Blogging for Social Impact

 Early in 2014 I noticed the appearance of ‘Sew it Again’, a fascinating 365-day blogging project established by Jane Milburn of Textile Beat, based in Brisbane Australia. Now, nearly nine months later, I was keen to know how publishing her daily blog has impacted her life. Here is her story.

Jane Milburn, an agricultural scientist by training and a communications consultant by practice, has always loved sewing and upcycling natural fibres for pleasure, reward and sustainability.

Now two-thirds through a 365-day Sew it Again project which she commenced on 1 January 2014, Jane aims to inspire creative upcycling of existing clothing, demonstrate ‘slow fashion’ and revive home-sewing as a life skill akin to home-cooking.

Liliana-and-Jane-web

Jane is making a daily practice of upcycling garments from her own and others’ wardrobes as a means of sharing creative ways of dressing that reuse existing clothing. As Jane describes it, Sew it Again is a ‘journey into creativity, empowerment, thrift, sustainability, ecological health and wellbeing – woven with threads of childhood, professional expertise, networks and nature’.

To heighten awareness of the issues that concern her, Jane decided to extend her Textile Beat web presence to include her blog site www.sewitagain.com.

Some background

Jane’s earliest memories are of growing up on a farm in crisp, cool South Otago, New Zealand, amidst a community of women who valued cooking, sewing, handcrafts and self-sufficiency. She pursued a professional career but always loved sewing and fabrics – and the two have now merged and evolved into a higher-level passion to impart global social change by providing a creative, sustainable and resourceful model for conscious and ethical clothing. 

A background knowledge of farming and sustainable agricultural industries forms part of Jane’s desire to increase the use and reuse of natural fibres.

Jane’s research uncovered the startling statistic that two-thirds of clothing in the world is made from synthetic fibres based on non-renewable petroleum. Current consumption of clothing equates to 11kg per person per annum, a rate that has increased by 80% in the past two decades.

As a result, the level of non-biodegradable clothing waste in Western countries which bow to the fashion gods is enormous and unsustainable – with figures from the United Kingdom showing that one-third of clothing ends up as landfill.

Jane_green outfit

Career highlights

Jane’s mission now is to raise awareness and travel the world inspiring the creative upcycling of natural fibres – and she has the goods to achieve just that. Her career highlights include rural journalism, sub-editing and media adviser and communication consultant roles as well as eight years’ building up the Rural Press Club of Queensland which continues to flourish as a leading agribusiness network.

Leadership capacity

Jane’s participation in the Australian Rural Leadership Program in 2009-2010 increased her confidence and desire to step out and become an influential voice in a larger arena.

In dealing with her brother’s death in 2013, Jane knew it was her time to do something with heart, meaning and impact. She sought to carve out a fresh leadership space with a compelling cause for action around her abiding passion for natural fibres, and has set about establishing credentials and a body of work as an upcycler. 

So on 1 January 2014, Jane kicked off her 365-day Sew it Again project – with an accompanying blog forming a social media platform to share her work and engage people beyond her local community.

The results so far

Jane’s blog has attracted as many international followers as Australians, from countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and many others. Via social media, she has become part of an international fashion revolution which has a world-view of increasing sustainable fashion through reuse and recycling.

From a standing start, so far this year Jane has mounted an Upcycled exhibition in Coolah, New South Wales, and been invited to speak and/or run workshops in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.

With her commitment to ongoing research and engagement, Jane herself follows the amazing work of other designers and upcyclers documented by Sass Brown, Acting Assistant Dean for the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, in her book ‘Refashioned’. Jane_book_600

Clothing and textiles have traditionally been recycled through charitable organisations and opportunity shops but as consumption has accelerated in recent years, new avenues for reuse are emerging. Some local councils – such as San Francisco – have adopted zero textile waste policies and set up waste collection programs similar to those for paper, glass and metal recycling. This is an area Jane is interested in pursuing when her Sew it Again year is completed. 

Of her 365-day blogging, Jane says: “All I know is that I have to keep going until December, no matter what. It requires self-discipline and organisation to create, photograph and upload an upcycled garment on sewitagain.com every day – and involve and engage others along the way.

“By blogging, I am also revisiting and refining my messages regularly and that keeps me focused and on-track regarding my purpose and goals in making this commitment.”

The Sew it Again blog brings home Jane’s key message – existing clothes are our greenest clothes. There will be much more focus on where clothes come from, what they are made from, and what footprint they make on the planet in future because it is early days in this space.

Follow Jane at www.sewitagain.com or www.facebook.com/textilebeat 

Top 50 Australian Blogs for Writers

Top 50 Australian Writing BlogsThe Top 50 Australian Blogs for Writers is compiled (and updated) by Jonathon Crossfield.

Jonathan created the list because he loves blogs and writing:

“With writers sharing their advice and experiences, ideas and observations with each other, everyone can learn from the wider blogging community.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the top five (at the time of writing):

1) Top of the list is Angela Meyer’s Literary Minded. Angela is a Melbourne based writer, reviewer and editor who loves Writers’ Festivals. Angela shares quirky personal posts like her ‘To Read’ list; reviews of films, books, and theatre; interviews and much more. She encourages comments on her articles directly on the blog, and also on Facebook, Twitter and your blog. Many a great read here.

2) In second place is Justine Larbalestier. Justine is the author of the Magic or Madness trilogy and How to Ditch Your Fairy. Her category range is wide and includes gems on her writing goals and milestones and her take on Self Promotion.

3) At number three is Scott Westerfield. Scott’s post Why Pants Are Legal in Kansas provides insight into the fascinating facts to be uncovered whilst researching for historical fiction. The video page includes book trailer for Leviathon and some great examples of how you can use video to connect with your audience.

4) Number four is the Creative Penn, Joanna Penn’s blog on writing, publishing and marketing. Joanna provides a wealth of information and free ‘stuff’ to download; and she also has a blogging for authors and writers multimedia course.

5) At number five is Jonathon Crossfield’s own blog, Copywrite. Jonathon’s Weird guy talks about blogging video provides some great advice for beginner bloggers.

Check out the full list here The Top 50 Australian Blogs for Writers and explore and subscribe at your leisure.

About the author

Jeannie Barker is a writer, web and graphic designer. Through her website www.jeanniebarker.com she offers a range of services including WordPress blog / website setup and customisation.

Where to start with a WordPress site?

Wordle website confusion

Everyone is telling you to get online, start promoting yourself, get into social media, write a blog, use WordPress, make a movie …

So where do you start?

Here’s a quick step-by-step process to getting yourself online now with WordPress.

1. Domain Name

Brainstorm potential names for your site. If you are already in business check the availability of a relevant domain name, if you are providing a service or are an author check if your own name is available.

Make sure you have plenty of ideas ready as your chosen domain name may not be available. If you want to get ‘yourname.com’ you may have to consider alternatives, like adding your middle initial.

TIPS: Don’t make your domain name too long or use words that are easily misspelled. Also consider how the words look together as a domain name not just individually.

2. Hosting

Since it’s your first site you can probably go for a cheap package not a full-on business package, unless you are planning on building a large site straight up and expecting to generate a lot of traffic.

TIPS: If finance is tight search for a hosting provider that allows monthly payments. If you intend to use WordPress (for a blog or to manage a website) find a host that includes an easy install process for WordPress.

3. WordPress Install

I recommend WordPress (the self-hosted version) for blogs and websites alike. It is an excellent Content Management System (CMS) which enables you to easily manage your own website and/or blog.

There are two version of WordPress and people often get confused by them. You can create your own blog site at www.wordpress.com for free and your site will be named www.yourname.wordpress.com. The benefits are that it is completely free, a great way to try out blogging and WordPress, and, you can even purchase an add-on to use your own domain name. On the downside you can’t have ads on your site and your theme choices are limited. This is great for a beginner or ‘hobby blogger’.

If you are planning to be a ‘pro blogger’ or wish to use WordPress as your website CMS I recommend purchasing hosting and installing WordPress (the version you can download from www.wordpress.org and install on your site or install via your control panel).

This version is also free, you just need to have your own hosting package. The benefits are that your content is all hosted on your own webspace, you can basically do anything you want with it since WordPress is incredibly customisable, you can place ads on your site and you can install any one of the thousands of themes available for WordPress.

4. Theme / Design

“Content is King!“ they say and it’s true. If you have nothing worth reading people won’t visit or stay long on your site, but it’s also true that some people will be immediately turned off by your website design.

No matter what your aim is with your website it needs to look professionally designed and the great thing about WordPress is that there are thousands of professional looking themes (designs) out there that you can apply to your site in seconds.

You can opt for one of the free themes or pay for a premium theme. Again, if funds are limited, take the freebie now and upgrade to a pro theme later if you wish.

The important thing to consider when looking at themes is not just the overall look but the functionality as well. If you want to display info or a menu on the left, the theme you choose must incorporate or allow this option.

TIP: Don’t get too bogged down looking for the perfect theme for your site at this stage. You can spend literally hours or even days checking out themes (I know, I have!). Pick something that looks OK for now and you can always change it later after you have the basics in place.

5. Plugins

WordPress is infinitely customisable. Plugins are fabulous (and fun too!)

You can use plugins for practical things like contact forms, and for fun things like the Cumulus animated tag cloud.

Search for plugins on the WordPress site or from the WordPress admin area > Plugins > Add New. Arrange where the plugins will be displayed on your site via > Appearance > Widgets

TIP: I suggest installing your theme before plugins because some themes include functionality that overlaps with plugins, eg. a theme may include a contact form so you won’t need to add one via a plugin.

6. Content

You can add your content now (or you may have chosen to do so prior to playing around with themes and plugins).

The key things to understand when you are adding content is the difference between Pages and Posts and how to use Categories and Tags.

Pages are generally used for static content, like the pages of a website. If you are using WordPress as CMS for your website and don’t want to include a blog section, use only pages. Note that pages can be designated as Parents (the default) and Children (hierarchical pages beneath the parent page). Parent pages will appear in your top level navigation and the hierarchical pages will appear below them.

Posts are generally used for the classic blog posts, journal style posts or an ongoing series of articles.

Categories are generally used as the broad topics of your blog posts. Categories help people find content on your site that is of interest to them, for example this article is in the Blogging category.

Tags are similar to categories and may also be used to find content of interest to your reader. Tags can be used like sub-topics or keywords in your posts. This post has been tagged with WordPress, hosting and social media.

TIP: Categories and tags can be used in different ways to organise your blog and make your content more searchable. There’s a great article on Categories vs. Tags over at UsabilityPost.com

7. Social Media

And now to promote your site and interact with your audience you need to ’get into’ social media!

“But it’s all so confusing” you say. Check out this list of social networks on Wikipedia – you will see there are a LOT and the list will continue to grow.

At this point in time it’s almost a given that you will be using Facebook and Twitter but they are not necessarily the right ones for you. You need to try to identify which networks your target audience is using and which ones you resonate with. Talk to your friends, family and associates and find out what their favourite social network is and why. Ask your clients what social networks they use. Check out the sites yourself and decide which ones resonate with you.

TIP: You don’t have to to do this right now. You can take time to concentrate on developing your site first and come back to social media later.

About the author

Jeannie Barker is a writer, web and graphic designer. Through her website www.jeanniebarker.com she offers a range of services including WordPress blog / website setup and customisation.