Zero Waste Workshop

Apart from finding people who understand the value of hand-made work, achieving a zero-waste workshop has been one of the biggest challenges for my business.

Those of you that are familiar with my work will have an idea of my starting point, but for those that are new to Gemma Textiles I make clothes and accessories from post-consumer waste. That's just a snazzy way of saying second-hand clothes! There are an increasing number of designers globally who are using similar materials but with the scale of my business I use charity shops, jumble sales, hand-me-downs and my own family's discards.

The largest sections of this material are used for my garment designs. The remnants are kept for feature details or one of my scarf designs. The smallest and nicest left-overs are used for my 'Scrapscape' and 'Portable Art' projects.

 

 Ariana Skirt

Ariana Skirt

 Efi Scarf

Efi Scarf

 Large Bright Portable Art Brooch

Large Bright Portable Art Brooch

At the moment I sell my brooches and Efi Scarves through my Etsy shop. You can take a look here.

Even with this process of utilising smaller and smaller pieces, over time I accumulate scraps that it's too time-consuming to incorporate. My latest scrap buster project has come out of a need for a new loose cover for our main sofa at home. I decided to make new seat cushions at the same time to make it into a much comfier sofa.

 

 Saggy Old Baggy Old Sofa

Saggy Old Baggy Old Sofa

I did look at the price for nice new upholstery fabrics, but with a two metre sofa and an economy mind-set I opted to use what I already had in my home stash. In this case, that ended up being two very colourful and clashy fabrics, so to make a statement and help bring the project together visually, I decided I'd make some multi-colour piping, also from my saved scraps stash.

 8cm squares from my scrap buster stash

8cm squares from my scrap buster stash

I've never used or made piping before, but with a new 'piping' foot for my machine, I was really excited by the process. Any excuse to buy new equipment is always appreciated!

pipingfootandcord

I'd read that the best piping is made from fabric cut on the cross so that it goes around corners and curves nicely. To achieve this I cut my squares in half corner-to-corner then sewed them together short side to short side into a strip.

scrapbusterpipingstrip

It would have made the final job easier if the original squares had been slightly larger because my seam allowance on the finished piping was a bit narrow in places. I used 8cm squares (cut in half) around 5mm cord. The bulk from the seams of the triangles obviously took away some of my width when putting the piping together.

Even though this process was very labour intensive, I was really happy with the results, and it's a super way to use quite small scraps.

scrapbusterpiping

The last scrapbuster element in this project was the new seat cushions. Again, wanting to find the most economic option whilst not compromising in comfort, I opted to buy 5cm deep feather filled box pads, and to make my own 5cm deep box pads filled with waste from my 'unuseable' scrap bin. This scrap contains all the seams, waistbands and tiny, fiddly shapes left over from all my garment making. It's quite a lumpy material on it's own, but underneath the feather topper, it makes a nice, solid base for the new sofa seat. A set of these two inners went into each new cushion cover reclaimed from the previous loose cover.

unuseablescrapcushionfiller

I haven't yet researched the commercial applications for this type of scrap as cushion filler. I would be uncertain that it would pass commercial fire safety regs in its raw form, but I'm certainly happy to have used it for my own project.

scrapbustersofaproject
scrapbustersofaproject

Why Skirts are Cool!

I rarely go bare-legged, and I really love wearing trousers but occasionally it's cool to wear a skirt. Here are some reasons why.

 Eighteenth Century quilted petticoat.  http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-petticoat-49973

Eighteenth Century quilted petticoat.

http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-petticoat-49973

 http://www.mandypattullo.co.uk/-garments.html

http://www.mandypattullo.co.uk/-garments.html

 This example is in the Florida Museum of Natural History, their collection can be seen here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/sflarch/collections/ethnographic-collection  Here is an interesting and very current article on cultural appropriation: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/02/18/510241789/seminole-patchwork-admiration-and-appropriation

This example is in the Florida Museum of Natural History, their collection can be seen here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/sflarch/collections/ethnographic-collection

Here is an interesting and very current article on cultural appropriation: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/02/18/510241789/seminole-patchwork-admiration-and-appropriation

 Unaccredited designer in an image from Elle magazine in the 70s, here's my source:    http://simplymagdorable.tumblr.com/post/58769472272/multi-colored-patchwork-fashion-early-1970s

Unaccredited designer in an image from Elle magazine in the 70s, here's my source:

 http://simplymagdorable.tumblr.com/post/58769472272/multi-colored-patchwork-fashion-early-1970s

 A Herero woman from Namibia. Photographer Jim Naughten,   http://www.jimnaughten.com/project/hereros/

A Herero woman from Namibia. Photographer Jim Naughten,

http://www.jimnaughten.com/project/hereros/

Back to Work

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gemmatextilescolourpatch.jpg
gemmatextilescolours.jpg

Even when you love what you do,  when you take a break to recharge and be with your family, it's possible to loose momentum, and this is when running a one woman business needs extra energy.

For me, the most exciting part of making clothes is choosing the colours to put together.

I never have enough fabric to choose from (of course), but sometimes having a preset limitation can stretch your creativity.

From a big stockpile, and having decided which garment designs I'm planning for, I would first need to select an appropriate weight of fabric, then I can play around with the colours.

I have some classic colour combinations that get me excited, often it's a dark with a bright, or bright with sombre combination. Building on that, there is great joy in creating combinations of colours. I don't have strict rules, but it's a similar process to how I would put together different colour garments to make a satisfying outfit.

The more colourful and eye-catching of the Gemma Textile garments make a good starting point for a special outfit. I hope to add some versions of the popular Gemma Textile designs in plain colours to my range in the future, so my different designs can be combined without patchwork overkill!

 

gemmatextilessimplygreymaia.jpg

Summertime 2017 Making the right place in my life for running a business.

The twists and turns of life have led us to own a little piece of ordinary heaven in Lower Normandy, France. It's ordinary because the house itself is not picturesque or luxurious. The land and the barns had deep layers of rubbish under the very human process that is neglect. It's heaven because it is. The skies are full of stars at night, and birds during the day. The undergrowth is full of snakes, toads, dormice, foxes, deer, badgers.

 10 years of nature taking over!

10 years of nature taking over!

This is the only property my husband or I will ever own, we both come from renting families, and that sense of ownership is a precious and fragile thing. While we dream of relocating there permanently, we've chosen to leave our children in their schools, so every holiday we make the dash over the channel, (actually under because I don't do boats) to renew our fight with the bramble.

Disappearing from my workshop as a one-woman business, and out of internet range, (it stops half-way through the hamlet) continually bothers me. It's still a relatively new situation, my Gemma Textiles business was born around the same time as we bought the land, and I think it's important to me to allow the truth of my life circumstances their space, and make the business work within that.

The contradiction of developing a business model that pivots on an 'open all hours' webshop that closes up to six times a year is something I will be exploring in the coming years. There are many things about life in the 21st Century that are totally amazing and life-enhancing, instant messaging, phone-cameras, BBC's 6 music, solar panels (need some of those), but I still think it's very common for square peg people to get pushed into round holes. That's not right or healthy.

I hope you, square or round peg, enjoy watching this haphazard journey through the growth of my Gemma Textiles business. Sign up to receive my newsletter so you can hear about all the other steps along the way.

 Food always tastes better outdoors.

Food always tastes better outdoors.