For this special interview, we got together with Amy and Angela who run a really successful sewing shop in the UK called My Sewing Box. They’ve been sewing their whole lives and a few years ago decided to make it their full-time occupation. So they started a shop where they sell clothing, teach people of all ages to sew and have a team that makes amazing sewing tutorial videos.
How to Learn Dressmaking:
1. How many years have you been sewing?
We have both been sewing all our lives, from a young age, though we’ve had breaks here and there for a few years like a lot of people have done. Amy started sewing by making clothes for her dolls and her first dress as a child, then came back to it in her twenties. Angela has sewn her whole life, making things for her kids as they grew up as well as home furnishings. We are both getting back into dressmaking at the moment with full force!
2. What’s your favorite sewing pattern/technique?
New Look is one of our favorite big brand patterns, but we are also fans of independent patterns too. Amy loves Tilly and the Buttons patterns as they are really clear and easy to follow, and quite trendy for a modern maker. Angela really likes Cashmerette plus size patterns as they have good coverage and are designed for curvier shapes and large bust sizes in mind so the fit is ideal for those that struggle to find good fit in conventional big brand patterns.
3. What is your favorite project that you’ve ever done?
Amy’s favorite project has to be her latest tie front dress – it was SO easy to sew up and the hardest and longest bit was the neckline! It was an easy pattern from New Look that’s great for holidays and is an easy throw-on piece for your wardrobe, while the tie front detail is chic and on-trend. The pattern is literally only 3 pieces which makes life easy for a quick and satisfying sew! Angela is a big fan of her jersey dress which she has now made twice in different fabrics – it’s a classic shape with some lovely shaping around the neck and bust, and works all year round!
4. Which project are you most proud of?
One of our proudest projects was actually beading a veil for our sister in law/daughter in law for her wedding. It was such a pain to do as it took hours but when it was finished it looked gorgeous!
5. What is the greatest tip that you could give a beginner to learn sewing?
The thing we always say to beginners who come to our shop is to remember that we all start where they are! Don’t be frightened or put off by all the things you see everyone else doing who are more experienced – they didn’t get there overnight and neither will you.
Pick a first project that is something achievable for a beginner in a fabric that’s easy to work with, so you won’t get discouraged by trying to do the hardest thing first. Cotton fabrics are a good starting point! Projects like a cushion cover, bunting or a tote bag are a great place to start, or if you want to try dressmaking, then a simple wrap skirt in a cotton fabric is also achievable. At the end of the day, you want to be able to finish your project and feel proud of it, not frustrated with it because you tried to do too much too soon. Then build your skills from there, with new techniques and trickier fabrics!
6. What is the hardest thing about sewing?
The hardest thing about sewing is usually getting the fit right, which mostly applies to dressmaking. Making accessories etc is easier because generally, they will be a standard size but trying to fit a human body is complex because everyone is different and a pattern won’t necessarily fit one person the same as another.
So you have to learn how to make adjustments to account for our lumps and bumps and being a bit smaller here and a bit bigger there than your pattern says. It’s best to learn how to make these adjustments one at a time but once you’ve mastered them, you’ll be amazed at how good your me-made clothes fit. Also, ripping seams after you realize you’ve sewn it wrong never gets less frustrating!
Want to read more about sewing? Check out our interviews with Stephanie from Swoodson Says and with Tami Meyer. And if you’re interested in starting your own sewing hobby head over to our interview with Wendy Gratz, you’re going to love it.