Friday, January 30, 2009

Heat wave and vintage finds

Australia is going through a heat wave at the moment. In Melbourne it is the hottest week for 100 years. Yesterday it was about 43 degrees celsius, or 109 fahrenheit. Couple that with Ellie having chickenpox and you get me doing zero sewing. The virus don't seem to be bothering Ellie though, she's still cheery as ever. Or weirdly, even more so. We've been staying with Tim's parents because we don't have air conditioning.

Last week I had one of those moments where I realised I didn't like 90% of the things in my wardrobe. For once I made a list of the things that were missing so I can look out for them and not get carried away buying everything pretty because I need new (to me) clothes. One of them was a cardigan. I like thrifting out of season items because there's not as much 'competition' - lots of people buy clothing seasonally.

I thrifted this number on Monday. Love the colour and the details. I'm planning to resize it and possibly change the buttons.

I've been checking out lots of vintage on Etsy lately. Here's a few of my favourites:

Black and brown dress by vintagerevolver

And I just now realised how dull all these colours are! Must include more colour into my wardrobe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eco-style find: Hoakon Helga's upcycled handbags

This is the first in a series of weekly eco-friendly style features. I'll be handpicking and interviewing entrepreneurial ladies and lasses with gorgeous products (not just limited to clothing!) AND socially responsible business practices. This means fair trade, handmade, recycled, organic, second-hand, vintage galore!

First up: Hoakon Helga is a fun and funky handbag and jewellery line by Andrea Strand. The bags currently available in her Etsy shop are made from repurposed materials.

This is my favourite. Gorgeous, right? Made from repurposed red leather and part of a vintage sweater. I'd be all over this if it were in backpack format. But, more on that another post. Interview time!

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.

My name is Andrea Strand, Andi for short. I'm from Canada and live close to the beautiful Rocky Mountains where snow is abundant, and nature is unavoidable. I make bags from recycled jackets, and jewelry from real feathers, vintage and recycled pieces, and newer components.

How did you start making bags? Was it a big investment or learning curve?

I started making bags in art school. Originally I thought I would go into graphic design which is why I went to school in the first place, but I took a course in natural dyeing techniques on fabric, and I immediately fell in love. It was then that I switched my major to textiles. I was making lots of different fabrics through weaving, printing, dyeing, and rusting and I didn't know what to do with them, so I started making bags out of them. I started selling them at local art shows and people liked them and I haven't stopped ever since. My designs have changed quite a bit over the years, but there's still the same core aesthetics there: simplicity, functionality, feminity, and originality.

The love for vintage and recycled materials comes from growing up in my mother's antique store. I have collected lots of old textiles, and jewelry pieces over the years and began to incorporate them into my work for the same reason, I didn't know what else to do with them...

Tell us about your materials. What new supplies do you use? What recycled?

My bags are made from vintage leather jackets and I use new metal hardware for the zippers, hooks and d-rings in each bag.

My jewelry is a mixture of vintage and newer components. Each piece is totally different, but sometimes its hard to find an abundance of vintage chains, so I have to use new ones. I do my best to recycle older pieces as much as possible.

Why do you use recycled leather? Is sustainability important to you?

Absolutely its important to me! I try my best to use sustainable approaches in all facets of my life. It's simply the way the world is going, and I don't think there is any other option but to go with it.

What has the response been so far to your recycling? Do you think people care more about good style?

The response has been nothing but positive! I think that people are looking for quality products but are also looking for their own way to contribute to environmental practices as well. I like that I can give them this option.

Which item of yours is your favourite?

Hmm, that's a tough one. My favorite items change constantly as I make every bag as if I would wear it myself. But I think right now it's the Durian in this color option:

It's the color combination that i'm in love with. I used a beautiful soft brown jacket, and combined it with some vintage barkcloth curtain material from the 1940's. I was inspired from a customer's request.

What's your best eco-tip?

I think that a sustainable lifestyle can be a little intimidating as there is so much to think about. Doing the small things, like purchasing items that have recyclable packaging, buying organic when possible, and shopping vintage would be my day to day tips.

Thanks Andrea!

If you have any suggestions for future eco-style features, please do let me in on it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A jumble of topics

I'm trying to 'fix' my hair in this picture, because I wore a fedora all day and it ended up weirdly flat. I went to the Australian Open with my big bro. The tickets were my dad's. He used to go every year with a friend of his. Jason and I decided it would be our tradition from now on. He and I get along really well but don't see each other that much.

I used to play competition tennis and really enjoyed it. I'd love to start playing again but I don't think I have the committment. It was a good day out, apart from when we ventured into the outside courts and I ended up with a red, sunburnt chest. That'll make for attractive Heidi & Seek product pictures.

I really love this new dress I listed today. If it was my size I'd be very tempted to keep it.

I'm going to make more party dresses as I realised I don't have many.

The lovely Tricia of blog Little eco footprints wrote a little piece about Heidi & Seek recently, which you can see here. I love her blog because of how thought-provoking and informative it is. Tricia also makes cute bibs, wipes and, shortly, nappies from reclaimed materials. Her website is Flannel Fings if you'd like to have a looksee.

I did a Google search for Heidi & Seek the other day to see if there was any press I didn't know about, and what do you know, I found one. EcoSalon featured my label last week! I was quite chuffed, the write-up is original and lovely. They featured the Block Girl dress:

This dress has gotten a lot of attention. I've taken it down off my Etsy shop because it's now available at a shiny new stockist instead! The shop is called Lulu and is truly gorgeous. There are homewares, clothing and accessories, all quirky and lovely. I'm flattered that my designs are among such company. If you're a Melbournite, check it out at:
322a Carlisle St, Balaclava (cnr Westbury and Carlisle Streets)
I've got another Tasmanian stockist coming up within the next couple of months, too. Busy busy busy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Second-hand shopping for beginners (Part II)

This is the second part of this article. Check out the first part here.

Types of second-hand stores

One thing you need to know about Savers: it's not a charity organisation. Only a small percentage of the profits go to charity. It's handy that you can trade your own unwanted goods for store credit, though. Interesting fact I just found: About 50% of goods donated to Savers are unsaleable, so "roughly 262 pounds of clothing, shoes, toys, books and other items are sold and shipped to developing nations each year, keeping those goods from landfill." (Source) I wonder what percentage of that unsaleable 50% goes overseas, given that they didn't say all of it went. And whether the cost of them is reasonable. But that's a topic for another day.

Alternatively, those little local op shops that are in most suburbs are usually run by volunteers and all of the profits go to charity. Then there are stylish vintage boutiques, where the goods are more expensive (sometimes by quite a lot) because they are hand-picked for their trend factor. Needless to say, none of these profits go to charity.

The Camberwell Market in Melbourne, which runs every Sunday, is also well-known for having great second-hand items. Most of the stalls I've shopped at were run by casual stallholders looking to clear out their wardrobe. I've found a lot of quality contemporary brands here, like Country Road and Saba. If you're not in Melbourne, there's probably a similar thing nearby.

Make sure you..

Check for faults before you buy. There's been a few times I've come home and found that something has a hole or a stain in it that won't come off. If it's noticable and you're not into altering, like I am, you've wasted the purchase (but still given money to charity, so it's not so bad).
Try it on. Yes, even if it smells. I promise, it won't be so gross next time.
Check every rack you have time to. It's not like browsing in a shopping centre, where there's a bunch of the same items and they're nicely spaced out. If you don't look at everything you might miss something great.
Don't buy things you're iffy about just because they're cheap. Having things you're not going to wear or use is a waste of space. Personally, I'd rather have a closet half-full of things that get worn regularly than a wardrobe that's bursting but with me still not having anything to wear.

Removing the smell from second-hand clothing

Generally, just chucking something in the washing machine won't remove the smell. I must emphasise that you should not add heat. Putting a smelly item in the dryer or ironing it is outro, because it'll lock in the smell forever and ever and ever. (Yes, I did this once, and yes, it still smells.)

There are a few different ways you can do it, involving vinegar and tea and things. But my preferred method is this: Before you wash the garment, hang it outside for at least a few non-rainy days. Bring it in at night, though. This works especially well if it's sunny, but keep in mind that sun fades fabric, too.

I hope you enjoyed this little sequence, folks. Happy treasure hunting!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Second-hand shopping for beginners (Part I)

Charity shops, op shops, thrift stores and markets, oh my. I was a bit lost when I started buying pre-loved fashion, so I thought I'd share with you my tips and experiences.

Why shop second-hand?

It's one of the most eco-friendly ways to add to your wardrobe. Brand new items take quite a toll on the environment, regardless of whether they're named organic or eco-friendly. For instance, an organic cotton tee and a regular cotton tee both use up to 2500 litres to make.
It's fun! There's something oh-so-satisfying about finding a unique little gem in the corner of an op shop, tucked between some uglies. It also satiates my thirst for creativity, because I often buy second-hand on the basis of what I think it could be.
It's cheap. Many people are tricked into thinking that they can keep up with fast trends because chain stores offer clothing so cheap. But the quality is often poor and the styles can date quickly. Second-hand shopping is cheaper because the outright cost is less, plus the items may have longevity.
Truly one-of-a-kind things are waiting for you to find them. If you're buying true vintage, it's nice to know you'll probably be the only one wearing that awesome find of yours.
There is something for everyone. No matter what your style, you're bound to find something you love if you keep at it. I've found lasting basics by contemporary brands for under $5 as well as quirky, unique pieces.

Venturing into the second-hand

I remember my first time in a second-hand store, years ago. I had heard about all these great second-hand clothing finds and I wanted to bargain-hunt for unique items, too. I dropped into Savers in Dandenong on my way back from uni.

I was not impressed. I rifled through an aisle of short, slightly stretched tees from the 'Now' brand of Big-W and other such contemporary junk, and then I just couldn't take it any more. It smelled musty, old and slightly damp, the other shoppers looked a bit withered, not quite with it and were dressed in the aforementioned junk. I just wanted to get out of there. So I did. I put second-hand shopping in the 'no thanks' category and went back to my regular chain store shopping.

My first tip for those who haven't done any thrifting is 'don't give up'. While most opportunity and second-hand shops smell a bit, the atmosphere of each is different and some have worse 'vibes' than others. Savers probably wasn't the best place for me to start. It's huge and often requires lots of searching to find anything great. If I got squeamish at one aisle (probably not even that), I wasn't going to want to make it through the entire store.

I ended up at the Savers on Sydney Road a year or two later. I'm not exactly sure what the difference was, maybe the interesting and stylishly dressed shoppers or the fact that it didn't smell quite as horrible (maybe I had a stuffy nose that day) but I had a ball.

Check out Part II here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Supayana and Lime Crime: 'Before Etsy' inspirations

There were two indie clothing labels that I used to look up to, years and years ago. Back then there was no Etsy. These popular ladies made gorgeous 'DIY' clothing, as handmade items were often called then. One was Xenia from Lime Crime and the other was Yana from Supayana. They sold their wares on Ebay. I remember some of Supayana's tops getting bid on up to $200 because they were so popular. I'm sure there were many more high dollar auctions of hers that I didn't check in on.

Where are they now?

Xenia is a 'blogazine' owner who runs a successful cosmetics business, Lime Crime Makeup.

Image source: Lime Crime Makeup

She doesn't make clothes anymore. I just found her excellent blogazine (blog/magazine) today and that's what inspired this post. I particularly love this recent post, Guide to an Outstanding Personal Style.

Yana is still running Supayana, from Etsy now and not Ebay. Her pieces are gorgeous, with fun, cute details. Her syle has matured since back then. I kind of miss her older, more playful designs, though, which she still has up on her portfolio.

This piece is currently up for sale in her Etsy store and I am quite enamoured with it. She now employs sustainable practices and uses recycled or second-hand materials in most of her pieces.

I have to pay tribute to these talented ladies. They inspired me and made me realise that starting my own line was possible, despite no real start-up cash and not having worked in the industry. All I needed was my sewing, a computer and camera, and some confidence and perserverence. I possessed the material items already, so all that stopped me was myself.

I'm glad I took the plunge and grateful to everything that set me on this path.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A blog's new life

Cream tee - second-hand Saba
Orange leaf top - Gripp
Skirt - MNG
Boots - Steve Madden
Bag - second-hand

Please excuse the ridiculous expression. I wasn't even chewing anything. Weird. This picture is actually from a while ago, since I didn't take one today.

I want to tell you that I've got some cool things coming up for this blog. I'll be doing weekly posts featuring ethical handmade labels I love, either on Etsy or Made It or wherever else I can find awesome wares. I've got a bunch of ideas for articles which I'll roll out on a more regular basis. There'll be refashioning and crafting tutorials, DIY ideas, advice for on selling on Etsy, style opinions, and whatever else I can come up with. If you have any other suggestions I'd love to hear them, because, after all, I'm writing for you guys. What would you like to see here?

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Got press

Indie Love ("The place for indie shopaholics") as well as the Quail by Mail blog have featured Heidi & Seek. Quail by Mail is a UK-based ethical clothing label. I'm so flattered at the nice things they wrote.

Thanks a million to Shauna and Kristen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Random facts, sizing update and outfit pic

I got some great advice from the folks in the Etsy forums the other day. Given their advice, I spent the entirety of today making the sizing in my Etsy shop clearer and more consistent. From now on, every listing size M and larger will now contain photos of the garment on my dressform set to the correct size. You can now correctly see how these sizes will fit.

I also have a new size chart. Now, in each listing, there's measurements of the person they are meant to fit as well as the measurements of the garment. Plus I've added US sizes and those pesky inches measurements into every listing. Phew.

In other news, I was tagged by carlseapatch! The point is to say 7 random facts about yourself, so here goes.

1. I started writing a novel this year. I admit it's going very very slowly, but I'm excited about it. It'll probably be young adult and it's about a girl like me (about five years younger) that meets a boy who's travelled back in time. It will be full of adventure.

2. I watched Enchanted last night. It's a cool idea for a movie where a soon-to-be princess gets transported from her cartoon fairtytale land to real-world New York. It was fun while the satire lasted but then it got corny and dumb. James Marsden was quite hilarious though.

3. I'm in the process of growing my hair long again because my dad said he liked it better that way. It doesn't really make sense because he's gone now.

4. I got a self-powered radio for Christmas. You wind it up manually and that powers the little thing.

5. At the moment I am LOVING Sigur Ros, The Do and Emiliana Torrini. Favourites are Jungle Drum by Emiliana (how adorable is she?!), The Bridge is Broken by The Do, and a song I can't hope to pronounce by Sigur Ros. It's awesome though, and I sing along like I know the "words" (they mostly sing in a made-up language).

6. My hands-down favourite music artist is Rachael Yamagata.

7. At uni this coming semester I'm studying Youth Media, Print Culture, Novel into Film, and Gender, Media and Consumption. I wish there was a humanities sustainability class I could take, but no such luck. I'd be all over that like white on rice.

Dress: Heidi & Seek
Vest: Vintage hand-me-down from mum
Skirt: Second-hand
Tights: Myer
Boots: Josef Siebel
Bag: from Thailand

Monday, January 12, 2009

New press. And meet Tabitha!

I am sitting here, while my slow computer loads between pages, unpicking an entire dress that I sewed together wrong because I wasn't paying enough attention. The front is fine, but I sewed the back to it so that the wrong side of the fabric faces out. Poo. When I did it this morning I threw up my hands, cursed, ate almost an entire pizza and decided I didn't want to look at it again. I may have overreacted a little.

In the last couple of days Heidi & Seek was featured on two blogs. First is on Crafting a Green World, which you can check out here. Lucille, who wrote the piece, was such a darling. "Crafting a Green World features do-it-yourself projects that incorporate reused, recycled, and natural materials. Find knitting, sewing, crocheting, and other project ideas for eco-friendly and fashionable clothes, crafts, gifts and more." It's very cool, check it out.

I was also featured on Fashion Evolved, an awesome eco chic fashion blog, here. Her write up was so nice to read. Thank you Amanda!

I've added to my collection of items available made to order in your size. Meet Tabitha:

She enjoys frolicking, thrift shopping and jumping in puddles in her wellingtons. Available here from my Etsy shop.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Aussie Etsy gift guide and yum cha

I've just become part of the Australian Etsy sellers gift guide, run by the Down Under Street Team. There's a bunch of Australian shops organised by category, with thumbnail sized pictures of what they sell, and you can even view everyone's items all on the same page for nice and quick browsing. Good for finding handmade presents on Etsy that don't have that pricey international shipping cost.

This is what I wore today. I actually had a photographer for once that wasn't me. Weird.

Shirt: Witchery
Vest: Vintage hand-me-down from mum
Jeans: Esprit
Boots: Ebay

We went to yum cha with dad's family. It was Ellie's first experience with chopsticks. They were exciting drumsticks for a good ten minutes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tegan & Sara concert

I was just yesterday thinking "Wouldn't it be nice if Etsy RSS shop feeds included a picture of the new listings instead of just a bunch of text?" and today it is DONE. I'll be using this feature a hell-of-a-lot more now. Thank you wonderful Etsy. You're nice.

You know how you have those days where you're not sure about an outfit, but you wear it anyway, and then regret it later? Last night was one of those times. Hm.

Top: Valleygirl from forever ago
Skirt: Thrifted
Leggings: Bloch
Boots: Josef Siebel
Bag: Witchery
Long jacket: It's been so long since I got it I can't remember

A friend took me to the Tegan & Sara concert as a Christmas present. It was really, really good. Smashing, even. I went to a concert of theirs about 3 years ago and that paled in comparison. Last night they came on at 11:30pm, and after waking at 6:30 this morning, I thought I might be too sleepy to properly enjoy it. But I was pumped 'til the end of the encore. I did get my doze on a little during the support, though. That's no reflection on how good they were, I did think they were pretty cool. Anyway.

Highlights included:
Walking with a ghost
Call it off
So Jealous

Tegan and Sara were so damn cute, telling stories about threesomes, wife-bands and smelly potatoes. At the end, Sara gestured to Tegan and said, "And on the keyboard, give it up for Tegan! Who knows, maybe she'll even become a full time member one day." Sara replied, "But I don't really like your band.."

Good show, good show.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I think I'm in love

I don't know how I never heard about this blog/mag before now, but I'm glad I found it. It's called Ethical Style and they won me over with the text in their About page.

" is here to help you educate yourself about the issues and shop around to create a closet that matches your personalized fashion sense as well as your conscience.

There’s no universal prescription in creating an ethical wardrobe. For some fashionistas, finding organic and recycled textiles is paramount, while for others high-quality clothes that last are all-important. Some people are concerned about workers’ rights and fair trade, and other people seek out clothes made locally.

All of this is why fashion ethics can mean many different things to different people. As with personal style, a consumer’s conscience has to be individually tailored."

I think they said it better than I ever could. They portrayed my stance on the subject exactly. And managed to resist a rant on how big business has disconnected us from the origins of the products we buy so much that we support corruption without even knowing it. Yeah, they're way cooler than I am. Check out their blog, yo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The tough get going: dealing with the economic climate

The post-holiday sales slump is getting a lot of Etsy sellers doing whatever they can to entice customers. Myself included. (Hey, this is my living.) Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to turn into a spam queen or anything. I'm just focusing on improving Heidi & Seek.

So I've had some time for thinking and planning and I've made some changes. First of all, I won't be posting every new listing on this blog anymore, because they're too frequent. I'll post ones that I particularly like or have something to say about, but for everything else, please check my shop regularly. You can subscribe to my shop in your reader if you like, just click the RSS this shop at the bottom of the right column, here. This will mean that I'll be posting more hearty content, instead of just new listings all the time.

I've made over my Etsy shop. I was inspired to improve it by one Etsy shop in particular that I found, Allen Company Inc. It just looks so pretty and clean and interesting, and I felt like mine resembled a garbage dump in comparison.

I'm very tempted to re-shoot photographs for every single item, but Tim accidentally took the camera to work today. My technique in the past has been to close my eyes, set the timer and hope it all turns out okay. Mm, clever. I found some resources on taking good photos, here and here and here. Man, Etsy is helpful. I'm itching to try some of those techniques out. I actually kind of understand white balance and how to utilise it now. Go me! I'd love to try an interesting background, maybe hang up some lace or something.

I've made some cute little banner ads and have started advertising on Project Wonderful, Craftster and Modamuse. I'm most excited about Modamuse because it's such a great site. They support independent modern Australian and NewZealand designers, artisans and crafters and there's always pretty things to look at there. This is the square banner.

Feel free to take it and spread it far and wide. E-far and e-wide, I mean. Oh, and there's a sneak peek: that black dress on the first slide will be very limited edition, made to order, and available very soon!

One other (not very exciting) thing is that I've closed my 2threads shop. I'm going to be concentrating uber hard on making my Etsy shop perfect and well-stocked, and might give my Made It shop some occasional love, too.

Oh yay, I just made a sale. My work must be paying off..

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New listings!

I named this singer because it kind of reminds me of those Singer dressforms in the same colour.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Years, new listings in all sizes

Happy 2009, guys! I was a little preoccupied when writing my last post and completely forgot about mentioning the new year. Whoops, apologies.

My New Years Eve wasn't spent doing anything particularly exciting, just a low-key party. But I did get away with a half second-hand outfit. It was too dark by the time we left to get a photo. I wore a neat, black pleated mini skirt (which I think was a netball skirt), a long, purple chiffon top (second-hand Seduce), second-hand grey tights. I also wore purple flats from Santini and a deep red cropped jacket from MNG, both of which I got years and years ago.

These are the new listings for tonight - one in each size, hoorah! About time, eh? Listings in a variety of sizes will be a regular thing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Email subscription

I've installed a nifty gadget on my blog. Now you can get my posts delivered to your email inbox if that's what you desire. Visit this link or enter your email address at the top right of my blog to subscribe. Yay!

Utterly cute @ necklace by finchmetal