Saturday, 22 June 2013

Learning to Sew - You Can Do This in the Kitchen As Well!

As well as baking I'm a big fan of many other crafts and creative pastimes including drawing, embroidery, paper cutting, photography and now sewing.  Like most people I sewed at school but haven't really done any since; then a couple of months ago something happened which gave me the determination to see how much of that learning I've retained.

Last summer I bought two dresses which were both too long but simply too gorgeous to pass up.  After some searching for an alteration place that would pin the dresses with me wearing them I eventually took them to be hemmed for the hefty sum of £20 a piece.  It was a complete disaster.  Both dresses came back totally uneven, far shorter than expected, with poor workmanship and basically completely unwearable.

I was really upset as I would soon be getting married and had bought no new clothes for my minimoon in Sorrento.  Instead I had decided that the black dress that was being hemmed would be my 'special minimoon dress' and that I wouldn't wear it until we went away.  Anyone who has been married knows that the few weeks before the big event are ever so slightly stressful and having my dress ruined left me very frustrated and upset.  I was determined I would not be put in this position again and retrieved the scraps of the dresses from the alteration shop to have a go myself.

The plain black maxi dress would be the more forgiving in my attempts to recover it - the lack of pattern meant that I could attempt to reattach the scrap hem and hope that no one studied my ankles too much to notice the funny bottom of the dress.  My lovely Mum was roped in to help and she patiently pinned the dress so that the hem was even, compensating for a difference of almost 2 inches that the alteration shop had botched.  Mum threaded up her sewing machine for me and I set about reattaching the scrap to the dress so that it would be of a wearable length instead of floating above my ankles like some sort of fashion hating, frump inducing weirdness.

It took me ages and a lot of thread tension adjustment to get the right stitch tension and length for the thick jersey fabric but eventually I attached the scrap in such a way that the dress is actually wearable.  It's messy, the stitches are wobbly, the scrap means I have a sort of frill bottom on the previously sleek dress, but it's wearable and I did it myself.  The sense of triumph was enormous.

lavender bag
Since then the Great British Sewing Bee has come and gone reigniting a love of sewing in many people and introducing others to it for the first time.  The series actually completely passed me by (it started when I was on minimoon so I do have an excuse!) but I've since watched all episodes on iPlayer and completely fallen in love with the idea of learning to sew properly.

My two Kirstie Allsopp books have been well read over the last few weeks and I decided to start with something simple that I can hand sew as I don't have a machine of my own (yet).  I ordered some fabric from Eclectic Maker (OMG what an amazing selection, visit at your own risk) and some dried French lavender from Provence so that I could make some lavender bags.  So far I have made three and I'm so pleased with them - one for me, one for my lovely Mum and one for a friend at work.  They might not be that complicated but I still think this is a big achievement and is giving me the confidence to do other things.  I've also hemmed another new dress I bought which was too long, this time I was a lot neater and quicker so it just takes a little practise and big improvements can be made.

lavender bag
One last thing, since paying £40 to have my two dresses destroyed, sorry hemmed, I have realised that the cheapest sewing machine in John Lewis is currently on offer at £35.  It comes with an instruction DVD and has really good ratings as a machine for beginners that comes with few of the unnecessary complicated options that a newbie will never use.  If I had known that a few months ago guess how I would have chosen to spend my money.  This baker has been well and truly bitten by the sewing bug.

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