Friday, October 31, 2008

Etsy prettiness and Mixtape zine

I want to share with you some pretties that came for me in the mail recently. First up is this framed Book of Wisdom print by Etsy seller littlestflower.

It's pretty much the cutest thing ever. It fits in with Tim and my personalities perfectly. It was very affordable despite the lagging Aussie dollar, plus it's printed on a old book page (yay for reusing) PLUS the seller is Australian (yay for shopping locally).

She also included this gorgeous tree print in green and gold. I'm still excited and so so pleased. I love everything in her shop so I'll definitely be back, maybe for some Christmas shopping.

Before that came the new issue of Mixtape, a "craft zine about making time for the small things".
As a subscriber I got a piece of cute fabric, thread and a button with it.

The Melbourne-made zine focuses on green living and crafting for business and pleasure. There's also a parenting issue coming up in December. In other words, it's right up my alley. There's always nuggets of inspiration and advice in there. I'm thinking of submitting an article at some point.

For those of you new to the term 'zine', it's a homemade publication. There are big ones and small ones, made by one person or many people. They can contain illustrations or articles or advice or wit or all of the above. And there's probably one about everything you can think of. The best thing about them is that they're not generally made just for profit, they're made for love, with love. Content doesn't need 'official' approval, so the makers have creative freedom.

In Melbourne, there's a not-for-profit shop called Sticky Institute that's dedicated to zines. I haven't had a chance to go yet, but when I do you'll be hearing all about it. I imagine it would be a bad idea to try to lug a pram and a baby down the subway stairs, so I have to wait until I'm in the area Ellie-free or with someone to watch her for a while. The shop is in the Degraves Subway, just a tiny walk from Flinders Street Station. If you're in the area, check it out and share your thoughts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blood, sweat and t-shirts

'Fashion without victim' is the tagline to UK online fashion magazine Thread. It's full of tips for ethical shopping, a handy glossary of terms, plus current stylish ethical fashion. There was an interview with a vegetarian designer called Isobel Davies of Izzy Lane. Her timeless garments are made with wool from her own sheep which she has saved from ending up on somebody's dinner plate. Check out an interview with her here.

Another particularly great thing I found was a BBC series called Blood, Sweat and T-shirts. It follows six young people from Britain on their journey to India, to live the lives of garment factory workers for a little while. Unfortunately, it hasn't aired here in Australia (hopefully it will in future) so I haven't seen it. I have viewed the snippets on the BBC site though.

You can view clips about each of the six here.

New listings and free shipping!

These new things are up in my Etsy shop! Except for the patterned dress in the first row, which sold before I could say 'free shipping'. Speaking of which, I'll be offering free shipping for the next week. (Did you like my smooth segway? :p) Couple that with the fact that a bunch of items are 25% off and you've got yourself quite the bargain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

heidi and seek for Leeloo!

You can now find a range of one-off heidi and seek tops at Aussie online shop Leeloo. The shop stocks everything from homewares to jewellery to art, all lovingly handmade and designed by a talented group of creators. Here are a couple of the pieces for sale, you can view the rest at the shop site:

Leeloo is pretty damn cool. To boot, Leeloo's founder, Angela, is a darling. She is competent, friendly and professional in equal parts, so I'm really glad to be business buds with her.

These are a few of my favourite items from the site:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vegetarianism and the environment

World Vegan Day is next weekend in Melbourne. I have to admit that I'm not vegan. In fact, I'm a pretty poor vegetarian, given that I eat seafood on occasion. I really should label myself a pescatarian if I want to be accurate, but then I have to launch into an explanation and feel like a bit of a chump for using a relatively unknown word in the first place.

However, since the beginning of the year I have avoided all other types of meat, unless it was snuck into my food without my knowing. And there are the little things that crumble my ethic. Like cheese. I previously thought it was all vegetarian. I even stupidly scoffed along with Tim at the 'vegetarian cheese' at the supermarket, because all cheese is vegetarian, isn't it? Then I learned about rennet, a cheese ingredient which is made from calf stomach, and ate my words. Fortunately there are resources like the Vegetarian Network Victoria, which, as part of it's vast wealth of veggie information, includes a page on brands and types of rennet-free cheese.

I understand that not everyone wants to change their eating habits based on animal ethics, and that's certainly fair enough. But I also think that we should make informed decisions, and most people aren't aware of the environmental effects of eating meat.

Raising pigs, chickens, cows and other animals for food is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." (source: UN report: Livestock's Long Shadow) Avoiding meat is the most effective thing we can do to help climate change, even before switching our car to a hybrid. Why?
  • Every kilogram of beef uses up to 16,000 litres of water to make.
  • Our rainforests are being destroyed for cattle grazing land at a rate of one football field per second. We need rainforests to supply oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and moderate our climates.
  • Livestock produces 130 times more waste than we do and it's poisoning water, air and land.
  • One third of all fossil fuel in the US is used to raise animals for food.
  • Cattle produces one fifth of methane emissions, which is 24 times more damaging then carbon dioxide to the environment.
Eating less meat is good for the planet as well as your health, if you do it right. Even changing one of your restaurant orders to a vegetarian one has a decent impact on the environment. Making a few dinners each week meat-free helps even more. It'll save you money, too.

There is an incredible amount of other ethical reasons to decrease your meat intake, but I think I've exhausted my preaching allowance for today. If you're interested, you can find out more at these great sites:
Vegetarian Network Victoria

Friday, October 17, 2008

Does this mean I'm a 'real' designer now?

Aw, my front page cherry was popped. The lovely Jessie of westbyron alerted me that my custom green stripe tee was on the front page of Etsy, woot! Check it out.

Today I was interviewed (in person!) by a journalism student from RMIT. I've been interviewed by email before over at I'm Not Antisocial, Just Short Sighted, but in person is a whole different kettle of fish (what is with that phrase, anyway?). She asked some insightful questions and I'm looking forward to seeing the final piece (and perhaps posting it here if she gives me permission). It was my first face-to-face interview so I asked for the questions in advance, and spent most of the morning thinking about my answers. Otherwise my fingernails probably would have been bitten down the cuticle with nerves. I like to be prepared.

One thing she asked me to talk about was what the fashion industry is like. Since I work from home and largely sell online, I have very little contact with other people in the fashion biz. In other words, I pretty much have no idea. I do, however, feel that I'm very much a part of the handmade world. There's such a sense of community. It is supportive, welcoming and friendly. Pretty much the opposite of how I perceive the fashion industry to be, so I'm happy to align myself this way.

In other news, I recently listed these two new dresses on Etsy.

I actually have blogrolls now, with the latest post and title, rather than the list of links I used to have. There's one for fashion and one for makers. Check them out and spread some blog lovin'. (Note: No that wasn't a reference to this site.) If you'd like me to add you, just let me know.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wearing the colour red

I used to be afraid of wearing red. I thought it wasn't versatile enough and that I could only wear it with black. And I thought red and black was boring and didn't want to wear them together, so I just didn't do red. I also thought that it's a risky colour because it's easy to overdo and it gets attention.

I have a few red items of clothing now, which I wear regularly. I still think it's one of the hardest colours to style and so I do a little inner jump for joy when I think I've gotten it right. Yesterday I wore red and black anyway (my rules never really rule), but put it with some brown and cream, too. This was my first time wearing shorts with tights. I must say, it felt good.

Black tee - Cotton On
Cream tank - Portmans
Vest - Sunny Girl
Shorts - Buss
Tights - Columbine
Boots - Josef Siebel

Excuse the blur of the first shot. I meddled with the settings on my camera and it is not impressed with me. Every full body shot I take ends up blurry and noisy. I'll get the expert to look at it later.

I just realised that the Sunny Girl label on the vest was sewn on upside down. Weird. And sad. That sweatshop worker must have been tired. This is the last new and cheap item of clothing that I'll have. Mother dearest bought it for me early this year, before I had sworn to her that I wasn't buying new and cheap clothing for myself ever again and didn't want any from her either. I've kept my promise. And it hasn't been much of a struggle.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reinvent your existing wardrobe

My wardrobe history is a little embarrassing. When I was living with my parents, shopping was my thing. I bought an item of clothing most weeks, and cleaned out my closet often (and things weren’t actually thrown away, just stored “for later use”). And yet, my style wasn’t any better for my frequent shopping. It was probably worse, because all I could afford so often were cheap clothes, usually tops.

Another problem is that I didn’t experiment. Every item of clothing had its set purpose. Tops didn’t get worn if they were too loose in the waist or too short. All my pants and skirts sat at the hips and bare-midriffs aren’t really my thing, so I thought those tops were useless. I was very conservative with colour coordination, so that limited my outfits, too. The extent of my layering was ‘I’ll wear this long tee under this shorter one’. When my closet got full, I thought that I should throw out anything that didn’t fit into this mould.

I get that not everyone wants to dress outrageously. But there are ways you can experiment with your wardrobe while keeping a simple style. If you’re more confident you can be as risky as you want.

Part of my current closet - skirts and tops

Your clothes are more versatile than you think.

Think about why you don’t wear something in your closet. Then try ways of wearing it that rectifies the problem. Too revealing or short? Wear something underneath or over the top. Too big? Cinch it in with a belt or a high waisted skirt. Sleeves too long? Snip ‘em shorter (jersey will usually hold up with raw edges, but you might want to hem other fabrics). Neckline too high and doesn’t suit you? Wear something low-necked over it and you’ll have a more flattering silhouette. If it’s simply uncomfortable and you can’t fix it, then get rid of it. It’s not worth having.


Combine colours and patterns you never thought would match.

Try a tee under a tube or singlet top.

Tuck a dress into a skirt.

Pull up a low-waist skirt and hold it up with a belt.

Cinch in your waist with a ribbon or belt.

Try a top over a dress.

Layer two skirts.

Mix styles. Wear a dress with army boots, or denim with a business shirt.

Layer items that are different lengths.

There are no rules in fashion. There are opinions and there are trends, but neither should fully dictate what you wear. Wear what you love. Sometimes you might regret it (I sometimes do after walking out the door) but don’t let that get you down. Someone else might think you look fabulous. Be confident. Fashion is fun.

If you have any other experimentation ideas, please do comment.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Overcoming the procrastination beast

If, like me, you’ve looked for answers to procrastination and found only directions to 'make a schedule', 'just do it', 'prioritise' and other seemingly simple-sounding tasks, then you’ll understand how frustrating and hopeless it can appear. These instructions don’t work. But I can tell you what helped me.

Procrastination is something I've suffered since I started high school. Assignments became less of a curious and creative joy, and I took less and less pride in my work. I might have been saving my honour, because if I didn't try as hard as I could, I couldn't really 'fail', could I? After I started university, which brought with it a new freedom, I left assignments 'till closer and closer to the deadline, until I got to the point where I finished them with just minutes to spare. Sometimes I went one step further and thought, 'What's the worst that could happen if it's handed in late? I need more time, so it's worth the late mark deduction.'

I'm still a student, trying to finish off my Arts degree during gaps in the rest of my life. I'm taking the current semester off and will resume it next year. At the moment I'm working solely on my clothing line, heidi and seek. So when the procrastination beast crept into my making life, which is meant to be an endless motivation, I knew I had to try harder to fight it. That meant not just looking for quick-fix tips, but unearthing the real root of my procrastination problem.

Years ago I bought a book called The Now Habit, a guide to overcoming procrastination. I read a little of it then and all I took away was one quote that I thought was inspiring. This time I approached it with a new perspective, and found it incredibly helpful. I don't believe that self-help books have all the answers. The authors don't know you personally and they write for a wide audience, so they generalise their advice. I skipped over parts in the book that I thought were irrelevant to me, and used the case studies and other information to determine my own answers. I didn't fit completely into any of the profiles given.

I want to share with you some of the things I learnt and found helpful, because I know procrastination affects most people at some point.

#1. Humans are naturally curious and creative and have a natural motivation for meaningful work. Procrastination happens when negative habits get in the way.

#2. Procrastination is a learned response to anxiety about doing something. Have a good think about why the task makes you anxious. Why don't you want to do it? You might fear success, failure, or imperfection. You might want to live up to someone else's expectations, rather than choose your own path.

I found that I felt anxious about making clothing because I placed immense pressure on myself. I turned one task - getting up and starting to make something - into a massive dilemma because I felt it was a measure of my worth as an entrepreneur and as a productive person. My ability to do that one task was the deciding factor of whether I was lazy or not, whether I was cut out for working for myself. It's no wonder I resisted it so strongly. I can now see that this not rational. One task is one task, and I’m now trying not to put any more meaning on it than that. I accept that I am not a lazy person and that I am capable and productive. I also realise that I do love to create, and I’m bringing the joy back into my making by letting go of the baggage it previously brought.

#3. Find out the root of your anxiety. Try talking with someone or writing down your thoughts. Think about how you were treated as a child. Were there high expectations? Were you criticised a lot? Was your good work ignored? Were you allowed to pursue your own interests? Were your siblings or parents high achievers? You might have learned to be critical of yourself, to judge yourself, or strive for perfectionism. Reading a book like The Now Habit might help you find answers, too. Once you find the cause of your anxiety, you can start trying to resolve it. If you procrastinate in more than one area of your life, there might be different underlying causes.

#4. Procrastination temporarily eases the anxiety. Each time you do it, you reward yourself with immediate relief, and over time this response gains momentum as your go-to defence against the anxiety.

#5. You are not lazy. That is not the reason you procrastinate. Don't label yourself or use it as an excuse. People aren't born procrastinators, they're born wanting to learn and work. If you think about it, there is some area of your life that you don't procrastinate with, and that's because it doesn't hold anxiety for you. It might be making something, writing or journaling, doing chores, or something else. Once you resolve your anxiety in your problem area, you'll be able to apply your true level of motivation to it, like you can in those other areas.

#6. Be nice to yourself. Listen to your inner dialogue. Thoughts like ‘I can't do this’, ‘I'm just lazy’, or ‘I'm not smart enough’ all work against you. Don’t allow them to fester. Cut yourself some slack. Understanding the reason you procrastinate might help. Accept that it's not as easy as it might look from the outside and acknowledge that your response to the anxiety is understandable. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

#7. Don't fight yourself. Every time I encountered procrastination, one side of me thought ‘You have to do this. If you want to be successful you'll do it. Just get up and do it, or you might as well give up now.’ It was as if that one side wanted to beat the other side into submission. But threats don't work for long, if at all. And they definitely don't make you feel so good about the task. It worsens the anxiety. I changed my thoughts to ‘I'm not lazy, I'm creative and curious. I don't have to do this. But I choose to. This one task is not a test of my worth. It's just one task. I want to do it, so when can I start?’

#8. Talk yourself into being a producer. Change your ‘I have to,’ to ‘I choose to’. Change ‘I have to finish,’ to ‘When I can start?’ Change ‘This is so big,’ to ‘I can take one step’. Change ‘I don’t have time to play’ to ‘I must take time to play’. Change ‘I must be perfect’ to ‘I can be human’.

Once you’ve found the cause of your anxiety, you can question it, try to resolve it and begin to change how you talk to yourself. When you feel good about yourself, you feel good about producing. And if you have this foundation to your procrastination problem, those scheduling and prioritising tips might actually come in handy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New listings and massive sale

I'm going through a bit of a cleansing phase... or one might say a mid-biz crisis. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I'm in the process of finding my direction, as I'm feeling a little lost at the moment. I do know that I want a fresh perspective, new ideas, refinement and changes. And what better time of the year for this than in the lovely weather of spring?

I've listed several new garments in my Etsy shop. Here are a couple of my favourites:

I'm not sure if it's worth it, taking photos inside. On the one hand, I don't have neighbours peering at what I'm doing so I don't need to rush back in or wait for non-cold temperatures. On the other hand, I don't think the photo quality is as good. What do you think?

Secondly, I've decided to clear out a lot of older stock to make room for the new, so there's 25% off a big range of goodies in the shop. These are my favourites:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

If only I could have you

I just found an awesome bag on Etsy! It's unique and gorgeous, versatile, made from reclaimed materials and has the right length strap. Though I'd prefer a zip rather than a flap for functionality. And maybe a bit smaller so I don't fill it with too much junk.

I would be willing to overlook these issues, but for $344... not just now. Waaay out of my price range. Pout.

But if any of you readers want to show this seller some lovin', they haven't made any sales yet, so it's a good cause!

Monday, October 6, 2008

New bag?

I know I haven't listed anything new on Etsy for a couple weeks, but it's not because I haven't been creating. The weather has been working against me, I tell you. When I've had time to take product photos it's been freezing or stormy outside. But the weather forecast looks good for the end of the week, so I'll have some shiny new things up after then. I would love to set up somewhere inside where I could do product shots but we hardly have a spare wall, space is that tight. And the lighting isn't so great. I'll see if I can come up with something.

In the meantime, this is one of the first tops I ever made from scratch, four or five years ago. I gave it to a friend for her birthday. The bow is removable.

In other news, I had a discussion with Tim yesterday about my desire for a new handbag. My current one makes me angry. I bought it expensively new, and after 9 months of daily wear the thing is falling apart. The long strap (the main feature I look for in a bag) has fallen off, so I'm stuck with the short handles. Plus, the lining is amassing holes as we speak, losing my oddments within it forever. Forever! I'm not entirely sure what's in there, but I do know that the bag should not be as heavy as it is, given that there are only a few items in the main pocket.

Tim wants me to repair it and continue to use it in my fight against global warming! In true girl style, I said "No, I want a new one." 'New' for me usually means second-hand, though I have checked out some new handbags. Nothing has appealed yet.

This whole issue got me thinking. What's the real global warming cost of buying second-hand? Is it okay if I buy new things only every-once-in-a-while? Am I doomed to never ever buy new non-essentials because of my interest in ethics? And how much emotional value can objects really carry?

I feel I am justified in getting myself another bag because:
  • My non-essential purchases are extremely few and far between. My last one was my Steve Madden boots, which was about 4 months ago (and they, at least, WILL last me years), and before that was this crap bag.
  • How am I meant to be happy to wear something that actually makes me angry? Fashion should make you feel good, and if it doesn't you're doing it wrong.
  • My impulse buying days are long gone, and whatever I end up choosing, I will have thought good and hard about it.
There's only been one bag that I've liked enough to consider getting, but it was from Etsy and has since disappeared. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open! I'm looking for something with a cross-body strap, is about A4 size or a bit smaller that is roomy. And pretty and unique. And preferably made of fabric! Leather is heavy and makes me feel guilty for the animals, and I'm not a faux leather fan. Thank you, lovelies!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Interview with Kelly Sheenan

Kelley Sheenan, the talented and inspiring lady behind responsible fashion magazine Peppermint was interviewed over at Greenloop. She talks about sustainability in Australia, garment certification, local ethical fashion labels (with a lovely heidi and seek mention to boot. Thanks Kelley!), eco hot spots and the relationship between fashion and politics. Her opinion on positive ethical fashion change for the future is refreshing and exciting. Read the interview here.

Another interesting point the interviewer brought up was the contradiction in a eco-friendly print magazine (as opposed to electronic, which does not use paper). The mag is printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, but it is still material consumption there when there is an alternative. Kelley brought up good points. Firstly, that it's more effective to be printed in order to compete with other print fashion magazines for consumers' attention. Secondly, to own and hold a magazine is special. I sometimes think along similar lines in my own work. Should I forfeit the design features that require me to buy new things (elastic and labels, for example?)

This issue reminds me of an interview I read with Wendell Berry, a pro-environment author from the States. In it, the interviewer asked him about the contradiction in travelling and relying on corporate machinery while advocating for local economies. His response: "There are contradictions in it, no doubt about that... But you have to live in the world the way it is. You can’t declare yourself too good for it and move away."

I read this a while ago and I still think about it. There's a lot of wisdom in those words. I now accept that there are going to be ethical sacrifices in most things we do. And there are contradictions in all eco-friendly movements. But it's not something to be ashamed of. It's realistic. One thing I do think is important is to try to save those sacrifices for things that are special. If we don't have the special, the unique, then what world are we fighting for?