There’s not much to have been grateful for about Lockdown- but without it I doubt I would have found my new love – dressmaking.
Like many of us, I turned to the world of crafting to give me something to occupy myself with in that first year when we really didn’t know what to do, how to behave, or when the world might get back to normal.
I’ve always been a sewer – but of haberdashery. If you want triple pleat headed curtains I’m your girl but the finer art of dress making has always alluded me.
I wasn’t even inspired to sew clothing until I attended the Dior Exhibition – Designer of Dreams, at the V&A in central London in 2019. It was such a wonderful exhibition, particularly his early New Look items, that I tackled pattern V8789 by Vogue as it fit my style of fitted top and full petticoat wearing bottom.
I learnt a lot from that first pattern although I was never completely happy with it. Indeed two years later I ended up chopping the bodice off and making it into a skirt.
But I’m pleased to say that significant progress has been made since I first tried my hand at dressmaking. A quick review of my sewn items completed in just 2021 showed eight skirts, three boleros and six dresses. Not bad for someone who only started dressmaking two years previously.
I’ve found it incredibly frustrating at times when I’ve been swayed into following a pattern’s nonsensical instructions when I KNOW there’s a better way to do things – every time this happens I tell myself to trust my inner voice and hopefully one day I’ll listen to myself!
My favourite makes last year were the Stanwyck skirts by Gertie and her Charm patterns. This is THE most amazing pattern to create a full circle skirt out of just 3.1 metres of fabric. (I need the .1 because I make my skirts three or four inches longer than her patterns). I churn these out in just a few hours, plus hanging time, and love how they are an integral part of my wardrobe.
I like a summer dress with an open back as I like the added simple elegance it gives you. The flapped back dress was made for my birthday and was a heavy cream duchess satin with a flowered organza overlay. I was delighted with the outcome. Given the choice I prefer a circle rather than a gathered skirt on my dresses but sometimes you have to work with a pattern that doesn’t give you any choice.
One of my most creative dresses with a gathered skirt was the Diner dress I made specifically to go with my shoes. Breaking the first rule of purchasing fabric “do not order fabric when half asleep” meant I hadn’t read the information properly about panel width. So when it arrived and I realised the panels were not going to go wide enough I had to get creative otherwise I was looking at a very short pencil dress.
Taking inspiration from the diner scene I found some mint fabric for the bodice and teamed it with the black and white check of the diner floors, which incidentally matched my diner shoe heels.
Et Voila as they say – I give you my Diner dress! I was extremely happy with this, more for overcoming the issues, than anything else!
With no sleeves I always need cover ups and have many boleros. Last year I made three, two were using the Gertie Peter Pan pattern from her patreon. I’ve already bought fabric to make more. The other was a black and orange jacket I made to match a dress.
The dress was the last item I made of the year. As a result of my flair for 1950s style dressing and the dresses I’ve made I’d caught the attention of the prestigious Lady McElroy Fabrics.
I was gifted four metres of their new contour design in sunset and given carte blanche to make whatever I wanted. I opted for a fun summer dress with matching bolero – Butterick B6682.
I cannot wait to wear this little number when I eventually get a holiday abroad where the temperatures are high and the cocktails are flowing!
I’m delighted to be an ambassador for Lady McElroy and it’s lovely for me to see how far I’ve come in my sewing journey, especially when they do a mail out to their customers and stockists featuring my work.
I shall be making many more items with the other beautiful fabrics they’ve sent me. You can stay up to date with these and my other makes on my instagram page. I also have several unboxing videos where you can see the flow and drape of the fabrics.
To ensure I’m more organised this year I’ve already matched 12 patterns to fabrics in my stash – hopefully this means not only have I shortened my decision making time, but will make drastic inroads into my fabric stash!!
Watch this space!