Marie of A Stitching Odyssey is as delightful as the blog she writes, as cute as the clothes she makes. And she was kind enough to share her experience. Take the trip with me.
How long have you been sewing?
I've been sewing for just over three years now, so not that long and in many ways I still consider myself a beginner . . . there's just so much to learn!
What inspired you to learn?
A friend of mine was giving me a tour of her new house when I spotted a dressform draped with a lovely handmade dress. Up until then I had no idea this was her hobby, or that a hobby like sewing even existed. My interest was definitely piqued then!
Did your mother or grandmother sew?
My mother was very good at sewing when she was at school, but she didn't really carry on with it afterwards. The most interesting thing I found out just a few months ago was that my great-grandmother not only sewed, she also spun and wove her own silk fabric. She even nurtured the silkworms herself. I never knew this before, and I was very moved when I found out.
How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?
I went along to a Sewing for Pleasure course with the friend I mentioned above. It was made up of 10 evening classes, and you literally took in anything you wanted to make and the teacher would help you. It was a really nice and informal environment to learn in actually.
It was a dress – Simplicity 2591 – which you can see here).
Did you wear it?
I wore it a couple times, but as my skills improved I realised how many things were wrong with it — gaping neckline, uneven hem, generally a little bit wonky. It's now sitting in my scraps box, because I really like the fabric still.
How long did it take for you to get the basics down?
Maybe about 6 months or so, but I still find myself having lightbulb moments now. I'm still discovering better ways of doing things that I thought I was doing correctly. For example, up until this very recent post by Tilly (http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2013/01/before-you-cut-your-fabric.html), I was folding my fabric wrong sides together when cutting out patterns. Haha! It worked fine, but it's not the correct way, and it certainly makes transferring markings harder!
How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?
I think I must be a slow learner, because I'm only just starting to feel confident in my dressmaking skills now. The last couple of things I've made have been of a much higher standard, so I finally feel I'm getting there . . . only three years later!
Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?
Sadly, yes, but I've made a good start this year that I hope to keep up. I want to focus on quality rather than quantity in 2013, and I want to stay away from making things I know don't suit me . . . which is a trap I often fall into due to admiring makes on other bloggers with completely different bodies to me.
How many hours a week do you sew?
It varies a lot for me. I don't tend to sew much during the week due to work and other commitments, but I do make an effort to cut stuff out and generally prepare for projects. If I have a free weekend, I will spend most of it sewing, and if I don't, then I will try and sandwich a couple of hours in. So it will vary from 2-3 hours to over 10 hours on a good week.
What are your five favorite sewing books?
Hmmm, I’m definitely more of an online tutorial kind of gal . . . but there are a few tried and tested titles on my bookshelf.
The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick
Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin
Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich
Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (mine’s the 1978 edition)
Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?
I can't say I've ever stumbled across or used any sewing DVDs I'm afraid. I do keep meaning to watch the DVD that came with my overlocker though.
If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.
Am I!?! I absolutely love online tutorials, and I have the utmost respect for the talented people who go to the effort of producing such helpful materials. Anyway, I'm going to cheat as there are so many brilliant ones out there:
Zips can be really tricky, but these tutorials can invaluable to helping you master them – Invisible zips by Colette Patterns (http://www.coletterie.com/tutorials-tips-tricks/tutorial-installing-an-invisible-zipper)
Handpicked zips by Sewaholic (http://sewaholic.net/a-hand-picked-zipper-progress-on-the-picnic-dress/
Exposed zips by BurdaStyle (http://www.burdastyle.com/techniques/exposed-zipper)
Skirts are a fun addition to any wardrobe, and I personally love – Vivat Veritas Scalloped Waist Skirt tutorial (http://grosgrainfabulous.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/free-pattern-month-day-18-vivat-veritas.html)
Elegant Musing's Circle Skirt sewalong (http://elegantmusings.com/10525/) / Tilly's Picnic Blanket Skirt sewalong (http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/p/picnic-blanket-skirt.html)
General tutorials of infinite interest – anything by Elegant Musings (http://elegantmusings.com/tutorials-2/, anything by Colette Patterns (http://www.coletterie.com/category/tutorials-tips-tricks), anything by Sewaholic (http://sewaholic.net/category/tips/)
What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?
When I first started I had naivity, and therefore lack of fear, on my side, and I got stuck in with a dress. It was brilliant making something so pretty, but I was being helped in a class. So if you're going at it solo, I would probably recommend a simple skirt or top, or even a cute little apron or some fun pyjama bottoms.
I guess this would depend on how you feel after your first make. You might want to move onto something more challenging, like a dress, or you might want to revisit something similar to your first make so you can perfect it.
I think it might be my Hazedale) — a marriage of the Hazel and Lonsdale patterns — because it's so pretty! The muslin for my Hazel was just terrible, so I was relieved that I was able to turn it into a success by combining two patterns.
It absolutely has to be my Armistice Blouse! Aside from it being a gorgeous pattern, this make has great sentimental value, too, as I made it from the silk grown, spun and woven by my great-grandmother. It’s a really special make for me.
Name your five top tips for beginners, please.
1. Relax, enjoy the learning process and don't be too hard on yourself. You'll make plenty of mistakes, but learn from them and move on.
2. Don't rush your sewing, you'll only end up dissatisfied and probably never wearing your poor make. There's something to be said about breaking projects into nice bitesized parts.
3. Always prewash your fabric to prevent your make from shrinking after its first wash. It's a good idea to wash your fabric as soon as you buy it, so it's all ready to go when you need it.
4. Pick projects that excite you and don't waste time on something you're not happy with. And if you discover you really dislike a make halfway through sewing it, don't feel like you have to finish it . . . life's too short!
5. Take advantage of online tutorials and sewalongs, I really can't recommend this enough. Despite finding evening classes helpful to begin with, I can honestly say that I learned the best methods and techniques from other bloggers.
What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?
I was actually a pattern tester for Tilly and the Buttons' first ever pattern — the Mathilde Blouse — which is pictured at the very start of this interview. I'm genuinely really happy with the result, even though I didn’t think white would be my colour.
Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.
Although I have many in my collection, I haven't sewn with the unprinted ones yet. I imagine they seem more daunting than they are though they have plenty of perforations, so you just need to make sure you transfer them all to your fabric.
How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)
We can both dream I think!
Oh dear, I knew this was coming! I wanted to make some sassy pyjama bottoms as part of Karen's Pyjama Party Sewalong (http://didyoumakethat.wordpress.com/tag/pyjama-party/) and I totally misjudged my fabric print. They turned out truly hideous . . . you literally can't tell me apart from The Big Lebowski's The Dude! If you fancy a good laugh at my expense, see them in the pic above. (Editor's note: I love 'em! She could go out and buy milk in them and give The Dude a run for his money, fashionwise.)
Definitely the sad story of my very beautiful Lonsdale. I totally managed to perfect the fit at the muslin stage, but I must have accidently cut the bodice a size smaller in my fashion fabric, because when I finished it, it was too small. I had followed Sewaholic's sewalong closely, and a lot of work went into making this dress as lovely on the inside as it was on the outside . . . so needless to say, I cried when I made the shocking discovery. I've now learned to try on makes as I go along! And there was a silver lining to this story – the dress fit my mum perfectly, and she proudly wears it all the time!
I don't have one really, ideally it would be a cute go-to dress pattern. However, I have made six Renfrews to date, which is my own personal record. It's such an easy and satisfying project to whip up when you want a quick sewing fix!
Do you sew vintage patterns?
I do, but not nearly as many as I'd like to. This year, I would love to make a dent in my vintage sewing pattern collection.
In my experience, this totally depends on the pattern company, the type of garment and the year the pattern was printed in. I find that many vintage pattern instructions tend to assume you have a quite a good understanding of sewing techniques and knowledge, so I often find myself Googling and YouTubing a lot of it. It’s easy to be hard on vintage pattern instructions, especially when you compare them to the often more comprehensive modern ones, but at the end of the day you buy and use them for the unique and very beautiful details that are rarely found in modern patterns.
How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?
Goodness . . . how long is a piece of string? Everyone’s definition of proficient is different – for some it may mean grasping the basics and for others it could well be conquering tailoring. I think a year is a good aim for mastering the basics, but the sewing learning journey never truly ends.
Now. Rush over to her blog and read every word. That is, if you haven't already!