english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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In Conclusion, My 2018 (Part 2)

Sewing Machine

Having blogged a round-up of my sewing activity, I also wanted to write a little about my experience at work over the last year.

I wrote briefly before about being asked to ‘act up’ to a more senior role at work during 2017. During that time, my workload was obscene, and I was expected to make decisions on the direction of my team within the context of the whole organisation, whilst being wholly excluded from my department’s management team and their plans, and with no support (and a lot of hindrance) from the same management team to implement improvements or reduce my workload. The final straw for me was receiving an email from an external consultant who had been employed without my knowledge to ‘mentor’ me in the role, and had started in post while I was on a training course. This person had been given authority for all decisions on the direction of my team which had previously sat with me, and in my first meeting with them I was assigned a long list of menial tasks. This was when I decided to stop ‘acting up’. This person was a man, and he was included in the department’s management team and decision making process from the start.

I wasn’t yet ready to leave the organisation; I loved my colleagues, and I thought that if I went back to my old job I would be happy working there. A couple of months later my department made a job offer for the same role as mine at a significantly higher salary (approximately 20% difference). It was then I realised that, despite being the longest serving member of the team, taking on some of the most difficult work, and having recently been personally asked to ‘act up’ and manage my peers, I was actually one of the lowest paid staff in my peer group (the vast majority of whom were men). The salary different was significant, and it was highly unlikely (based on the internal scheme for pay increase) that I would ever be able to achieve a comparable salary. The issue was exacerbated by the fact that my department was in the throes of an obsession with external consultants, all male, who were paid almost double my salary for the same work.

Sewing Machine

Obviously, I challenged this. Initially internally within the department, and then via the formal organisational route. Unfortunately my grievance didn’t have a hope. I was assigned a Chair to review my case whose impartiality I highly doubted and challenged in advance of my hearing, requesting an alternative. I was informed that an alternative wasn’t possible, and told that my fears were unfounded. I walked into a hearing (accompanied by a good friend) intending to highlight an issue of fairness, and was made to feel like I was on trial.

My action of raising the grievance was described to me as being ‘unethical’, and the focus was never on fair pay, but on discrediting me and distributing blame. It was a very sad and demotivating experience. There was one small positive to come out of the meeting, which was that I was granted three years of back pay, but on a technicality as opposed to being associated with an admission of unfairness. I bought myself a new sewing machine (a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0) with some of the money, as a way of creating a positive out of something negative, and to celebrate my willingness to challenge, however unsuccessfully.

Sewing Machine

I retreated a bit further from the management team, and projects which would require working closely with them, after the grievance, but it was seeing friends treated equally unfairly during a restructure over the summer which confirmed to me that I needed to leave. On the day that the restructure was announced I stated my intention to leave, and three months later I handed my notice in to join a new employer.

Now that I have some distance from my previous employer I wanted to write about my experience, since when I briefly mentioned it on Instagram I had many people tell me they have been through, or are currently going through, similar experiences. I know not everyone is in a position where they feel they are able to challenge unfairness. Gender pay gaps (and other issues of unfairness) persist because of organisations which belittle and vilify anyone who challenges the status quo, and people will put up with an awful lot to continue working alongside people they care about (I did, for a long time). I hope you live and work in environments where you feel safe enough and respected enough to challenge, and if not, I hope you are able to move on in the new year, to somewhere where you can be respected for being yourself.

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My Sewing Space

My Sewing Room

I was very good on Sunday and tidied my sewing room, so I thought it was a good opportunity to get a few photos before I mess it up again. The decision to tidy (instead of sew…) was motivated in part by my fabric stash overflowing its containers, and in part because of a lovely new addition that I wanted to find space for – a RAR rocking chair courtesy of Lakeland Furniture.

My Sewing Room

My Sewing Room

When we first moved into our house we furnished the spare bedroom as a guest room, but soon realised it would be better utilised as a sewing room. I share the room with our wardrobes / washing and ironing baskets / lots of books and comic boxes, but it’s still lovely to have a room where I can leave my sewing supplies set up.

My Sewing Room

My Sewing Room

I have sewn with a Janome machine for years, a gift from my Mom and Dad as a teenager, but it recently stopped working. I was deciding what to replace it with (having borrowed my Mom’s machine in the interim), when a family friend generously gave me a new-in-box Singer machine she wasn’t using. So I’m currently using a Singer machine and serger. As you can see, my desk is a little small for two machines (plus sewing box, iron, and lamp!), but  I squeeze both on.

My Sewing Room

My Sewing Room

My thread rack hangs from one side of the desk, and the desk drawer holds most supplies (buttons, zips, scissors, notepads, etc.).

My Sewing Room

Home

Under the desk I have one tub of patterns, and one tub of UFOs. Keeping my pattern collection to one tub is challenging – although I do buy a lot of PDFs, otherwise it would be impossible. My fabric collection is housed elsewhere, in my bedroom, and I currently have it down to one tub and one tote containing lengths of fabric, and one tub of scraps which I can’t bear to throw away. I’m going to try not to let it expand much beyond that – although an upcoming trip to New York could be a problem!

My Sewing Room

Previously the only seating in the room was a upright seat at the desk, which is perfect for sewing at the machine, but isn’t very comfy for relaxing. The addition of the rocking chair means I now have a comfier seat where I can sit when I’m not working at one of the machines, to knit, hand sew or read. The rooms gets good light during the day so it is a nice place to sit and craft with a podcast or music playing.

My Sewing Room

My Sewing Room

The chair is a retro reproduction; the RAR rocking chair is one of a series of chairs designed by Ray and Charles Eames with a molded plastic seat (originally made from polyester and fibreglass). The chairs were originally entered in a ‘Low-Cost Furniture Design’ competition organised by MoMA in 1948, and are still being manufactured today.

The chair was sent to me flat packed (or as far as is possible for molded plastic), with the metal base as one solid piece (so four pieces in total, plus nuts and bolts). The chair is very lightweight, and assembly was quick and easy, although I did need to refer back to the image on the site to confirm which way ’round to attach the legs. If you love the Eames designs and don’t want to spend a lot of money Lakeland offer very affordable reproductions, including the DAW and DAR designs (the non-rocking variations).

I chose the RAR in white, but it comes in various colours, and also looks very cool customised although I’m not going to risk taking a paintbrush to mine.

My Sewing Room

My Sewing Room

P.S. Here’s a peek of the less attractive view in the other corner of the room – mine and Phil’s comic collection! I love comics, but comic boxes not so much…

My Sewing Room

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free RAR rocking chair in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Home

Me and Phil bought a steamer this weekend. My only interest in it was being able to steam fabric, but Phil wanted it for the more practical purpose of cleaning the house (yawn).

We spent hours on Sunday cleaning the house from top to bottom and steaming everything (floors, windows, the oven…). Sadly, no fabric has yet been steamed.

While the house is, briefly, clean, I thought it would be a good chance to get some photos. So, not a sewing-related post, but nosing at other people’s houses is also interesting, right? Plus, there are quite a few me-made projects on display around our house.

Bedroom

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My favourite Designer’s Guild print, Ramblas. Looking creased, because life is too short to iron bed linen.

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Landing

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Dining Room

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Original 1930s fireplace, re-tiled by Phil.

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Living Room

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This poster used to hang over my bed when I was living at my parent’s house, and now hangs over our sofa.

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Home

I carved this head in sandstone at an evening class, many years ago. The wicker basket behind it is also me-made.

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Kitchen

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Please note the signed Billy Bragg tea towel.

Sewing Room

Overlocker

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