"But then I fell in love. It was on an August night in North London. The dizzy summer air smelt of petrol and fried onions, and the pavements were aglitter with glass from a smashed bus shelter. There was even a soundtrack: the sweet harmonies of sixties girl groups sha-la-la-ing from a stalled car, its radio blaring out the Ronettes. I came out of the Tube station, and everything in my world changed. The object of my affection? Was it a cool boy in old blue jeans and a handmade t-shirt, the neck sandpapered to give it that hand-me-down air? Or a girl in a thrifted fifties dress carrying a Snoopy lunch box as a handbag? Well, both, and neither. It was style that got my wholehearted attention."
- Eithne Farry, Yeah, I Made it Myself: DIY Fashion for the Not Very Domestic Goddess
The above paragraph is my favourite bit of this book. I keep re-reading it. I love the third sentence, it paints the backdrop of the ugly world that fashion has as its stage perfectly. It mirrors the moments when I started to want to get into fashion and style.
Fashion didn't exist in my world until I went to university. I bought teenage magazines when I was at school, but was more interested in drooling over the pretty make-up suggestions than in the clothes. I liked baggy jeans when I was in Year Twelve, then in Year Thirteen when the dress code changed to "smart" from "casual", my female friends and I devised a way of being comfortable and slightly alternative despite this horrifying dress code - we wore Doc Martens under our corduroy trousers and either the teachers never noticed that they weren't "smart shoes" or they didn't care. I wore t-shirts in Year 12, collared shirts with buttons in Year 13, vests underneath in the summer so that when in the sixth form area I could take the shirt off and be more comfortable. We weren't allowed to show our shoulders, presumably because we might accidentally seduce one of the 19 boys in our year.
When I went to Goldsmiths, I knew what to expect. Masses of pretty boys. One of the reasons I had wanted to go there was the great numbers of pretty boys. However, by the time I enrolled I'd found myself with a boyfriend. I only had lectures on two days a week. I didn't notice a thing until I moved into halls in January. Then I had plenty of time to stroll around the campus.
Wandering around in the constant stink of exhaust fumes, stepping over the glass on the pavement, avoiding the dirty-minded ticket touts, there was an old lady with bright blue hair, many eccentrically dressed students, and The Rubbish Fairy. I felt like the most boring-ly dressed person ever in the history of the earth, and I dressed even more boring than I did in Year 13, because now I could wear t-shirts again.
It was bad. So I got a new habit. I started buying hats. I'd knit myself one that Christmas and it had started a passion. Scarves too. Then I knit a plastic-bag-bag and got more compliments on them than I'd ever received on anything, ever, in the whole rest of my life. I used that bag every day and got at least one compliment every time. I discovered the greatness of the colour red thanks to having to wear it for The Vagina Monologues and realising that there is a shade to suit everyone.
It had begun. Three years of admiring College fashion. Sigh.
So anyway, back to the book. That paragraph gets me all excited every time. It's a good book for inspiration. It's funny. It's practical. The clothes have stories, which makes it interesting just to flip through. I think it's a good book for teenagers because of the tone, and for anyone who wants simple instructions for basic classic items, and projects that do not take long to complete.
I have three major criticisms. Firstly, there are no photos of the clothes actually on people, excluding the author photo at the back where she is wearing one of the dresses shown earlier without her. I think the idea is that you already know what an A-line dress looks like on, so you don't need a picture, but it would be nice to see how well Farry's instructions hold up. I have put loads of sewing books and knitting patterns down because their photographs look bad - if the example used to promote the book doesn't look right, how is it going to look good on me?
Secondly, it's technically limited. If you enjoy or have a talent for sewing, you would probably want to move onto something more advanced quickly. There are no patterns included, you have to work them out from the measurements given, which I find time-consuming and would much rather use a pattern.
Thirdly, there is a page on making adjustments to the measurements given for your size, but it is based on the UK standard sizes and doesn't give advice for those of us who might be making our own clothes because we don't fit the standard sizes in one way or another. This means that if I use this book to help me make anything, I am still dependent on my mum when it comes to fitting it to my lanky frame.
Yeah! I Made It Myself covers the basics of hand sewing and machine sewing, then has instructions for bags, skirts, dresses and various accessories. There is a chapter about customising clothes and one about knitting, and it ends with the humourous Epilogue, "How to make a draught excluder in the shape of a sausage dog in 17 weeks", which expresses the author's frustration at the crappy textiles classes she had at school. Mine weren't that bad although we never had as much time as 17 weeks!
I think this book is a decent all-rounder for those with an interest in creating clothes occasionally. It's inspiring and I love the the tone, however if you have more than a casual interest in sewing, you should check out something more advanced.