January 2017 Workshops

I know everyone will be deep into the seasonal festivities at the minute, but I’m excited to let you all know about January’s upcoming workshops.

 

Sunday 8th January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Lounge Pants – St Nicholas Church Hall, Bawtry (DN10 6JD)

This is a fantastic beginner’s workshop, you will walk away with your cosy made by you, for you Lounge Pants or Pyjama Bottoms, a unique garment that you can be proud that you made yourself. (Can be made for adults or kids.)

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£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

 

Wednesday 11th January (7-9pm) – Learn to Sew Bunting – Helm, Balby, Doncaster (DN4 8QN)

In this quirky class you’ll learn to sew pretty bunting. Perfect for a party or decorating your home. You’ll leave the class with new skills, some bunting & the instructions to make it again.

£25 (all materials included) – Click here for more info. Email Rachael at ayeup@backindonny.uk to book your place.

 

Saturday 14th January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Kimono Jackets – The Hub, Retford (DN22 6PA)

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A favourite workshop, you will create a beautiful made by you, for you Kimono Jacket, a unique garment that you can be proud to wear.

£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

 

Saturday 21st January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew A-line Skirts – St John’s Church Hall, Swinton, Rotherham (DN10 6JD)

The workshop is suitable for beginners or those lacking in confidence or experience and I will guide you through the steps, so you will learn as you make. There is no better feeling than receiving a compliment on an outfit and being able to say that you made it yourself.

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£55 (all materials included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

 

Saturday 28th  January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Blouses – St Nicholas Church Hall, Bawtry (DN10 6JD)

A brand new workshop, sample photos to be released soon of this on trend blouse.

£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

 

Monday 30th January (9.30am-3pm) – Learn to Sew Shift Dresses – Austerfield Study Centre, Austerfield (DN10 6RG)

The first weekday workshop is the popular Learn to Sew Shift Dresses.

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£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

There are many more exciting things coming in the New Year, so keep a look out for details coming soon.

Alison xx

PS. If you’re not a member of my Facebook Group, Learning to Sew yet, click here to join for tips, advice, support & inspiration.

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Recommendations for Fabric Shops in South Yorkshire & Retford

I am often asked where I buy my fabric from and I have promised to share the local fabric shops where I buy some of my fabrics.

I am based in Bawtry, South Yorkshire, which is a lovely little town, about 10 miles south of Doncaster, but it has no fabric shops, so my fabric shopping circles out from this point.

I do use online shops from time to time but that’s a whole different kettle of fish and I will save telling you all about my online recommendations for another day.

Here are my recommendations for fabric shops in South Yorkshire & North Nottinghamshire…

Thread Mill Fabrics in Swinton

4 Church Street, Swinton, Mexborough, S64 8QA. Tel: 01709 571684

Let me preface this by saying that I run Learn to Sew workshops in association with Thread Mill Fabrics in Swinton once a month with fabric supplied by Thread Mill and I help out in this shop one day a week, (on Thursdays). Having said all that, I love this shop and even before I had started my business I always shopped in Thread Mill Fabrics.

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The shop is owned and run by Cheryl Barnes and Cheryl herself is the reason for this shop being my number one. Cheryl is so knowledgeable and experienced that whatever sewing project you are working on, she can offer you advice and support and will give you options for the best way to complete your project. There have been many times when I have popped in to pick up some thread or other bits and bobs and have ended up spending the afternoon there, leaving so inspired and motivated to get sewing again on my current project or even several new ones.

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The fabric you see when you walk into the small shop is floor to ceiling and is just the tip of the iceberg. In the back room is where Cheryl keeps all the bridal fabrics. In there is everything from sumptuous satins and chiffons to decorative brocades and lace.

This shop if definitely worth taking the time to go to the slightly out of the way location, it takes me about 40 minutes to get there. Just don’t visit on a Sunday or a Wednesday as the shop is closed and if you go on a Thursday you will get to see me!

Waltons Fabrics in Goldthorpe

47-49 Doncaster Rd, Goldthorpe, Rotherham S63 9H

Waltons Fabrics is a father/daughter team and used to have a stall on Doncaster Market, the market stall has gone now, but there is still that market kind of feel to the shop. They specialise in dancewear fabrics so if you are looking for high shine or sequinned lycra about a third of the shop is dedicated to this, but I must admit I tend to ignore it.

There are hundreds of rolls of fabric here at bargain prices, they tend to buy up end of lines from clothing manufacturers such as Jaques Vert and sell them at heavily discounted prices. There is usually a queue at the counter when I’m shopping, and the staff definitely know their stock.

SewCute Fabrics, Doncaster Market

Doncaster Market: Tuesday, Friday & Saturday

Another newish stall on Doncaster Market, SewCute Fabrics sells mainly cottons & polycottons suitable for crafts & patchwork. However each time I visit this stall the selection is expanding.

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Fabric for Lounge Pants From SewCute Fabrics

The Craft Den, Sheffield

23 Loxley Road, Sheffield S6 4TE

Lynne Hunter is the brains behind the Craft Den and it is a veritable quilters paradise, with hundreds of quilting & patchworking cottons and supplies. Lynne also runs a programme of workshops from her on site studio.

Tim & Gills Fabrics, Retford Market

Retford Market: Thursday & Saturday and Melton Mowbray Market: Tuesday

A stall selling craft cottons & soft furnishing fabrics, worthy of a mention in this blog as I got my fabulous map fabric from this stall.

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There are other shops in the area, but although I have visited I have not bought or used their fabric so they have not made it to my list of recommendations.

Please comment below if you have any further recommendations to share in the area.

Alison xx

Ps. Don’t forget to join my Facebook group, bringing together a supportive community of those who are new to sewing and more experienced sewers.

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A gift to myself! – Joes Toes Slipper Kits

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago I was browsing Facebook on my phone in bed, as you do, and I stumbled across Make your Own Slippers Kits from Joes Toes. This instantly peaked my interest as I was in desperate need of new slippers but I had not worked out how this would fit within my ethical stance of making my own clothes rather than buying.

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I’m especially interested in footwear as I worked in an Independent Shoe Shop called Bawtry Shoe Company for many years.

I quickly selected my kit option, red and charcoal grey, so I could create myself some ladybird themed slippers and paid through PayPal, which is always my preferred payment option when shopping online. I will add that the delivery is really reasonable at £3.95 for orders over £10 and my order arrived within a few days.

These slippers are constructed from felt uppers, insoles, midsoles and outer soles and the felt is a minimum of 90% wool. The felt is so thick, soft and luxurious, even before they are made up, you know how comfortable they are going to be.

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Frustratingly I was so busy for the next week or so preparing for my Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop that my Joes Toes slipper kit hung distractingly in my workspace waiting for me to have time to look at them properly and make them up.

On the Sunday after the Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop, I sat down at my table in my weekly 3 hour window of me-time, when Gary takes Jack back to his Mum’s. I opened up the bag and looked the instructions up on the laptop and within less than an hour the slippers were completed and on my feet!

I was so eager to make then up that I didn’t take the time to decorate them before I started stitching them together, which in hindsight was a mistake as it made it much more difficult to sew on my ladybird spots after my slippers were made up.

I stitched my slippers with a simple backstitch which was so easy and therapeutic and they made up into something tangible so quickly. The slipper soles and uppers are pre-punched with stitching holes that line up so perfectly, they really are a joy to create.

With over 4,000 colour combinations for you to choose from, and different sole options, there is a slipper for everyone. You can even create mismatched slippers if that is what you desire, and for the 60% of the population with odd sizes feet, Joes Toes will accommodate and you can buy a different size for each foot.

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My completed slippers with my ladybird spots

Even if you have never thought of making your own slippers, I would highly recommend trying Joes Toes. They will make an ideal gift, if you are reading this and are someone who I usually buy a Christmas present for, don’t be surprised if you get a Joes Toes make your own slippers kit for Christmas!!

After wearing my slippers for a couple of weeks I am going to purchase myself another pair with a hard Vibram sole, so I can nip out to the garden in my slippers to feed the rabbits or put the bins out in my slippers. I will decorate my slipper tops before I sew them up this time and I will make sure I pull my stitches much tighter as my stitches have given a bit and the uppers are moving a little with my feet instead of holding firm as they should do.

Joes Toes are the brainchild of Cordwainers trained footwear designer Amanda Blackwell based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Amanda has used her knowledge of shoe construction to create these easy to make kits. Check them out for yourself at the Joes Toes Website or on Facebook.

Do you think you would like a BagLadyBird – Learn to Sew Slippers Workshop? – Watch this space!

Alison xx

Ethical Shopping – In Siem Reap Cambodia

I’m going to be completely honest here! I wrote and published a fantastic detailed report on Ethical Shopping in Siem Reap, Cambodia, however one small technical (operator) error and I managed to erase the entire post!! And since then, this title has sat here without any content and it has bothered me! It has taught me a valuable lesson however to write any posts in a Word document first before publishing, so I will always have a back up.

So now I am going to fill in the blank and give you some of the content I had previously published. I am going to do this quickly and it will be mostly photos with links to the social media or website of the various shops in Siem Reap. These photos will appear in no particular order.

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Soieries Du Mekong

This is a social enterprise making and selling beautiful handwoven silk scarves, empowering women in Cambodia with sustainable employment.

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Claycult Cambodia

I loved the jewellery that Claycult made and their studio was just around the corner from my Mum & Dad’s. They make ceramic beaded jewellery using the vibrant colours inspired by Cambodia.

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Rehash Trash

As with other countries, there is a massive problem with rubbish in Cambodia. Plastic bags are still the norm for every single purchase and this creates a massive landfill issue, if they even make it that far and are not just dumped by the roadside or around the town or countryside. Rehash Trash is taking these plastic carrier bags and upcycling them into something practical and useful.

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Friends International

This was a banner from the Friends International stall at the Made in Cambodia Market.

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Tonle Posters in Three Seasons

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Tonle posters in Three Seasons

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Some of the information on Tonle in store

Tonle was my personal favourite and I purchased a couple of items from their shop in the Three Seasons Boutique. They have a zero waste policy and recycle everything including the waste threads.

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Spicy Green Mango

Fair trade clothing made by independent seamstresses in Cambodia at Spicy Green Mango.

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Amazing quilting

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Bike frames & helmets from Bamboo

I wish I had bought one of these bike helmets, from Mekong+ Quilts.

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Bambou Indochine

Bambou Indochine shops seem to be popping up everywhere in Cambodia, Gary bought a Bambou polo shirt from the one in the airport and it feels lovely.

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Blush Boutique

Blush Boutique sells clothes locally designed and handmade in Cambodia.

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El Chiffon

This boutique sold a variety of some of the other brands we saw around Seam Reap, it is on Central Market Street near the Blossom Cafe which is wonderful and you should definitely check it out if you are in Siem Reap.

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Three Seasons Boutique

Three different brands under one roof, in the alleys behind Pub Street.

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Jeanius by Husk

Husk works with communities to help improve the lives of Cambodian families. Jeanius is a project using recycled jeans.

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Wild Poppy

Wild Poppy gives 5% of profits to Husk and stocks their full range. “Made responsibly in Siem Reap Cambodia.”

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Spicy Green Mango

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Bambou Indochine

IMG_0442IMG_0443IMG_0444Smateria is Italian designed bags & accessories made eithically in Cambodia using upcycled & repurposed materials such as mosquito nets.

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Saomao – Can you spot Gary at the till?

Jewellery, textiles and other gifts are sold at Saomao, which is a social enterprise.

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Natural plant dyes at The Weavers Project in the Night Market

The Weavers ProjectTo empower women through the ethical and transparent trade of beautiful handmade products. 

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Bambou Indochine

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This is an example at the Old Market of a stall full of mass produced items aimed at the tourist dollar.IMG_0453

A typical Cambodian tailors shop. I think this one was in Battambang but there are similar in Siem Reap, you can go to one of these shops and have a garment made to order.

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Kroma House at the night market

Kroma House sells the traditional Khmer scraves known as kroma.

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Pile ’em high seems to be the retail ethis at the markets where the Cambodian locals shop. IMG_0457

A typical fruit stall.IMG_0458

All the shoes stall are grouped together in this market.IMG_0459

This is where Cambodian people would do most of their shopping in town.IMG_0460IMG_0461

Traditional Cambodian Herbal medicinesIMG_0462IMG_0463

These carts selling plastic baskets are a common sight.IMG_0464

More tradional Cambodian herbal medicines.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review of the Ethical Shops in Siem Reap. My original article was more informative! But if you are interested, vlick the links to find out more.

Alison xx

PS sign up for my newsletter here, so you never miss a thrilling installment! I will try not to erase any future posts!

Silk Farm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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The colours of the week as worn by the Cambodian Royal Family

On one of first few days in Cambodia, while we were still acclimatising to the heat (although speaking to people here I don’t think you ever get used to it) and recovering from jetlag, we spent a very enjoyable afternoon visting the Silk Farm which is just outside the city of Siem Reap. This is a initiative to ensure that young Cambodians are trained in the craft of traditional Silk Making and that the artisan hertitage is preserved.

Our Khmer guide showed us the process from start to finish. From the Mulberry Bush orchard outside where they harvest the leaves to feed to the silk worm (caterpillars).

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The silk worms eating the Mulberry leaves

The caterpillars then make a cocoon and it is this cocoon the is used to spin the silk yarn. The outer layer creates the raw silk and then the inner layer of the coon is spun to make the fine silk which is much smoother and shinier.

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 Undyed fine silk

The silk threads then undergo a dying process, using mostly natural plant dyes.

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The plants used to create the dyes

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From right to left – natural, bleached and dyed silk. All dyed with vegetable/plant dyes except the cobalt blue which is dyed with chemical dye

They use a number of different techniques for weaving the pattern into the fabric. The first that was demonstrated was tie dye. Here they tie small strings around the yarns to create the pattern, before dying the yarn. When this yarn is then woven the same pattern appears on the fabric.

Some of the patterns are woven into the silk as they weave using a complex system of pulleys and levers which the girls at the looms work in a blur so fast you can hardly see what they are doing. Common motifs used are the Rumduol (the National flower of Cambodia) or the Lotus Flower.

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Weaving a scarf in raw silk

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Rolling the twists on the end of the scarfs against their calves to create the tassels

The most usual part of the process to me was the way the girls rolled the tassels on the end of the scarfs on their calves!!

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Different silk techniques hanging in the museum

There was then a small museum room before we were ushered into the gift shop which was full of beautful silk items to purchase, for what seemed to be a really reasonable price for the level of craftmanship we had just witnessed. You could buy silk by the metre as well, which I really had to resist!

If you ever find yourself in Siem Reap and have more than a passing interest in textiles, I would highly recommend you visit the Silk Farm.

Alison xx

Preparing and Panicking

It’s been a super busy week this week as we jet off for 2 weeks holiday today to Cambodia (where my parents live).

I’ve been busy preparing for the next workshop as well as finishing a bespoke dress for a client and making myself some bits to wear on holiday.

Here’s a quick visual recap of my week…

The dress I made was for a School Reunion next week and is yet to be worn, so I can only show you a little sneaky peek!

It is finished with a bias binding edge giving a neat finish to the drapy crepe dress without adding any uneccessary bulk. This was the first time I have made my own bias binding and it proved much easier than expected with this nifty little tool. Although I did make the error of using the 6mm tool to start with and that was just too narrow and fiddly to work in this fabric. Some times even for experienced dressmakers it is a case of trial & error. I used 12mm bias binding tool, which worked out perfectly for this dress. I can’t wait to show you the pictures…

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Making the bias binding

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Ironing the bias binding

I had bought this amazing fabric, with ladybird & bunnys and double deckers buses and I knew I wanted to make a skirt with it and it worked out great, the only issue was that I didn’t have a top to match. I did however fing this t-shirt in my wardrobe that I never wore. The neck and sleeves were too tight and it was unflattering and uncomfortable, so I got my scissors out and cut off the sleeeves, cut a lovely wide boat neckline and found some blue fabric in my stash which matches the blue in the skirt and the stripe in the t-shirt and cut some angel sleeves. I finished the edges of the sleeves with the rolled hem setting on my overlocker in a beige cotton to match the skirt and attached the sleeves to the newly cut armholes with my overlocker.

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Upcycled t-shirt with gathered skirt

I found a Cambodian scarf that had never been worn from a previous visit to Cambodia and I quicky ran up the simple t-shirt pattern from The Great British Sewing Bee book. This t-shirt uses a different bias binding technique to finsh the edges where the binding is pressed to the inside of the garment and the topstiched giving a concealed bias binding finish. My bias binding this time was ready made and is in black as a contrast to the fabric of the top.

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Simple t-shirt from a Cambodian scarf

This morning I have been fabric shopping, to Sewcute Crafts on Doncaster Market, I found out about this business on Facebook as I have not been to Doncaster Market for years! This fabrics will be some of the choices for the Learn to Sew – Skirts -Workshop on 2nd April at Austerfield Study Centre.

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Fabric Shopping for the Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop

Nearly time for our lift to the train station!

Adios

Alison xx

Crafternoon in Aid of Mind – Learn to make your own customised canvas tote bag

How to make your own customised canvas tote bag

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The Crafternoon raised £75 for Mind

What you need:

  • 1m x 0.5m of calico – I bought mine from http://threadmill.co.uk/
  • 2m x 25mm cotton webbing tape
  • Natural thread
  • Fabric paints to decorate
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1m x 0.5m calico folded in half

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With the wrong sides together, sew seams down both sides, 5mm from the edge

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Press your seams open, then turn your bag inside out and press the seam flat.

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Then stitch down each side, 7mm from the edge. This will enclose the first seam you made, neatly creating French Seams

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Press your bag and fold 1cm in from the top to the inside of your bag and press.

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Pin and stitch your webbing tape to the inside of the top of the bag attaching the straps 13cms from the side seams. Stitch both the top and bottom of the webbing.

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Turn your back the right way round, press your seams and you are ready to decorate

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The Finished Articles

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Crafternooners with their bags

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Crafternooners with their bags

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Man Bag

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Shop till u drop bag

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All the completed bags

 

 

 

Ethical Fashion & Me

Something happened to me last year – I started to care about who made my clothes and how they were treated. The catalyst for this was The True Cost documentary, which I watched on Netflix one evening when Gary was out. He came home to find that I had fundamentally changed the way I thought about fashion.

Fashion has always been my thing, I graduated in 1999 from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design with a degree in Fashion Design and had mostly worked in Fashion retail since then. I developed a serious shopping habit while at uni and I had an eye for quirky and unsual pieces that I could style up. More recently a lack of disposable income had meant that the shopping sprees became less and less and I would be more likely to be wearing supermarket clothing or the cheaper end of the High Street, such as Primark or H&M. Opting for the lower quality fast fashion option to keep my wardrobe stocked up.

Call me naive, but I just hadn’t really considered what went into making these clothes and how they could make them so cheap. Then I watched The True Cost and my eyes were opened. I could no longer stand by and be an ignorant consumer of fast fashion, knowing the human and enviromental cost of producing much of our clothing.

Since that date I have honestly not purchased any “fast fashion”.

I even made the majority of the Christmas presents we gave. Others were sourced at local craft fairs from designer/makers, and others were DIY kits for making your own crafts. (I will admit that the kids presents were mostly still plastic tat, but I’m working to change that for next year!)

I realised that with my skill set and background (20+ years of designing and dressmaking), the best contribution I could make to ethical fashion was to make my own clothes and to teach others around me how to make their own clothes too.

Should you wish to learn how to make your own clothes, please call me on 07957 437001, email me alisonrgreer@hotmail.com or contact me through Facebook http://www.facebook.com/bagladybird/

Watch the trailer for The True Cost here or see the full fim on Netflix.