Winter Upcycle Clothing Challenge

IMG_20161009_100808.jpgThis year I have decided that I won’t buy my daughter any winter clothes. Not through any desire to give her hypothermia but just through a hatred of all the clothes out there in the high-street, particularly for girls (because that’s what I have and so that’s what I look for).  The jumpers are short, they’re thin, they’re covered in sequins.  The trousers are tight, pastel coloured and asking for grass stains and that’s if the trousers aren’t, in fact, skirts.  The t-shirts have short cuff sleeves, they’re a slimmer fit than boy’s ones and they’re probably pink. Let’s be honest, it’s all pink and if it isn’t then it has pink piping.

I want her jumpers to be warm.

I want her trousers to be practical.

I want her t-shirts to be long-sleeved.

She wants it all to be colourful.

That’s really all we’re interested in.

I am also conscious that fabric is expensive, so if I’m going to make them all myself, I’ll probably end up bankrupt.

  • “Sew your own clothes”, they said.  “You’ll save so much money”, they said. Then they fell into fits of hysterics as I showed them my battered credit card.

So, I decided to have a trawl of the charity shops in town and see what i could come up with. I wasn’t looking for children’s clothes, I wasn’t looking for fabric, I was looking for adult’s clothes that I could use as fabric to make her winter clothes from.

That’s the key if you want to have a go at doing this yourself. Ignore what it is and just look at what it’s made from.

IMG_20161006_161738.jpg

 

 

Stretch jersey t-shirts make great tees, dresses and knickers. Cord and tweed jackets can be cut up to make smaller coats and trousers. Thick fleeces can be made into hoodies and warm harem pants, or pyjamas.

 

 

 

 

The acreage is also important. Bigger sizes give more fabric which in turn means you can make more, however saying that I got two t shirts out of a woman’s size 8 long sleeved tee and a bit of fabric from my own stash.

IMG_20161006_161622.jpg   IMG_20161007_075254.jpg     cof

Look for good quality fabrics with not too much wear or bobbling, but basically whatever you get can be useable. Don’t forget your own wardrobe, too. I had a t-shirt languishing in my ‘to be fixed’ basket, which I had bought about a year ago and then on my first wear had ripped across the back due to an invisible fault in the fabric grain. It is a nice navy and white stripe, and it will look super chopped up into a little tee for her to wear.

HOW TO

It’s a pretty simple process to make something out of something else. The first thing you’ll need to do it work out what you want to make, and get a pattern. You can either follow a printed pattern or make one yourself from a t-shirt/dress/trousers your child already owns. I’ll pop up some instructions on how to do that one day, but in the mean time you’ll be able to find your own instructions on how to do it with a simple google search.

IMG_20161007_195254.jpg

 

 

 

Then just use your chopped up bits as you would normal fabric. Place your pattern pieces on top and cut them out. I try and re-use the hems and cuffs if possible, it just makes life so much easier. Line your pattern up at the bottom rather than from the top, easy peasy.

Assemble as per the pattern instructions.

IMG_20161007_195104.jpg

 

 

 

 

For the cheetah dress I was following a nice Raglan T-shirt pattern from Duck Butt Designs. I lengthened the pattern by about 15 centimetres, and curved in about 2cm from each side at the bottom to create the bubble shape.

 

 

 

 

Then just pop it together as you normally would, following your pattern. With this cheetah raglan dress the arms and front and back all get sewn together, then you sew down each arm, from cuff to underarm and down the the waistband. I have an overlocker which I used but you can also use a regular sewing machine with a zig zag or stretch stitch for knits. then I took the existing neck band, measured it to 80% of the neck opening, added 2.5cm seam allowance and sewed it back together, then sewed it on. No hemming required as I used the pre-existing hems and waistband from the original tee.

The whole garment took about 25 minutes from start to finish, and fit like a dream.

I will soon start as one of the sewing teachers at my lovely local haberdashery, Crafty Baba, and I hope to be able to teach some classes on upcycling, so if you would like to learn from me in person, hopefully you will soon be able to.

Give it a go! This made-to-measure, deeply funky,  unisex cheetah bubble dress took less than half an hour and cost me £2.49. What’s not to love?

IMG_20161008_080444.jpg

There’ll be plenty more to follow in the coming days.

Cluck-cluck!

Yarn – the joy of stashing

Yarn. Yarny yarny yarn yarn yarn. If you’re not addicted yet you soon will be. Knitters and crocheters like to flash their stash at any given opportunity. Literally, they post pictures of their new yarn purchases like normal people do of their newborn babies. I have a sizeable stash, but it could always do with being a bit bigger…

So, I’m going to start with some blog posts about this wondrous substance. Where to get it, what it’s made from, what types of yarn to use for different projects, yarn weights and how not to totally cock-up your project by using the wrong one, how to work out what weight you have when you no longer have a ball band, what a ball band is and how to understand the gibberish printed upon it, the lot!

I’ll start with where to get it.

YOUR LOCAL YARN SHOP

There are two types of yarn shop and you need to identify which one, if any, you have in your town. I live in Ipswich, Suffolk and I am lucky enough to have two yarn shops in town, one of either variety.

Yarn shop type A – a traditional wool shop. I have nothing against old ladies, I hope to be one some day, but they do have a particular hunting ground. You can easily identify this type of shop by the type of yarn it sells. 4ply, DK, aran and some weird and wonderful chunky frilly scarf yarns that you couldn’t think of something to do with if your life depended on it. All in shades of mint green, lemon, peach and powder blue. There will be a lot of yarns that say “baby” in the title and all the patterns will involve frills. Older ladies are very generous with their knitting, they love to give things as gifts and they just love making things for babies. There will be ribbons. On everything.

This type of yarn shop is good for emergency purchases. You won’t find any hand-dyed silks here. If you go in looking for anything not designed to make baby clothes you will be disappointed. The most expensive wool will be £4.00 a ball. It’s great to practise with, but it won’t make your work shine. You can get some good cheap yarns here but they will mostly be pastel coloured acrylics. Of course, sometimes that’s what you need.

This shop is extremely flammable.

Yarn shop type B – Modern yarn shop. Spiritual haven. A sweet shop for those with fatter wallets.

Take your credit card, it’s going to get a hammering. They will have some lovely and reasonably priced yarns, but you won’t see them next to the hand-dyed Peruvian alpaca and silk…which has already made it’s way into your open arms.

There will be a good range of many different weights and types of yarns, ranging from lace-weight through to the yarns made from recycled fabric strips. All the colours of the rainbow. Hooks and needles to keep anyone happy and from brands other than Pony. Natural fibres, merino wools, silks, linens, cottons, wools. Deliciousness.

You will also find a community here. There will probably be a knit and natter/stitch and bitch group where you can meet other yarn enthusiasts, eat cake, and fondle other people’s work. They don’t tend to do these in Yarn Shop A from my experience, not sure why.

If you have either of these shops in your town, use them, treasure them. It will probably be more expensive to shop there instead of online and that’s OK.  Sometimes you won’t be able to wait for delivery, you need it now. Sometimes you just need to feel the yarn. No distributor is going to describe their 100% lambswool as scratchy as hell but it might be. A lot of online shops don’t allow returns at all and very few offer free returns. Don’t get stuffed by buying 8 balls of wool which you will never use because you couldn’t feel them first. Sometimes you just need some advice. What length circular needles should I use for this? Would this be better in wool or a wool/acrylic mix? Your shopkeeper will know. If you don’t shop there because you think it’s expensive it won’t be there when you need it. Support your local economy when you can, it will be your support network. My favourite local shop is Jenny Wrens Yarns on St Peter’s Street and it’s smashing. If you’re local, give it a look.

ONLINE FROM A WOOL WEBSITE

I use Wool Warehouse. Love Knitting. I recently took a punt and bought some yarn from site called Zarela which worked out really well. I have a friend who runs Suffolk Socks, online purveyor of all things socky and delicious (people who knit socks REALLY knit socks, as it turns out). I also sometimes ship in from Ice Yarns in Turkey which is incredibly cheap, but the postage takes a while. They have some terrible cheap yarns and some lovely natural fibre ones so it can be a bit hit and miss.

It’s convenient and it’s cheaper, but you have to wait for it to rock up and unless you’ve bought that particular yarn before, it can be a bit pot luck. The colours can be difficult to properly portray on the screen.

DISCOUNT STORES

Poundland, QD, ALDI. They all sell yarn. Some of it even has wool in it. Most of it doesn’t.  It is, however, super cheap so it’s great for learning or making things which you know will be destroyed.

CHARITY SHOPS

Some sell new wool (Age UK for example) and this is basically a smaller version of Yarn Shop A. They will also sell various second-hand balls of wool. Most of it will be old and frogged but it’s OK for odds and ends like bunting or for practise when you’re starting. Sometimes you find a steal, mostly you don’t, pretty much like any charity shop visit, really.

YOUR LOCAL MARKET

Never as cheap as you hope it will be. Lots of acrylics and baby yarns here, a bit like Yarn Shop A. Not the kind of place to buy nice hand-spun natural fibres. Ribbons, again, and tons of those plastic buttons you had on your school cardigan that seemed to smile at you.

EBAY

Can be great, can be utterly dreadful. I bought some bamboo yarn from China once. I thought, they must be good with bamboo, right?  That’s where the Pandas live. It said it was DK. It wasn’t.  Maybe 4 strands of it held together  would have been  DK. However, I have also had some total bargains from people destashing so it’s a bit of pot luck again. You pays your money, you takes your chance.

CRAFT FAIRS

Hand spun and hand dyed deliciousness. You bank account will hate you. I just bought some hand dyed silk from Magpie & Me at a local fair. It is slowly becoming a scarf for me. It was supposed to be a cardigan for my daughter but I could just see in her 2 and a half year old eyes that she didn’t REALLY appreciate it, so the offer of a cardigan was rescinded and a scarf it became. I’ll show you some pictures when it’s done. It’s not even finished yet and I have more photos of it than my daughter.

ETSY/INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK FROM INDEPENDENT DYER

Like craft fairs but worse because you can pay with PayPal. That’s not even really money, right? It doesn’t count.

So, to recap, but it in person or buy it online, but you will buy it.

Yarn is dangerously addictive.

Comfortable, practical, colourful, stylish.

In 2013 our daughter was born. We, like most people, received bags and boxes of presents for her from our generous friends and family. Babygros and vests and dresses and teddies and cardigans and jumpers and all sorts. Tonnes of it.

She wore a lot of pink that first year.

When she had finally grown out of all the clothes she had been bought when she was born and I had to start shopping for her I naturally started gravitating towards purple, red, yellow. Anything that wasn’t pink. All she had worn for a year was pink and I was pretty sick of it. Who knew that pink was the only choice? It was so difficult to find anything without pink on it for a girl. I started buying boys clothes.

She was born with a bit of a dicky ticker so she gets cold easily. That first winter I needed to buy her cardigans. Really warm ones. Thick ones. Fleece-lined ones. Who knew only boys were allowed to be warm? Girls could wear bolero cardigans, cotton cardigans, but not warm cardigans. Not woollen, thick, snuggly cardigans. Certainly not anything other than pink cardigans.

Then, 6 months later it was summer. I had the opposite problem. She needed to be cool and comfortable. She was starting to crawl and you don’t get very far crawling over a dress. Shorts, then, eh? Except the girls shorts were three inches shorter than the boys shorts. The girls shorts were hot-pants. Age 12 months hot-pants. (It’s OK to vomit a bit, here).

I had learnt to knit again about 10 years previously and had begun to crochet whilst pregnant. Whilst I was off on maternity leave I made some pom-pom slippers for myself, everyone wanted a pair and The Slippy Chicken Company was born. I made all sorts of things for all sorts of people, and I think it kept me sane the first year of being a Mummy.

I started to think more about what my daughter was wearing and more about what I was making. I started designing things for Gwendoline to wear because I couldn’t find the right type of patterns to buy.

On the 1st January 2016 I decided to make a change to my business. I would become a unisex kids knitwear company. The clothes I design and make will be, above all, comfortable, practical, colourful and stylish. Those are the rules I now work by.

COMFORTABLE.

PRACTICAL.

COLOURFUL.

STYLISH.

If you see me doing something else, call me out on it.

It’s really very basic for me. I want my daughter to know that she can be anything she wants to be. A doctor or a nurse. An engineer or a secretary. A solicitor or a Mum. It’s all OK.  In order to realise her full potential she needs to be able to play and explore the world, freely. Without feeling like she needs to be prettier than she is comfortable, or warm, or safe. I want her to have fun.

I’ve started this blog to help share my work with you. Over the years I have garnered a decent amount of experience. I’ll share hints and tips, tutorials, patterns and photos. I would love it if you could join me, this henhouse is big enough for everyone.

image

You can find me at:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/theslippychickencompany

Instagram  – @theslippychickencompany

Twitter – @slippychickenco

Pinterest  – @slippychickenco

Welcome to the coop!

Cluck-cluck!