Starting Sewing - My First Year In Dressmaking

Starting Sewing - My First Year In Dressmaking

Hi and welcome to the second installment of the Sew Essential vlog and thank you so much to everyone who tuned in to our first video and for your likes and comments. It's always good to know someone is listening - not a feeling I get at home very often with three boys in the house!

As many of you know I am a beginner sewist being patiently taught to sew by Angela, my MIL and co founder of Sew Essential, who has been sewing for over 60 years and blows my mind with her sewing knowledge on a regular basis! I was always in awe of Angela's sewing creations and last year I finally bit the bullet and had a go myself. Having completed my first year in dressmaking I wanted to look back at what I made and what I learned so I can plan a successful year of sewing in 2017.



Here are my makes in chronological order, most of the fabrics and patterns are still available on our site and I've put links to the full blog posts below so you can find them:

The red party dress, my second ever make. This is Burda 7308 made in our gorgeous John Kaldor prestige crepe and polyester anti static lining and I made it for a Christmas party last year with a little sequin belt. I am so proud of this dress, as a complete beginner I had no idea at all what I was doing and had to make it under Angela's supervision, but I did the whole lot myself and think it turned out really well thanks to Angela's advice and guidance every step of the way. Knowing what I know now it was probably a very ambitious and challenging choice for a complete beginner, which was a little bit stressful during the process and made me wonder if I was cut out for sewing, but I learned SO much! Princess seams, lining techniques, circular skirts, narrow hems, invisible zip insertion, proper pressing, the list goes on! I would like the dress to be more fitted at the waist and should really take it in and haven't ever gotten round to it, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

The Orla blouse by Tilly and the Buttons in our Prestige crepe fabric. In terms of sewing skills learned and the actual making of this top it was fabulous. Tilly's instructions are amazingly clear and helpful and so easy to follow. The top turned out really well and I learned loads, the snowdrop collar, setting in sleeves and lots more.

The Rae Skirt by Sewaholic in our Tilda pardon my garden cotton fabric. This is a super pattern for a beginner and I would highly recommend it - really easy to make and the instructions are really easy to follow, plus you can turn it around in an evening which is very motivating for a beginner. I did actually wear this quite a bit in the summer, it was super easy to make and I was really pleased with the finish, but I'm just not sure about the fabric. I love the print and the colours, but think it would look better in a nice drapey woven fabric like one of our polyester, crepe, viscose or rayon fabrics than the cotton.

The New Look 6735 stripey jersey T shirt in our lovely soft jersey stripe fabric. I have actually worn this top loads, I love the fabric it is super soft and such good quality compared to a lot of my ready to wear T shirts. It fits in with my lifestyle and wardrobe needs perfectly, but it was my first ever attempt at sewing with jersey and the neckband is baggy and bugs the hell out of me every time I wear it. I should try and cut it off and replace it, but i can't be bothered! I did recently share a tip for success when sewing jersey neckbands on our vlog and blog if anyone has experienced this problem and I've put the links below. It has helped me to get it right ever since I learnt it.

The New Look 6106 skirt in our John Kaldor ditsy cotton dressmaking fabric. As above the skirt came together really well, I like the pockets and practised sewing a waistband and an invisible zip, which was good for my sewing skills. I wore this skirt a lot in the summer and I think the fabric would look lovely as a pretty sundress or strappy top too.

The embroidered chambray dress. This is New Look 6095 in our chambray fabric with some beautiful paisley embroidery around the neckline created using Angela's Husqvarna Epic i.e. the Rolls Royce of sewing machines! We've recently written a blog post on machine embroidery if anyone is interested. This pattern was amazing for a beginner to sewing - really, really simple - easy to fit and to follow the instructions. I loved this dress in the spring and summer because it helped me to fill one of the gaps in my wardrobe for casual day dresses, it is so easy to sling on with a pair of sandals perfect for walks in the park, school runs, shopping and just about any day to day activity really (how thrilling does my life sound?!) I would definitely be up for making more versions of this dress because it is so so wearable and so so comfortable.

The Butterick 5948 top in our cotton poplin fabric - a fantastic pattern with lots of options, but I really don't like this top! I feel like I'm about to go into surgery wearing scrubs in this top! The pattern was good though and has loads of variations for sleeves, hem lengths and necklines and would look great made up in a nice drapey fabric and gives endless options for some great wardrobe staples so I'm glad I've got it in my stash. I think the sleeveless versions would work really well in our Prestige crepe for dinner out with friends paired with a nice patterned or embellished skirt.

The jersey maxi dress or the Where's Wally dress as Ed lovingly named it! This is McCalls 6744 in our lovely stripey jersey and I love it! It was the easiest thing in the world to make, helped to fill the casual day dress gap in my wardrobe, is super comfy and cool in the hotter months and i love the red and white stripes for something bold and daring. I really love the racer back detail too, you just can't beat a racer back can you?! I wore this dress SO much in the summer - to fly off on my hols, to the Sewing Weekender, to work, to the pub, to bed, well ok not to bed, but you get the picture this dress is ace! I would love to make loads more of this dress next time joining the front bodice and front skirt pattern pieces and back bodice and back skirt pattern pieces before cutting the fabric making it an even easier two pattern piece make.

The saltspring dress. This is the Sewaholic saltspring dress in our vibrant John Kaldor leopard print jersey in lime and navy plus our plain white ritual jersey fabric for lining the bodice. I love the way you can dress this up with heels or keep it casual with flats and wore it loads and loads in the summer and on hols. I was a bit scared of working with this fabric because it is a slippery jersey and I thought it would be a nightmare, but I used my walking foot on my machine and it went really well. I had also just received my Babylock imagine overlocker mid way through making this dress so i sewed my first seams on an overlocker pushing myself to try new things and be brave!

The jumpsuit. This is Simplicity 1114 in our amazing John Kaldor Hermione fabric, which I adore! I love this jumpsuit! I'd never had one before I made this and can't imagine why I avoided them for so long! I wore it to Sew Brum with a denim jacket and flat sandals for a dressed down look, but have also dressed it up with heels and a leather jacket for nights out with the girls.

The Moneta dress by Colette Patterns in our super soft, super cosy Isabella wool jersey fabric. This was the first garment I made entirely on my overlocker so that felt like a big achievement and it was a super quick super easy make as a result. Once again this dress filled the casual day dress gap in my wardrobe and I've worn it loads with thick black tights and boots during the day and for meals out with friends so far this winter.

The Moss skirt by Grainline Studios in our lovely stretch denim. I like this skirt, but those of you who follow our blog will know me and this skirt haven't always gotten along! It was my first project where it felt like absolutely everything went wrong, even the simple straightforward stuff and I nearly lost my sewing mojo entirely. I powered through though and you can read about how I overcame this bump in the road and bounced back to create lots more lovely things in the full blog post (I've put the link below).

So there you have it my first year in dressmaking and I've added links to all the full blog posts below if you want more detail on any of them or to source the pattern or the fabric.

It feels really good to look back at what I achieved in that first year, but what is more important to me is to learn from last year and use what I've learnt to create an even better handmade wardrobe this year. So if I look at all the things that I really like and wear a lot - what do they have in common?

They fit in with my wardrobe & lifestyle. Sadly it isn't particularly glamorous so I need lots of casual garments that I can chuck on and don't feel silly wearing when running around after two children.

They are things that reinforce something I learnt at the grand old age of 35 - casual doesn't mean wearing jeans/trousers - a trap i fell into after giving up work a few years ago. Learning that maxi dresses, dresses and skirts can be casual too has been a lot of fun and helped me to feel more enthusiastic about my wardrobe instead of feeling like I'm reaching for a variation of the same thing day after day.

Some of them are new styles/garments that I've never worn before - sewing has definitely encouraged me to try more new things like jumpsuits and tartan (coming soon!)

They were a mixture of challenging makes where I thrived on learning new skills constantly and easy, satisfying sews that I could turn around really quickly. They weren't always earth shatteringly exciting makes, but were things I would actually wear. Having the right mixture of these is important for my sewjo!

In my next vlog I'll be using my reflections to create my make nine list for the coming year - nine garments I am committed to making.

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Have fun sewing!


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