Are you crafty? Would you like to try turning your hand to some craftivism? Have you done so before? If you answered yes, or no, or maybe, to any of those questions, then WE NEED YOU! It really doesn’t matter if you can or can’t sew, or if you shun the activist limelight (suggested reading: Why craftivism is good for introverts) – read on, and then get in touch about joining in, or even popping along to a local stitch-in.

Image: Craftivist Collective

Image: Craftivist Collective

This summer the Craftivist Collective is teaming up with War On Want to add their crafty shoulders to the “Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops” campaign. I’m joining in too, and together we’re asking people to take up craftivism to help change the world for garment workers across the globe – stitching in support of the stitchers, as it were. How? By stitching mini protest banners, and hanging them where people will see them. Mini whuh? How? Well OK, I’ll let Sarah (founder of Craftivist Collective) explain how:

“Our small, provocative Mini Protest Banners can help us reflect on this issue of sweatshops and what we can do as an individual (consumer, voter etc) to keep the spotlight on this ugly side of fashion we CAN change. Also by hanging your banner in public you can engage others in fighting for a world without sweatshops & supporting War on Want‘s www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org campaign in a provocative but thoughtful way without people feeling threatened or preached at.”

I’ve been reading around the sticky subject of sweatshops, and where our clothes are made, and stuff like that, and did you know the legal minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is just 11p per item? And that’s only in the places that respect the minimum wage laws, and the organisations who keep an eye on this stuff say that’s still only about half of what people need to live on.

I won’t go into the issues here, but if you want to find out more, there are plenty of articles out there about the nasty realities of sweatshops. About the poor safety (remember the recent factory collapse, in which over a thousand people died preventable deaths?), the sexual harassment, child exploitation, physical abuse, and of course the complete pittance of a wage. Hunt some out.

I’m not exactly a fashionista, but I do like good clothes. Well made, fabulous clothes, that make me walk tall and say ‘yeah, I look awesome today.’ But the idea that fellow human beings were treated like expendable commodities to make those clothes, well, that I don’t like. I can’t think of anyone who would, really. But what do we do to change it? We can’t wander about butt-naked all the time (well I can’t, not in Yorkshire – brrr), we need clothes!

No, these things won’t change by themselves. And we won’t change them by feeling cross about them. Not by reading a Guardian article and leaving a sad face in the comments thread, not by discussing it on Facebook (a place recently described by folk singer Gavin Davenport as “the new opiate of the masses”), and not, you may be surprised to hear, by boycotting sweat-shop produced clothing. As this 2009 article points out: “sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty”. We need to improve the factories, not close them.

Don’t be downhearted, here’s where you come in: we need as many people as possible to stitch a little protest banner (you can get a funky kit, or make your own), like this one:

Image: Craftivist Collective

Image: Craftivist Collective

Hang it somewhere it will be seen, take a photo, and send it to us. Your photo will be put with all the others from across the globe, and made into a giant collage to be displayed during London Fashion Week. A time where fashion lovers come together to display and admire creations designed by the Haves, and (most often) made by the Have-Nots. As Craftivist Collective founder Sarah Corbett says: “Wouldn’t it be brilliant if LFW 2014 was a show of only exploitation-free clothes? Let’s fight together for that reality one stitch at a time!”

Image: Craftivist Collective

Image: Craftivist Collective

I’m stitching my mini-banner right now. I got a kit from the Craftivist Collective which has everything you need (even a needle! They think of everything), but you can make your own too. I would recommend the kit though, because you can start straight away, proceeds go to help fund projects like this one, AND YOU GET A BADGE. I mean, come on! Choose your message (all we ask is that you keep it factual, and polite – this is a creative, not an aggressive, campaign), and get stitching! Send your pictures and the location details to me via this site. This protest started in the UK, but you do not have to be in the UK to take part. This is a global issue!

AND AND AND! I will be running at least one drop-in craftivism session in Sheffield over the summer, where you can join in, drink tea, and discuss more about this campaign, and craftivism in general, so do let me know if you’d be interested in, well, dropping in. And/or you have a suggestion for a stitch-in venue (my original choice is closed for a summer refurb – typical!). Seriously folks, who’s in? Watch this space… 🙂

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Hey Lego lovers, check this out!  My kids have been scattering their Lego far and wide the last couple of weeks, and whilst I love to encourage their creativity, the constant tiny clatter of small-but-vital Lego pieces skittering across a laminate floor, and the resulting arguments about who lost what from who’s set is starting to fracture my sanity (I don’t have much left, and it’s precious to me). Thus, today I made a prototype bag/mat, to contain both the playing and the Lego. It worked pretty well, so I thought I’d share it with y’all, because it may just save your sanity too.

Look Master Luke, I'm Harry Potter! Expelliarmus!

Look Master Luke, I’m Harry Potter! Expelliarmus!

OK, I say ‘prototype’, this is actually the second one I’ve made (the first one made a great playmat, but was so big Santa himself would have struggled to carry it up the stairs when full, so my seven-year old had no chance. So, today I made a smaller one. First let me show you how it works, so you can go (as I did, when I saw the (vastly superior) one someone else on the internet had made – yup, it’s all about sharing ideas, I claim no credit for inventing this) WOAH, that’s the best idea ever, I neeeeed one of those!

"Hey, bedtime, clear up your Lego please!""But I haven't finished building it!"

“Hey, bedtime, clear up your Lego please!”
“But I haven’t finished building it!”

"That's OK, it'll still be here tomorrow"

“That’s OK, it’ll still be here tomorrow”

Of course by "here", I mean, in this bag, not all over the floor in the sitting room where I want to relax like a grown-up without stepping on C3PO's head

Of course by “here”, I mean, in this bag, not all over the floor in the sitting room where I want to relax like a grown-up without stepping on C3PO’s head

So yeah, pretty neat, huh?  OK, here’s what you need:

Old bedsheet, or other large piece of fabric (this one is a sheet on one side, and a Pokemon curtain on the other, but a single layer of fabric is undeniably easier).
Sewing machine (yeah, you can do this by hand, if you have a few weeks and infinite patience. I have neither)
Loooong piece of tape or ribbon (note: I used bias tape, but I think it’d work better with ribbon, which is more slippery – as it is it’s not *completely* easy to pull into the bag shape)

Cut a large circle. I’m not going to tell you what “large” is, you work that out – depends what size material you have I guess. Not huge though (see previous comment about prototype bag).  The best way to do this is to fold your fabric in half one way, then in half the other, a bit like you would to make a paper snowflake – then you only have to draw a quarter circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it really doesn’t. This isn’t an art exhibit, it’s something to keep clutter off the floor.
If you’re lining it, put your two fabrics together (the way you want them to be, not inside out) and just sew a straight line across the middle to keep them in place. Then sew a narrow hem all the way around the outside, like this:

small hem

Then, trim the edges, fold it over again and sew a much bigger hem – this will be the channel for the bag cord/ribbon to go through.  This bit may make you cuss, as you’re now essentially stitching a big circle to a smaller circle, and it ain’t gonna go. It will wrinkle up, and twist, but as long as you can get that ribbon through, it really doesn’t matter.  No doubt there are expert sewers out there who know exactly how to sew a hem like this *without* it going all horrible, but I am not an expert sewer. I am a bodger.  I wish it were otherwise, and one day it may be, but for now my sewing is “good enough”. It may start to look like this:

hem

Don’t forget to leave two gaps on opposite sides, to thread the ribbon through.

Hey, you’re nearly done!  Now, get your humungous long length of ribbon/cord/whatever, and thread it through the hem.  I used one of those sticks you use for cleaning woodwind instruments – it’s kind of like a chopstick with a hole at one end (like the eye of a needle). You can also use a large safety pin (pin to the end of the ribbon and you can feed it through the fabric), or anything else you can think of. Be a problem solver.
Lay the mat out flat, and when the ribbon is all the way through, with a little loop sticking out of one gap and the two end sticking out of the other, tie it off, and voila, YOU DID IT. You now have a cool playmat, which will magically transform into a Bag O’ Lego when you need the floorspace.

Find ALL the Lego!

Find ALL the Lego!

I really hope that made sense. Please leave a comment if this was useful, or if I missed anything obvious. Thanks for stopping by!  And yes, it’s a Star Wars walker, I know. We live the cool.

birdies

Happy New Year you lovely lot! How’s it going so far? I’ve made some simple resolutions this year (blogged here, if you’re interested), but one more specific challenge I’ve set myself is to MAKE more stuff. It’s easy sometimes to get bogged down with admin, with tweaking and twiddling my online store, and of course with the daily running around and picking up after the smalls.  I realised after Christmas I hadn’t done nearly enough crafting, and that had to stop. Or start. Whichever. So I’ve put a fancy-pants app on my fancy-pants phone, which means I can tick off every day I do something crafty – which should of course be EVERY day.  Thus far, it seems to be working, and even that naggy voice in my head which keeps telling me I need to pay the gas bill, or do all the ironing, or tidy R’s room because she is *never* going to do it herself – even that little voice has to wait until I’ve nurtured my creative mojo.

So, this year I have:

1) Finally put the buttons on a cushion cover I made ages ago, so it can now function as a real actual cushion, on our real actual sofa.

cushion

2) Completed a custom cross-stitch for my oldest friend.

(From French & Saunders sketch: Whatever Happened To Baby Dawn?)

(From French & Saunders sketch: Whatever Happened To Baby Dawn?)

3) Made some beautiful felt bird bunting for another friend, who was 23 on the 23rd January (a cool fact she and I thought more people should be excited about. She texted me at 2300 to say so).

Bird bunting

4) Made three table mats to make mealtimes easier to clean up (I’m kidding, we’re very genteel diners here) – the fourth is still waiting to be cut out, I should really do that today.

Trousers into Viking apron into placemats. Recycling to the max!

Trousers into Viking apron into placemats. Recycling win!

5) Embroidered a warm scarf to keep my partner snuggly on his cycle to work.

Scarf

6) Embroidered a picture for someone I don’t know, as a Random Act of Kindness. There are reasons, it’s not actually that random, but that’s a whole other story that isn’t mine to tell.

NOT TOO SHABBY, if I say so myself.  But what I’d like to know is, what have *you* been doing? Have you kept your creative juices flowing, and unclogged by mundanity and chores? Has it been easy, or have you struggled? What did you last create, and when?

Also, if you think being 23 on the 23rd deserves a bit more whoopee, head on over to Kirsty’s page and tell her so 🙂

Yes, I’ve been swapping again! I have been a quiet Picky Miss over the summer – on the blogging front, anyway; everywhere else it’s been chaos. But now school’s back, holidays are over, and it’s time to get back to work. Or play. Call it what you will (and I’m very lucky that those two words are interchangeable).

Mmm, yum. Can you tell what it is yet?

So, my first fun of the new academic year has been swapping stuff. I loves craft swaps, they are so much fun. You make something for someone, they make something for someone else, they make for someone else, and so on, until it comes round and someone makes something for you. I’m a member of the Phat Quarter Flickr group, and they run a themed swap every time there’s a fifth Friday in the month. In July, the theme was “food”. My swap giver contacted me and asked if I liked Mexican food, whereas I took the more indirect (and possibly sinister) route of looking through my swap receiver’s Flickr pics to guage what kind of thing she liked. It looked to me like she was a Doctor Who fan (all the best people are), so I set my geek brain to maximum and came up with this cross stitch sampler

And after several scintillating emails about Salvaged Mutiny‘s attempts to find a post office whilst cruise-ship-working her way around the Baltic (‘I went to the post office in Helsinki but it was closed; I’ll try again in Copenhagen’?!), I received this piece of Mexican craziness

I'm Nacho Mama!

I *LOVE* it! I confess I was a bit thick, and didn’t get the joke until my brother said it out loud, but it makes me smile every time I see it 🙂

And because I can’t get enough swappety fun, I signed up for a Facebook-based ‘handmade’ swap at the beginning of the year. I have to make five things, and completed numero dos last week: a Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) quote worked in cross-stitch. I think it’s a sentiment we can all relate to at some stage 🙂

Phantoms Siren has said she’ll hang it so it’s the last thing people see as they leave her house. Awesome.

Numero uno can be found on Flickr, but it’s a bit naughty, so I won’t display it here. I love the surprise element of swapping – you never know what you’re going to receive in return. I also love the challenge of being given a broad theme and just running with it (I made this for the last Phat Quarter swap – the theme was music

based on a bluegrass tune and my swap partner’s crows-in-flight tattoo). I especially love using the medium of a traditional cross stitch sampler to create something personal and (preferably) geeky 🙂 I do them to order, so get in touch if you’d like to commission a bespoke, unique gift – for someone else, or for yourself! I’m currently working on a C’thulhu quote sampler; I’ll let you all know when it’s done.

In the meantime, it looks like September has a fifth Friday! I’d better keep an eye on my Flickr and see what comes up 🙂

Want to be part of a huge global art project?  Check this out, and if you want to stitch a patch, get in touch.  I don’t care if you can’t sew for toffee, that’s the whole point; this is open to everyone.

**Adding the EDC ex-page here as a kind of archive – see below**
NEW NEWS (29th Sept)
Well, we’re doing pretty well so far – one patch complete, and 8 out of 12 patches allocated to willing volunteers. Well, volunteers, anyway. Tomorrow – Thursday 30th – sees the project move to Access Space , for some real-life human contact. I’ll be there from 12.30-2pm to help people get their heads (and fingers) round how non-mysterious embroidery really is.

There’s still time to get involved, so contact me if you’d like to join in!

*************
The ‘Embroidered Digital Commons’ is based on the beautifully crafted language of the Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons (Sarai, 2003) written by the Raqs Media Collective. The full lexicon is an A-Z of the interrelationship between social, digital and material space.
It is an artwork faciltiated by Ele Carpenter as part of the Open Source Embroidery project, utilising social and digital connectivity. This distributed embroidery aims to collectively stitch terms from the Lexicon as a practical way of close-reading and discussing the text and it’s current meaning.
As part of this project, Picky Miss will be facilitating the stitching of the term “Access”

This phrase will be split into short blocks of text, which will be distributed amongst participants (willing or otherwise!) to be stitched onto patches of fabric. These patches will then be gathered back together – but quite how we’ll do this remains to be decided 🙂 It may become a curtain, or a tent, or something else entirely – whatever the stitchers collectively feel best represents the idea of “access”.

Workshops/stitching drop-ins will be run, by me, in Sheffield. They’ll be running 12.30-2pm for three consecutive Thursdays – 30/09, 07/10 and 14/10 – at Access Space free media lab on the corner of Sidney Street and Brown Street (not far from the Showroom cinema). If you’d like to get involved, please come along, or just get in touch and sign up for some text! You don’t have to be in Sheffield, or able to attend the sessions; if you need any support I can keep in contact via email.

More details about the project are to be found on the Open Source Embroidery website, and I will post updates on the Access text progress on this site as we go along.

Just got back from a brief jolly to London.  I didn’t see any single gloves lying around – I’m guessing street cleaners are a lot more on the ball in the Big Smoke.  Either that or single gloves have better access to dating opportunities…  Anyway, Charlotte, my lovely hostess-with-the-mostest, had been keeping her eyes peeled during the winter months and rescued a few for me

These will now go into my ‘lost gloves’ stash, and at some stage be resurrected as monsters.  This is more of an art project, and one I’m experimenting with alongside Sarah Cole, who has been charting the tragedy of lost gloves for a few years now.  This fine creature came to me as a slinky elbow-length mitten thing, cruelly abandoned in Leeds.

All you lost and lonely gloves out there, take heart!

As you are no doubt aware, now begins the time of year when lost and abandoned gloves are to be seen in gutters everywhere. Poor things.

It has long been believed that gloves, like socks, mate for life. New evidence, however, suggests that whilst monogamy is widespread, so too is the desire to strike out alone. Gloves as a species appear to be at a transitional point in their evolution. Whilst we have witnessed an increase in independent gloves, the desire for freedom and new horizons still exceeds the practical capabilities of the individual to achieve these aims safely.

I have rescued a few of these hapless creatures, and given them new lives, as can be seen below. I hope soon to have a new site dedicated to glove rescue, but until then they can stay here, with my socks.

Cruelly abandoned at Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield


(View this Mitten Monster as rescued.)

Deep sea lurker. Found in London, somewhere on the Northern Line.

Deep sea lurker. Found in London, somewhere on the Northern Line.

Sea-creaturey-thing. Found on Overton Road, Sheffield.

Sea-creaturey-thing. Found on Overton Road, Sheffield.

Cheery street musician. Found in Victoria Station, London.

Cheery street musician. Found in Victoria Station, London.

Happy chappy. Found on Walkley Lane, Sheffield.

Happy chappy. Found on Walkley Lane, Sheffield.