19 August 2015

Ok, so I might be slacking a bit on the art front, but I haven't dried up completely.  As I mentioned in my last post I have been doing a bit of dressmaking.

Back in April, at the Quilt Village show at Uttoxeter ( which, by the way, is likely to be my only quilt show this year - but that's a whole other story in itself) I bought some fabric from the African Fabric Shop.

I bought two lengths of fabric, always with the intention that rather than put them away or use them in a quilt or embroidery I would make a garment with them.

My dressmaking days are a somewhat distant memory!  25 years ago I did quite a lot of dressmaking, and I was pretty good at it, so long as I was making clothes for others. I was not so good at making garments for myself, I had great difficulty fitting and adjusting patterns to suit me, but I did make a lot of successful bridesmaid dresses for friends.

I made a few clothes when the children were smaller and I have assisted Son No 1 from time to time, but really my dressmaking is a bit of a distant memory.  And truth be told my skills, particularly around adjusting a pattern, are rusty. 

So, with my bright African fabrics in mind, I then began to seek a suitable pattern.  But, I was getting very frustrated. There are loads of pattern companies out there and you would think that this would be a very simple job, but no! I just couldn't find a pattern that would suit the fabric. 

Meanwhile, in the sales, I found a new very simple navy blue shift dress for work. It has a side zip rather than a back zip and I just love the fit and shape of the stress, although it really is a very simple shape.

Suddenly, in a moment of madness, I had the wheeze of an idea. I would copy this dress and make a replica in one of my African prints.

Did I mention that it has been years since I've done any dressmaking??  Never mind years since I've actually made garments, it's been years since I've adjusted patterns. And I have never drafted my own pattern from the go get! 

But how difficult can it be? There are loads of videos out there on YouTube to help and after all we were only talking about a simple shift dress!

So I bought some dressmakers paper

A dressmakers marking wheel.

And I set to! 

Now, I did not document the process because this was never intended as a tutorial in dressmaking.

Instead here is the finished garment. It is hung on a hanger in front of a door - not ideal and not particularly glamorous, but you get the drift.

I should add that to my original intention was to have the pattern going the other way. I had intended to create a garment across the grain of the fabric rather then along the grain of the fabric, but when it came to it there was too much stretch.

The least successful element of the garment of the armholes which althoughrelatively neat, are used commercial bias binding, I'm not going to win any prizes.  But I am chuffed with the zip - not least because I discovered that I have lost my zipper foot for the sewing machine! That was tricky! But I did manage to include a neat placket on the inside.

But I amvery pleased with the outcome.

I have enough fabric leftover to make a matching bag. I will come back to you on that one!


  1. Well done Hilary, I love the stripy fabric and how satisfying to have a completely original dress.

  2. Well done - the fabric is fab! (and I'm still using roll of spot and cross paper that I bought about 25 years ago - but I DID buy a massive 150m roll x

  3. Gorgeous, and with such a stunning print, you only want a very simple shaped garment anyway.

  4. Well done, Hilary, it looks wonderful and how great to wear such a beautiful fabric.

  5. Well, done! It is very difficult to try to fit one's self! Even if one is meant to be an expert. And in my experience, just when you think you have made it, health provoked weight gain cuts you off at the pass. %-{
    But you have made a start - applied forgotten principles of fabric behaviour on a 3D shape - and voila! have a dress unique to you.
    Better than a lot of people.
    If you are interested in different places where you can ask questions and be reminded, let me know and I can give you a range of places to look at. Or not if you don't want to go that deep!
    snsnowden at harmonyinformation dot com

  6. My sincere thanks to everyone for their very kind and supportive comments. I really appreciate them. I will try to get a photo of me in the dress!

  7. That really is an unusual fabric worthy of a life other than in a quilt. I'm with you on the difficulty of satisfactorily sewing for oneself. Making a pattern off a garment you are pleased with is a really good idea. Can't wait to see the pic of you wearing it!


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