A Mini Fashion Protest: Reading

Cast your minds way back to last Autumn, to a London Fashion Week held in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Craftivist Collective and War On Want’s highly inspiring Mini Fashion Protest campaign.

Heavily pregnant and armed with my hand stitched mini protest banners, I headed to Reading’s bustling Oracle shopping centre, in the hope that my tiny embroidered words might make someone think twice about where the clothes they are buying might be coming from and who might be making them.

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This banner reads “Please show respect to the women who make your clothes. Let’s pay a living wage to all garment workers“.

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Exploitation: It’s not okay here, it’s not okay anywhere” This one was stitched not only in solidarity for those exploited abroad, but also in solidarity for many British retail workers who are paid minimum wage (not a ‘living’ wage) and have unfair working contracts.

One thing I have learnt about display mini protest banners is that it is hard to feel inconspicuous when putting them up there. My heart always pounds, my hands feel a little clammy. Add to the mix being eight and a half months pregnant (and unwisely wearing bright pink and red stripes) and these feelings double. Triple even.

But I really believed in this campaign and believe in conscious consumption, safe working conditions, fair wages, human rights and thinking about the environmental impacts of our consumer choices and we’ve not even touched on the emotive issues around child labour yet.

Maybe someone saw my stitched words by the Oracle riverside and briefly thought about some of those issues? Someone definitely saw them, as nearly five months later the cable ties holding my ‘exploitation’ banner to the bridge are still there.

Two Weddings

2013 was a big year, not only for the cooking and birth of the Tiny Overlord. But it also saw two of my ‘little’ brothers get married. As with any special occasion, I decided to mark these wonderful events with a little bit of cross stitch:

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Both cross stitched were based on designs I had found online, but were customised for each of the happy couples. The inspiration for each design came from the proposals – Simon proposed to Amy in the sea and Alex proposed to Jenny over dinner with a card made from Scrabble tiles.

I’m really rather pleased with both of them. Now I just need to think of something to stitch for 2013’s new arrivals…

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops: A #minifashionprotest

Mini Protest banner at London Fashion Week AW 2012 Somerset House

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about ethical fashion, not only for myself, but also when I’ve been looking for clothes for the impending arrival of the Tiny Overlord. Many adult and children’s clothes seem to be made to meet fads and to be disposable.

Now I love my clothes, I see them as part of my self expression, but I don’t want my clothing choices to have a human cost. Millions of workers around the world suffer poverty wages and exploitation producing cheap ‘fast’ fashion for our shops.  In April, over 1000 garment workers were killed in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, they were making clothes for major brands such as Benetton, Primark, Mango and Matalan. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – check out this shocking infographic.  But these unsafe working conditions are not the only issue associated with our love of fashion, there are also low wages, human rights abuses, as well as awful environmental impacts and we’ve not even mentioned the issues around child labour.

I don’t think people should have to suffer like this to provide clothes for my family and I, so alongside making ethical shopping choices, I’m going to be joining the Craftivist Collective and War on Want for a fantastic and beautiful #minifashionprotest.

Mini Protest Banner in Paper Dress Vintage Boutique

Regular readers of this blog will have seen the Craftivist Collective’s mini protest banners in action before, they are a wonderful way to make people think in a non-threatening way. This time I’ll be joining many other craft loving activists in making these beautiful eye catching banners and putting them in a public place for people to discover and to encourage people to consider the uglier side of fashion without feeling preached at.

Craftivist Collective mini banner kit

If you would like to get involved, it couldn’t be simpler: All you need is stitch a thoughtful and provocative slogan on to a small fabric banner and photograph it in a public place. Send your photograph to the Craftivist Collective and it will be included in an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show’s Upcycling Academy in London in the Autumn, in the run up to London Fashion Week.

Not sure where to start? Then the Craftivist Collective have mini banner kits (pictured above) available here, there is also a video about how to make a mini banner here, ask the Collective (who are very friendly, especially if you are a bit shy – trust me!) a question on their Facebook page or check out where you can join other crafters to make your banners together at a ‘stitch-in’ here. Photos of your mini banner need to be with the Craftivist Collective by 5th October to be included in the exhibition.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can create.

All photos in this post are by the Craftivist Collective.

 

Britain Cares

embroidery that reads "just a note to let you know I CARE #britaincares"

“Social care is the support that many disabled people need to live ordinary lives. Depending on the person’s needs, it might be help with dressing, washing, eating, using the toilet, communicating or getting from place to place to do everyday things like going to the shops…” – Scope

Next week the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George (or Jeffrey, if you are Barack Obama) Osborne, will announce the next round of cuts to public service in the Spending Review. I feel very strongly about the impact of ‘the cuts’ on our society as a whole. Britain has one of the highest rates of social inequality in the world, which is just appalling and this inequality has a dreadful impact on those who are more vulnerable, like the elderly or disabled, those people who are reliant on social care. I believe that those of us who are able to have a responsibility to speak out about this, however we can. Which is why, in the light of there being even more spending cuts next week, I was inspired to cross stitch a card for my MP by the Britain Cares campaign.

Lead by the charity Scope, the Britain Cares campaign is asking people to let their MPs know that they care and to tell their MPs public funding for social care should be safeguarded and not cut by the government. And you can do this by making a card, like I have above, sending your MP decorated soap or socks – so they would see your message everyday to remind them of the impact the lack of social care can have – or even just by simply taking a photo and sending an email.

There are still 4 days until the spending review, so plenty of time if you would like to get involved – please have a look at the Britain Cares website and ask your MP to protect vulnerable people.

Para… Para… Paradise…

Cross stitch reading "she ran away in her sleep and dreamed of paradise"

she ran away in her sleep and dreamed of paradise…

A couple of months ago I was deeply flattered to be commissioned to make a bespoke cross stitch. They wanted a simple wall-hanging stitched with lyrics from Coldplay’s ‘Paradise, so I also suggested using a embroidery hoop as a frame. I’m pretty pleased with the finished result, though the song was ‘earworming‘ me for weeks afterwards…

Want me to make you something crossstitchy? Just give me a shout and we’ll see what we can do. You can find my contact details here

More Pieces of the Puzzle: #imapiece

Have you been wondering about what happened to all those jigsaw pieces that were embroidered for the #imapiece project? Here’s a little update on what they (and I) have been up to lately…20130514-193224.jpgIn April I was honoured to be invited by Save the Children UK to attend a showcase of all the embroidered pieces (completed to date) for the #imapiece project. It was exciting and very moving to see all the pieces together, knowing that each one had been carefully embroidered by someone that felt so strongly about global inequalities and wanted to send a message to G8 to act.20130514-193405.jpg To see over 700 pieces together was really moving, knowing the time, energy and focused passion for fighting inequality that had gone in to each piece.

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I think this might be my new favourite piece, I love the play on words and its affirming message.

The showcase seemed to be really well received, people spent a lot of time reading the individual messages and admiring the whole impact of the jigsaw. It was a fantastic evening.

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Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective in Crafty Magazine

In more news, it is always a delight to see the lovely Sarah, founder of the Craftivist Collective, in her regular column for Crafty magazine. However, I got rather excited to see #imapiece featuring alongside her, especially because you can spot a lot of the pieces from our Reading Stitch-in in the picture. Fame at last lovely Reading crafters!

People holding the letters 'IF' in Hyde Park

But amongst all this excitement it could have been easy to lose focus on the reason we made the pieces and who their messages was ultimately aimed at. But when I went along to the Big IF rally in Hyde Park on Saturday, it was brilliant to see Save the Children UK showcasing some of the pieces and encouraging people to make some more. The Big IF Rally was timed to run alongside the ‘Hunger Summit’ that was held by David Cameron before the G8 meet later this month in Northern Ireland. It was wonderful to see the jigsaw pieces there as part of the rally, engaging people in thinking in the wider issues around food inequalities around the world.

#imapiece at the Big IF London

But #imapiece doesn’t stop there: If you are in Belfast this Saturday, there will be more #imapiece workshops at the Big IF Belfast.

And if you can’t make it to Belfast but still need some motivation on how and why you can get involved, check out the incredible work done by Anne Clark. A truly inspirational lady. I loved what Anne managed to achieve, it really makes you think about what more you can do yourself.

You can keep up to date with the #imapiece project with the Craftivist Collective. If you want to catch up on all of my personal #imapiece journey please check out my posts here.