Friday, 22 July 2016

Introducing Sewn Sustainably

I have some exciting news!

Over the past months I have been working seriously hard on a project to launch sustainable sewing lessons, now known as Sewn Sustainably.

Sustainable? Huh? Eh?

Well, this is something I am really passionate about, my values having evolved over the years alongside my beliefs that we should make the world a lot kinder to animals (and trees, and clouds...I could go on).

The more I read, the more I looked at what I was doing and what my impact was on the environment. On top of that, I have a husband who is a world-leading journalist in climate policy (climate change deniers look away now) and so I have picked up a fair few points about the state of the world's climate, its future and what needs to happen to make any kind of dent in what looks like a less than good situation.

But what has that got to do with sewing? First off, sewing is fantastic. It's been my therapy for many years now and I have never stopped learning or enjoying sitting at my machine. It's also introduced me to wonderful, beautiful friends. However, I've come to realise it also has its negative points. And, I'm not just talking about fabric scraps.

In the past few years, I've thought deeper about my habits, my purchases, and whether I could truly determine their impact. The answer is no. The cheap fabric by the metre, the endless purchases on a whim, it all has little transparency, and I couldn't even begin to investigate who made my fabric, whether they got paid a fair wage, whether their working conditions were safe. All the while, my cheap fabric sat in a pile on a shelf. I stopped buying fabric I didn't need, started busting through my stash, particularly old vintage textiles that denote a story and history, and only bought ethical fabric with certified labels.

My thoughts then evolved to the idea of providing sewing lessons based on a sustainable concept. In terms of skills, I've been sewing for many years now and took a year off work to do a full-time course in advanced dressmaking and pattern-cutting (see my wedding dress which I designed and constructed). I believe I have the experience required to teach sewing techniques to less experienced sewers, having taught privately and at Ray Stitch in London.

The concept of Sewn Sustainably is based on a capsule wardrobe consisting of classic garments that when made can be interchanged with each other from office to weekend; day to night. Currently, my classes include the classic white shirt, the classic t-shirt and the iconic box jacket. I'm featuring commercial and indie patterns that I have picked specifically combined with ethical fabric kits. In doing so, my students are able to trace the supply lines of their garments down to fabric production (including working conditions, wage and pollution). If you're interested in finding out about how the garment and textile industry and its impact on social and environment factors, check out Fashion Revolution who have an annual campaign which asks "who made my clothes?".

The first class at Sewn Sustainably is the classic white shirt. In my opinion, the white shirt is the timeless, understated queen of the wardrobe. If you need proof, just look at Marilyn in this picture. This was on the set of the Misfits (1961), but I really think you can't date this outfit. The white shirt brings a clean, fresh line to any outfit, equally stunning as both office or casual wear. When matched with the right fit and fabric, it's a sublime garment that will be worn over and over again.

You can read more about the classic white shirt class at my new website Sewn Sustainably and details of the pattern and fabric are in this blog post. The classes will be held in Cambridge as myself and the Szabo clan will be moving there this autumn! London friends, don't despair, I'll be back and forth on a quick train ride, so I'll still be making those sewing-prosecco (sewecco?) meet ups, but I am looking forward to the good things Cambridge can offer such as space, safer cycling and a house with storage!

I understand this won't be everyone's cup of tea and sustainability is a fairly new issue. But I've enjoyed building this idea within a sewing concept and look forward to spreading the word and doing a small thing for a big cause.

Monday, 18 July 2016

La Catarina! Seamwork dress

It feels like summer has finally hit London, so I thought I'd finally get around to blogging my new favourite dress. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember I showed my inspiration dress, which was this lovely maxi dress from Whistles.

 I love the double strap feature which crosses over on the back:

While scouring the internet, I came across the collection of patterns offered by Seamwork. To be honest, I wasn't that familiar with the Seamwork concept at the time, but my eyes instantly zoned in on the Catarina pattern, and it's potential to be tweaked into the Whistles style above. With limited time nowadays, I needed a simple base pattern and this definitely did the job. Voila...

First off, I worked on the back bodice. I sheared my pattern down much lower than the pattern from just below the bust, under the arm and all the way across the back. It makes the dress a no bra zone, but it's not like I am giving Dolly Parton a run for her money anytime soon, and it feels quite nice to be freeeeee. After tweaking the bodice, I then made rough markings (using the pattern's suggestion) for my straps. 

The original pattern calls for single straps with bra-like adjusters. I am a bit fussy about this kind of thing and personally I just don't like bra adjusters on dresses...I don't really know why, just doesn't look right to me. Plus, I wanted to copy the straps on the Whistles dress, so I basically made extra long straps and decided on the desired length before completing the bodice. I simply tweaked the length and positioning by pinning and basting and trying the dress on a few times.  

For fabric, I am still busting my way through my stash and this is more vintage treasure from Mr Szabo's Grandmother. It's some kind of crazy synthetic blend, but it's so drapey and light to the touch it was perfect for this project. My vintage hoard truly is the treasure chest that keeps on giving!

The waist line is gathered and then elasticated, and I used some sort of silky baby elastic I had in my stash from some past project. I also french seamed the insides of the skirt, and hand sewed the hem, which gives the dress a bit more luxury. The bodice is faced and understitched, which gives it a lovely clean finish.

I am loving this dress and am so excited to wear it, hopefully to Rosie's awesome book launch next week (which if you haven't yet checked it out, you can now buy "No Patterns Needed" on Amazon. It seriously is the coolest book). I just ordered some lovely chunky metallic sandals from Esprit for my dress' debut outing and hopefully will sometime, somehow do something with my mop of overgrown hair (on my head!)

Stay fabulous people. Red lipstick helps. xx 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Coming to America (and Canada as usual)


I've been making (as much as is possible with River and her pooping ways) and have a few cool things to show you all, but I wanted to quickly blog about my upcoming big road trip. We're pretty excited in Chez Szabo as we're visiting some new areas in the States that neither of us have been to before, and I get to see the beauty that is British Columbia as well.

First up, we land in Vegas where I was supposed to see Rod at Caesar's Palace. Unfortunately, that is a dream that is not to be this year (be still my tears), so instead we travel on to San Diego.

Next we'll be heading to LA, so I'll definitely be hitting up Mood.

After that, some time in San Francisco until we venture up the coast towards Oregon stopping along the way.

Next up, I'll be hyperventilating as we take a few days in Seattle. I am fulfilling my 14 year old self's fantasy and am so excited. I don't expect to actually end up in some kind of naked, group guitar playing, wine chugging soiree with Eddie and Stone (after all, I can't play guitar!) but I won't stop believing.

After Seattle, we cross the ferry to Victoria to meet up with family. We'll have time in this area for me to explore too as well as time staying in Vancouver. It's then off to Ontario, which will include Mr Szabo's childhood camp and then some respite in Toronto for a week.

If you'd like to meet up at any point, please let me know!

Hope to see some new and familiar faces along the way.