It's the beginning of May which means it's Me Made May. So who better to feature than the creator of MMM, Zoe Edwards!
Me Made May started back in 2010, did you ever expect it to grow to the movement it is today?
The whole thing started back in 2010. I was living in Barcelona, Spain, at the time and had been getting more and more into making my own clothing and thinking about the meaning and motivations behind creating a handmade wardrobe. I wanted to test myself and see how far I could rely on the items I had made, plus it gave me a push to try different types of garments that I’d never tackled before, like undies and a coat.
I first attempted the challenge as a solo endeavour in March of that year. It was fun, informative, but mostly COLD! I wanted to try it again during a warmer month, so I decided on May and mentioned it on my blog to see if anyone else was interested in trying something similar. My own personal pledge was to wear only me-made things, aside from bras, tights, socks and shoes, but I left it open for anyone else taking part to set their own specific pledge and have done so ever since. I expected only a handful of people to be interested, but over 80 signed up that year, and it's grown to crazy numbers of participants in the ten years since its creation.
You're really big on trying to have a sustainable Wardrobe. It's really thought provoking and has such a good message. When did you start really focusing on having a sustainable wardrobe and how has it affected how you sew?
I first started to consider the impact of the 'regular' clothing industry around 2007 when I was working at a clothing manufacturers in London. I was able to witness a lot of the waste that the industry creates, at precisely the time that I became interested in making my own clothing. I found it so troubling that I left that job, then went to live in Spain for a couple of years. Fast forward 3 or 4 years from that fast fashion job, to the time I worked for a textile recycling charity called TRAID having moved back to the UK. My job was to help make a small range of womenswear made from donated textiles (that took the form of both lengths of fabric and unwanted garments), so sustainable clothing and sewing was on my mind pretty much constantly. That job also gave me access for unwanted textiles that I could use in my personal sewing projects. At the time I felt I was diverting fabric from potentially heading to the landfill into 'new', wearable clothing through both my day job and personal sewing activities.
These days, I'm more akin to the majority of home sewers in my fabric buying habits as I no longer have access to unwanted fabric. Because of that, plus no longer undertaking quite as many sewing projects which reuse existing garments for fabric (although I still do this fairly regularly), I struggle to label my sewing activities as sustainable these days. I recently wrote this blog post which goes into further detail about how describing home sewing as a sustainable activity can be problematic. That said, I do feel a level of increased sustainability can be achieved by sewing your own clothing, as opposed to buying it. Because by sewing, we have the potential to create clothing that has the potential for a wayyyyy longer life than shop bought clothing usually has. This is because, by sewing clothes from scratch, we have complete control over every element, from style to fabric, colour to notions, embellishments to fit. We can create the garments that we really want to have, almost exactly as we would like them to look and feel, and make them fit our own unique body shape well. All this comes with time and practise of course (with a lot of wasted fabric along the way sadly!), but when you start making some really special pieces, it's much harder to let them go than a garment you bought on a whim as you wandered through the high street.
How long have you been sewing?
I've been sewing since I was a child. My mum and nan were seamstresses at some time, and although neither of them used sewing as a form of creative expression, it 'normalised' sewing to me as a way to alter or create the clothing that you wanted. I tried a number of other creative disciplines throughout my teens, however I returned to sewing as my medium when I went to University to study Fashion Design when I was 19. I continued to make bags and do alterations into my 20's, but I didn't fall in love with garment sewing for myself until I was about 27 and I discovered the (then brand new) Burdastyle website and community, and the community blog Wardrobe Refashion.
Is there a new skill you are looking forward to trying out?
The main way that I'm trying to improve my sewing right now is by working on achieving a better fit. I'm focusing on fitting trousers at the moment, which is soooo complicated!
What is your favorite sewing tool?
I'd say that I have a pretty basic set up. However, I'd say that my sleeve board is an item that I adore that not everyone uses. I'm always trying to convert the students of my sewing classes over to using it because it's has so many uses and makes pressing much easier.
What is a sewing tip/trick you've learned that you love?
Linked to the point above, I'd say that pressing and steaming necklines so they sit really nicely is one skill that can really elevate a handmade garment. I obviously recommend a sleeve board for that!
You're currently teaching classes at Little Miss Sew N Sew, what's your favorite thing to teach?
Pre-lockdown, I was indeed teaching sewing classes, and I can't wait to get back to that! My favourite is the 'Supported Sewing Sessions' that I teach once a week, where students brings their own projects along and I guide them through each step. It can be pretty manic when five people all need your assistance at the same time, but I love the variety that those classes bring. Plus it allows the students to work at their own pace, and not compare their progress to another's.