Dressmaking Part I

So for Christmas I got a very lovely red sewing machine and I have been wracking my brains over what my first project on it should be. Aside from some tinkering at school and at home I have never really used a sewing machine so I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing.  However, momentarily determined to tap into my inner 50s housewife, I am going to learn!  For my first project I have chosen a relatively (I hope) simple looking dress from a large collection of old patterns we have at home.  As this is going to be a ‘trial’ project getting to grips with my new sewing machine I didn’t want to spend money on a new pattern as they can be quite expensive and I would be doubly frustrated if (and when) I screw up.

Task number one was to locate some nice and appropriate material, I wanted to use cotton rather than anything elasticated or chiffon-ie in order to keep things simple.  Material is actually quite a lot more expensive than I thought it would be which makes me a little sad.  Depending on what sort of project you are working on then it is possible to buy offcuts and end of role material more cheaply, but this won’t always be suitable.  Making your own clothes is far less cost effective than it was back in the day, and once you’ve bought a pattern and some nice material chances are that you have already spent more than you would have done on a dress – and you still have to put the damn thing together!  In short, making your own clothes is a labour of love and in this case – no doubt – a sharp learning curve.

New sewing machine!

Cutting out the pattern

I’m still in the ‘prep’ stages and haven’t yet started any sewing.  Here are the things that I have done so far:

1. Cut out the pattern.  You might notice that unlike modern patterns this one only comes in one size (which incidentally happens to be too big for me – but not an issue for a practice dress).

2. Press the pattern with a low heat iron so that it will lie flat on the material

3. Pin the pattern to the material according to the layout on the instructions.  It is important the lines with arrows in the middle of the pattern lie exactly parallel with fold in the fabric.  This is so that the pattern looks right/goes in the correct direction when you sew everything together.  I guess this is probably less important when you have plain fabric and you can just lay out your pattern in the most economic way.

Some pieces need to to pinned/cut along a fold in the fabric (top)

4. Cut the fabric, which in this case was done rather badly.  I generally have quite a steady hand but as I’m not used to cutting fabric yet I made a bit of a mess of it.  However, these badly cut edges of course won’t be seen once I begin to sew the pieces together.  I suspect there will be some not necessarily neat sewing to follow though.

Fully cut out pattern.

5. Sew markers on the dots of the darts in contrasting thread, making sure that the cotton goes through both layers of fabric.  You can also use pencil or chalk to mark the dots.

Dart markers

Dart markers

And that’s where I’m up to so far.  I’m a little bit nervous to start the sewing as I really have no idea what I’m doing.  If anything goes seriously wrong then I do have plenty of spare material but I’m hoping for the best, I’m not greatly troubled by mistakes at this stage.

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2 comments

  1. craftycheapskate

    I consider myself to be a learner ‘sewer’, and I won’t spend much on fabric when I’m doing practice bits, in fact, I try to spend as little as possible on fabric lol! Try looking at abakhan.co.uk thats where i buy loads from because everywhere else is much more expensive

    • Angela

      That’s where I bought my fabric from! Definitely much cheaper than places like John Lewis and there was plenty of choice. I think my problem is that I’m attracted to the pretty new fabrics and don’t have the patience to search through what’s in the bargain section. If I attempt quilting I will pick up odds and ends though, quilting fabric seems wickedly expensive for what you actually get – unless it’s designer or whatever.

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