Happy New Year everyone!
I’ve just published a new vlog on my YouTube channel, featuring the Christmas swaps I took part in, presents I made, crafty gifts I received and my in-progress projects.
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.
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.
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.
With 2018 drawing to a close, I wanted to write a round-up of what I’ve been up to in the last year.
I’ve continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, managing their social media channels and monthly newsletter. It’s an organisation I love being part of, despite personally doing minimal weaving, spinning or dyeing. In the same way that being part of the sewing community introduces me to a wider community of women, being part of the Association allows me to be part of a different community of fascinating, talented women, I otherwise wouldn’t interact with. This year I attended the Association’s biannual National Exhibition for the first time, next year I will be attending the summer school (my first-choice is a week-long course in weaving tweed and tartan), and in 2020 I plan to submit a small (un-juried) piece to the next National Exhibition.
I (jointly) organised the third Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the fifth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie) in 2018. Both events were the biggest yet, and it’s really positive that people continue to want to attend, that this community continues to grow and that it continues to be supportive despite that growth. For the first time ever I even managed to make a new dress to wear to each of the events! I was adamant that I wasn’t going to let being busy stop me from attending other events in the sewing community this year, and I made it along to (and thoroughly enjoyed myself at) Sew Up North, the Sewcialist Soiree, and Birmingham-based meet-ups including Brummie Yarn Social.
I participated in the Refashioners for the second time (the first time was in 2015), and won the runner-up prize for an outfit inspired by Dior’s Bar Suit, which was my most involved sewing project to date. Phil and I visited Paris to get photos based on my inspiration image (we also holidayed in Vietnam, Majorca, Lulworth Cove and Skegness this year). My entry for Tilly & the Button’s Sew a Xmas Sweater Competition was also based on an inspiration image, Vera Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas. Back in April, I celebrated Fashion Revolution Week by making a screen-printed tee, which was one of my favourite garments this summer. Finally, in December I participated in two Christmas swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap & Sewing Secret Santa).
In December 2017 I started using the Cora App to catalogue my fabric and I’ve kept it up all year (with a few gaps where some retrospective cataloguing was required). Cataloguing my fabric inspired me to take part in MakeNine for the first time in 2018, and to finally sew with patterns and fabric I’ve had in mind for ages. I’ve only made a smallish dent in my MakeNine plans so far (simply because I don’t sew as fast as I plan), but the intention to not forget patterns released (and fabric purchased) in previous years remains, and I did sew with my stash of Mahlia Kent remnants, built up over a couple of previous trips to Paris.
I’ve had limited success with my knitting this year (I’ve done less knitting, and the projects I have finished have had fitting issues), but in the last couple of months Christmas has inspired me to pick up my (circular) needles more regularly, and I’ve finished knitted baubles for our Christmas tree, and a scarf for my mom’s Christmas present. I’m hoping to stay inspired and to successfully complete a larger project for myself in the new year.
Without me really noticing it was occurring, I’ve become more confident in my sewing ability in the last year or so. My ability to complete my Refashioners’ project was a sure sign to myself that I’m no longer reliant on instructions, or thrown when something doesn’t immediately work as expected. I’ve become more confident altering garments which I’m not happy with, and this year that included significantly altering a knitted garment for the first time, taking the scissors to my Wharf Street Pullover to remove length from the hem and sleeves.
My blog photography has also improved (credit to Phil for this one), and I took the opportunity this year to get better photos of my Bombshell swimsuit, on a beach as opposed to in my garden. I enjoy celebrating garments which have been successes by re-blogging them, like last year when I took the opportunity to do so for my Victoria Blazer, which is still undoubtedly my most-worn handmade garment.
I kept up my vlog in 2018, including a monthly ‘zine’ which I started in September as a way of sharing sewing and knitting related things which interest me, plus a little on my own creative plans. I’ve also kept up a more regular schedule on my blog recently, and I think the blog and vlog complement each other well, with the blog for finished garment and longer posts (such as this), and the vlog for shorter chit chat and recommendations.
I tend to think that I don’t sew patterns multiple times, but my love for the Sangria, Linden, and Grace patterns continued unabated this year. More unusually, I am sewing a garment for Phil for only the second time ever, making him a coat while I’m off work over Christmas using the Free Sewing Carlton Coat pattern.
I also bought myself a sewing machine for the first time this year (the previous have all been gifts). There’s a story behind the purchase which I’ll save for a second wrap-up post about my personal/work life, as this post is long enough already.
Thank you for reading the blog and Happy Christmas and New Year!
Happy Christmas / holidays everyone. I hope you have some time off work over the next couple of weeks and get the chance to relax and enjoy yourselves.
This time of year, the run up to Christmas, is always so busy, but thanks to a little lull at work as a result of changing employers, I’m feeling unusually relaxed and organised this year.
I’ve taken part in two online swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap and Sewing Secret Santa) and have managed to complete and post both parcels in good time to arrive before Christmas (definitely not the case last year). I even managed to get some photos in daylight before sending, which I’ll share soon.
I’m also making a couple of handmade presents for family, which will be finished and wrapped this weekend. No manic knitting in the car on Christmas Eve for me this year!
Since I was feeling ahead of the game, I decided to take part in the Sew a Xmas Sweater Contest organised by Tilly & the Buttons. I wanted to create a casual top which was loosely inspired by Vera-Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas.
My version is a Tilly & the Buttons Freya Top, sewn as per the pattern, but with the addition of feather trim from Birmingham Rag Market around the wrists. I used a red scuba fabric from Barry’s Fabrics to make the top and a matching cape, which is worn over the top and closes with a button and loop at the neck. To create the cape I used the By Hand London Circle Skirt Calculator, inputting my neck instead of my waist circumference to generate measurements for a full circle skirt. I reduced the length, and had to cut out the cape in three pieces due to available fabric. I trimmed the cape with a White Simplicity Faux Fur trim purchased from Minerva Crafts.
The project resulted in a very festive, but also easy to wear, outfit. After Christmas, I can wear the Freya Top without the cape, and the feathers on the cuffs are also easily detachable. I’d like to make this again in more luxurious fabrics – perhaps next year!
Another week, another Linden!
This Linden features a very simple ‘hack’, and is my entry for the “Stitched with a Twist” Instagram challenge. I’ve been planning to make this Linden since last March when I spotted the sweatshirt below in an email from Uniqlo. I thought it would be easy to recreate using the Linden pattern with the simple addition of some gathering at the neckline (I also fancy recreating the dress on the right with Named’s Inari Dress).
The fabric is from Guthrie & Ghani, and was purchased during their Fifth Birthday Party back in April. I picked an especially drapey knit so that the neckline gathers wouldn’t be too stiff. The fabric feels lovely and has a great sheen to it.
I added 5 inches at the neckline of the pattern front to accommodate the gathering. To more closely imitate the inspiration image, I should have reduced the length at the hem and widened the neckband, but I didn’t think about that until after it was constructed.
We’ve been to a comic con today, and managed to capture some pictures outside, just in time, as it was getting dark. Birmingham was hectic, so I’m now recovering in my pyjamas, with a mulled drink, and a trashy Christmas film on Netflix. I might even get back to bauble knitting shortly for full Christmassy atmosphere.
Autumn is here and with it new Grainline Studio Lindens are entering my wardrobe.
I cut out and prepared (pinned all initial seams) two Linden sweatshirts during evenings this week, and then sewed both sweatshirts today. I managed to sew the first – pictured here – in a couple of hours this morning, meaning that I was able to wear it during a trip into Birmingham city centre this afternoon.
It’s pictured here at Ikon Gallery where we caught the final day of an exhibition of recent work by Polly Apfelbaum. I must admit that half of the incentive for visiting was seeing the exhibition before it closed, and the other half was getting blog photos in such a great space!
The exhibition was very accessible and interactive, with visitors invited to walk over the woven rugs included in the exhibition on the condition you removed your shoes.
This particular Linden is made with fabric purchased as an offcut from Birmingham Rag Market, and was the remaining metre of fabric I had left after making a Freya Dress.
I had a go at making Named’s Talvikki sweater earlier this week, and am not convinced by how it looks on. I’m having a break before returning to try altering it, but it was very satisfying to return to a pattern I know well.
As a reminder (if only for myself), I make the Linden in size 2 in thicker fabrics, but in a size 0 in thinner fabrics – including this one. I also always cut the neckband one size larger, to avoid pulling, and have found it to make all the difference.
My Linden is pictured here paired with a Seamwork Oslo Cardigan which I made for myself in 2014 when it was released with the very first issue of Seamwork. The weather has been very mild here in the UK for the last few weeks, and this kind of casual jacket is currently perfect outerwear. By the time it gets cold I might have all the supplies ready and be prepared to sew coats.