Today’s guest post is by amazing Offset Warehouse customer Suzy Weeks. We were desperate to find out about her first foray into sewing – and what an incredibly inspiring read it is! If you’re just starting to sew, or are a little nervous to get going, here’s Suzy’s amazing advice…
So, where to begin?
I’ve always really, really wanted to sew. I remember my grandma teaching me how to do some hand stitches and I once made a skirt from a pattern with my mum when I was 13 (it ended up too small to wear… more on that later…). A few years ago I signed up and paid for a beginner’s guide to sewing but in the end was not able to make the class. ‘Voiled’ again.
Then a few weeks ago, I spied a garment making course run by Derbyshire Council and dashed to sign up. I decided to make a skater style dress for a friend’s wedding in the summer. It’s been a fabulous journey and I’ve learnt so many skills and made so many mistakes along the way that I thought I’d jot down a few tips for someone who, like me, is just starting out.
1. Sew Something You’re Going To Love
I was making a skater style dress against the very sensible advice of the teacher, the lovely Lyndall Bond, who was rightly concerned that it was much too complicated for a beginner. I assured Lyndall that it would be fine but had absolutely no idea what making the dress entailed. I took the view that to put my time, energy and heart into it I had to love what I was making. I am also rather lucky to have a mother-in-law, who is a dab hand at sewing, and was happy to help me outside the class (this probably explains my unfounded confidence).
2. Buy The Pattern According To Your Measurements Not Your Clothes Size
I very nearly fell headlong into this trap when buying my pattern, despite the fact that Lyndall had repeatedly emphasised the need to go by measurements, not clothes size. The pattern I bought came in two sizes 6-8-10-12-14 or 14-16-18-20-22. I’m an 8/10 in the shops, so I thought I could get the smaller pattern as there was no way I’d be in the bigger category but no, my hip measurements came in at a 16; luckily I checked and bought the bigger pattern. I suspect the skirt I made when I was 13 was made to my dress size not my measurements and came up small as a result.
3. Read The Pattern
This sounds obvious but for some reason I turned up at the second class with the pattern still neatly tucked in its envelope. It’s just a set of instructions and I can follow instructions right? Well yes, essentially a pattern is a set of instructions, but, a set of the most complicated instructions written in a special code, only dressmakers and those in the fold understand. I didn’t know a stay stitch from a top stitch. Read the pattern from start to finish and ask your teacher to explain, or look up on the internet, anything you don’t understand.
4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes
Most silly mistakes can be undone (apart from cutting your fabric). Just at step two of my pattern, for example, I made an error at every single possible opportunity; I got the wrong layout of pattern pieces for my width of fabric, so re-pinned it. I pinned my pattern on upside down, so re-pinned it. Then I noticed an arrow marking on the pattern. Lyndall explained that I needed to line this up parallel to the selvedge edge of the fabric, so I re-pinned it. Then I read the pattern! It said to put the two right sides of my fabric together when laying the pattern, so, you guessed it, I re-pinned it. The mistakes continued like this and I don’t think there is a single step which I haven’t had to modify or redo along the way. I’m sure it’s all part of the learning process and not because I chose something way too complicated as my first proper project!
5. Strive For Precision
The more precise you are at every step, the more likely it is that a) you won’t make an ‘undoable’ mistake and b) your item will look great, you’ll love it and want to do more sewing. Win win!