Easter Monday – 22nd April – 6.30-8.30pm at Dreambakes Cafe, Doncaster, DN1 1TS
Easter Monday – 22nd April – 6.30-8.30pm at Dreambakes Cafe, Doncaster, DN1 1TS
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This was a banner from the Friends International stall at the Made in Cambodia Market.
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.
Fair trade clothing made by independent seamstresses in Cambodia at Spicy Green Mango.
I wish I had bought one of these bike helmets, from Mekong+ Quilts.
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.
Blush Boutique sells clothes locally designed and handmade in Cambodia.
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.
Three different brands under one roof, in the alleys behind Pub Street.
Husk works with communities to help improve the lives of Cambodian families. Jeanius is a project using recycled jeans.
Wild Poppy gives 5% of profits to Husk and stocks their full range. “Made responsibly in Siem Reap Cambodia.”
Smateria is Italian designed bags & accessories made eithically in Cambodia using upcycled & repurposed materials such as mosquito nets.
Jewellery, textiles and other gifts are sold at Saomao, which is a social enterprise.
The Weavers Project – To empower women through the ethical and transparent trade of beautiful handmade products.
This is an example at the Old Market of a stall full of mass produced items aimed at the tourist dollar.
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.
Kroma House sells the traditional Khmer scraves known as kroma.
Pile ’em high seems to be the retail ethis at the markets where the Cambodian locals shop.
A typical fruit stall.
All the shoes stall are grouped together in this market.
This is where Cambodian people would do most of their shopping in town.
Traditional Cambodian Herbal medicines
These carts selling plastic baskets are a common sight.
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.
PS sign up for my newsletter here, so you never miss a thrilling installment! I will try not to erase any future posts!
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).
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.
The silk threads then undergo a dying process, using mostly natural plant dyes.
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.
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!!
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.
Everyone has essential tools that they use everyday in their job that make the work better or easier or even make it possible. Here’s a list of my essentials. (In no particular order.)
These little beauties I think were once upon a time prizes from a Christmas cracker. Regardless of whoever wins a measuring tape at Christmas dinner, it always ends up being gifted to me, ensuring that I have never had to purchase a tape measure in my life!
A favourite as just hanging it around my neck makes me feel like a seamstress extraordinaire!!
Used to measure the body I’m making clothes for or around curves on the pattern and for measuring seam allowances or hems. So versatile it not only looks good hanging around my neck it truly is a really usefull peice of kit.
Pins & Pincushion
I am a traditionalist when it comes to cutting my patterns in fabric, I prefer to pin the paper pattern to the fabric and cut with shears; Rather that using pattern weights and a cutting mat & rotary cutter.
I became a little obsessed with the big pin cushion dog one of the contestants had on the 2nd Series of the Great British Sewing Bee, and for my first Birthday after we met, my wonderful boyfriend Gary & I, trawled the shops of York looking for a suitable Pin Dog. And that’s where we found Pinny. She was a heavy tweed doorstop with a lot of weight in her bottom, which seems to hold the pins far better than any other pin cushion I have had. Her head is occasionally used for pins, but mainly only when I have small people helping me. I tend to use her bum. Her ears also come in useful for storing needles and I sometimes also use her as a weight to stop things flying away in a breeze. I would highly recommend that you find yourself a Pin Dog!
Having said all that I am rather particular on the type of pins I use and I bought myself a giant 500g box of them. I like my pins long & fine and these are perfect for me, they are nickle plated steel and are 34mm long. They hold the fabric in place and are fine enough not to leave a mark in the fabric. I often pin at right angles to the seam line and sew straight over the pins with my machine. It very rarely breaks or blunts the needle, or breaks the pin, and I find it by far the quickest and easiest way to sew a seam.
Unpicker / Seam Ripper
Nobody’s perfect and these handy little things are a lifesaver. Easily undo your mistakes, whether that be a couple of stitches in error or a whole seam.
One point to note, make sure yours is sharp. A blunt seam ripper does nobody any favours and will just snag and damage your fabric. For unpicking a whole seam place the end with the ball into your seam and then glide along your seam, this should be effortless, like a hot knife through butter, if it is not then invest in a new seam ripper. They are less that a couple of quid delivered from ebay.
Metre Ruler / Metre Stick
It is no coincidence that there are 3 different measuring devices on my essential tools list. As the old adage goes: Measure twice & cut once.
A metre stick is brilliant for ensuring long lines on your pattern are straight and makes it easier to measure lengths of fabric or to work out your fabric requirements. I sometimes use it as a weight too.
This is one of the newest additions to my tool kit, but I wouldn’t be without it now.
On the flip side, this was one of the items on my list when I first started Fashion college aged 16, but my Patternmaster has been in contant use since then particularly as I draft my own patterns. Available from Morplan for £21.95 (in either metric or imperial measurements, whichever you prefer) this fancy ruler is invaluable.
It makes adding seam allowance even on curved seams a piece of cake. It has all the features of a graders set square and has loads of clever additions that make drafting your own patterns easy. I can’t praise this fancy pants ruler highly enough!
Fabric Shears / Fabric Scissors
My boyfriend & family all know that it’s more than their life is worth that to touch my fabric scissors. My favourites have a little piece of fabric tied to the handle to make them easily indentifiable.
They are a pair of Fiskars Dressmaking Shears and the blades are lovely and long and sharp and they have a good weight to them. I was recently given the other pair as a gift and although intially reluctant to try something other than my beloved Fiskars they are actually very nice when cutting certain fabrics.
If you have invested in a lovely pair of fabric shears, even the most mild mannered of readers should be prepared to totally loose it with anyone who dares to use them for anything other than fabric. Eg. Paper, plastic, tape, getting into sealed boxes etc.
Little Scissors / Snips
They sit just beside my machine with in easy reach and are used for cutting ff those untidy threads and the beginning of end of seams. Cutting off loose and straggly threads as you go along makes it easy to produce a well finished garment that looks a good on the inside as it does on the outside.
I prefer my little scissors, but I know plenty of dressmakers who like their snips. I personally find them a little awkward to use, but I guess like anything it comes down to personal taste.
Iron & Ironing Board
In day to day life I am one of the laziest ironers you could ever meet. Gary irons all his own shirts and I (Gary!*) always try to fold my clean clothes in such a way as to minimise ironing requirements. However all this changes when I am dressmaking…
My (Gary’s!*) iron is crucial, every seam is pressed after sewing, ensuring a more professional finish. The iron can be used to smooth and manipulate fabrics in a way that can’t be done with a sewing machine alone. Steam can ease out bumps in your stitching and set hems and pleats in place.
Do you agree that these are the most essential tools for dressmaking? Is there anything I missed? What is your number 1 sewing tool?
Check out upcoming Learn to Sew Workshops on Facebook or give me a call to discuss booking your one to one sewing lessons.
*edited by Gary
You might be wondering what qualifies me to teach you how to sew?
I took my BTEC National Diploma at Doncaster College and then went on to graduate from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in Epsom (formerly Epsom School or Art & Design and currently The University for the Creative Arts, Epsom) with an Honours Degree in Fashion Design.
I have over 20 years creative pattern drafting and dressmaking experience. Take a look at this gallery for photos of past creations.
Dresses for Weddings – Wedding dress, Bridesmaids dresses, Mother of the Bride & Wedding Guest
Dresses for the Races
Dresses for other occassions
Would you like me to help make your dress dreams a reality? Call me on 07957 437001 to book a free consultation.
I work in collaboration with you to create the vision in your head.
Or check out my facebook page for more information.
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.
Watch the trailer for The True Cost here or see the full fim on Netflix.