Me Made May 2019 – my first pledge

You guys… I know I said last week that this week’s post was gonna be the Indian wedding outfit… but (I’ll say it quick – best to rip the band-aid off fast yeah) – it ain’t the wedding outfit. I totally forgot it was the start of Me Made May and I wanted to do a post on my pledge… so that’s what this is. I realise that we’re now five days in already, but better late than never – right?

So, for all of you that have been waiting for the Indian outfit… It’s gonna come next week. SOZ ABOUT THAT. As a peace-offering, here’s a little sneak peek ?

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I said it was a little sneak peek ??‍♀️?

So, Me Made May.

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This is my first time participating, because (believe it or not) I actually haven’t been sewing clothing for that long.

Before I get into the deets of the pledge, I want to take a minute and back up to my teenage years to where this journey begins – because ultimately, my making now is influenced by all the events that have come before.

I put this out there a year or so ago on the blog, but a fair few of you are new readers so you’ll probably have missed it – I was an overweight teenager and young adult.

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Yep, it’s me ?

From what I remember, at my heaviest I was a size UK 18. I have no explanation other than I loved food, and hated PE at school. I still love food, and I know now that I hated PE because it was team sports. Football, hockey, netball, are all just eugh. To this day, I still hate team sports, and the exercise I’ve discovered that I do enjoy is solitary – running, cycling, weights, gym classes (the gym classes require no interaction with other people, FYI. I deliberately don’t book the classes where you have to ‘buddy up’. Is there anything worse than having to pair up with a complete (sweaty) stranger? No, there isn’t).

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I was bullied at high school for my weight, which of course turned me to comfort eating. Which led to me putting on yet more weight, and making me more miserable and then eating more to comfort myself. A vicious cycle, I know, and one that I still fall into easily as an adult. I hated the way I looked, and hated myself for eating so much and making myself look that way. Clothing, at that point in my life, was nothing more than garments to cover up the body that I was so ashamed of. Colours weren’t important, styles weren’t important, the only thing that mattered was that it hid as much of my body as possible. To this day, you’ll never see me in revealing clothes – whether it’s because I’m just used to hiding my body, or the fact that I’m a bit of a tomboy (or are the two interlinked?), I’m not sure.

Fast forward to my late teens, where I’d had enough of being fat, and I lost a few stone with less food and more exercise. But clothing was still down near the bottom of the list – I was on a trainee accountant’s wages, and Aaron was working overtime at his job to help support us and our little flat that we rented. Clothing was picked up heavily reduced in the sales, or second hand from eBay or car boot sales. Again, it didn’t really have much focus – food and paying the bills came first, clothing was a luxury that came second if there was anything left over.

We got married on a budget in 2005. I bought my dress from a bridal boutique opposite my workplace that was closing down. The dress was in the window, heavily reduced, but two sizes too small. I figured that if there ever was a reason to lose weight, this was it. I bought the dress. And I lost the weight and got in it ??

This is me after having lost a fair bit of weight:

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It wasn’t until our late twenties that we really had enough money to buy nicer clothing. In his younger days, Aaron always struggled with the fit of clothing – being 5’5 and petite, everything drowned him. Clothing to him was simply a means to keep covered and warm – he’d learned not to expect much from the fit or colour of a garment. It took me years (literally) to get him to break out into wearing colour, and eventually patterns. I don’t know how, but somehow I’ve awoken in him this little magpie that loves all things shiny and sparkly.

So up until very recently, my clothing has not been an area of particular focus in my life. Patterns, colours and fit were WAY down the priority list, underneath price. Whether something suited me or not wasn’t really a consideration . Now that I’ve started sewing clothing, and I’ve begun to stumble my way down the road that has potholes such as fitting issues, colour preferences and being able to make a decision whether I actually like how something looks on me, it’s a whole new ball game. I’ve got a lot of years of figuring out my style to catch up on.

I’ve had a lot of fails in my couple of years of sewing clothing. I learned the hard way that I don’t like florals, or dots, or tiny patterns (like some Liberty prints). I also don’t like gathered skirts, or thin straps. Warm colours are much preferred over cool tones, and leopard print wins over everything.

B6094 Butterick Patterns By Gertie Alexander Henry Lifes Little Pleasures

Some of the earlier things I made – like my Alexander Henry dresses – are totally FABULOUS, but don’t get worn in my day-to-day life. I discovered that I’m not really a dress person, unless it’s a maxi dress. The first time that Me-Made-May came to my attention, I realised that I couldn’t participate because the things I had made so far didn’t have a place in my everyday wardrobe. I wanted to not only make the cool stuff, but wear it, too. What’s the point in making loads of awesome clothing, only to have it sit in the wardrobe gathering dust?

So I started figuring out how to incorporate the fabrics I liked into the sort of things that I wear everyday – that’s why you haven’t seen an Alexander Henry dress on the blog for a fair while. I still have some uber-cool pieces of AH fabric stashed, but I’m just waiting for the right idea to come along. One piece has been earmarked for a bomber jacket, but the rest currently have fates undecided. Including the one-and-a-bit-yard of Bow Wow Chow Mein that I managed to score off Etsy which is so precious (and printed 25 years ago) I just don’t know what to make with it ?

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This is about the point where my approach to buying patterns has changed – I’ve stopped buying yet more dress patterns that I wouldn’t wear, and started buying things like the Grainline Scout Tee, the Deer and Doe Safran Jeans and the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans. My mindset has definitely changed from ‘ I WANT TO MAKE ALL THE COOL BUT IMPRACTICAL THINGS’ to ‘I still want to use cool fabrics, but I want to use them to make things that I can wear to work everyday and enjoy them’.

I’m fortunate enough that I managed to escape the corporate finance environment of East Anglia and slide my way into the creative industries in London – comparing the two, views on employee appearance are very different. One place I worked at – outside of London – wanted the office to look like a beige-and-grey paradise. You had to wear ‘proper shoes’ to the office (ugh, I couldn’t even imagine not being able to wear my trainers to work now) and piercings, tattoos and hair dye were frowned upon. They just wanted an army of non-offensive, monotone conformists. Individuality was discouraged. I’m not sure that I’d have made half of the things I have to date if I was still there – because I felt stifled. I’m lucky enough that my current job doesn’t have any such restrictions, so I can wear all my makes to the office and no one bats an eyelid – in fact, the compliments often come in force. I feel like I have all the creative freedom I want, and it’s such a joy.

Aaron is just as lucky, he’s also in a creative industry and can wear things like his suede cowboy shirt to work:

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So our work situations allow us to wear these expressive garments day in, day out – we don’t have to have a separate, boring ‘work wardrobe’.

I’m not after a 100% me-made closet, and I’m not pledging to wear 100% me-made everyday for May. I don’t really see the point in that. What I want from my wardrobe, is 100% pieces that make me happy. Whether that’s the one silk shirt I bought from & Other Stories which goes perfectly with my high-rise pink-and-purple Mom jeans that I got from ASOS, or whether it’s the Scout Tee in the print that I got from Mood in NYC that goes really well with my Deer and Doe Safrans. I’m not gonna abandon something just because I didn’t make it. If it fits well, it’s good quality, and I love it, I’m happy. Usually, to get the ‘quality’ and ‘fit’ boxes ticked, that means making it myself – but occasionally, RTW comes through.

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So, my pledge for this Me Made May is as follows:

I pledge to keep track of the garments that I wear for the month of May (Monday-Friday), with the intention of – hopefully – gaining some insight into:

  • The type of garments that get worn, both to the office and at home, so that I don’t spend time and materials making things that will just sit there once completed because they don’t ‘fit myself lifestyle’
  • The level of happiness that the outfits bring me in terms of fit, style, colour etc – do I like wearing it, or it is just meh?
  • Any me-mades that are hanging in my wardrobe but get repeatedly passed over in favour of something else – can I refashion or are they destined for a new home? Is it a bad fit, or a high maintenance fabric?
  • Whether there’s any RTW garments that get worn a lot that I don’t have any me-made equivalents of (high-waist mom jeans, I’m looking at you)

So that’s it. Quite a simple pledge, really, compared to some. There will be days that I don’t wear anything me-made, and that’s okay. This is NOT meant to be a drag, it’s meant to be enjoyable and insightful. I may or may not take a photograph every day – I think my only option of a good full length mirror is at the office, in the toilets. I’m not sure how I feel about toilet selfies, tbh. Let’s see. Maybe I’ll do a flatlay instead – I dunno.

If any of you guys are taking part in Me Made May, for the first time or not, I’d love to hear what you’ve pledged and how previous years went for you. If you’re specifically NOT taking part, I’d like to hear about that too – I want all angles covered!

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A few of you have also asked how the Etsy shop is going now that we have Fridays off from our real-life jobs – I promised an update, so here it is: well, the shop sank – quite shockingly – but then picked up a bit.

We started the shop in May 2017 – two years ago – not expecting anything to come of it. Sales trickled in until the end of 2017, usually not more than about 10 orders a month. Then we hit Christmas, and we had 80 orders that month (and I had a meltdown from lack of sleep and panic that we’d run out of pretty much all the supplies ?). The arrival of 2018 saw higher monthly averages – mostly around 30 orders per month, consistent for the whole year, apart from (again) Christmas where it was totes chicken oriental. It seemed pretty steady, so in January 2019 we made the decision to drop down to four days per week in our day jobs. We’d take a small amount from the shop sales to boost our income a bit, to help bridge the gap, because 1/5th of total household income is a heck of a lot to lose in one go.

For reasons the galaxy hasn’t yet revealed to me, something went wrong in February. MASSIVELY wrong. The Etsy sales, and indeed the number of people looking at our items, VANISHED. We made a grand total of nine sales in February. Nine. We hadn’t seen a single-figure monthly order total since the first few months after we opened the shop and it was all still new. I couldn’t understand what had happened – we’d done nothing different, it was the same items for sale, literally nothing had changed. In my mind, I figured that perhaps people had received their credit card bills from Christmas spending and were reining it in a bit because of that – but February last year didn’t show the same trend. I was out of ideas. All I could do was hope that it would pick up. It had to, or we’d have to consider returning to full-time office work.

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In my efforts to feel like I was doing something other than just ‘hoping’, I refreshed titles and tags, tidied things up a bit behind the scenes. I’m not sure it really helped, but it made me feel better. Googling ‘why have my Etsy sales vanished’ (yep, really) threw up a few things as well – it turns out that every so often, Etsy dick around with their search algorithms (and we all love the algorithms, right?) which can seriously affect how and where you appear in search results. If we had somehow fallen out of favour with the Algorithm Gods in this latest shake-up, that would explain why we were all of a sudden getting significantly lower daily views on our items. But of course, Etsy don’t announce that they’re buggering about in the background, so you can never really be quite sure, but they had been sending out a few emails around Etsy Search and what you ‘should and should not do to make sure your listings are being found’. I took this to mean ‘yeah, we’ve made changes, and if you’ve seen adverse results, follow these guidelines’. Of course, their ‘guidelines’ were things I’d already done, so it wasn’t really much help, but I took comfort that at least there was a reason for the sales dropping off.

I went back to hoping and praying.

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Thankfully, March did pick a little bit compared to February, but still not back to usual levels. April has been a little bit better still, so hopefully there’s going to be an upward trend over the next few months and we can relax again.

I just couldn’t BELIEVE the poor timing – the same month that we decide to drop down to four days, the first time ever we weren’t in full-time employment, the income we were relying on – that had been consistent for well over a year – vanishes. I mean, really?! Come on. FFS.

Having that extra day to work on the shop has definitely helped though – perhaps not as much in the way of productivity as we’d initially thought, but at least by way of giving us some breathing space. It’s knackering working full-time and running a business on the side – you only need a handful of orders to come in at once before you’re having to get up at 5:30 and sew for a couple of hours before work, and the husbeast is giving up his entire evening packaging up the orders. We’ve used the Fridays so far to cut fabrics for some new items (matching bookmarks and book sleeves have already arrived, and Kindle sleeves and tote bags will be launching soooooon), take product photos, and source some supplies in bulk. It feels like we’ve not really been that productive with getting new products up, but it’s all these admin-y boring things like sourcing bulk packaging and lining fabrics, and updating the listings that get pushed to the side when all you’ve got time for is actually getting the orders out the door. Although I had all these wild dreams of everything we’d achieve on these Fridays, I need to cut myself some slack and realise that what we’ve maybe not achieved in tangible products has instead been compensated with a little bit more time for some self-care (an extra hours sleep on a Friday morning, instead of having to get up before dawn to sew orders, and time to finally go to the dentist for a checkup), some time for cuddles with the doggos instead of leaving them home alone all day, and some breathing space to get orders sewn on a Friday instead of using our weekend to catch up.

I know that for sure, that extra day is going to come in handy at Christmas when the outstanding order queue hits double figures ?

Unless of course, the Algorithm Gods strike again – in which case, over Christmas you’ll find me not sewing orders, but instead lazing miserably in my sweatpants eating Quality Street.

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Well guys, I apologise for the interruption of the expected service, I promise normality will resume next week – with, FOR REALZIES THIS TIME, the Indian wedding outfit ?

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  1. May 5, 2019 / 7:51 am

    Sarah, your pledge makes my heart sing, it just makes so much sense. I have only discovered Alexander Henry fabrics through your blog and hope after analysing your chart for May you will hit upon the perfect use for the stunning ‘Chow Mein’ fabric. And I hope fortune returns to your Etsy shop soon.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:42 pm

      Ah, yay! I’m so glad that it resonates with you. I mean, sure it’s great to wear handmade things but let’s not forget about the RTW stuff that we also love. Ooh have you bought your first AH design? Which one is your favourite? I’ve still not yet decided on the fate of the Chow Mein fabric, but it will come to me I’m sure ☺️

  2. Cindy
    May 5, 2019 / 9:22 am

    Be positive, afterbeing self employed all my working life , now 60 plus..I often found times of famine, the time of fortune, I never really found the reason, I even blamed the weather and the moon. But just kept doing what I did best to cook , and all came good. And your business will be good very soon , because you are selling a 1st class product , including your personality and love of fabrics ,these factors will shine .. enjoy the calm before the panic , cuddle dogs always makes you feel better xx

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:45 pm

      Ahh thank you Cindy ? It picked up for April, May has been okay too so far so maybe we’re back to normal-ish service. Like you say all we can do is just keep going, and that’s what we’ll do!
      And there’s something magical about doggo cuddles isn’t there ☺️☺️☺️

  3. May 8, 2019 / 8:18 pm

    Totally agree with your thoughts on MMM! I like your pledge way more than the usual “wear me made everyday” and then quickly sewing up the same boring tee every day etc… That’s just not my thing (NOTHING against tees – I mostly live in tees). If I would participate, my pledge would be very similar to yours.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:49 pm

      Ahh yay! So glad you’re on the same level ☺️ I just don’t see the point in pledging to wear me-made every day, when there’s things I’ve made that perhaps don’t work so well in my wardrobe – it’s a time to identify these things and move them on to a new home where they *will* be worn. Plus there are some items that I’ve bought from shops that I really do love, and I’m not gonna push them aside just because I didn’t make them ??‍♀️

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