The Sewcialists Interview Zoe of MMMay

delores batwing
Zoë in her Dolores Batwing top pattern

Becky here, and this year, we here at Sewcialists are beyond thrilled to pay homage to Zoe, the maker’s humble hero of MMMay, aka Me-Made-May, and blogger at “So, Zo…What Do You Know?” You may know a lot about Zoe and this yearly challenge, or maybe this is your first introduction. The best thing about Zoe is, not only is she incredibly modest about being an international inspiration, the MMMay challenge is perfectly aligned with the Sewcialists’ mantra of inclusivity and personal perspective. The challenge is entirely self-directed, and it is up to the individual to set their own goals.

Zoe kindly agreed to an interview. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting up Zoe before, and if you’d like to visit her FAQ page for a little background, I highly recommend it. Without further ado, I present the Sewcialists Zoe Interview:

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Zoe, it’s your 9th year hosting MMMay! First let me say, congratulations! Running MMMay has gone from a whimsical idea while living in Barcelona to a full-on international event. It looks like #memademay alone has over 50k posts on Instagram, and last year variations of #MMMay17 total over 34k! 

How do you feel about the success of this yearly challenge? 

It’s fabulous to see how many people want to get more from their me-mades by thinking more deeply about what they make and how they wear it. I think MMMay’s popularity/success is because it is entirely customisable for the individual participants so it can be truly useful. However, there’s something really nice about knowing that there are hundreds of other people doing something similar at the same time as you, especially if that thing is challenging (which it should be!)

I love the self-determined nature of MMMay, and I feel that is what makes it so popular. As you’ve said to me previously: Participants “can improve on their own relationship with their self-stitched wardrobe, and perhaps their creativity and sense of self more generally.” I just LOVE that quote. Keeping that “relationship” guideline in mind, what are some tips you have learned to keep beginners from being overwhelmed?

A month can feel like a long time to do something that’s a bit difficult and out of your usual routine, especially when the initial buzz of excitement has worn off after the first week! If you’re flagging, go back and read your original pledge to remind yourself of why you chose to challenge yourself. Also, follow the hashtags (#MMMay18 being the main one) or check out some people’s blog posts (you can find participants’ blogs by looking at the comments section on the sign-up post). Reading other people’s experiences and revelations so far, and seeing their wonderful self-stitched creations, is likely to give you a real boost. And if you really aren’t enjoying it, then you don’t have to continue! No one is going to judge you or be angry, MMMay is meant to be fun and illuminating after all, and if you’re just not feeling it, then no problem. 

On the flip-side, some of the participants are more seasoned and may feel a bit of creative burnout. What are some ways more advanced makers can incorporate to keep it fresh?

I LOVE seeing repeat participants coming back year after year and upping the ante! I remember when Handmade by Carolyn started introducing handmade shoes into her Me-Made outfits! I’m not suggesting everyone should aim to go all out like that, and if you really have achieved a relationship with your handmade wardrobe and creativity that you’re perfectly happy with, then there’s no need to take part at all. However, if you still feel you want to make some changes and improvements to that relationship, then there are countless pledges you can make. Perhaps there’s a type of tricky garment that you’ve been too scared or intimidated to try making yourself (bras or jeans perhaps), or some kind of technique that you’ve always wanted to try (intarsia or a kind of lacy knitting stitch maybe)? You could pledge to make that type of garment or something that uses that technique, and wear it by the end of the month? I often find that life brings its own challenges (like being pregnant, life with small children, a new career, going on holiday during May) that would bring a fresh perspective to MMMay from previously years without you even needing to search for it. 

Your life has evolved from those early carefree years in Barcelona to carving out a creative, sustainable, family life in Eastbourne. How has your relationship with sewing changed?

I’ve written a fair bit about how my relationship with sewing has changed since having children (this post for example). I love sewing handmade clothes for my kids now, at times as much as or more than sewing stuff for myself. Partly, it’s a way of providing and caring for them. But perhaps more importantly than the final garments themselves, sewing helps me carve out some time and brain space that is entirely my own, when every other aspect of my life at the moment seems to be directed by the needs of others. It’s an act of self-care and very necessary for my mental health. 

Many of us in the sewing-sphere look to you as having an authentic voice and inspiration for staying true to oneself. As many may or may not know, starting Me-Made-May was an inspired response to things like the Makeshift Project and the Wardrobe Refashion pledge, and there have been many challenges since inspired by your work. Who, or what, are some of your current sources for maker-inspiration?

I recently read a book about clothing rationing in the UK during WW2. The experiences of women during that time (including the amazing diaries of Nella Last) really inspire me, the way that many of them used their skills and the materials they had to hand to provide for themselves and their families. The way many people clothe themselves with fast and cheap fashion is literally unsustainable, so I think that looking back at the lessons learnt by previous generations is going to be increasingly necessary. Oh, and Pinterest, sewing blogs and Instagram like everyone else, obviously!

Now, for a bit of fun. A Zoe Top 10 List! What are your top 10 most worn patterns?

  1. Self-drafted Jeggings pattern (but if I’d seen the Eleanore pull-on jeans by Jalie before, I probably would have started there!)
  2. My free vest camisole/singlet pattern
  3. My free pants/undies/knickers pattern (both of these are literally worn every day) 
  4. Tova Top by Wiksten
  5. Gable Top by Jennifer Lauren Handmade
  6. Agnes Top by Tilly and The Buttons
  7. Dolores Batwing Top pattern by me!
  8. Cabernet Cardigan by SBCC
  9. Kinder Cardigan by Wendy Ward in her new book 
  10. Suzon Blouse by République du Chiffon (recently completed so not really had a chance yet, but loving it)

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Ah, I wish there was a WordPress plug-in to give Zoe a round of applause. Personally, as a returning MMMay participant, this is exactly the inspiration I needed. Did you find any nuggets of wisdom in this interview to inspire you this year?


3 thoughts on “The Sewcialists Interview Zoe of MMMay

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