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.

Joes Toes

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!

Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop Review – April 2016

Saturday’s workshop was held once again at the lovely, light & spacious venue of Austerfield Study Centre, 5 nervous beginners attended to Learn to Sew Skirts.

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For the first time ever at one of my workshops I offered 2 different options of skirts that the workshoppers could choose.

Kate chose to make the box pleated skirt, the pattern was provided and everyone else picked to do the gathered skirt where you drafted your own pattern.

The great thing about both these skirt styles is that the only measurement that needs to fit is the waist measurement, both styles fit loosely around the hips.

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Drafting their own patterns

A major part of making any garment have a good crisp finish is pressing each stage as you go along.

And preparing each seam by pinning it before you sew, helps with accuracy ensuring a neat, even finish.

Our workshoppers get to grips with the different techniques involved. It was everyone’s first time using an overlocker and inserting an invisible zip.

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And let me show you the finished results!!! Aren’t they amazing?

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Rhianna

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Jill

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Jennifer

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Kate

a suzanne

Suzanne

Well done everybody on some amazing first makes!!!

Techniques learnt:

  • Basic pattern drafting
  • Transferring pattern markings to fabric
  • Inserting an invisible zip
  • Using an overlocker
  • Gathering
  • Setting pleats

See you next time for Learn to Sew Lounge Pants/Pyjama Bottoms at St Nicholas Church Hall in Bawtry, Saturday 23rd April, 1-4.30pm. Call me on 07957 437001 or message me on Facebook for more info or to book your place.

Alison xx

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

A Gallery of Past Creations

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

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Dresses for the Races

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Prom dresses

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Dresses for other occassions

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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.

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.