Phew – long time no blog ladies and gents! It feels like an age since my last blog post, although thanks to the joys of scheduling it’s actually only been a week (the reality of when I last picked up a needle and thread is somewhat longer…). I have a bucketful of excuses: I’ve been working on a number of big festivals at Southbank Centre, I got a promotion, I also got ill (possibly because of the previous two points – celebrating and working all the hours makes for one very tired and slightly grumpy lady desperately seeking leisure). I’ve also been taking on a new type of project which I’ve been slightly nervous to throw into the blogosphere: customising and upcycling clothing.
I have far far too many clothes and recently I’ve started wading through them and splitting them up into charity-shop worthy items, rubbish (why hello my eighth pair of tights absolutely full of holes – it’s so lovely to find you hiding in my wardrobe for those desperate everything-else-is-in-the-wash days!) and clothes for the cut – snip snip hooray – a great way to add to your fabric stash!
Along the way I’ve come across a number of garments that I still love aspects of (shape, colour etc) but I’m just completely bored of. I’m too attached to throw them away, and to be honest they’re in decent condition and if I got rid of all of them my wardrobe options would be seriously depleted, BUT they need some spark, some oomph, something to make me love them again. The perfect opportunity to refashion and refresh.
I have always loved the idea of customising clothing. I even have a bit of history: once I used some old dark denim jeans to add an a-symmetrical base onto a too-short denim mini and I wore that skirt all the time through college. I also used to iron on amazing hippie patches onto jeans and tops as a slightly confused-and-still-finding-myself teen, although that’s a much less stylish experience. However, despite my love, I’ve always had one very strong and singular worry…
Am I going to look a bit arts and crafts in this?
Am I going to look a bit too handmade… and not in a good way…
Will there be threads trailing because my finishing was a bit off and even though I think/hope it’s not obvious, everyone will notice…
How many patterns is too many patterns for one outfit??? (ok that one was less about being too arts and crafts and more about the fact that already, without this whole new realm of customised clothing even entering my life, I have more patterned clothing in my wardrobe than you could shake a confused chameleon at, and a huge proportion of my clothes are effectively children’s clothing in adult sizes. I just bought a unicorn dress for Pete’s sake!! (sorry Pete – I know you love unicorns as much as I do)
My worries are not unfounded. Once, a friend recognised me from afar and when questioned on what it was that made me stand out they explained it was precisely my arts and crafts style… I was wearing purple brogues and a shawl but really!
This also dredges up an old feeling of derision towards “arts and crafts” VS “handmade craft”. There’s something about being described as a bit ‘arts and crafts’ that summons a picture of a mad old woman (me in my future years naturally!) covered in paint with holes in her tights fixed with brightly covered string and brandishing a vase of flowers made from toilet rolls and duct tape…
It’s an unfounded vision and an unfair judgement. Arts and crafts no more is restricted to painted pasta masterpieces taped to the fridge door. Arts and crafts also importantly is no longer a pastime only available in primary schools and family homes on rainy days. The craft revolution is upon us. You only have to look at how many classes, courses, workshops, video tutorials and blogs that are out there to feel the hunger for people to learn, to make and to put their own stamp on their world. HELLO Great British Sewing Bee so NICE of your to return to our screens!
The split between being a bit crafty and being a trained craftsperson is becoming more blurred all the time. Designer/Makers beware – etsy and the plethora of sites like it open up the world of trading to hobbyists and borderline professionals alike. I received my first order this week: something I hadn’t even considered a possibility 6 months ago.
The original aims of the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1800s was to promote traditional craftsmanship; a move against machine production. The lines of construction were visible, and the handmade quality valued. The movement also focused on social reform and the need for skilled and creative workers for a healthy society. My modern take on this movement is thus: treasure those design quirks, be creative and be proud. Different is good.
I’m taking on the challenge and I have my first item pinned up and ready to sew. So now is the time to be bold. Go forth and trim, stitch and snip!
Wear your heart on your sleeve – literally appliquéd if you so wish!