I’ve read somewhere that you shouldn’t set the bar too high for yourself in sewing, as the failure can be so discouraging, that you might end up giving up on dressmaking altogether. Well, I guess this does not apply to me, as that’s actually how I got into this in the first place.
Two years ago I quit my job in a coffee shop and returned to Hungary to graduate. When I came back to London I realized that having a degree would not necessarily be any help in getting a job where you don’t have to stand all day, and my relationship ended that time too, so I got myself busy by planning a secret birthday party for my sister and moving back to Hungary to start a job. I wanted a big entrée, so I needed a special dress.
During the last moth before the move, I was working temporarily, and was sketching the ideal dress between completing coffee orders . There was a red Lanvin dress, that really caught my eye, and since I didn’t own anything red, I decided to go with the colour. I also wanted something classic and sexy, something I could dress up and wear casually too, something like the little black cocktail dress I bought on a Zara sale a few years ago, and I wear all the time.
I knew so little about sewing, that I fearlessly put together a fully lined backless dress with princess seams (copied the Zara dress’ pattern for the bodice), added cap sleeves, and a zipper opening at the back. I bought my sewing machine around Christmas the previous year, went for a 4 hour course (at the Thrifty Stitcher) to learn how to thread the machine, how to make basic stitches and made a pillow case the following spring, and made that dress at the end of that summer. Did I mention that all the pattern drafting, cutting and sewing was done in about 10 hours, right before I was heading to the airport to fly to Budapest. I can still remember that feeling of listening to jazz and fitting the toille (unbelievable, but I made one!) to my DIY dressmaker’s dummy, with puffy, tired eyes and a smile on my face as I was showing the results to my mum, and thinking that this is how I always wanted to feel. It did not get as much attention as I expected, as it wasn’t my birthday party you see…, but I felt like a million dollars wearing it!
It is now resting disassembled in my scrap fabric box, as after taking 2 proper dressmaking courses last year, I just couldn’t bear to look at the inside of it. Apparently the one thing I didn’t care/know about was the seam allowance and the importance of seam finishes at the time. I guess this is why I’m obsessed with how my garments look from the both sides now.
Having finished the kimono dress (which I can’t wait to show you!) that was built in a similarly instinctive method, without a real pattern, but to a much better quality, I think my advice is to feel free to set the bar high, and aim to do the best work you can with your current abilities. In return you will not only learn tons by making mistakes (because you will make mistakes, I can promise that), but will also find out what techniques you don’t know of. What’s the worst that can happen anyway? If you screw up something big time, you can always make a patchwork of that amazing fabric, no? 🙂
(Sorry about the image quality, they were taken before I learned that Photoshop won’t make a nice picture out of a rubbish photo.)
Image source: Red Lanvin dress, all other images are mine