Wednesday, 25 June 2008


My very first sewing patterns arrived in the post yesterday. Rather unbelievably they came all the way from California. Now I do not normally encourage this king of thing, but I was driven to take such a drastic step by the utter lack of sensible dressmaking patterns in British shops. The companies in question seem utterly convinced that people will only buy their patterns if they have either a) frills, b) ruffles, c) rouches, d) flounces, e) sparkly bits. Who knows, they may be right, just as there seems to be a great market for the kind of yarn that comes out in many different colours, or is bright pink. My grandmother springs immediately to mind.

But all I want is a skirt. A long skirt with no trimmings, no flounces, and certainly no sodding ruffles. By far the best purveyor of patterns for such skirts appears to be Brown Paper Patterns, and they are indeed based in California, so California it was (I will try and come up with some more ways to reduce my carbon footprint ASAP).

I'm extremely excited about the prospect of dressmaking. Admittedly, I was quite disappointed to discover how much fabric cost. I had (of course) fallen in love with the most expensive cotton in John Lewis (there is a strong argument to say that this serves me right for going to John Lewis in the first place), but I think it would be quite hard to make a skirt more cheaply than it costs to buy one. Plus, I don't have the time, and I'll probably make an epic mess of the whole thing the first time I try. But when I do finally succeed, it will be entirely mine, and I won't have had to rely on the good inhabitants of South Asia to make it for me. I feel that this is an important step on my way to full earth-motherhood.

So, if anyone has any tips on how not to totally mess up a first skirt, please do let me know.


Ruth said...

Some tips I picked up from my mother (a lifelong dressmaker):

If you're not confident, make a dummy garment out of an old sheet before you make it from bought fabric, or for a real beginner get to grips with patchwork first.

If you're machining (I hope you are) put the pins in the wrong way - 90 degrees across the seams instead of in line with them.

Try the machine out on offcuts from your final fabric before you machine the final seams to make sure the tension is correct.

I personally am a rubbish dressmaker, but my one tip that I can add is only to do hems and amdram costumes. They don't need to be done well!

Magic Cochin said...

Hi there! I used to make my own clothes (admittedly they sometimes got a bit eccentric) and now I buy them but still have quirky preferences!
I found a huge box of old patterns the other day (8os/90s Vogue and a few from the 60s/70s from my Mum - maybe some of her's from the 50's too!!!)

Take it slowly, keep everything neat, and those little marker points that line up the pieces are actually quite useful!

Have fun!!!

PS: reduce your carbon footprint and use a hand machine! I still use my Gran's Singer sewing machine, she made dozens of Harris tweed skirts and coats and liberty print dresses before I took it on and made theatre costumes as well as clothes - it made by wedding dress, and the curtains in our house, it's still going strong. Used it to hem the OH's new trousers at the weekend - worked like a dream!!! And you have a work-out while you sew!

coelacanth said...


I never did show you that accursed wrap dress... oh well, it's in the air on the way to an ailing mother-in-law now...

From memory, brownpaper do easy-to-read instructions, but if you get stuck, I've got a book on how to read patterns (because I can't read patterns to save my life.)

Doug said...

Snap! I see the missus has already commented on her first effort at dress-makin'-from-a-pattern.

coelacanth said...

Yo! Is your shower still scalding?

Further Great Moments in Home Plumbing - ours is fine. The landlord says there were waterworks down the road the other day, and there may have been an air bubble in the cold pipe - which would explain us both having the same problem at the same time.

(Also - plunger worked great on the drains blockage, but the real death-stroke was half a little bottle of Polish vinegar and about a cup of baking soda. The fizz was outstanding, as were results. Recommended.)