Friday, 13 November 2015

Vicar's Craft Corner – Things I have Learned About Dressmaking

I can't quite believe it but I have now finished my dressmaking course which only seems to have just begun! I spent six weeks going to an evening class to learn the skills of fabric selection, reading and cutting patterns and the basic skills needed to start putting together wearable, well finished clothes that, most of important of all, actually fit!

So far getting in to dressmaking has been the most brilliant thing I have done in a long time and well worth venturing out into dark autumnal nights for. I mentioned in a previous post some of therapeutic benefits of having something completely different and practical to focus on. Now I am starting to reap the benefits in my wardrobe too! So far everything I have made is completely wearable and I only had one small disaster where I managed to put my thumb through a seam while at work. Awkward!
One of my favourites so far, an Audrey Hepburn style jumper
A lot of things I have learned probably should have been obvious to be me but really weren't! And yet these simple things have transformed my success rate when it comes to dressmaking. So if you fancy giving it a go yourself here are some of my top tips I have gathered along the way so far.

Fabric is Everything
When I first started attempting to make things to wear I made the mistake of purchasing cheap fabric. It makes sense in a way. I was convinced that as it was a first attempt it was likely to go a bit wrong so why waste money on expensive fabric? Errr, major error! Because the first thing I learned on my sewing course is that if the fabric is cheap, the garment looks cheap. Good fabric hangs well and lasts well.
Instead of thinking of your competitors in dressmaking as being New Look or Primark think instead that you are producing Boden level clothing. There are many amazing end of line designer fabric around that you can make into a gorgeous garment for a fraction of the price of more high end retailers like the one pictured below that I am currently making a 60s mini out of.
From the brilliant

Measuring is Everything

As a newbie dressmaker I was a bit afraid of the measuring tape. But dressmaking pattern sizes bear no relationship to shop sizes so you really do need to get measuring. Besides, that is the joy of making your own, that your clothes will fit you perfectly so knowing your measurements is a must. When you do measure yourself you will discover that your dressmaking pattern size is about three sizes up from your shop size. Don't be alarmed and frankly, ignore the number. This is about getting a perfect fit for you.
A perfectly fitting pencil skirt, never managed to buy one of these!
Also make sure you fit the garment on yourself the whole way through. Try it on all pinned together before you stitch the final seams to make sure it fits as you'd like. Try it on before you do the final hem to make sure it is where you want it to sit. This is your garment, have it exactly as you want. This is the joy of dressmaking!
Take it Easy

I used to dressmake like I was in some gigantic rush but as I am not a contestant on The Great British Sewing Bee then there is no reason why I shouldn't take my sweet time. After all I am doing this because I enjoy it so time isn't really an issue.

Particularly take time when you are in the stages of measuring, laying out your pattern pieces and cutting the fabric as this is key to the final garment and how it looks and hangs. Take each step as it comes, doing a little bit and then perhaps leaving it for the day. This approach has made dressmaking such a joy for me.

Buy Good Equipment

On my second class we finally got to sewing and I brought along my cheap little sewing machine that I brought a few years ago to see if I would take to it. A few stitches in and it started to make a horrible growling noise before completely giving up the ghost.

More lovely fabric, this is destined to be a dress

Luckily I had been gifted a gorgeous Bernina sewing machine so all was not lost but this did teach me a valuable lesson. Sewing on a good machine is an absolute dream. Likewise you really do need proper dressmaking pins and tailors chalk and pinking shears and proper sharp dressmaking scissors. So go on, go shopping. It will make the experience so much better!

So there we have it, a few tips from my craft corner to yours. I'm sure there will be plenty more where that came from!

1 comment:

  1. such good advice.
    I love seeing your garments, you clearly have the talent for it.

    I'm always in too much of a rush to get things finished. therefore, I am not good. And sewing machines and I don't like each other really, so far this year I've broken two! ha!

    Instead I shall watch and enjoy your sewing projects :O)
    agree with you totally on the fabric point by the way, good fabric is always worth the money.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend :O) x