Like many sewing movements, Me-Made May had its genesis in personal experience. Created by sewing teacher and writer Zoe Edwards, the month-long celebration of making has now become a global phenomenon.
How did Me-Made May begin?
The me-made challenges began back in 2010 when I was living in Barcelona. Initially, it was a personal challenge that I undertook on my own in March. I’d been busily sewing clothes for myself for a couple of years, and when I hung all those items up together, it was beginning to look like a wardrobe! I’d been exploring making different types of garments – undies, a coat, jersey items – and felt a desire to extract myself from what we now call ‘fast fashion’. I felt I needed some kind of push to really start relying on my handmade items the same way I did on RTW items! Inspired by Canadian artist Natalie Purschwitz’s Makeshift project, I challenged myself to only wear things I’d made myself for a whole month – excluding bras, tights, socks and shoes. I was pretty chilly for most of the month, but I learned a lot. I decided to try again in a warmer month when I could put more of my me-made wardrobe to the test. I put a shout out via my blog to see if anyone wanted to join me a couple of months later in May. I thought a handful of people would be interested, but it ended up being closer to 70! We did it again the following September – it was called Self-Stitched September – and it took a couple of years for the me-made challenges to settle down to being an annual challenge taking place every May.
I thought a handful of people would be interested, but it ended up being closer to 70!
How did it make you feel to see it take on a life of its own?
I started setting up a Flickr group for each challenge where participants could share their outfits and have conversations, and I saw just how international the challenge had become. Seeing glimpses of different people’s lives, hometowns, climates, homes, foods and so on in the photos was so exciting. It’s important to emphasise that Me-Made May has always been a personal challenge: taking and sharing photos that document your outfits is entirely optional. But when people did start to share in that forum, it began to feel like a true community – and a celebration!
What do you want people to take away from Me-Made May?
I hope people see that the challenge is incredibly inclusive – literally anyone who has ever made a garment or accessory can take part. You don’t have to have a full me-made wardrobe or even have the desire for one. Sometimes I feel that the visual nature of Instagram muddles the true meaning of Me-Made May. Some people get the impression that it’s all about showing off your handmade garments and having as many different garments to show off as possible. But really the point is doing your personal pledge. If you want to share what that looks like via social media, then awesome, we’d love to cheer you along. But if you don’t, no problem!
The challenge is incredibly inclusive – literally anyone who has ever made a garment or accessory can take part.
How does participating work?
The goal is to improve your relationship with your hand-made wardrobe. To do that, participants pledge to wear their me-mades more often, or in different ways, for the month. There’s no set, single pledge because everyone is different, with different lives and different goals, so participants set the specifics of their own pledge so that it’ll be challenging and useful for them. A popular pledge is to wear one me-made garment – whether that’s sewn, knitted, crocheted, refashioned, altered, mended, whatever you wish to include – each day for the entire month. But that’s not appropriate for everyone. You can participate if you have just one single self-made item or if you wear head-to-toe me-mades every day already. It’s all about figuring out what you want to achieve or change and setting a pledge that will help you learn and grow. In essence, Me-Made May is a wearing challenge rather than a making challenge. There’s no need to make anything new at all.
What do you love most about the online sewing community?
The online sewing community feels like home! It’s got to be one of the nicest, most supportive corners of the internet. I’ve met people from different parts of the globe that I’ve connected with, who I may never meet in real life but genuinely consider to be friends now.
The online sewing community feels like home! It’s got to be one of the nicest, most supportive corners of the internet.
What changes have you seen in the community – and your own sewing journey – as we hit Me-Made May’s twelfth birthday?
The biggest difference over the years relates to the ‘venues’ of the challenge. In the beginning, the online making community was navigated by writing, reading and commenting on blogs. Flickr then became a way to connect as a group. These days, Instagram is where most of the community action happens. The hashtags can help you discover new virtual friends and sources of inspiration, but #MeMadeMay has become so massive that it’s almost impossible to navigate. Some more niche hashtags have started to spring up, which I think is great as it helps those interested in following certain subcommunities find what interests them.
Personally, my life looks very different from when it began and so does my me-made wardrobe! Shortly after starting the challenges, I moved back to the UK and started a new life in a new city. I got married, started and ended jobs and projects, had two babies and moved home many times. I haven’t bought new clothes for myself since the challenges began, so my self-made items have carried me through all of those events and changes.