Quick Update – Machine Knitting, Last Class and False Rib Trim

Hey everyone, this week was the last beginner’s machine knitting class at Edinburgh Contemporary Craft. For the last three weeks I have been working on a costume drama inspired plum and grey scarf as my final project. The scarf has two plum panels featuring a series of tucks and folds to create the illusion of folded sleeves and drapery whilst the middle three panels are made using punch cards to add a feeling of pattern and detail.


The are a few mistakes in the pattern panels which are caused by the punch card sticking in the machine but I think these add to the slightly abstract feel.


In the last session I decided rather recklessly to add a false rib trim to both ends of the scarf. In the end I only had time to do one but luckily Katy (the course tutor) has kindly agreed to let us come along for a drop in session next week so I will finish it off then.


After that there will be some darning to do, and then I will need to press and block the scarf. Pictures of this to follow!


The class has definitely given me the bug for machine knitting and I am looking into buying a machine for myself or coming along to more drop in sessions in future.  If you are interested in taking the class yourself booking has just opened for the next session, more details on the Edinburgh Contemporary Craft website.


I know lots of inspiring people and perhaps one of the most inspiring is my friend Alex; who is a conservator by day and a demon quilter by night. I was lucky enough to receive one of Alex’s beautiful quilts as a wedding gift and since then I have always wanted to try and make one myself. I never quite managed it until the start of this year when post “lace-wedding-cover-up” I decided to clear out my stash and basically use it or lose it.


I challenged my friend, and no stranger to this blog, Kate to join me in a weekend quilting challenge figuring that the when you try something new two people are better than one. I also thought for some reason that she had made a quilt before, this turned out to be completely wrong.

We set out some rules for the challenge: a strict start and end time so that we wouldn’t be tempted to keep working when we were tired; we planned out our meals so that we wouldn’t be working hungry; and finally we also made sure we had lots of great music to listen too. Oh and we also agreed on a hashtag which is essential to the success of any project.


Saturday was mostly spent cutting out the pieces, I was amazed at how long this took. I think I was basically cutting, measuring and ironing fabric for 5 hours. Then we worked on how we were going to lay out the pieces. Kate came prepared with sketches whilst I decided to just cut out what fabric I had and then see where the inspiration took me.

On Saturday evening we toyed with the idea of watching 90s romantic comedy How to Make an American Quilt but when we found out it was £7.99 on iTunes(!) the idea was quickly rejected. We did watch the trailer though and all I can say is that I am really glad that this cringe-inducing pastiche representation of women’s relationships bears no comparison to my life or the thrilling reality that was #quiltathon. At the end of the trailer I want to shout at Winona Ryder, “It’s ok you don’t need to marry either of them. Maybe you shouldn’t rush into marriage but instead set up an avant-guarde art collective/quilting co-op with your mum and her friends. You are more than who you sleep with, you too can find empowerment through craft!” but hey what do I know?

Anyway back to the quilting – it was only on day two that I began sewing and even with the whole day ahead of me I only managed to finish the central panel.


We have already planned our next edition of #quiltathon where we will hopefully finish our quilts. Alex I am in awe of you, I don’t know how you managed to make that quilt by hand – incredible!

Kate has written her own post about #quiltathon, which you can read on her blog Getting Where?.

Quick Update – Machine Knitting, Punch cards, Tucks and Prepping the Final Project

We are now on week eight of the beginners machine knitting course at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts and the pace is picking up. Since my last post, I have slowly become more confident on the machines, getting better at casting on and off, and working with different weights and types of yarn.

In the last two weeks I have finally managed to get on to working with punch cards, which I have been looking forward to since signing up.

Punch cards in action

They are actually surprisingly easy to use, and give some beautiful results.

First attempt at knitting with a punchcard

We have also started planning and now working on our final projects; I’m making a scarf in purple and silver grey, partly inspired by the costumes on the BBC programme Wolf Hall (ridiculous I know!). The richness of the colours and the way the sleeves of the garments move are what I’d like to capture in this piece.

There will also be at least one panel made with a punch card because I love the pattern effect so much. I am not sure if the final scarf will be a success but I am excited to try it and see the results. Here is a picture of my first panel on the machine, which uses tuck stitches to create a folding effect.

I’ve really enjoyed the course so far and it has definitely opened my eyes to new materials, techniques and ways of working.

One Last Nettie

I’m currently going through a process of using up all the fabric in my stash so on Sunday I decide to make another Nettie which has to be my favourite pattern of 2014. The fabric was a simple bamboo jersey I bought a while ago from Fabric Focus. I initially had wanted to use it to make a top but when the shop assistant came to measuring out it out he discovered a large hole in the middle. Luckily he was nice enough to give me the extra length of fabric with the hole in it at no charge.

Grey Nettie dress

There wasn’t enough to make a second garment on its own, so I decided to make one last Nettie reasoning that I could always turn it into a shirt if I didn’t like the effect of so much grey.

Grey dress-1

I used the high front neckline/mid level back version of the pattern and extended the length to take it over the knee to give it that glamorous understated feel that I think a longer length gives you. I also altered the back slightly so that there was a little more fabric to cover my bra straps which keep peeking out in earlier versions I have made.

Kate and me after the ceremony

I debuted the dress on Tuesday when I was privileged enough to be invited to my friend Kate’s citizenship ceremony. It was a really moving event, far more so than I expected. It made me realise how lucky we are and how many people would like to have access to the privileges that we enjoy in Scotland. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t keep pushing for change or trying to improve things, but it is important to remember the context in which we are living. So congratulations Kate, I feel honoured that you wanted to join us and be part of this country!

Incidentally Kate is the writer behind the fabulous Getting Where blog – she writes beautifully about travel and solo travel as well as general musings on life. I highly recommend checking it out.

A Sneak Peek Inside – Make it Easy Mix & Match Pattern Wardrobe & Sewing Guide

Make It Easy cover view

This weekend I was on a quest to hunt out the best place to find vintage sewing supplies in Edinburgh. Whilst rummaging in Herman Brown I discovered a stash of pattern magazines from 1984 called “Make it Easy: Mix & Match Pattern Wardrobe & Sewing Guide” published by Marshall Cavendish. Here is one of the original ads, which pretty much covers the awesome concept!

I’ve always been totally fascinated by collections which claim you can make an entire wardrobe with just one set of patterns. Has anyone ever done this? Could you dress yourself from head to toe with just one of these magazines – I’m tempted to try one day.

Make It Easy reverse view

The magazines come in their own cardboard sleeve with a full paper pattern and technique cards. I only bought one because I wasn’t sure how good they would be – but when I opened it up at home I wasn’t disappointed.

Make It Easy magazine cover

As far as I could tell all the patterns were uncut and selling at £2 a piece. They originally sold for £1.75 back in 1984 (£5.10 when you account for inflation). I found a few for sale on Amazon at £4.50.

Make It Easy inside 1

One pattern – so many options!

Make It Easy inside 2

There are also helpful articles on colour matching.

Make It Easy inside 3

Full instructions on how to make each outfit – including a step by step photo guide.

Make It Easy inside 4

There are also pattern variations showing you how to transition the pattern effortlessly from day wear to evening wear. I love the dress and the evening wear version of the jumpsuit with the frill neckline. I think the dress would make a great casual summer outfit in a patterned cotton, while the jumpsuit would be fantastic in a dark silk with a slim belt (worn with or without the gloves!).

Make It Easy - technique cards

The technique cards also look pretty useful, especially if you’re a beginner. Why google how to do something when you can use one of these cards?

Herman Brown looked like they had almost the full set so if you’re Edinburgh based and having an 80s sewing moment its worth investigating.

Have you ever used vintage patterns? Where are the best places to pick them up? I’m looking for as many hot tips as possible so please share the love!

Traditional Fisherman’s Knitwear

This week on a whistle stop visit to Aberdeen for work I was excited to discover a small but in-depth exhibition about traditional fisherman’s knitwear or Ganseys at Aberdeen Maritime Museum. I didn’t have very long in the exhibition so I didn’t have time to look at all the exhibits properly but there were some beautiful pattern examples on show. Interesting fact for all you Channel Islanders out there – although their names sound similar there is difference between a Gansey and a Guernsey (or Jersey)the shape of the garment is the same but Guernseys are made traditionally from thicker wool – so now you know! I’ve included a photo of the information panel so you can get all of the details.

The exhibition is free and on until 28 February (and only a short walk from the train station) so if you’re in the area and interested in knitting or fashion history its definitely worth a visit.

Gansey Exhibition 1






An information panel which asks the important questions.

Quick Update – Learning to Machine Knit

If you follow my Instagram you might have noticed that I have started to learn to Machine Knit at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts. So far we have only had three classes but I am already hooked.

Machine knitting class #sketchbook #moodboard

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In the first class we began by sketch-booking and creating mood boards to help us begin to work up our own designs. Initially I was disappointed to not start straight away on a machine but I soon changed my mind. I often rush into projects and then later I’m surprised when I don’t like how they turn out: they aren’t the right colour, the fabric/wool choice isn’t right for the design or they don’t work with anything else I have. Being made to take a step back and think about colour and texture was really valuable, its made me think in much more detail about how I want my final project to look and made me be more aware of the knitwear I see everyday.

#sketchbook #moodboard #machineknitting

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Edinburgh Contemporary Craft has a collection of inherited knitting machines. My favourite is this one from the 1950s, its colour and design are so beautiful.

Passap knitting machine


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I also love the cover illustration on the manual.

Machine knitting manual from 1956 #machineknitting

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In weeks two and three we’ve worked on learning to cast on and make some simple swatches. I’ve been working on a Knitmaster, its been challenging but really rewarding too.

Casting on the Knitmaster

Casting on is a slow process but one I’m slowly getting the hang of, especially since I have had to do it so many times.

A test swatch

I love how mechanical the machines are. Having spent a lot of time working on modern sewing machines I was surprised to discover that these machines require no electricity to work: they are powered by cogs, wheels and the movement of your body. There is something poetic and really satisfying about that.

The inner workings of a knitting machineCreating the swatches has opened my mind to what is possible through machine knitting. When I first started the class I thought my final project would be something chunky and weighty to the touch. But the machines are much better suited to lightweight wools and I have now started to dream of floaty garments with delicate pattern details. I haven’t had a chance to press my swatches yet, but I’ll do another round up from the class in a few weeks with more photos and hopefully a video of the machines in action.

Lace Wedding Cover up: Mad Wonderful Chaos


Why do we make things ourselves? Why do we strive to make anything in an age where things can be ordered online and delivered direct to your door? Why do we bother? That’s the question I find myself asking as I write this post about one of the most difficult garments I have ever made, a lace cover up for the wedding of one of my oldest friends.

Earlier this year Jenny asked me to make a lace cover up for her to wear on her wedding day. I jumped at the chance, I was honoured to have been asked and to be able to contribute something to her big day, but I also I really wanted the opportunity to make something in a beautiful fabric to a high level of finish. When she asked me we had plenty of time and I naively thought that I would be ready with time to spare. How wrong I was.


Unfortunately neither Jenny nor I realised when we started that it would take some time to order the lace and have it delivered. Added to this we don’t live in the same city so we were only able to do two fittings, and both of these only with the toile since the lace hadn’t arrived yet. In the end the final garment was made in under 12 days, sewing between 3 and 4 hours a night on week days and about 10 hours a day or more on Saturday and Sunday. Overall I think I worked on the final piece for about 50-55 hours in that two week period.

In the end everything came together and Jenny was one of the most beautiful and radiant brides I have ever seen. I wanted to share the story of the jacket here to capture that beauty and radiance but when I came to write it what came out was a list of all the lessons I learned while making the jacket. At first I wasn’t sure about sharing this list at all, I was worried that if I shared the glory and the madness that went into the construction I would somehow besmirch the sublime vision of Jenny walking down the aisle. But then I realised that that image is bullet proof and nothing I can do can take away from her beauty on the day.

Maybe that’s the real reason we choose to wear handmade garments, not because they are perfect or because they save time or money. We wear them because we love the mad wonderful chaos that surrounds all human creative endeavour and the love and friendship that goes into making them. All garments, brand new or second hand, shop bought or homemade had a secret life before they became ours – sometimes I think we are afraid of that. For me it’s something to be celebrated and that is what this list represents:


Planning is key to the success of your garment. If you don’t have a lot of time and you’re trying to make something complex or something which you want to have a beautiful finish then planning is key.

Toile complete – sign of a misspent Friday night!

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Once I had made a toile and I knew exactly how to construct the garment to get the look I wanted, I then sat down and wrote a step-by-step plan of how I was going to construct it. It had 12 points and under each point were further sub points. I deliberately went into a lot of detail because I didn’t want to gloss over any steps or miss anything out. So for example I didn’t write “Attach sleeves” I wrote “Attach sleeve one” followed by “Attach sleeve two”. This also means that you can have the satisfaction of crossing out each step as you go.


Decide what you are going to call the garment early on and then just stick with it – I couldn’t work out if the technical term for what I was making was jacket or cover-up so I ended up using both interchangeably which caused confusion whenever I spoke to people about the project.

Clean workspace

Create a useable workspace

If sewing isn’t your day job then it’s likely you don’t have a perfect space to work it. Because of a lack of space I had to cut all of the fabric on my kitchen table and do a lot of the hand sewing there. I was very worried about getting dirt or grease on the fabric so every night before I began I scrubbed down the table and cleaned the surrounding area. I actually found it quite therapeutic and it got me in the right headspace.

If you have a bad lighting situation in your work area try sewing with a head torch on. I inexplicably broke two desk lamps in the process of making this garment (don’t ask me how) and it turns out a head torch is a good and robust alternative.

Head-torch glamour

Work with a first aid kit next to you.

The tiniest pin prick can cause the tiniest spot of blood and you will never get that out. At some points I had a plaster on every single finger. It worked – I only got blood on the jacket once and that bit was easy to take out and replace. Yes Jenny I did get blood on your jacket but that piece of fabric didn’t make it into the final garment so it isn’t unlucky I promise!

Keep the heating on 

In Britain people don’t really like to turn the heating on, but this is one of those times when it’s definitely a good idea. Cold hands lead to shaky hands, leading to bad workwomanship. Cold hands also lead to chafed skin, leading to bleeding fingers – don’t say I didn’t warn you, I learned this one the hard way.

Stay Hydrated

Sewing with a cup of tea is one of life’s great pleasures, but make sure you keep that mug away from the sewing area. My biggest fear was spilling a drink on the lace so I ended up keeping all coloured drinks on the other side of the room and walking over to take a sip rather than risking having it near the fabric. This approach required discipline but did work, and if you are worried about your tea getting cold I recommend resting it on a radiator.

Appliqué seams just aren’t that hard

Basting in applique seams

There is a lot of chat out there about how difficult it is to do an appliqué seam but honestly I didn’t find them that difficult. Time consuming yes, difficult no. I sometimes worry that millions of sewists around the world are being put off this beautiful technique just by a handful of naysayers. Don’t believe them, you can do it!

Get a second opinion

Working on bridal wear means you are probably working in a vacuum. The bride will want to keep her outfit a secret which means that you won’t be able to share work in progress shots online as you might do with a normal project. This can feel very isolating, particularly at moments of indecision or crisis. I got around this by texting pictures to a friend who didn’t know the bride or groom but who did know a lot about sewing. Before I started sending her the photos we agreed that she would only send me positive feedback. Even though you know you have told someone to only text you positive comments it somehow works as a validation process and makes you feel much better. Thanks Kate!

Text encouragement

Watch TV but pick the right programmes

Lots of sewing bloggers talk about what TV they watch whilst making clothing. If you are making bridal wear I recommend sticking to costume dramas. Whilst making this jacket I watched the following: Downton Abbey (season 5), Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, North and South, and Upstairs Downstairs. Once you get past 50hrs of sewing there is nothing like watching Lady Mary swanning across the room in a couture lace dress to validate your life choices.

Take Creative Breaks

After about 35hrs of sewing I felt completely burnt out and like a woman on the edge. Luckily a month before when the timeline had been more doable I had signed up to take a Christmas Wreathmaking class with the awesome Pyrus flowers. Meeting my friend Claire and talking things through really helped, as did doing something fun and creative to take my mind off things. I found it really freeing and I was totally delighted by the wreath I made. When I started to sewing the next night I was really excited to get back to it.

More first aid tips

If your wrist starts hurting do put deep heat on it, but then don’t try and take your contact lenses out straight after. If you do do this, get in the shower and run your face under the water and it will stop hurting after between five to ten minutes.

Trust yourself

Even if you have discussed the garment in microscopic levels of detail with the bride to be, there will be times when you will need to make decisions. For example which way round should a flower detail go? Or should you match the trim detail on the neckline with the waistline? These decisions can seem terrifying, you want to make something the bride will love and really don’t want to get it wrong. But you need to learn to trust yourself, you are the designer and the creator, you are the one with the garment in front of you, if the bride doesn’t live near you you can’t run every tiny decision past her. The truth is she doesn’t actually want you to do that, she has a million things to deal with for the wedding and the reason she has chosen you to make this is because she trusts your style and your skills.

The first cut is the deepest

Check all your measurements twice and then go for it. Cutting into expensive fabric is scary but again you need to trust yourself. If you have measured the bride, made a toile and then done a fitting you have done all the ground work you need, there is no need to check it twenty times before cutting, this just wastes time. I did this and now looking back it was a completely unnecessary waste of two hours I didn’t have. I should have trusted my skill and ability from the off.

On flight sewing supplies

You can take scissors with a blade of up to 3 inches on a flight, this will seem reassuring until you get to your destination where you will realise they are actually way too small for what you need. Also travel with a head torch, you won’t regret it.

No-one will notice that tiny mistake

At some point during the wedding you will notice a tiny mistake in your finished piece. Don’t let this ruin your enjoyment of the day. Even if the bride has noticed (and she probably hasn’t) she will be too busy enjoying the happiest day of her life to care. Resist the urge to point it out to anyone/Worry about it/Completely freak out and instead reach for a glass of champagne and have a good time. You’ve done an awesome job and you’ve earned it!

I made this! (The lace jacket not the dress!)

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A quick word on Resources

I’ve already spoken about the problem of sewing in a vacuum when you are creating bridal wear – one of the problems is that there are fewer online resources dedicated to making bridal wear. People who do it professionally don’t want to share their designs in case they are copied and those who do it for themselves want to keep their dress a secret before the big day. If they do blog about it afterwards it’s usually in a quick round up post (a bit like this). It’s rare to find a post which goes into the forensic level of detail you will find online about other sewing techniques.

Here are some posts I have found useful:

How I made my own Wedding Dress by Misha and Mia
The Wedding Dress by Sew Dixie Lou
How I sewed my own wedding dress (and only cried like four times) by Susan Kigner
My Wedding Dress by Queen of Darts
Project WD by Poppy Kettle (I actually only saw this after the wedding but her posts are really detailed and the dress looks amazing)

Everyone recommends that you get a copy of Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje, but it’s out of print and so far I haven’t seen a copy selling for less than £90 (and in some places selling for as much as £200!). Instead I bought Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer which is very detailed with clear easy for follow instructions. I highly recommend it!

This exciting purchase came in the post today. #sewing #couture #lace

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Finally when all else fails try google image searching bridal wear. Sometimes just seeing a garment made in lots of ways and photographed from lots of different angles is helpful. This certainly helped me when it came to pattern matching and sleeve construction.


All the beautiful professional photography in this post was taken by Big Bouquet Wedding Photography, you can see more photos of the wedding on their website. The photos look amazing, some of the best wedding photography I have ever seen, and Emma was really lovely so definitely check her work out!
Meanwhile all the fuzzy, badly taken, mobile phone photography was taken by me.

All that I have left to say is a massive thank you to Jenny for letting me be a part of her wonderful magical day. Thank you for putting your trust in me and for being my friend.


2014: Year of Knits

I think its legitimate to say that in 2014 the indie sewing scene discovered knits, or at least the online sewing community discovered knit fabric. Always one to jump on a bandwagon I wasn’t alone in this and although in 2014 I blogged very little I actually made quite a lot. Here is a mini round up.

I had never sewn with knits before and to be honest felt very intimidated. So before I started I read the e-book version of Colette’s Guide to Sewing Knits. It’s a great way to get into knits and answers every question you might have on fabric, equipment, techniques etc. Looking back I think it may have actually been a little too detailed for my needs but it gave me the reassurance and a good place to start. I read this as an e-book and one thing I would say is that the file is a PDF formatted at a square size with small text which makes it slightly awkward to read on a tablet and not at all suitable for a kindle. With hindsight I wish I had bought the printed edition.

jersey dress-1

The first pattern I attempted was the Nettie Dress by Closet Case Files. I’ve been a fan of Heather’s blog for a while but this was the first pattern I had tried. The dress is easy to make, stylish and endlessly adaptable. In the end I made two out of a Liberty print jersey and I am considering making one more. It has a really detailed sewalong blog to accompany it and great detailed notes in the instructions. You can also change the pattern to make a simple top or skirt, as well as a bodysuit so its good value.
Here’s a picture of me at my cousin’s hen modelling my first attempt at the Nettie dress. Not a great photo, but a fun one! (I’m in the middle if you can’t spot me!)

Start of the day at Ascot

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I followed this with the Myrtle dress by Collette patterns. It is fantastically easy and fun to wear. I would highly recommend it as a first pattern to try with stretch. I made it in an afternoon!

Myrtle dress

I also made the Collette Mabel skirt which is very simple but I don’t recommend it as highly. I think that if you don’t have an overlocker (which I don’t) the weight of fabric you need to make it look good isn’t really suited to sewing on a machine and getting a fabulous finish. But it is very very simple and would suit anyone looking to try working with a knit fabric for the first time.

First outing for my latest holiday sewing project #mabel #colettepatterns

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Since sewing these three patterns in the summer I have felt very confident and have been able to draft my own patterns and make extensive alterations for knit/stretch fabric. I’ve made my own t-shirts, and faux leather leggings and a skirts. I haven’t managed to take pictures of the leggings and skirt yet, but here are the t-shirts.

Pecha Kucha Dundee – How homemade is homemade?

Images from Pecha Kucha Night Dundee Vol 7, held in Bonar Hall on Thursday 21s November 2013. For more info, visit www.creativedundee.com  Images thanks to SD Photography www.sdphotography.co.uk

In November I gave a presentation at Pecha Kucha Dundee and for those who are interested here is the full text of my presentation:

April 2013 saw the Bangladeshi Factory Collapse. 1,129 people died and 2,515 were injured, it is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history.

When cracks began to appear in the structure whilst other businesses in the building closed their doors garment workers were forced to return to work. Big international and high street brands like: H&M, Walmart (parent brand of George at Asda), Benetton, Primark, JCPenny, Mango were involved in the collapse.

How should we respond to this? Some people reacted by boycotting these brands. Other people, in what I would loosely call the craft community, suggested the only response was to make your own clothes. Reasoning that the only worker who was harmed in the process of making that dress was you.

But a garment, any garment is only the sum of its parts. What I want to talk about is the real meaning of the phrase homemade. Before I go any further I want to say that I am not innocent in all this, I am not delivering this talk from on top of a high horse. So in the name of Full Disclosure here is a list of everything I am wearing today and where it came from. (for those reading this on my blog: Liberty dress, M&S underwear and tights, H&M cardigan, Gap vest, Kurt Geiger boots)

Finished Dress

Lets take this dress as a starting point. The fabric is cotton from Liberty, from their classic Mauvey B Tana Lawn range. Its 100% cotton and milled in Lancaster in the UK. Although that doesn’t tell us where the cotton, one of the most energy inefficient and polluting crops in the world, comes from.

This level of transparency is actually quite rare. A more common situation is to buy fabric which is labelled without information about the supplier or the location in which it was made.  This is definitely true of this polyester pencil skirt I made a few years ago, I can’t tell you where the fabric was produced or who made it.

Thread is just as important component of the sewing process, this dress was made with Coats Duet, 100% Polyester. Coats is originally a Scottish company which was founded in 1902 in Paisley. In the 1880s they moved their production base to America. Since then they have aggressively expanded becoming perhaps one of the biggest global brands that you have never heard of; “at home” in more than 70 countries and employ more than 20,000 people across six continents.

They are no strangers of controversy, in 2012 they were fined 110million euros by the for price fixing by the EU and in February 2012 were accused of forcibly detaining union leaders at a Bangladeshi factory over an industrial dispute.

They boast that one in five garments on the planet is held together using Coats thread. Which means most people in this room are wearing something made with their products.

The other leading global supplier of thread is Gütermann a German company which is also an international brand. Their website boasts they are present in 5 continents, 80 countries – Their slogan is the sinister “Gütermann is present wherever people sew”

Zips are also essential in the making of clothing. The zip in this dress is made by YKK who offer “total fastening solutions”. YKK is the trading brand of of YKK EMEA which makes fastenings and architectural fittings. The YKK Corporation employs over 40,000 people, operating in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Take a look at the zip on your clothing right now and it is likely that it has YKK stamped into the pull. And if your zip isn’t made by YKK, its probably made by Coats. Again no strangers to controversy YKK have also been fined for cartel price fixing activity by the EU, this time in 2007. They also themselves admit to a less than perfect environmental record in some of their factories.

Knitting has a similar story. I recently made my first sweater out of Lion Brand Yarn. The company was founded in 1878 and in the 1930s were one of the first companies to pioneer outsourcing production using oversees labour. Lion Brand make it difficult for you to find out where your wool was made. The jumper is made from Wool Ease, its 86% acrylic, 10% wool, 4% rayon and is made from a mix of “US and non US origin fibres”

In Britain the most popular wool brand is Rowan which markets itself as a “an ethically conscious brand, with an emphasis on creating luxury, premium yarns sourced from organic, natural fibres.”

Originally founded in Yorkshire in 1978 the brand is now owned by none other than Coats. Again look at their individual wools and outside of a few “British wool mark products” it is difficult to find out where they are made or where the fibres where sourced from.

Now I’m not claiming that Coats, Gutterman, YKK or Lion Brand have bad employment practices, simply that I have no way of proving otherwise. With the exception of Lion Brand, who are fantastically quiet on the subject, they all have statements on their website saying how ethically sound they are.

But talk is cheap. Just look at Bennetton at the same time as they ran their #UnHate campaign we now know they were also exploiting workers in Bangladesh.

Images from Pecha Kucha Night Dundee Vol 7, held in Bonar Hall on Thursday 21s November 2013. For more info, visit www.creativedundee.com  Images thanks to SD Photography www.sdphotography.co.uk

So when does homemade really mean homemade and is it any better than something brought at Gap? As consumers we should have a choice and should be demanding transparency. The food industry in the last few years has made some amazing improvements and we now often  know where our food comes from even if some of it is horse meat.

Supply chain transparency just isn’t there in the craft or fashion industry and more worryingly people don’t seem to be aware of the issue. You can buy local (these wrist warmers were made with handspun yarn from Shetland) but this is often difficult and expensive.


We should be able to make a choice about where our thread, fabric and wool comes from. Right now there is no guarantee they aren’t being produced in the same conditions as a Primark vest top made in Bangladesh.

Pecha Kucha Dundee is a fantastic event put together by Gillian and Lyall at Creative Dundee, you can find out more on the Creative Dundee website.  A huge thank you to Gillian and Lyall for putting on an amazing event and inviting me to take part!