Heather from @heatherhandmade and Claire from @bellecitadel both took on the Me-Made-May challenge last year for the first time. We thought it would be interesting for them to compare experiences, so we asked them to get together and have a chat about how it went. Read on to see how Me-Made-May 2017 surprised and challenged them, and hopefully it will give you some ideas yourself, particularly if it’s your own first time!
Claire: Hey, nice to meet you Heather! It’s the first time we’ve met, so can you tell me something about yourself and your sewing experience?
Heather: I’ve been sewing for about 12 years but I’ve only been sewing regularly for about 6 years. I studied clothing construction in college while working in a tailor shop so I learned about sewing from both angles (construction and alterations). Now I have three little kids, and I sew for them and myself. My goal in the last couple of years has been about finding my style, my fit, and making clothes that fit into my lifestyle. You can see all my sewing on my blog, Heather Handmade.
I can’t wait to hear about you, Claire, and your sewing experience!
Claire: Wow — you have a lot of great experience! I’ve only been sewing for about 2.5 years and took it up when I moved to the States with my new baby. It seemed like a good hobby I could get into at home in between naps, not to mention the fact that fabric and materials are so much cheaper here in the US than the UK! (I’m from Scotland originally). I loved it from the get-go and have sewn very regularly since I started — it’s super addictive!!! You can see all my sewing on my blog, Belle Citadel.
So then, was the fact you were trying to hone your personal style one of the reasons you wanted to try Me-Made-May (MMM)? Or was there another reason you were interested?
Heather: I’ve watched MMM from afar ever since it started, but I never had enough me-mades to participate especially since I was often pregnant/nursing which really limited my me-made wardrobe. Last year was the first year where I was fitting into my regular wardrobe AND had enough me-mades to carry me through the month. But I really did want to figure out what me-mades I wore in one month, what I reached for, what I wished I could reach for, etc. So yes, the main reason was honing in on my style.
What about you? What was your reason for participating in MMM?
Claire: Well, I had seen all these people participating in MMM 2016, but I had only been sewing for a few months, so there was no WAY I could do it. I had recently joined Instagram, for sewing purposes really, and saw so many people talking about how it really helped them streamline their wardrobe, or find their style — a bit of self-reflection I suppose — and I was in the middle of nowhere-land as far as my personal style went.
I had gone from a full-time job at a young, kind of hip company, to being a full-time mum in another country (where the styles were a little different) and of course my body had changed hugely. I was really enjoying sewing, but wasn’t sure where to start in order to find things that suited me. I also like a challenge! So all, in all, when MMM 2017 rolled around I thought — yes!
Heather: That’s wonderful that MMM could be challenging, socializing, learning about yourself, and encouraging all at the same time!
Claire: That was the idea anyway, yes! Haha. So, if you felt like you had enough me-mades to get through the month, did you make anything specifically for Me-Made-May? Or were you trying to figure out stuff about clothes you had already made?
Heather: Ooh that’s tough, let me think.
Claire: Or both? I guess I should have asked you what your actual pledge was first!
Heather: First let me clarify that when I did it I wore completely me-made, thrifted, and altered. I don’t make my own socks or underwear, but I do make/alter everything else. So I didn’t make something specifically for MMM, but I did go through all of my RTW or thrifted items that I wasn’t wearing and wanted to wear and mended or altered them. This put them in the category of “me-made” and it was the push I needed to make them wearable. I’m actually planning on the same thing this year, but I always seem to gather a pile of stuff that need a little bit of altering/mending to make them wearable.
Claire: That’s so interesting! I must confess I am not an alterer or thrifter. I feel like I’m just about getting to grips with the bones of construction right now, but hopefully it’s something I can do more going forwards. I think it’s a very valuable skill and definitely in the spirit of MMM. Out of interest, what proportion of your MMM wardrobe would you say was altered/thrifted?
Heather: The beauty of sewing and MMM is that you don’t have to do it like someone else! I love that everyone gets to do it their way!
During MMM, I’m guessing my wardrobe was 50% altered/thrifted and 50% me-made. Going into MMM this year I’m hoping it’s going to be more like 75% me-made and 25% thrifted because I was able to hone in on my style and make the things I want for this next year.
What was your pledge? Did you make something for MMM?
Claire: My pledge was to wear one me-made item a day because I had such a small me-made wardrobe at that point. I actually also didn’t have too many RTW clothes because of the afore-mentioned post baby body and the very typical (I think) reaction of “I’m not going to buy any good clothes until I lose my baby weight”. Ahem.
Heather: That’s how I was two years ago. It’s pretty tricky to do MMM when you are changing sizes or going to change size. I don’t think it’s a reason to not sew for yourself, but it makes choosing patterns a challenge. I love that you did it with even one me-made item a day. What a wonderful feeling to wear something handmade every day!
Claire: I have to admit I was slightly dubious whether I would manage it before going in. I wasn’t sure if I would get much out of it, or what I would get out of it, but I was eager to give it a go. What were your expectations of the experience? Did you have any concerns?
Heather: I honestly think my expectation was the showing off side of it. I thought I would meet so many sewing people on Instagram, they would all see what I made, and they would all follow me. (Self-centered, much?) I did meet some great sewists, but mostly I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I like solids and basics, I choose comfort over fashion but I want my comfort to be fashionable, and most of all I learned it’s really hard to take a picture of yourself every single day
Claire: Hahaha! That is both hilarious and endearingly honest! How many new followers did you get? 😀
Heather: Haha! I don’t even know! I didn’t even keep track! I’m sure I got some, but I quickly realized that wasn’t the reason for the challenge, and I actually didn’t care that much. Now, I want to know, what were your expectations of MMM?
Claire: Haha, fair enough. Meeting other sewists is definitely an important part of MMM for lots of people, including me, so in all seriousness I think it’s a very valid point. I’m a social kind of person, so I definitely thought about that too.
I guess I was mainly hoping to get a good objective look at what I was wearing. I hate having my photo taken and — my turn for searing honesty — I am a really, REALLLY lazy dresser. Many mornings I reach for the closest comfiest thing in my drawer and that’s it. I was hoping it would stretch me.
And it did! I definitely had to think about my outfit a little more. The fact I had such a small choice, relatively speaking, meant I came up with new combos that really looked great and I probably wouldn’t have bothered to try them otherwise.
Heather: I remember with my first child I had to make a New Year’s resolution to get dressed in something other than pajamas or workout clothes everyday. But I still reach for comfort first. MMM really helped me see what was comfortable and my kind of stylish. It may feel like I’m wearing pajamas, but I don’t look like I’m wearing pajamas.
Claire: Yes! I totally agree. I recently did one of those capsule wardrobe project type thingies and my theme was basically “practical mum clothes that look eclectic and cool.” But it had a snappier title.
I also learnt quickly during MMM that I have way too many prints and far too few solids in my me-made wardrobe. Also that I had basically a monochromatic wardrobe with a bit of blue thrown in (see typical outfits below). This was a BIG surprise for me. If you look at my RTW wardrobe, it’s very colourful. And I’m drawn to colours. But, for various reasons, that wasn’t what I had made much myself.
Heather: That always gets me! Solids vs. prints. I’m drawn to prints and want to sew ALL THE PRINTS, but I pull out solids in the morning. I’ve forced myself to sew more solids than prints to help me be successful next year.
Claire: Yes! I think one of the big differences for me was that I wore a lot of dresses before, which can be any colour. As a mum though, it was much more about separates, and they need some co-ordination.
Heather: I’m not against multi colored wardrobes, I have lots of sewing friends who need the happy bright colors in their lives. I just needed to find my colors and me in my colors.
Claire: Oh yes. I definitely agree with you. I still add colours, but I sort of try to make sure for every print I sew, I try to do a solid, or near-solid, to avoid all those wardrobe orphans. It’s definitely still a work in progress, so I’ll be interested to see how my palette looks this year. (I’m actually thinking it will be similar). What were the biggest surprises for you then about last year?
Heather: My biggest surprise was that I chose comfort over style. Some of my me-mades are really cute and not overly uncomfortable, they just didn’t seem comfortable enough for that day. Where I live May is a good mix of cold and warm. I had figured out comfortable cold weather items, but I was lost on comfortable warm weather items. Luckily, at the end of last summer I found two patterns that are my warm weather comfort. I’ve made two of each and plan to make one more of each before May!
Claire: Funny you should say that, as Seattle (where I am) is very similar weather-wise. In my case it actually kind of helped me as I could wear most of my scanty wardrobe at some point during the month! This year though, I’m slightly more organised. For example, next month I have a few items I’d been planning to make anyway but now they’ve been prioritised. These include the Ginger jeans (jeans are so useful) and a couple of TNT blouses/tees.
Heather: I had hoped to make jeans before May, but I don’t think I’m going to get to it. This year I need some basic tees and the two more warm weather patterns. I’m sure I’ll find holes during MMM and make something during the month.
Claire: Yeah, let’s see if I actually manage either! One thing I hadn’t necessarily anticipated before last year, was that doing MMM really solidified my desire to not buy RTW unless I really needed it or couldn’t make it. I didn’t think I was “ready” to make that leap, but doing MMM really showed me that I had enough clothes to come up with a relatively interesting wardrobe and that I could make what I didn’t have. It was a nice side effect.
Heather: What do you hope to gain from MMM this year?
Claire: I’m really hoping just to refine my sewing and wardrobe further. I started off not having a clue and I feel like I’m somewhat down that road. Meeting new sewists is always great too.
What would you say to anyone who is considering it for the first time?
Heather: It’s pretty amazing that MMM could help you learn to be happy with what you have and mixing what you have!
The advice I would give to someone for the first time is to go for it even if you don’t have enough or don’t think you have enough. Try wearing me-made every other day if you think that’s what you can do. You don’t need a full me-made wardrobe to try, you don’t need to have made jeans to try, and you don’t need to have me-made underwear to try. You get to define how you’ll do your MMM, and you’ll learn so much about yourself and your wardrobe.
What would you say to anyone who is considering it for the first time?
Claire: That’s brilliant advice Heather! I 100% agree.
I’m quite an analytical and practical person, so perhaps the surprise for me was how you gain actual, useful tips and insights from it. I’m totally on board with the social and environmental aspects of it, as we all are I think, but as for my actual wardrobe, I wasn’t sure how useful it would be. To come out of it with tangible practical direction, like make 50% solids, try to accessorise more, add a few bright colours, finish my garments better for longevity, etc. made it 150% worthwhile for me to do.
Like you say, everyone is different and everyone will get their own version of direction and tips, but I really believe anyone can learn at least one new thing that will help them and, ultimately, fulfil them in their sewing journey.
In other words: go for it!
Heather: I think that is a pretty amazing way to end. I don’t think I could say it any better than how you just summed it up.
Claire: Fantastic! So nice to meet you Heather, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how your Me-Made-May goes this year!
Thanks ladies! If you’d like to check out how Heather and Claire get on during Me-Made-May 2018, you can find Heather at heatherhandmade.com or @heatherhandmade on IG and Claire at bellecitadel.com or at @bellecitadel.com.