I made my first dress in January this year. My mum had bought me this beautiful sewing machine from John Lewis for Christmas and I was keen to get started. I can’t say what really provoked me to ask for a sewing machine: I have wanted one for years, but always told myself I wouldn’t make time for sewing, that it would just clutter up the place, that I wouldn’t know how to use it properly. I had sewn some pretty appalling items of ‘clothing’ as a teenager: rainbow hologram rubberized A-line maxi skirt with no waistband anyone? Yes; I did just sew a giant open ended cone and not hem or finish anything. I wore it out of the house too. I hadn’t sewn since then, but I had recently joined the Women’s Institute, and rediscovered my hands, and the things I could make with them. I tried quilling, cupcake icing and origami. I had a fun time with jewellery making, and bought all the stuff to make that become my new hobby (So.Many.Beads). I had fun for a while, and made everyone jewellery for Christmas whether they liked it or not, but personally, I can’t be bothered to wear jewellery much, and there are only so many slightly dodgily made earrings you can give to people. I soon ran out of steam. And then the sewing machine landed, and the first technicolour sack was created.
The fabric is amazing non? The shape is less amazing (and I really have no idea what dreadful bra I was wearing: oh dear, apologies). The finishing is definitely not amazing. I would photo them hems but they might make you cry. Really, they would. Not actually having looked at a sewing pattern before I ordered Simplicity 1800 as my first pattern. Pretty huh? It said it would be an ‘amazing fit’, so that must mean it must be a breeze to make, and then, ta da! An amazing fit! And then I looked at the pattern, and the instructions, and the sizing and felt like screaming. There were so many bits, I appeared to be 6 sizes bigger than I thought I was (more of that later) and the instructions could have been been written in Arabic for all the sense they made to me. I freaked out at the concept of ‘right sides’ and ‘wrong sides’ so that shows you my level of understanding. After cutting out all the fabric and staring at the piece and instructions blankly for what seems like aeons, my friend Elona who lived upstairs came to the rescue. Elona had been on a sewing course recently, and knew what interfacing and hem allowances were, and she gently suggested I shelve the 1800 and maybe, just maybe, get a simpler pattern. So the pattern for the sack arrived. The sack is better known as Burda 7100. And so under my friend’s expert supervision I cut out two pieces of fabric and sewed them together. With my whizzy sewing machine. I didn’t lose any fingers. I understood what the right and wrong sides were (Elona told me). I even badly put some interfacing around the neckline. I hemmed it. I wore it! I mean, The arm holes are way too small, and it is, err, a pretty shapeless sack, but the fact is, I made a garment, with my sewing machine, that covers my body, doesn’t fall to pieces even after washing it, and even looks a bit like a dress when I put a belt with it. I then made another one in some kind of crazy hi viz waterproof chevron stretch fabric that I had bought off ebay (I was compulsively buying fabrics even before I had sewn my first stitch on my new sewing machine: this compulsion continues at a pace). This version even had about three gathers and a wonkily sewn stomach panel on it. Awful hems again (I didn’t know about zig zag stitch or twin needles for stretch), but better sized arm holes and wearable! This my friends, is a triumph. It whet my appetite to make more things that look a bit less like vegetable storage, more like clothing. I was hooked, and a little google introduced me to the wonderful world of sewing blogs, independent pattern makers and the Collette Sorbetto. (See next post)