I made a dress!

Finally, and, as a result of popular demand (a few requests on Twitter) I’m posting about the dress I sewed.

I know! Me!  I made a dress!

If you follow my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a bee in my bonnet – pardon the pun – about sustainable fashion for a while now.  It probably dates back to the Rana Plaza disaster of 24 April 2013 which shocked me, and made me stop and think about my consumption of clothes…and then made me feel guilty.  What could I do about it though?  Give up buying clothes?  A-ha-ha-ha! As if…

By December 2013 my guilt was still hanging around, and I thought what if, just maybe, I could stop buying new clothes for 2014? The whole of 2014?  I did it though.  With the exception with an emergency replacement bra purchased in July, I didn’t buy a single other item of clothing for myself, and it was so darned easy!  (Of course it was easy, I had a wardrobe full of stuff I’d accumulated over the years without giving much thought to where it came from).

In my last post I explored ways that I could start adding to my wardrobe that might be considered ethical, or at the very least, not completely unethical.  Anyway, I reckoned that if I could learn to sew, I might just be able to make some of my own clothes, and source ethically made material to boot. Again, at the time that seemed ridiculous.  I had no sewing experience except for lessons at school when I was about 8. Those were so traumatic for me that my mum had to go in and speak to the teacher.  Even if you look back on my blog, I mention in passing trying to hand sew the hem of a cloth hankie in this post, and I gave up because I was so rubbish.

However, there’s a crazy gene of determination that runs through my family.  Those affected get a wild look in their eyes when they decide something needs done and the best thing to do, frankly, is step aside and let them get on with it. I thought it’d skipped me, but I became possessed with the desire to learn to sew and, ignoring the sniggers of friends and family alike, I signed up to a sewing class and learned the basics. I loved it, but the sewing school promptly stopped offering classes and subsequently closed. (I haven’t read anything into that, I’m sure it was just a coincidence…)

In the meantime I acquired a second hand sewing machine, watched the Great British Sewing Bee a lot and made a small bag for lego figures. I know I should copywrite that idea, but I don’t mind if you want to make one too – it’s too special not to share 😉

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Finally, after some internet searching I selected another sewing school to shut down attend. I picked a dressmaking class because…er…I wanted to make dresses. For some reason when I picked the class it didn’t occur to me that I’d actually be making a dress in the class.  When the realisation struck I was part delighted, and part overwhelmed by the responsibility of selecting a fabric. Cue more smirking from the other half what did you think you were going to be doing?!

I turned up on the first day of class with my lovely red fabric all washed, ironed and ready to go.  There were six of us there to learn together – all female, quelle surprise! The teacher was a fabulous lady who had not long finished a textiles degree, or something of that ilk. Much more importantly than actually, you know, being able to sew, she had a perfect temperament, and not once did I see her get stressed. Even when she pointed out I was about to sew backwards…and I managed to do it anyway.

The class took place over four weeks and in that time I learned how to cut out fabric using a pattern, how to pin (and how to stab myself with pins), I sewed seams, corners, hems, pockets and elastic, and I even got to use some interfacing stuff.  I learned (from experience) which side you iron it on, and that if you get it wrong then you actually end up ironing it onto the tea towel you’re using to protect it from the heat. I also learned that if you’re using a tea towel from home, don’t use one that you’ve dried in the next room to the kitchen because you’ll end up making your dress-to-be smell of onions.

While all that stuff was invaluable in terms of sewing experience, I had a fab time chatting away to other people that were equally as thrilled as I was to watch their fabric turn into something that hints at being wearable one day.  On top of the perk of sewing class getting me out of the post-bedtime tidy-up, it was great just to take some time out to immerse myself in something so completely different.

Despite being the dunce of the class – the others being motivated to develop a talent they actually had in the first place, opposed to me pursuing the goal of sustainable fashion – I thoroughly enjoyed building on my very limited skills and…did I mention…I made a dress!

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In the last class we finished up a bit early and sat about in our new dresses drinking fizzy grape juice in champagne glasses, and eating cake. There was joy in the room!

I was determined to actually wear the damn thing, despite the fact that it has the odd bit of clumsy stitching. It therefore got its first outing to the theatre, and its second to a kids’ party. I have received compliments on it – probably because it’s bright red and the first new thing I’ve modelled in over a year! Despite my decision that I’d be modest and not tell anyone of its origins, I’ve found myself blurting out ‘I made it!!!!’ if anyone so much as smiles at me while I have it on.

The reactions have been amazing. I think so few people make their own clothes these days that it’s big news to be wearing your own work. It makes me feel really proud, so much so that sometimes I even forget I’m holding my bag over a dodgy seam.

Dress number 2 is very nearly finished. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the first one but in a different fabric plus without the pockets which are a bit tricky – I just wanted to have FUN! So far I’ve just bought fabric from my local fabric shop to enable me to get a feel for it, but my next step will be using this great post from Make Do and Mend-able to source ethical material.

I’ve got the sewing bug and ain’t nothin’ gonna stop me now!

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23 thoughts on “I made a dress!

  1. I think this is superb! On so many levels. Yes, you made a super and it looks grand but you got so more out of this. Time to spend on and with yourself; learning a skill you can build on; discovering that sewing your own clothes is totally doable; satisfaction, joy and confidence in making something for yourself. I hope you continued to enjoy making your own clothes!

    • What a lovely comment! You’re right, I’ve got loads out of this and it’s making me really happy too! Today I finished the second dress and I’ve got another class booked so I think I’ll be doing this for a while! x

  2. Uh-oh, she’s unstoppable…

    Sod what anyone else thinks. If you wear your own dress to a party, you’re far less likely to bump into someone else that’s wearing the same garment. (You’d have to be really unfortunate to meet someone that had the same pattern and had been to the same sewing class…)

    Well done, you. I look forward to the next report 🙂

    • Thanks! Hadn’t thought about not bumping into anyone else wearing the same thing. That’s only a problem if they look better in it 😉 Hoping the next report will come soon – I’ve been knitting too!

    • Thank you! I loved both the dressmaking classes I took so I’d say go for it if you’re tempted! It’s lovely to share the excitement with others as you learn a new skill 🙂

  3. Seams from store-bought clothing is also not always perfect 😛 My boyfriend has t-shirts of which the seams on both sides aren’t aligned straight (very un-useful when folding!) and I have bought skirts in the past which, at some point, had more of my own thread than the original thread in them…
    And no-one actually looks at seams, the errors are more obvious to yourself than to others. And the more you sew, the better your seams become 😀

    When I started getting comments like “Did you make that yourself?” on store-bought clothing I wore, and comments like “Where did you buy that?” on home-made clothing, I decided to slowly remove all the store-bought clothing (except for specific items) from my wardrobe and replace them all with home-made clothing. That’s still a work in progress, but I really like wearing my home-made clothes to work where no-one notices they’re home-made (and no-one knows I can sew :P).

    • Oh thanks for all of that info. Very interesting to learn that you make so much of your own stuff – that’s really impressive! Plus you’re right about shop-bought stuff not being perfect 😉

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