Making my first coat

Oh crikey – I’m not entirely sure what I’ve let myself in for with this one.

I’ve wanted to make a coat for forever, but have never quite had the guts to actually go ahead and do it. Sometimes I feel like my sewing techniques are a little too slapdash for the more complicated projects. But how do you get better if you don’t try and stretch yourself every now and then.

Luckily for me, the “in” shape (basically the coat everyone in London seems to be wearing) is a slouchy, boxy boyfriend coat, usually in varying shades of pastel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to follow trends usually, but it makes it a lot easier to find inspiration when you see it on the Tube every morning.

I had a look at a few boxy-type patterns and ended up going for Republique du Chiffon’s Gerard coat and I think I’ve found a great black and white tweed fabric in a shop near me . I had thought about going for some ridiculous colour, but I think I’d rather something a bit more neutral for my first coat.

That said, I’m not overly encouraged by this pattern so far. It’s been quite a bumpy ride, and I’m not even halfway through the toile. Being a French company, all of RDC’s patterns are, of course, in French. But some of them are also available in English PDF versions. I thought: great!

My least favourite bit. And I've also got to trace some pieces. Buggerit.

A photo posted by Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) on

Unfortunately, all the pattern pieces are still labelled in handwritten French, so you’ve got the job of deciphering the handwriting as well as matching the pieces to the English in the instructions. They do have a key, but a couple of the pieces aren’t numbered, which makes it a bit confusing. Also, I really wasn’t keen on having to tape the pattern pieces together and also trace them afterward. I’m told this is common with French patterns, but I’m a firm believer in not having to trace if you spend an indordinate time taping the pieces together.

On top of this, because I’m a bit thick when it comes to instructions anyway and keep getting confused, the toile keeps going wrong. I’ve sewn wrong bits together, got confused by which pieces they mean (I really wish they’d referred to the numbers in the instructions) and just made a bit of a mess of the whole thing so far.

I wish this was a more positive update of the coat-making! But I’ve had a super-frustrating evening and I haven’t even begun fitting the damn thing yet. I’m kind of worried the shape is going to look awful on me and I’ll have to scrap the entire thing.

*sigh*

If anyone’s made this pattern and has any tips, they’d be much appreciated…

MailOnline screenshot

Feminist T-shirts: garment workers’ rights should not be a political football

SEE BELOW FOR UPDATE

Because we sew, we know exactly how much work goes into a garment.

If I’m on a roll, it can take me a couple of evenings to make a skirt. Imagine doing that over and over, day after day… for just 62p an hour.

As a feminist and a seamstress, I was pretty disappointed to see the front page of today’s Mail on Sunday, which claimed workers in a factory in Mauritius were working on ELLE’s feminist T-shirts under pretty terrible conditions for a pittance. These T-shirts cost £45. If the conditions are as bad as described, then there’s absolutely no excuse.

The Fawcett Society does some excellent work, so, while this particular campaign wasn’t for me, I am disappointed for them. Their statement makes it clear they were concerned the T-shirts weren’t being manufactured in the UK. As far as I can see, they may have been quite badly let down by Whistles. I should state here, the Fawcett Society has asked for evidence to back up the Mail’s claims. Their statement adds:

If any concrete and verifiable evidence of mistreatment of the garment producers emerges, we will require Whistles to withdraw the range with immediate effect and donate part of the profits to an ethical trading campaigning body.

Whistles has said they’re investigating the allegations “as a matter of urgency”.

Let’s be clear: while this is an important story, the only reason it’s on the Mail on Sunday’s front page is because it’s an excellent chance for them to have a pop at Labour (and maybe feminism too while they’re at it). Nick Clegg wore the T-shirt as well, but he hasn’t been mentioned on the front page. One of the things I despise about politics is how people’s lives and working conditions become political footballs pre-election season. And it’s only going to get worse.

The exact same thing happens with coverage of the Welsh NHS. Normally, the national press doesn’t care too much about what happens in Wales. But because it’s run by Welsh Labour right now, the right-wing press sees it as far too good to not have a politically-slanted pop. I wouldn’t mind, except I know full well when May 2015 comes and goes, Welsh issues will return to the back of their minds, relegated to the back pages.

I digress.

Long-term readers of this blog will know I’m not someone who buys new clothes on a regular basis. That said, since my pledge ended and I’ve had less time to sew, I have inevitably been buying the occasional basic if I can’t find something decent second hand on eBay. Thanks to a hefty overdraft, I stick to the places I can get a T-shirt for cheap, feeling like a complete sellout.

It’s become increasingly difficult to find ethical and affordable clothing. As wages are squeezed and the cost of living gets higher, cheap clothes are so much more accessible. But we know cheap clothes come at a human cost. It’s been more than a year since the Rana Plaza disaster – and I’m not sure anything has changed. My colleague did a quick video around the time of the anniversary, asking some people if it had changed their shopping habits. Not that many people said yes. You can watch the video here.

People sign up to the Seamless Pledge for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they want to sew more or perhaps they want to cull their wardrobe to the basics. But the majority of them say they’re concerned about the way the items in their wardrobes are made. They want to take ownership of the ethics in their wardrobe the only way they know how. True, there’s still an issue with sourcing ethical fabric – but at least you know the conditions in which your clothing was made.

We absolutely should be talking about the rights of the people who make our clothes, but not just because some Labour MPs wore these shirts. We need to be talking about ethical manufacturing all the time and we need to demand better for the sake of the people who put the clothes on our backs.

As for me, I think it’s high time I renewed my pledge.

Also I have to emphasise again: the Fawcett Society does some amazing work, so do go check them out and perhaps donate if you’d like to.

On a completely separate note – YEP, I’m blogging again. More on that soon…

UPDATE Weds, November 5: The Fawcett Society has said the T-shirts were in fact made ethically. Full report here.

Found this quote pretty interesting:

Laura Harvey, lecturer in the sociology of media at the University of Surrey, criticised the newspaper’s report. “It was a cynical political move against an important feminist campaigning organisation. If the Daily Mail really cares about workers’ rights why aren’t they running stories about the garment industry more widely and the campaigns to improve worker’s rights?” she told the Guardian.

My point above still stands – ethical manufacturing is still a huge issue and I agree with Laura Harvey: we should be reporting on it as much as possible. If you’re interested, the Guardian did an interactive earlier this year about the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry.

In progress: the maid of honour dress

Every now and then, you get to sew something a bit special.

Tonight's progress #sewing

A photo posted by Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) on

A couple of weeks ago I got a text from my buddy Tom telling me that he and his fiance Karl had set a date for their wedding. I did a little dance, told him I’d definitely be there and that I couldn’t wait to make a dress for it. To which he answered: “Well, you might have to think about coordinating colours because I was wondering if you would be my maid of honour?”

I did a little scream, scared my housemates, danced up and down the stairs… and then told him OF COURSE I BLOODY WOULD.

Soon to be on my sewing table

A photo posted by Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) on

Said wedding is now just under a month away, so it’s been full-speed ahead on the dress. It took me the longest time to decide what I wanted to do. I had hoped to do something akin to Gertie’s recital dress or   , especially when I found the perfect burgundy polka dot flocked tulle. In the end, I’ve stuck with a strapless number, using the strapless party dress from Gertie’s book.

Strapless dresses being what they are, I wanted to make sure the bodice would fit me so I used it as an excuse to make ANOTHER dress from the pattern with a slimmer skirt. Hey, you can’t have enough floral numbers in your wardrobe right? I wore it out the other night and I can confirm: it fits. And it stays up. Hurrah! I’ll post more details about the construction in a later post.

I’m working on the circle skirt right now and will be sure to update you once it’s all done. In the mean time, I wrote about sewing for the Guardian’s Live Better network today! It’s been a sewing-heavy month for us – earlier this month, I got to write about Me Made May. Yay sewing!

What’s on your sewing table right now?

Me Made May ’14 so far

I can’t believe we’re 13 days into May already! Time’s going so quickly…

mmmay14

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, you may not have seen my updates from Me Made May so far, so here’s a quick collage of what’s gone on outfit-wise.

What have I learnt so far? Despite saying it almost every year, I really don’t own a great deal of me-made basics. Most of my basic items were either bought before I began the pledge or are second-hand. It’s partly because basic items don’t feel as fun to sew, perhaps? If anyone can recommend some great basic sewing patterns in the comments below, that would be great!

Also finished a new skirt today, hurrah! Though I did manage to stab myself with the seam ripper. Boo.

How’s Me Made May going for everyone else? And in case you missed it, I wrote a blog post for work about the challenge. You can check it out here.

Me Made May ’14 – bring it on

OH HELLO LONG TIME NO SEE

So remember how 2014 was going to be this super productive year of sewing and blogging? So much for that! Turns out moving to London takes a bit more adjustment than I’d thought. But hey, there’s nothing better than a cheeky challenge to get back in the saddle…

me-made-may'14

I, Elena of Seamless, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear only me-made and second-hand clothing (excluding underwear and coats) each day for the duration of May 2014.

It’s not too different from my Me Made May challenge way back in 2012 – being as I didn’t do too well last year, I thought going back to the basics would work best. I’m not adding any extra sewing challenges on top this time because I’ve got quite a big project in the works which needs finishing this month. More on that later…

Want to follow my updates? I’ll be tweeting, instagramming and all that lark using the hashtag #mmmay14. Make sure you check out the Flickr group for everyone’s updates. Happy Me-Made-May!

Sewing sequins – some inspiration

With the festive season over and done with, you’d think I’d missed the boat on the sequin front – but there’s nothing wrong with a spot of glitz to kick off the first month of the New Year.

As I mentioned last time, I’m trying to concentrate on one of my Can’t Jar entries a month. I’ve never sewn sequins before and I’m currently without a sewing machine, so it seemed like the perfect place to start.

It can be fiddly work for sure, but, as you’ll see from some of these projects, the results are well worth the effort. I’ve gathered five sequin tutorials from around the web

Sequin clutch

This is definitely one you’ll need to set a bit of time aside for, as well as about 40 yards of sequins! Again, no sewing machine needed here right until the end when you put all the pieces together. Kris from How Did You Make This has a great tutorial for this evening clutch bag here.

Paillette sequin collar

Really simple idea from A Pair & A Spare to update a round neckline. Geneva added paillette sequins to the neckline of a refashioned white dress. Best of all, you won’t need a sewing machine at all. But if you do have one handy – why not make a version of this BurdaStyle peplum top with the embellished neckline?

Embellished headpiece

Embellished headpiece | Everything Oz/Mollie Makes

Embellished headpiece | Everything Oz/Mollie Makes

Excuse the dodgy picture on this one, as it’s actually from issue twenty of Mollie Makes magazine! This hair clip is made from sequins, beads, gems and stones with the starbust design sewn onto sinamay in an embroidery hoop. It’s from Everything Oz by Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey, which you can get here.

Sequinned shoe clips

How cute are these little bow clips?! They’re pretty easy to make too. Alternatively, there’s a tutorial here for a pair of heart-shaped sequin shoe clips, if those should take your fancy.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt

Being the shortarse I am, I’m not sure I could pull this one off, though I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who could rock a full-length sequin skirt. This YouTube tutorial is definitely for you.

Any of you spotted some good sequin tutorials? Or have you tried sewing with them? Do let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year, folks!

Can you believe it’s 2014 already?

I’m feeling quite a bit worse for wear today after one too many glasses of champagne yesterday, but I’m extremely excited about this year. 2013 was a bit of a mixed bag in all – and when it comes to sewing, it slowed down a little by the end.

Hopefully, that won’t be the case this year. I’ve got a few challenges going for 2014, which you can find full details of here. But the most important one you guys should know about is as follows:

Earlier this year I popped a list of all those projects I’ve passed up into a fancy jar, which currently gathers dust on my bedside table. For each month of 2014, I’ll take a Can’t out of the jar and get it done, once and for all. Some things, like a coat for example, will take up the whole month with just one project while others can comprise of lots of different ones. I want to push the boundaries of what I can sew by getting out of my comfort zone. Should be fun!

This month, it’s all about sequins. I’ve never sewn sequinned embellishments and I’ve never used sequin fabric – so this could either be an awesome new skill or a recipe for disaster. I’ll be posting some inspiration for sequinned projects this month – hopefully ones which can travel, as I’ll be moving to London in a week and I’ll need something I can stitch on the move!

For now, I’ve got a pair of trousers almost finished and I’m in dire need of a long snooze…

And of course, if you’re stuck for a New Year’s resolution – you can always take on the Seamless Pledge!