Wednesday Thinking: Are the Big 4 sewing pattern companies​ off trend? // Champagne Twist

WED THINK

Wednesday Thinking: Are the Big 4 sewing pattern companies off trend?

As many of you know, I love sewing, I adore sewing. I’m not a fan of clothes shopping per se because I find it difficult to find clothes in styles that fit and suit me. Hence, one of the many reasons why I love sewing.

But there is one hurdle when it comes to creating my own fashions. While the indie pattern industry is growing, the big four, long established and market dominating sewing pattern brands are slowly dying a death. It may seem a good thing at first, but in the long run, if these major pattern companies – McCalls, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity – don’t change soon, it could spell the end of the sewing pattern industry as we know it.

 

When I heard about the possibility of making a cocktail party dress, showcasing my outfit at the Knitting and Stitching Show and following my favourite home seamstresses creating their unique versions, I was so excited, until I saw the patterns.

With a heavy heart I say this – but there simply wasn’t anything I felt passionate enough to make from the selection of patterns available for the challenge.  Some of the styles seemed born out of 1980 – and not in a good way.  Only one pair of trousers, a jacket with a pointed back hem and dresses that my grandmother said she wouldn’t wear, let alone spend time money and effort creating.

I felt all the more guilty because the idea behind the event is to raise money for the Eve Charity (click here for details). But, I couldn’t justify making a dress just for the event, that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy making or wearing, and would never wear again. This hardly encourages new-to-sewing folks to pick up a needle and thread.

Another major issue I had with the collection of patterns, was the non-existence of patterns for men. Last time I checked a) men wear clothes and b) men attend cocktail parties. This was a golden opportunity missed, to encourage the growing number of males who are taking up the hobby. It was as if there was a huge sign saying, “Boys Not Allowed”.

I also got the impression that these patterns were chosen in an attempt to boost sales, rather than to welcome newbies to a new skill set, or encourage more established sewists to stretch their skills. Some of the styles were 20-30 years behind the times and lacked modernity. When I look at the fashion magazines and Pinterest boards, I don’t see my style favourite reflected in patterns offered by the Big 4.

The most popular styles seem to be the classics created during the 1940s through to the 1960s. Thanks to films and television shows such as Down With Love, Ad Men, etc.  Shirt dress patterns, the Walk Away dress, the Mondrian dress are just 3 examples of styles that have sold successfully in recent years.

There is also still a severe lack of patterns for wheelchair users or those with physical disabilities.  All the patterns, in fact, were styled towards slim, average height, able-bodied women.

I normally buy PDF patterns from indie pattern designers because they are usually up to date trend-wise, and are easily adaptable to my height and shape. My last pattern purchase from the big 4 was actually a classic style shirt dress.  Even when there are 50% savings, I find it impossible to buy more than 2 patterns. The dated designs just are not that appealing to me, and to spend upwards of £15 for a single pattern that I would spend more money, time and effort to adjust, just takes away the joy of sewing.

Wednesday Thinking: Are collectable craft magazines worth the paper they are printed on?

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv
Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorial

It’s September a new weekly craft collectable magazine has been launched. This time it’s called “Knit & Stitch Creative”, a series which promises the buyer to teach them to knit over  the course of 66 weeks.

The first issue costs 99p and I recommend if you are a beginner knitter, to buy a copy. In fact buy 2.  For the money you get a magazine with a fair number of tutorials, a pair of size 4mm knitting needles, a very useful yarn needle and 2 small balls of wool.  Let’s face it, you’re going to be hard pushed to get a better deal.

The next issue, due out in the middle of September, will cost £2.50 and promises a another pair of knitting needles, this time size 5mm and another 2 small balls of yarn.

The 3rd and all subsequent issues will cost £4.99.  Here’s the rub, if you buy all the issues the grand total will be nearly over £325. Granted the costs includes a set of knitting needles, wool, binders to store the issues, and yarn with eery issue, but having to wait over a year to complete the series, I wonder if this is worth it.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 19.57.00

 

Picture source – http://creacrafts.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwub7NBRDJARIsAP7wlT8IYNWHsCjv-r9jcCAB4HHZnHGP7Iw8R8NEgZ5GLN_sDJbgzihInCcaAjKqEALw_wcB

There are a number of cheap and free knitting classes available in London, wool can be as affordable as you wish, and needles can also be sourced for low prices. The added advantage of going to a class, you can meet new people and make friends, you can ask the tutor questions directly, and you will learn to knit in a matter of hours.

If the idea of attending a class doesn’t appeal, a beginners knitting book costs anything from £20-30. Of course, there are a huge number of free tutorials on YouTube. With a budget of £325, you can buy a lot of yarn, several knitting needles, and learn how to knit at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.

I have written a review of the first issue, which will be published on this website in the next couple of days, so please watch out for that.  It would be great to read your thoughts about these collectable magazines. Do you think they are worth the money? Or do yo think they exploit people who wish to learn a new craft? Please share in the comments box below.

Thanks for reading,

 

Wednesday Thinking: The other side of Afternoon Tea | Champagne Twist

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv
Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorial
Afternoon Tea Week 14-20 August 2017
Afternoon Tea Week | ChampagneTwist.com

Hello,

When we think of Afternoon Tea, our minds often turn to the lovely cakes, pastries and of course tea. However, we rarely think about where the tea actually comes from, how it’s manufactured and the people who produce it.

Following are a number of YouTube videos which examines the tea industry. As I come across more videos, I will add them below. If you have any recommendations for this list, comment below.

Enjoy!

The History of Tea – TED Talks

Assam’s modern slaves : The real price of a cup of Tetley Tea

Tea documentary; The Bittersweet Truth Tea Drinks

“Tea Time”, an animated short by ESMA

How it’s made – tea bags

#PrayForPeace

It’s the day after the day before, and I’m still thinking about the awful events in Manchester. Sewing yesterday was the last thing on my mind, and today I had to force myself to sew a simple belt for my jumpsuit.  If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I’m on a bit of a daisy and gingham vibe.  Well I was until 2 days ago. Daisies are one of my favourite flowers, and happens to symbolise innocence and youth. I, like many school children, had a gingham dress which my mum made for me. I adored that dress – not a lot of people can say they liked their school uniform, but I did, because Mummy made it. It was a lovely shade of yellow and reminded me of sunshine.

So surrounded by gingham fabric and masses of daisy trim upon hearing the absolute horror about Manchester – well it didn’t seem right somehow to sew something so symbolic.

 

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv

Wednesday Thinking – Is there enough diversity in the world of arts and crafts?

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv

When I heard there was going to be a new shopping TV channel dedicated to all things sewing and quilting, it almost made my year.

Then I started watching.

Here are some of the main cast of presenters and designers on the new shopping channel, Sewing Quarter.

Group1Edited.jpg

Picture credit/source: Sewing Quarter/https://www.sewingquarter.com/the-sewing-quarter/about-us/

Only 1 male presenter, no male designers, as for ethnic diversity – well here’s the picture, need I say more?

A while ago, I published a piece about the lack of diversity in the music industry, referencing the issues regarding the dominance of a single artist in the UK charts.  Sadly those same themes appear to dominate the world of art and crafts as well.

As much as I enjoyed the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show, I was saddened that the range of crafts displayed didn’t reflect the wide diversity of the cratfters, producers and makers in the UK. During my 2 days at the show, I only saw 2 crafter/bloggers of colour at the event – Megan of Pigeon Wishes and Chinelo Bally. There also seemed to be very few male crafters live demonstrating at the show.

When I visit areas such as Goldhawk Road in West London, Walthamstow Fabric Market in East London and areas in-between such as Berwick Street and Portobello Road,  I see a united nations of crafters – beginner hobbyists to professionals, shoppers, shop owners, artists, young and the young at heart. So why is this not reflected in the main stream crafting media, fairs and TV shows?

I know there’s always YouTube, but I also know there is a strong appetite for new challenges, materials and techniques. Chinese jacquards, Indian silks, Nigerian Cottons, Japanese Embroidery, Italian Wools are all highly popular at the moment, but there are few places on the web to inform you how to use these wonderful fabric and techniques. When they are showcased, it is usually by people who are so far removed from the historical and social context of these crafts, the results becomes diluted. An recent example was highlighted during a quilting demonstration on Sewing Quarter where the cultural heritage of quilting was only briefly mentioned.

 

While personally I’m not a huge fan of Colette patterns for various reasons, at least they are attempting to reflect their diverse clientele, featuring models who are diverse in both shape and skin colour. It’s at least a small step the the right direction. Sadly, of all the independant pattern designers, Colette patterns is the only one I know of, who actively do so. None of the top 5 UK independent sewing pattern designers do, as far as I’m aware, which sends out subtle messages of exclusion.

It seems a great pity 2 genres; music and arts & crafts, ideal mediums for bringing people together, appear to be doing the opposite.

What you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv

Are Business Cards Old Hat?

Hello folks,

At the end of last year, aka the year we won’t mention, I finally took the plunge after weeks of procrastination, indecision and worry, to purchase some business cards. It took me another 3 weeks to research a suitable company, create what I thought was a good design, and get them made.  I erred on the side of caution, and economics, and had 100 cards made.

Arriving early February, I promptly stuffed my new business card holder with as many cards as possible and placed them in my bag.  I have been to several events since and so far have given out a grand total of … 4.

Why only 4?  Because of a little invention called the mobile phone. Naturally, the contemporary blogger, reaches for their mobile devices to swap contact details. It’s quick, simple and socially acceptable as being a modern way to do such things, whilst not looking like a 90s Wall Street Banker.

So I started to think, maybe I should ditch the whole business card thing. Attending the #YouCanSitWithUsLdn event last Sunday changed my mind.

Armed with a handful of business cards, I headed to the Camden Collective building on Hampstead Road, determined to off-load as many of my cards as possible.

I didn’t hand out any cards. Not 1.

Instead, I swapped contact details using my mobile, having taken advantage of the free wifi connection. My phone now full of new contacts, but my business card holder was also still bursting at the seams.

At the end of the event, I popped into the local supermarket in search of flowers for a photo shoot and milk, as you do. I left empty handed as the flowers looked a bit sad and thanks to Valentine’s Day, were over priced. All the 4 pint bottles had sold out, so that was a no-go too.

As I left, I spotted 2 fellow event attendees and waved hello.  We didn’t have a chance before to swap details, so we attempted to do so there and then. Of course away from the wifi service our mobiles were still adjusting. Then, I remembered my business cards.

I suppose this is a reminder that we should never be completely reliant on our tech devices, because lets face it, how many times have the batteries died, or the network service started playing up?  Then there’s the awkward scramble for the pen languishing at the bottom of our bag, and looking for a scrappy bit of paper … yikes.

I simply (and admittedly uncharacteristically added to my coolness points) pulled out my card holder and handed out a couple of cards.  Quick, simple, no awkwardness, no fuss.

At the moment as you may know, my website is currently going through a transition phrase. So I didn’t want to do an ‘American Psycho‘, and order gold embossed cards with a fancy script font. I suppose the movie also helped put me off the idea of using business cards, as I’ve unintentionally linked them as being one step away from chainsaws, and who wants to be associated with that? If you haven’t watched the movie American Psycho, I warn you now, don’t watch at night or alone. Or with people who know how to use chainsaws.

But, neither did I want to leave it until my website is perfect, because that will take a while and it’s not worth the risk on losing out on positive opportunities.

Plus, it makes me feel, and I hope look, organised and prepared.  Even if my website is under a little scaffolding, it’s still open for business. If I can get this small detail right, just think what I can achieve when it comes to bigger projects?  Heck, I organised my first photography exhibition last year, I can do anything!

What do you think about business cards? Do you use them? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe for more.

 

Wednesday Thinking The Mid-week Editorialv

Wednesday thinking – editorial: Bees, butterflies and beige food

January 2017 Health and Wellbeing January 2017 Champagne Twist champagnetwist.wordpresss.com
Health and Wellbeing January 2017 Champagne Twist champagnetwist.wordpresss.com

We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2nd week of 2017 and so far from my perspective, it’s looking good.  But then again the UK is still in the EU and President Obama is still in the White House. With daily reminders of the impending doom and gloom in the socio-political sphere, I’m trying to keep my mind on more positive events. Hope the first few days of 2017 are treating you well.

The recent Vegan Life Live show is still foremost in my mind.  Examples include rethinking how I feel about bee conservation.

For years I have tried to do my part to save the little bumble bees. I have planted bee and butterfly friendly shrubs, provided safe watering stations, I have even thought about getting my own bee hive. But then I read this post on the Vegan Society website, and now I feel – well a little confused and very guilty.  I like honey, it’s one of my key ingredients in my home made cosmetics. I enjoy cooking and baking with honey, often as a ‘healthier’ substitute for sugar.  So how do I reconcile this with the negative aspects of the honey production industry? Answers on a post card please.

One of the substitutes recommended by the vegan society is golden syrup. Now I have an big issue with this, as I try to (but admit I don’t always succeed) avoid using or buying from any company that has or had historical dealings with the African slave trade.  So somewhere there is going to have to be a difficult trade off.

I shall research this issue further and will get back to you with my findings.

Beige food by any other colour would taste as sweet?

Another thing that got me thinking, was a comment made by London Afro Vegan on her Instagram feed.  She posted a photo of some beautiful food she made and shared with the audience during her cooking demo at Vegan Life Live. Esme, the lady behind London Afro Vegan wrote, “Please forgive … the fact that every gosh dam thing in the pictures looks beige”. It was a type of comment that we all say, that doesn’t have any deep, hidden meaning.

london_afro_vegan
Picture Source and Credit – london_afro_vegan (Instagram)

Oddly though, the comment stuck in the back of my mind. Why would anyone feel compelled to apologise for delicious looking and tasty food? Then it hit me in the middle of recipe developing a meal based on chestnut mushrooms and chestnut puree (recipe coming soon). You can’t get much more beige that this!

rice-mushrooms-chestnuts-recipe-idea

There are many misconceptions about vegetarian and vegan food being bland, boring and beige. However, there are many beige or brown foods in many a meat eaters recipe book – soups, cakes, stews, curries, pies, etc. Yet few seem to complain that these foods are bland, boring or beige.  In most cases, it’s the vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits that gives these popular recipes any notion of colour and flavour.  So why, still, do so many people believe that vegan and vegetarian food is beige, tasteless and boring?  And what is wrong with beige anyway?  If beige was removed from any form of diet, we would all soon be in trouble.  Our daily bread would literally be snatched from our mouths. If I turned around and said to my family, you can’t eat bread anymore because it’s beige, you know I think they would cry. Can you imagine a world without cashew nuts, almonds or pistachios? I think I might start crying too.

Maybe it’s just basic respect, I could never understand why someone would actively disrespect another’s diet. I would rather enjoy a conversation about food, especially if there’s a chance to swap recipes and gain knowledge of another cuisine and ideology.

As much as I adore Instagram, it concerns me that society as a whole have pre-described notions of what is good and what is bad colour-wise.  We spend so much time and effort on decoration and image, at the expense of how food tastes, or how it was produced in the first place. Yes, the more colourful a picture is, the more noticeable it becomes. However, we are also transferring this idea towards notions of what is good food. There is already a proven correlation between beauty and race in terms of colour, should we travel down this negative path with food too?

So please London Afro Vegan, don’t apologise for your beautiful food and your kind, generous nature. Thank you for your lovely ‘beige’ food and sharing your knowledge and wisdom.  Anyone who shares their food with friends and strangers is in my book, the owner of a beautiful soul. And the world can do with more people like you.

And to everyone else, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to continue enjoying my meals, whatever colour they happen to be. Anyone for seconds?