pins will find their way to my dusty floor, and I'll spend a lot less time on the ground sifting through dirt to retrieve them.
And just to show what a difference they make here are some projects that were completed using these bad boys: 


Even the little newcomer found a use for one of them- maybe he can sew after all! (I know I need to stop taking phoots of my cats but they are soooo bloody cute!)
Classes this week:
Tuesday and Thursday 6-8.30pm: Skirt/PJ making-intermediate
Thursday 12pm: Skirt/PJ making -intermediate
Wednesday and Friday: Pattern reading

Sunday, 14 August 2011

What's new pussycat?

A busy period here at Old Fashioned Headquarters: lots of classes, lots of sewing and some other exciting projects which will be revealed soon. But first a little show and tell of some of the beauties that were created by a lot of talented students.

Don was hard at work to cut pattern and finally produce a woollen (!) cardigan...unfortunately not to be worn for a few months yet, only to be taken out of the wardrobe and admired!

  From vintage pattern to confusing pieces to finished dress in just a few hours. No wonder Gabriella looks so happy- I want one too.

Lucy modeled her bright yellow dress on the summery balcony. Looks good eh? After way too many (!) alterations to the bodice we finally got it straight

Claudia burnt the midnight oil finishing off this elegant little number - very Audrey Hepburn I thought.

While Claire finished off this lovely summer dress with yellow bias binding for a professional finish- which unfortunately my rubbish photography skills do not demonstrate! Bear with me, I will get better, its a new camera.
And even after all the hours of hard work unpicking, re sewing, some people were still a little shy about showing off their finished creations- even though they looked great!

The Beginners produced the usual brilliance of the first bag.

And finally, this little guy turned up on the doorstep and wouldnt leave. Welcome to the Old Fashioned family little Pussycat- its still to be determined whether he can sew or not!

Classes are a little unsorted this week as we're still waiting on the London visa so may not be around for a while. If I'm still here, I'll email class times or email me.

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