Like most people, I’ve dreamed of being able to have beautiful, well-fitting garments in whatever colours and fabrics I wanted without ever having to go near a clothes shop again. When I finally bought my own sewing machine, I thought it’d be a good time to try learning dressmaking as well as developing some level of competence with my rather grumpy machine as well.
Dressmaking has turned out to be a rather different beast from everything else I’ve done before. I’m used to very fine work, mostly done by hand. Learning to cut some approximation to a straight line for garments was a bit of a learning curve for me and it’s taken a few horrendously rolled seams for me to be confident machining on both straight lines and curves. Luckily my teacher has the patience of a plurality of saints, every bit of which she’s needed for the pyjamas I’ve been making for longer than either of us care to remember.
The pattern is Simplicity ‘2317’ and in many ways, this project was a terrible choice for a beginner. I bought the material (relatively lightweight polyester) and pattern from John Lewis, on the assurance from the staff that this was completely suitable for a numpty who could just about work out how to press a pedal on a sewing machine. I’m not sure if I had offended them or they’d never known the horror of trying to deal with a sleeve where the fabric wants to go anywhere but where you want it to go. It also frays when you as much as look at it for too long and is generally a nuisance to handle.
The pattern also hasn’t been that easy to follow and if you are less than 6 ft tall, I recommend checking the sizing very, very carefully and making any adjustments at the initial cutting stages rather than having to hem up three miles of fabric. The sizing, even though I had measured myself beforehand, also seems to be quite generous so definitely take care if you don’t want to do alterations afterwards.
I finished the pyjama bottoms a while ago, and even doing everything with French seams, they were fairly easy to make. However, for a long time, the pyjama top has been looking like a pile of oddly shaped, unidentifiable green pieces with no end in sight. However, over the last two lessons it is finally starting to resemble and item of clothing and dare I say it, is looking quite nice. The bits of interfacing give the collar and front panels a little extra weight and shape and I really love the colour. The material might not be pure silk but still has that nice, silky feel to it.
The lace is from Fine French Laces, who have a really lovely selection of nylon, cotton and some vintage laces. I had wanted something quite wide for the cuffs and ideally, not in pure white either. I’ve not really seen much lace I like at any of the craft stores and was thinking of dyeing my own, but this has just a hint of blue, which works nicely against the sheen of the material.
I used Hemline self-covering buttons and tried to use the corresponding button making tool. The flat backs on the buttons mean they don’t grip the fabric terribly well and as it’s quite slippery, the tool was more of a hindrance than a help. Putting in a circle of running stitch and pulling the threads tight worked perfectly well.
The next goal, buttonholes!