Saturday, 16 June 2018

How to Sew Plastic Free - Fastenings

Well Hello, I feel like it's been ages since I posted - it has. We have had computer issues and the blogger app no longer works on my Ipad. I have posted via bloglovin' and you can follow me there too. But hey, computer sorted and I can now access all my blog stuff.

Back in May, I pledged to sew plastic free for June - specifically fastenings. So far I have succeeded. In fact I haven't really sewn anything as I've been busy with work over the last few weeks. I've been doing quite a bit of felt making and considered how I could make felted buttons/ beads - I'm still exploring that one.

So here I am wondering how I can avoid plastic buttons and zips in my sewing. This is what I've come up with and how these items may be used.

Plastic zips are the most common fastening I use; all my RTW clothes have them and they are easy to find and buy. But what about the alternative? Metal zips. Currently the only place I see metal zips are in jeans and trousers and coats/ jackets, all dress zips seem to be plastic. I think this is due to the wieght. Metal zips are heavier and might not suit a light weight dress. However, those of you who have vintage clothing will be used to seeing metal zips in dresses and skirts, usually installed as a lapped zipper. The advantages are that metal zips are generally more robust, there is less stretching and puckering when installing them and they and be easily shortened and adjusted. It might be worth trying a metal zip even in a dress, unless it is a very lightweight fabric.

I have a large stash of buttons - and they are all plastic. Finding alternatives is tricky, but not impossible. One of the easiest solutions is to buy metal self-covered buttons. These are available in many sizes and once covered match perfectly with the garment. I think self covered buttons look stunning on delicate blouses and tops. other options include wood, shell, glass, leather, ceramic and metal to name but a few. Again many vintage garments will be found to have nonplastic buttons. I hope to try and make some ceramic buttons soon.

Hooks & Eyes/ press studs
The most easily sourced nonplastic fastening in my opinion. Most bar hooks and hooks and eyes are metal, simply because the design lends itself to a metal construction. The best press studs are also metal and they can be manufactured to a high standard. Plastic press studs are generally inferior. The beauty of these types of fastenings is that the fastening is hidden giving a sleek appreance to the garment or accessory.

Snaps and buckles
Again due to the nature of these types of fastenings, metal is better. I often use snap fastning on jacket cuffs and they are great on childrens wear. Some of my favourite fastings are the metal dungaree buckles when paired with a brass antique effect jeans button. I only need one set and I just transfer them to whichever garment I'm wearing, rather than buying multiple sets.

Eyelets are very popular at the moment and I've seen a lot used as design features in garments. I mostly use these when making corsets, but they can be fantastic when paired with decorative laces as a fastening or feature on different garments.

Other options
There are quite a few options for using fabric as a fastening. For example, traditional Chinese corded buttons or frogging can be bought or made (if you have the patience).

Consider if your garment actually needs a fastening. Many times I've made shift dresses with zips in, only to discover I can actually just pull them on! My favourite way to avoid using a button on a keyhole fastening is to add thin rouleau loops to each edge and then just tie them together. If the garment has a bias bound neck, that becomes even easier, as I just lengthen the bias strip, stitch the edges together and tie.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Sew Plastic Free

Since the Rana Plaza building collapsed in 2013, killing over 1000 workers. The fashion industry has become more aware of the poor working conditions in many areas of the world, just to keep us in 'Fast Fashion'. Slow fashion became a movement as well as the Who Made My Clothes campaign.

The big retailers have been forced to look at the conditions their clothes were made in as many of them were named and shamed in the months following the disaster. More recently we have become even more aware of issues affecting clothing production and waste. Companies are springing up all over who are trying to reduce the amount of cutting room waste going to landfill. Great examples are Zero Waste Daniel, Holly McQuillan and Tonle. ELUXE magazine has also identified a range of zero waste designers. These are all great ways to reduce the environmental impact and make fashion more sustainable. The creative Curator wrote a great post about this and you can read it here.

Holly McQuillan

Zero Waste Daniel
Since the airing of Blue Planet a few months ago the world has certainly become aware of the issue with plastics finding their way into the world's oceans. Not just the obvious litter, but also the plastic micro fibres that are shed from our clothing during manufacture and regular washing. How will the fashion industry respond to this - Only time will tell.

Still from the Blue Planet
We can't bury our heads in the sand on this one. We need to reduce our manufacture and use of plastics, especially single-use plastics. But what about the things we use in home sewing? What can we do to make a difference - even a small one?

OK, so where are we using plastics in sewing? I thought this was quite a simple answer at first but then I really started to think about it.

From Plastic is Rubbish - a great source for plastic free living.
Yep - synthetics.
In Brief - We all know that there are issues in the manufacture of natural fabrics - pesticides and chemicals used in the large-scale manufacture of fabric and particularly dyes. However ultimately these fabrics will biodegrade over time and if you can find organic products  -  go for it. There are certainly more suppliers out there than there were a few years ago.
Then you've got the cellulose-based fabrics. Rayon, Viscose, Bamboo - all of which can be blended with other natural fibres or synthetics, and dependent on which will also biodegrade, although the process is more akin to the chemical process used in the production of true synthetics.
So Synthetics are made using completely chemical methods, Polyester - for example, is made from ethelyne which is derivative of petroleum. There are many variations of such fabrics, some that resemble natural fabrics such as silk and some that have their very own unique properties. Many of these fabrics have made their way into our lives and we hardly notice them. Synthetics have many useful properties and are used in performance wear, protective clothing etc. Until someone has found a way of getting rid of them they will forever exist, never biodegrading. The more we make the more there is. (My son wants to be a chemical engineer - maybe I can convince him that solving this issue would be a great thing to research).  You can read more on how different fabrics - and other things - are made at How Products are Made.

I must admit that I do prefer natural fibres - I tend to sweat a lot and polyester does not breath! I also find it smells like turps when it's being ironed! I normally avoid such fabrics but have found myself sewing them a few times over the last few years. I often do like the finished item and then feel guilty about making it! Am I alone in this one?

Plastic Spools

Notions & Supplies
Here's where it gets scary.
Polyester thread supplied on plastic cotton reels - do you recycle yours? Gutterman have started doing a wider range of high-quality cotton threads, but I think they still come on plastic spools.
Sewing machine needles supplied in plastic cases.
Plastic handled scissors - you can get metal ones.
Plastic zips - most dress zippers are plastic these days.
Plastic sewing machine feet - I know some machines have metal ones - my Bernina does.
plastic bobbins - again some are metal
Plastic sewing machines - given these are not single use, but if I'm listing stuff...
Plastic headed pins - I prefer glass, they don't melt if I accidentally iron them.
Various tapes, elastics and clips.
Can you think of more?

So what do we do about it?
Recycle as much packaging as you can - the stuff that you just can't get plastic free.
Buy natural where possible. You can buy cotton thread on wooden spools - go for organic if you can.
Use up your scraps rather than throwing away.
When you replace items go for environmentally friendly organic if you can. Check out Plastic is Rubbish to find where you can buy plastic free. This is a great website with lots of tips to get you started. Go explore.

Take the #Sew Plastic Free challenge in the month of June.

I know it's difficult to go completely plastic free, but what can you commit to for the month of June?
Could you sew only natural fibres? Maybe you could use alternatives to plastic zippers for your sewing projects? Could you replace plastic headed pins with metal or glass ones? Or search out ceramic or wooden buttons. One small thing at a time do check out Plastic is Rubbish if you are planning on signing up.

Sign up

Copy the pledge below and paste it into the comments section below,  include your details and your personal sew plastic-free challenge before 1st June 2018:
'I, (insert name and blog /Instagram handle if you have one), sign up to Sew Plastic Free. I endeavour to..........................................................................During June 2018' 

This post is a stream of conciousness, based on some reading and news I've seen over the past few months. I'm not an expert and I'm just trying to find my place in this issue. Please do email me with any corrections and I will edit.

'I, Claire of Ragbags and Gladrags/ @artcoopsville, sign up to Sew Plastic Free. I endeavour to find alternatives to plastic fastenings during June 2018'

Sunday, 29 April 2018

How to make garments a little more interesting

It's close to the end of April, which means Me May May is just around the corner. Are you taking part?

I am and this year along with pledging to wear me-made clothes every day I decided to embrace my creativity and wear what the heck I like - expressing my inner artist.

So how do you do that?

Well for me it goes back to my days as an art student in the 1990's when I would take items I found at the local Flea Market and adapt them. I remember having rainbow dyed dungarees (which were at least 3 sizes too beg, but I didn't care), purple jeans, Dunlop Greenflash trainers, DM's, I pinched a floral shirt from my hubby (then boyfriend) and also wore his leather jacket loads - I loved the smell of Patchouli. I also wore long skirts, baggy crepe de chine trousers, short skirts or shorts with black tights and a range of different t shirt and tops, some of these things I made (badly), some were second hand. One of the items I bought from the flea market was a green army jacket which I embroidered with flowers and wore with everything.

 25 years later and I'm back to embroidering jackets. A couple of years ago I chose this jacket at a clothes swap. I quite liked the style, with its 3/4 sleeve and felt it would be perfect for spring/ summer wear - but it was just too Brown and Boring. So a few weeks ago I began to embroider it with patterns and textures - making it up as I went along.

I haven't done any embroidery for years, so it's not the neatest or most exact work I've ever done and although I know how to do many stitches I'm not actually very good at them, especially the filling stitches - something to work on.

Even though it's not perfect, I'm now looking forward to wearing this and embracing my art student style again.

So it's back to the Long skirts, patterns that don't match, Layers and lots of colour and as much as I can get away with at work - hey I'm an art teacher - I can get away with lots of things. the only thing I'll be shying away from are my high heels. After my recent hip op I cant spend a whole day in heels - a couple of hours is fine, but it's flats all the way for work.
So are you doing Me Made May?

Friday, 13 April 2018

Sewinspiration - I need your help.

I've just had a delivery of the most gorgeous cornflower blue poly slinky jersey from Minerva Crafts.
I have 3m of it.
I was going to make a Kielo wrap dress, but now I'm not so sure.

Damsel in a Dress from John Lewis
The fabric is of a similar drape and look to this dress. I LOVE THIS DRESS, but something like this would just show off every lump and bump.  So I want something that shows the lovely drape of the fabric, but is not too form fitting as it's polyester and I sweat!

Here is where I need your help. I just can't make a decision would you help me make it? I've narrowed it down to a short list of options - many are from Burdastyle as I have loads of magazines. I'm also a fan of Vivienne Westwood's draped dresses and this could be a fantastic fabric for one of these.

Are you ready? Here we go?
(Don't forget to vote for the one you think I should do in my poll - It's in the sidebar!).

1. (the original idea) Kielo wrap dress  - Named Patterns

Named Patterns

2. The bowfront dress from Pattern Magic

3. Long Sleeve flounce Dress Burdastyle #112 01/2017

4. Gathered Blouse Burdastyle #123 09/2016

5. Gathered Tube dress Burdastyle #101 06/2013

My other options require me to do a bit of drafting.

6. My asymmetric dress. I made this in a woven and it will need a bit of work to make it succeed as a knit dress.

The rest of my options are based on pattern puzzles from Studio Faro - these really do lend themselves to a drapey dress.

7. The Drape shift  dress from Studio Faro

Studio Faro
8. The Wrap Drape Tunic from Studio Faro

Studio Faro
9. Cowl Tee from Studio Faro

Studio Faro
Which would you make - don't forget to vote!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

3 ways to develop your own personal style.

Style is something we are sold. High fashion trickles down to the high street and eventually into our wardrobes. We are told what's hot and what's not and in a few weeks, it's all changed again - welcome to the world of fast fashion. So what can we do to develop our own style? I have 3 ways that I'm exploring to do just that.

1. Make your own clothes? 
Well for starters you choose the style and fabric of the garment you want. you invest time and money into it and therefore it tends to spend longer in your wardrobe and with a bit of practise, you can get the fit spot on. There is nothing better than making clothes that fit you when you can't buy them in the shops.
Me made and designed dress

Isn't it expensive?
Yes, and No. - Patterns and fabric can be expensive. However, you can sew your own garments very cheaply. I don't spend a lot of money on sewing and I look to use fabric as economically as possible by trying to use up every last bit. I also upcycle and remake some clothing items to get more wear out of them and personalise them. There are plenty of free sewing patterns out there and I even have a couple too - you can find them here. I use a local market for some of my fabric or buy during the sales to keep the cost down. for example last year I bought 2.5m of stretch denim from the market. It made me a pair of jeans and a pinafore dress. The fabric cost £15. Another cost-saving way to make your own clothes is to learn to draft patterns. There are plenty of classes out there, but also some good books. I recommend Metric Matern Cutting for Women's Wear by Winifred Aldrich.

Making my own clothes helps me develop my style, especially if I commit to wearing my me-made items every day. So I've signed up for Me Made May again this year - with a challenge to be more creative in my clothing choices. You can sign up at So Zo's blog.

'I, Claire from @artcoopsville, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '18. I endeavour to wear me-made every day and to explore the more creative side of my clothing choices and really express myself through each outfit during May 2018.'

2. Don't be afraid to express yourself.

So how do I explore my creative side? I was thinking about Hila's (Saturday night stitch) pledge to embrace the eccentric during her MMMay challenge. I think it's great that Hila has eccentric items to wear. this got me started on my own style ideas - its something that's been bubbling away for some time and I'm starting to formulate some ideas about how to express my personal style a little more creatively.

When I was an art student back in the 90's I really did wear some eccentric items, but I wasn't comfortable in my own skin, I was often trying to be someone else. I didn't really have a sense of who I was. Now I do, but I'm often wary of wearing exactly what I'd like as I need to be professional at work and I can tend towards the jeans, t-shirt and hoody at the weekends. MMMay gives me the opportunity to mix it up a bit.

A.  Be yourself - It's all too easy to fit into what society expects you to look and be like. I love colour, quirky patterns, amazing shoes, doc marten boots, jewellery etc, but often I'm fearful of overdoing it and end up playing it safe, wearing just one of my lovely garments or accessories.  Well, it's time to say I don't care what you think -  This is me!.

Yes, it was fancy dress - but I love it!
 B. Work with what you have - Don't go out and buy new unless you are replacing a worn out item. Look at the items you have in your wardrobe and decide what will work together. You might notice you have a lot of the same style of trousers/ skirts or a particular palette of colours might become apparent. (I have lots of dresses - but in lots of different styles and colours). don't be afraid to try some unusual combinations- you might be pleasantly surprised.

C. Personalise - much easier if you make your own clothes, but add something to your garment that signifies you - it could be a statement brooch. a scarf worn as a belt. upcycle and embroider garments to make them unique. change the buttons for some that stand out or contrast.

D. Be bold - don't be afraid of colour. If this is something new to you choose a statement piece that is you, Sunglasses, shoes, hat, and pair it with something more neutral. throw out the style guides that say you can only wear this with that, or never wear this with that. it's your style - wear what you want!
3. Finally - create a mood board of the things that you see as your style. Pinterest is great for this, or actually collage images together it will help you identify the styles of clothes, colours, patterns and textures that you are drawn to. So when you purchase or make your next item of clothing you know what you want and need. below are some of the styles and colours that I'm drawn to.

May is Coming and it's Time to be Brave!

Come take a look at my Pinterest style board - can you work out my style?

Dior RTW collection 2018

Monday, 2 April 2018

Spring plans.

So I've been thinking quite a bit about what's next creatively. I've got quite a few things in the pipeline from an artistic point of view, but on the sewing front, I haven't got much planned.

So  - what do I want to achieve?

I have art work to create for my scar tissue project - you can read more about this here. I'm sewing and printing and painting and embroidering all as part of this project. I'm certain the direction will change to reflect the stories people tell me about their scars. This is a long-term project and the first stage will culminate in a "work in progress" exhibition in October.

I want to explore Gelli plate printing. as an artist who uses monotypes a lot in my work. Id love to see how the Gelli plate compares to traditional techniques. I have a plate and am keen to get started. I'd like to do some more work like my black and red pieces.

Sewing wise - 
Ginger Jeans. these have been on my to make list for a while and I've had the pattern since Christmas. just looking for the right denim.

Kalle shirt? I see a lot of love around the blogosphere for this. I'd initially passed it by, but I'm seeing the need for a couple of shirts in my wardrobe and love the styling. Both of these are Closet Case Patterns

I've also got a bit of Selfless sewing planned - I've got a couple of dresses to make for friends. not 100% sure which patterns I'll be using yet.

Exploring new things - 
I've been inspired by the subtraction cutting technique of Julian Roberts, who teaches at the Royal College of Art,  and I'm going to try and have a go - I wonder what I can create? - you can see more of his work on IG @julianrobertsnow

I've also been following the work of Zero Waste Daniel. Love the way he creates fashionable pieces from a patchwork of fashion industry offcuts. I'm determined to try to reduce the amount of waste from sewing by using up as much as I possibly can. I've already started piecing bits together to create fabric yardage. I now need to decide what to make with these pieces - probably something simple like a t-shirt or tank. follow him on IG @zerowastedaniel

Friday, 23 March 2018

Who Said Pigs Cant Fly?

Don't you just love this fabric? I saw this just before Christmas when I was at the Sewing Machine Guy's shop in Ellington. I didn't buy any then, but my hubby bought 3m for me as a Christmas pressent. They are out of stock at the moment, but more is on order I believe.

I knew I wanted an everyday dress and a style that would show off the fabric and not interupt the design.

I used the basic bodice from Gertie's Ultimate dress book, but rotated the bust darts into the waist darts. I transfered the neckline from the princess seamed bodice and added the short sleeves - these I widened to allow a bit more movement as they were a bit tight on the toile I made. The Skirt is simple gathered rectangle but IT HAS POCKETS - !!!!!!!

The dress is unlined, and has a bodice facing. - seams are overlocked.  The seams are hand stitched.
The fabric is a good weight cotton and works well with tights and a cardy in cooler weather, but will be perfect for the summer too. I can see me getting a lot of wear out of this.

check out my pattern matching.

I made most of this dress just after Christmas. I had pressed and pinned the hems before my op, so sitting and hand stitching them when I came out of hospital was quite theraputic.

Do you have a favourite novelty print garment? I think I'm rapidly going off florals and prefer other prints.


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