I’ve been so terrible at blogging this year. I had good intentions, but I just seem to have been so busy, but with very little to write about!
Back in May I was in the midst of getting a summerhouse built in my garden so I could set it up as a little sewing studio. No more sewing in the corner of the kitchen, and having sewing supplies in piles all over the house.
Well, there are still piles of sewing supplies all over the house, but I do have a sewing studio!
I recently went on a workshop at my sewing hero Tilly Walnes’ studio in London, and was way more excited than I should have been about her choice of IKEA furniture. The turquoise Råskog trolley, a white Alex desk, white and turquoise Kallax shelving – WE HAVE ALL THE SAME FURNITURE! It must mean something, does it mean that me and Tilly are destined to be sewing buddies forever? Please say that it does.
I moved my sewing machine and supplies in, and I have spent many happy hours sitting at my desk, listening to gory true crime podcasts while I sew and watch out for a bloodthirsty serial killer vaulting over my fence to murder me in my sewing studio. That’s what a daily dose of true crime podcasts does to the imagination.
On the subject of gore, while I was putting the desk together for the summerhouse I managed to push a screwdriver through my thumbnail. I would not recommend this. Once the blood started coming up through the hole in my nail, I thought I was going to pass out and had to sit quietly on the kitchen floor for a while. Thankfully, that has been the only accident so far, and despite having an iron, a fan heater, various sharp implements and a very clumsy sewist in a very confined space, it has been fairly incident free.
When I first started planning the summerhouse, I felt guilty for spending so much money on myself, and I wondered if I would actually use it enough to warrant the cost, but I am so glad I did it. It means sewing without distraction, which feels like such a luxury, even for someone who lives alone. If I’m heading outside to my little Fortress of Solitude, I’m going there to spend time indulging in one of my favourite pastimes, and no annoying chores or other household distractions are going to tear me away from my project. It means time away from screens and computers, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to my podcast ‘friends’ while I work. My favourites to sew along to include My Favorite Murder, All Killa No Filla, Sword and Scale, Thinking Sideways and Casefile.
I’ve now been sewing for about two years, and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. When I think about some of my first projects, I was so pleased to finish a simple cotton shift dress, or a gathered skirt, and now I’m challenging myself more to try new techniques and work with different fabrics. One of my first projects was the Margot pyjama bottoms from Tilly Walnes’ book, Love at First Stitch. I was so proud of these, they seemed like such an achievement at the time.
I’ve worked my way from these to this dress that I made for two weddings I attended this summer, with a lined bodice with contrast, fold-back panels and a hem that was approximately four miles long.
I feel like this dress is a long way from those pyjamas, and there have been a lot of fun projects in between, including helping Tilly test out some of her patterns before they went on sale, which has made me pay more attention to patterns and construction. I don’t look at clothes in the same way any more, and I’m forever picking garments up in shops, looking at them, saying, “I could make that,” and then returning them to the rack. Just being able to say that feels like an enormous achievement for someone who has taught themselves to sew, and who didn’t even know where to start with sewing in a zip two years ago. Incidentally, I still have not managed to master the elusive invisible zip. You know there are some things that you just can’t do, no matter how hard you try? Well, mine is invisible zips. Invisible zips and whistling. Perhaps I should try to master both of those in 2017.
I can’t wait for next year, and all the projects I’m going to sew in my summerhouse while I fill my mind with more true crime stories…
Dressmaking seems to have taken over my entire brain, house and bank balance since I took it up seriously last year, so I thought I would post about a few of the things which have inspired me the most.
- Tilly Walnes
Since I took up dressmaking, I’ve been completely obsessed with Tilly Walnes and her gorgeous patterns. It’s thanks to her book, Love at First Stitch, that I’ve even mastered sewing clothes in the first place.
I love her clear instructions and her stylish retro patterns, and so it was a huge honour for me to be able to test out one of the new patterns for her last year. It was the Martha pattern, which is now on sale in her shop. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to get a handwritten note from my sewing idol along with the test pattern. It made this learner dressmaker very, very happy!
I’m very excited to have been asked to test another pattern for her too, although it is top secret, so I can’t reveal any details. I will hopefully be getting started on it this weekend. I hope I make a good job of it, I can’t let Tilly down!
This is an obvious one, but I was very late to the party with Pinterest. I already had Facebook, Twitter, this blog and two Tumblr blogs, so I resisted the urge to get on Pinterest and waste even more of my time with social media. But it’s an awesome source of tips and techniques, plus it’s a great way to find inspiration for dressmaking styles, colour schemes and fabric choices. One of my favourite boards is my vintage fashion board, where I pin gorgeous things like this, which one day I will attempt to recreate, once my skill level has caught up with my ambition.
I have a confession to make though, my absolute favourite board is my hot men in knitwear board, where I pin these glorious man creatures, amongst others.
I would not like to say how many hours I’ve spent searching for pictures of hot men in knitwear. Bless you Pinterest, you filthy enabler.
3. Gretchen Hirsch
Gretchen Hirsch, AKA Gertie, is my latest dressmaking obsession, after I spent my birthday money on two of her books.
I absolutely love her retro, kitschy style, and the fun fabrics and colours she uses to make her clothes. I am itching to make one of the dresses she designed for Butterick, to wear to two weddings I’m going to later in the year. I’m already on the lookout for some suitable fabric for it. Apparently Gertie has designed some fabrics for the Jo-Ann’s craft store chain in the USA, which means next time I go to Florida (hopefully next year), I might end up spending even more on fabric in Jo-Ann’s than I did when I was there last year.
4. The Great British Sewing Bee
This is where it all started! It was watching this show that first inspired me to take up dressmaking, having only dabbled with it slightly in textile class at secondary school. It took me a while to build up the confidence to enrol on a sewing course and give it a go, but I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress since then. Watching the contestants making such beautiful and original garments gave me the sewing bug, and I can’t wait for the new series to start.
Patrick and May would probably have a few things to say about my less than perfect hems and my complete and utter inability to insert an invisible zip, but I’m sure they’d be pleased that they’d inspired someone to get behind a sewing machine and start creating their own clothes. To think I’ve gone from starting and abandoning a McCall’s sun dress, to making a party dress with a lined bodice and full pleated skirt in such a short space of time is something I’m really, really proud of, and I won’t be giving up this hobby any time soon – I have too much fabric stashed in my house to stop now!