Tuesday, January 28
Here's a thing I'm organising in a few weeks time! This is my first time doing any solo organising in London, so any support is appreciated. There's an event on facebook here which you can RSVP to for further details, if you have any questions, and to keep me up to date with the numbers I'm expecting. As well as clothes, I'm hoping there'll be zines, tea and cake.
If you're not in London, the ace Yorkshire Rad Fat Collective are co-ordinating a swap in Sheffield and Leeds.
I've been involved in organising clothes swaps for a while now, and today I was thinking about them as tools of resistance themselves. It's really hard to divorce fashion from capitalism, and I think fatshion faces a lot of (often fair) critique because of its dependency upon brands and lack of skepticism about consumerism. I've found myself drifting away from fatshion communities over the last year because of this, because I'm not interested in fashion as an industry, and often the divide between blogger and brand isn't there in the way it has been. It doesn't appeal to me as much anymore, because I can't buy buy buy all the time, and also because I want blogs to be *different* from mainstream fashion chat, and brand websites.
Passing clothes among each other is something that happened in my communities growing up - people didn't have much, and to make do we would help each other out. This wasn't really something I had much access to in my family, because there was just two of us, and my friends were all thinner than me at the time. BUT I saw how passing stuff on helped people - when you needed a white shirt for a job interview, someone could help you out. When I was unemployed, the swaps in Leeds helped me in a similar way - they gave me access to new clothes, both practical and frivolous, even though I couldn't otherwise afford them. It's for this reason that I always encourage people to come to swaps even if they don't have much to swap themselves.
There's another dimension to fat swaps too, for me, that comes with clothes that don't fit you anymore. I *still* hoard clothes sometimes, even though mainly I have enough now. I was pretty poor growing up and used to diving for things that might fit me when I saw them - whether I liked them or not didn't really matter. It's an instinct I still have. I've kept badly fitting clothes for the same reason, for *just in case* purposes. Being able to see other people look amazing in stuff that doesn't fit me anymore, or never did, takes away the shame of stuff not fitting right, of those feelings of shame that still sometimes come. It feels amazing to pass clothes on to other strong fat people.
Swaps are a way to play with clothes, to connect with other fat folk and joke about how shit fat sized clothes are. They've been a space to try stuff on and experiment outside of a traditional gendered shop setting - to laugh and explore and support others too. It's a way to build fatshion community outside of the BUY BUY BUY model, and that's really important right now.
Saturday, August 17
Part of the reason I started blogging here was because clothes have always mattered to me (not necessarily fashion, but clothes themselves) - because they've been a way to express myself and explore who I am, no matter how little spare money I've had, and whether I've been shopping at jumble sales or high street shops. I'm a constant re-mixer, because what I buy has to go with EVERYTHING I own. I've learned to thrift through years of having few other options. I've never had a lot, but I've always had fun making things work for me where I can.
I've been putting the prices on what I buy ever since I started this. That's for a reason too - often what I wear can't be bought again by someone else (because it's second hand, or on super duper last one left sale), but I still want to be able to be transparent about where I find things and how I dress myself. I want to be able to show others who don't have a lot how I get by. Again, I feel like knowing the price of something is something I was brought up with, and dressing on the cheap is something I feel proud about. I also tag all of the items I wear so you can see the ways I've remixed something too.
I'm never gonna be the sort of blogger with a wardrobe of outfit options. My clothes will always be a little bobbled, and yes, I've worn that blouse a million times. I'm not on trend, I'm not invested in fashion as an industry, or in keeping up to date because of any sense of obligation. I'm mainly into finding ways to have fun dressing myself even when I have nothing.
Wednesday, May 22
Thursday, November 1
I'm off to Leeds this weekend to sell some zines at Leeds Zine Fair, which is happening at Wharf Chambers on Sunday 4th November. It's going to be exciting, and I'm looking forward to seeing Yorkshire friends again. If you want to come, check out the facebook event here. I'm debuting a new zine which will appear online sometime next week! It's all about hard femme politics and embodiment.
Friday, July 13
Phew! After a month or two of hard work, I'm very excited to be able to show you all the next issue of Make It Work. This is available to purchase now from etsy here. There are also copies of Make It Work #1 still available (though in limited amounts now!) and a cute mini zine on the politics of self love and care that I made earlier this year.
Here's the blurb for Make It Work #2:
"This is a copy of my second issue of "Make It Work". Make It Work is a radical fat positive zine centred around DIY fatshion and craft projects. It contains a mixture of personal pieces, tutorials for a feather fascinator and a gathered skirt. This issue there is also talk about depression, self care, make up, health, taste, gender play and a bonus fat pin up centrefold! As always, there's also some bad art and general garishness. Contributors include Cynthia (Life of Cyn), Lauren (Pocket Rocket Fashion), Claire (Monkey Fatshionista) and Rebecca (Fat Girl Living), as well as others!
Half size (A5) with 40 pages total. The zine is colour and has a medium coloured card black and white cover. Sewn binding with wool."
Thursday, May 24
Tuesday, May 1
The trousers worked out well, though I had to remake a waistband as I used stretchy tailoring and it meant the pattern's waistband (with interfacing) was too small. I think I might enlarge the waistband next time too, as though this is high waisted, they could suit a little higher. I made them out of a suiting from my bargain hunting adventures - bought from my favourite fabric stall for £1 a metre (seriously, I wish I'd bought all they had now, it's great!), and I still have some spare to make a pencil skirt out of. Now I've made them once, I'm already planning another pair in a more adventurous colour/fabric.
Top, £12, Next sale
Trousers, handmade from Simplicity 3688 (widely available up to a 28w, I bought mine for £4 at a sale at a local craft shop)
Loafers, Primark, £12
Black belt, Dorothy Perkins, £7
Oh! And as a side note, I am applying for funding for my etsy shop through the Fund 101 scheme on Enterprise Nation. I need 500 votes, and then I'll qualify for a £500 grant, which will allow me to expand on my current skirt and fabric selection and buy a mannequin to fit and display my wares on. You can see my page here, and it only takes a minute to vote for me. I'd reach my target if about half of my regular readers voted, so if you have a spare moment and want to see more of my wares then please do vote!
Wednesday, April 18
So, for me, seeing my body (whether by writing this blog, or hanging out with other fat people, or by being visible on my own terms) has become a really empowering way of negotiating my own relationship with my body. Maybe this makes me vain as hell, but it also makes me happy, and that's more important ultimately.
Anyway, to get to the point I'm trying to make(!), I recently got a copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook by Colette Patterns. They're an ace company who make vintage inspired patterns which have always hit the spot for me. They only go up to a UK size 20, but I've often been able to make the patterns work for me by working with smaller seam allowances. I would LOVE it if they'd expand their sizing so that more plus sizers could enjoy their work too *hint hint*. In the book, the author suggests that it's a good idea to make your own sewing doll/dummy on which to base your sketches for future craft projects. You do this by photographing yourself in either tight clothing or your underwear, printing a copy out, tracing your outline and then scanning or rephotographing it again. You've then got a digital copy of yourself that you can doodle ideas for, photocopy endlessly and design clothes for.
This excited me endlessly, because A) I'm a pretty bad artist and tracing is easy, and B) it meant I could doodle ideas for future creations on a copy of my own body. This is fantastic for craft purposes, but it's also a pretty fun thing to do in general - I found it a positive experience that helped me reconnect with myself after generally feeling a bit low. You can use the form to play around with outfit ideas, make zines, plan projects, or just doodle. It's a little thing, but I found it an affirming body positive experience, so thought I'd reflect upon it.
Here's mine (and if you don't want to see drawings of me in my pants, you should probably look away now!):
And here's some stuff I'd like to make or own:
An unashamed rip off of a Queen of Holloway dress I've had my eye on. Hopeful future project!
40s esque high waisted trousers (a current project), and a nice fitting blouse with a Peter Pan collar.
Saturday, March 31
Here are a few size-less drafting guides for skirts. Skirts (in my opinion) are easiest to start with, as with full styles (circle, a-line, pleated), you only really have to fit around the waistband.
How to draft an a-line skirt from your measurements.
How to draft a circle skirt (with bonus spreadsheet for all the tough calculations!
DIY Couture (I have their cape and pleated skirt books, and cannot recommend them enough. Easy to follow, sizeless, amazing!)
How to draft a pencil skirt.
Super cute curved pockets - a fantastic 50s-esque detail to add!
DIY bodice sloper (my next project!)
As a DIY seamstress, I find the resources available online incredibly inspiring. I rarely have to consult the craft books I own anymore - googling tutorials tends to be much simpler and easier to follow (I am not great at following written instructions, so step by step pictures, videos and so on make much more sense to me). I also find I am significantly less reliant on the patterns available for plus sizes (pretty appalling all round), and more capable of making exactly what I want to own this way.
Saturday, March 17
Another plug for you all today, SORRY. Everyone knows that I've been making clothes for a while now, and this past month I've been spending a lot of time getting my grading skills up to a good standard. I've made the decision to start selling custom made circle skirts (half and full, in a variety of printed cotton fabrics) on etsy.
I cater to any size for the prices listed, and there are other pattern options available (including some super cute bird prints!). If you're looking for a plain cotton, or perhaps a different pattern, you can also convo me and I'll see if I can source something for you (though this might incur extra costs).
There are currently four listings on Etsy - two custom listings and two ready to ship (the above two skirts, which are both best for a 20/22). Head over to my etsy shop for further details.
Thursday, February 16
This time we're in a different, more central venue in Leeds, Wharf Chambers. As well as the zine and reference corner we had last time, this time we're also bringing our sewing machines along for help with alterations, advice and craft fun. You'll also be able to pick up my zine Make It Work (it's still at the printers, but for those who can't come I'll be posting soon about how you can get a copy). The venue has a cafe service with tea and cake, and we welcome clothing for all gender identities. It's probably obvious to state, but the event is body positive and queer friendly!
There's a facebook event here - you can RSVP there if you're on facebook. There's no need to tell us you're coming, however if you can it will give us an idea of the numbers we're expecting. If you have any questions about the event, you can also either post on the facebook wall, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're running from 1-5, and it's £1 to get in. Bring along any clothes in reasonable condition, and you can swap them for ones you want!
Even if you can't make it, please let anyone who might be interested know about the event - any publicity is much appreciated. Otherwise, hope to see people there for more fun chatter and swapping!
Tuesday, June 7
Wednesday, May 4
This skirt began life as a £1 skirt I found in a local charity shop. Here's the original skirt:
It had a fitted waist (far too small for me!), but a very very full skirt, and enough length for me to be able to construct another skirt after chopped the waistband off the original. This particularly skirt had a button up front and pockets, both of which I sewed up before starting. If you're just starting off remaking an item, I wouldn't recommend starting with a skirt with pockets or a pocket up front - instead just look for a long-ish skirt with a waist that can easily be removed, and a very full skirt (I find old granny skirts with gathered or pleated waists to be good for this, and they're always on a £1 rail!).
I make my skirts using this tutorial, originally penned by DIY Couture (who publish an amazing series of books, without sized patterns - check them out!). Before I go on, please do have a look through this guide for a more detailed guide to planning the size of your pleats and waistband pieces. For reference, I tend to use either six or eight pleats on either side of my skirts.
Begin by cutting the waistband off the original skirt:
You then need to cut a portion off to use for your waistband at a later point. You can be approximate about this, but remember that you will need to fold the fabric for the waistband over twice (as per the DIY Couture book) and allow a seam allowance of about 3cm.
Here was my waistband piece, and what would become the main body of my skirt.
You will now need to cut the fabric for the main body in half - do this by unpicking the seams from the sides of the original skirt, or by cutting them out neatly, so you end up with two rectangles of (approximately!) the same size.
Do the same with the waistband pieces, and then cut them down to two thin rectangles which both equal (in length) half your waist measurement plus about 3cm for seams. Width-wise, they will need to be double the measurement of your intended waistband width, again with a small seam allowance. Again, please refer to the DIY couture book for a slightly more articulate explanation of how to measure how wide and long your waistband. Sorry I don't have a picture of the waist band, but you'll need to set them aside for the moment anyway.
- With the right sides of both pieces facing towards each other (and the wrong sides facing outwards), tack together one of the sides of the skirt. You can run a line of straight stitch up this side, from top to bottom including the waistband to fix this into place.
- Pin the second side together in a similar fashion, but with a slight difference. If you want to fit a zip here, you will need to place your zip along by the waistband. Mark the point at which the zip ends, and pin the fabric together below this point (so you still have an unfinished seam for the space of the zip), and then as before, run another line of straight stitch up to this point.
- FITTING ZIPS. I'm quite rubbish at this (it's not hard, just fiddly, and it takes patience that I generally lack, haha), so I'm not even going to try and explain it. It is covered in the DIY Couture PDF, and there are also numerous youtube tutorials which can help.
- At this point, having fitted the zip, you will have you skirt *almost* finished. At this stage, try on the skirt, making sure that it fits okay and that you don't need to take the waistband in any further. Once you've confirmed this, you'll just need to hem the skirt - simply done by turning the raw edging of the skirt from right to wrong side, then pinning into place and running a simple line of straight stitch into place.
- Wear your skirt!
Wednesday, April 6
Just a quick post here to show off some crafting action. I made this Peter Pan collar out of some faux fur remnants bought for £1.30 from a local sewing shop (I have enough for another!) and some fabric scraps for lining + a 69p piece of cord bought from a haberdashery shop. The pattern I used can be seen here. It's cosy and suitably garish for my tastes. That said, it's yet to prove particularly versatile with my wardrobe, hence why I haven't posted it in an outfit yet.
Saturday, February 12
This is how I plan to wear the dress I made in a more casual style - paired with a button up blouse beneath, and my staple docs. I am in love with making my own more formal workwear at the minute (my list of sewing projects grows a bit too quickly perhaps!) - it's great to have items of tailoring that can work during the day that aren't just generic black trousers.
Dress, handmade (from a £4 piece of fabric and reusing an old pattern)
Belt, old vintage stock, £free
Badge, traded with the lovely Donna (who makes the most beautiful purses, photo frames and hair ties ever, seriously!) over on ThriftstoreUK. It has a lion on it!
Wednesday, February 9
Here's Monday morning for you! I scored this plaid shirt from a junk stall at the open market in Brighton two weekends ago. I seemed to have endless trouble finding button up blouses that actually button up to the collar last year, yet recently I've thrifted two for a pittance! This makes me happy. I get the feeling that button up shirts with this belt, loafers and the Beth Ditto jeans will become my work uniform for spring (I work as a technician in an archive, and my working day generally involves lots of dust and heavy lifting, something my wardrobe is not used to!)
Plaid shirt, found at Brighton Open Market, 50p
Jeans, Beth Ditto for Evans, £8
Belt, old vintage stock, £free
Loafers, vintage, £5
This week has been awesome - after making the polka dot dress for Plus London after work for the best part of two weeks, I needed a good few nights sleep. So evenings have been mainly watching trashy TV, cooking and plotting new projects. I scored this vintage pattern (in a size 26!) on eBay for £5, and I still have the 60s polyester I bought at the marina car boot sale in January, so I'm hoping to tackle it over the next few weeks. Scary exciting! It's a bit harder than the last two dresses I've made, so fingers crossed it still works out. Eep!
Monday, February 7
Annnnnnd, my sewing project in it's completed state! This was a close call, and only got finished on Thursday evening. It's a rehash of the same pattern I used in the summer to make this dress, by Very Easy Vogue (the number is V8615). With this dress I adapted this neckline to make it a round high neckline instead of a bateau as per the original pattern. My drafting didn't quite work, so I ended up pleated the (slightly baggy) neckline and crafting a bow to take onto it, which in hindsight worked pretty well!
I was terrified that a seam would break on the night or something, but it held up really well! Also, the fabric I used seems pretty crease-proof, so definitely suited for my wardrobe and er, lack of ironing skills. I'll definitely be dressing it down later this week. It was great to flounce about in my petticoat again though.
Dress, handmade using a £4 piece of material from the open market in Brighton (the pattern cost me £8 last summer).
Belt, former vintage stock, £free
Petticoat, Vivien of Holloway, £60
Cardigan, gifted by my lovely friend Caroline who found it at the Big Bum Jumble last August.
Tights, £3, Dorothy Perkins
Shoes, £8 Priceless
And also, Caroline's outfit, which I thought was super cute!
All in all, a lovely day, and it was great to get to meet so many amazing bloggers!
Wednesday, February 2
Sorry for my lack of posting this week! I am super busy, making a dress for the Plus London meet. Also my house hunting has been going badly (we lost out on three houses in a row, and now we’re easing off a bit, to avoid further disappointments), so I’m a bit glum.
As most of you probably know, I am a burgeoning crafter. By that, I mean that for many years I have attempted crafts of sorts. I am a average knitter, a failed crocheter, and I’m interested in embroidery and quilting (though as they are both time consuming hobbies, I haven’t really attempted any yet). As far as crafting goes, I’m not amazing - I work a full time job that sees me out of the house for 11 hours a day, five days a week, and I’m also juggling a long distance relationship, a semi-”band” of sorts and - oh yeah - blogging! So most of the time, I’m lucky to have an hour or two to myself a day, and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to build up epic skills.
Sewing is my favourite hobby, and it’s also the most cost-effective. I’m a bargain hunter in all other aspects, so I don’t believe that crafting should cost you the earth, though it can very easily do so. I’ve yet to pay more than £3 per metre for a fabric, and I can generally craft something which, if I bought, I’d pay lots for (if I could!).
My favourite things to make clothes out of include:
- Second hand sheets, curtains, duvets. These are great sources of cheap heavy cottons in large quantities, and generally won’t set you back much more than £4 maximum.
- Vintage fabrics, where available and affordable. I buy these from car boot sales mainly, occasionally shops.
- Other items of clothing (I have made quite a few granny skirts into pleated skirts with fitted waists. These are cheap and easy to find in charity shops, and are often on the £1 rail!)
For modern fabrics, I also find eBay to be a great resource. Whilst not super cheap, I often pay less on eBay for fabric by the metre than I do in haberdashery shops. Etsy also has fabric options, though I don’t find them particularly cheap.
Patterns are pretty tricky to find in plus sizes, so in these cases, learning to enlarge patterns is your best bet. There are often boxes of patterns in car boot and antiques sales, these are also often to be found on etsy and eBay, so finding patterns for reasonable prices isn't too hard. My skills aren’t quite up to enlarging patterns yet, but I reckon this is the best route to go. Some swift googling just brought me to this, which looks like a reasonable and easy technique to size up vintage patterns, which I am definitely trying next. I’ve also been recommended this book as a resource, though I haven’t bought it yet so am curious to know if it’s as valuable a resource as I’ve been led to believe?
I also recommend searching for online tutorials, using the internet to self-tutor myself in the techniques of garment construction itself. Sometimes what you are looking for is easier to make than you imagine! Also, try inspecting items of clothing you already own, or in high street stores - I made my first skirt by sketching around the outline of a skirt I already owned, then stitching the sides and hems with a simple straight stitch. Start to think about how clothing is made, even if it’s beyond your immediate capabilities, it allows you to better understand what a project requires. I’ve made dresses out of stretchy fabrics with a similar approach (but sketching around a body con dress instead).
With my projects, I try not to expect perfection straight away. My projects started with fairly basic objects - cushion covers and a-line skirts without zips, now I’m competent sewing from patterns and making a relatively tailored dress. With each project I try to advance my skills slightly - in my latest project, I fitted a concealed zip for the first time, and adapted a neckline. It went as well as could be expected (though certainly not professional quality) apart from the neckline, which I ended up having to pleat slightly. Because I spend little on fabrics, I can also afford to make mistakes (though it is always a disappointment!).
As a last note, if you’re just starting out, don’t buy a new sewing machine!Depending on where you live, it’s worth checking whether there are any local resources that allow free use of sewing machines, or allow you to rent one by the hour. I remember Remade in Leeds used to do this, and it was a great way to get a sense of whether sewing was “for you” or not. Personally, I would recommend starting with an older model with a hand crank mechanism. These are everywhere in second hand shops, car boot sales, and on eBay (I got mine for £15 from a car boot), and range between £10 and £50 generally, though £20-30 is the average. These are less daunting to control as a beginner, as you are in full control of the mechanism. They only offer straight stitch, but this is generally all I use currently anyway, and they’re also incredibly durable in the long term.
Otherwise, try buying a refurbished vintage electric sewing machine. I bought mine from eBay for about £50 including postage, though if you look for electric models that haven’t been refurbished further bargains can be had.
Craftster.org (check out the “curvaceous” section on the community!)
If anyone has more, please post them in the comments!