I first learnt to sew at school, I say “learnt” but really I was in year 9 and at a relatively naughty school and if I remember correctly our teenage minds were having a bit of a ‘nobody got time for dat’ moment. Not everyone in the class was uninterested, I remember a few of my friends LOVING it. But I tried my best and so did the teacher - I feel for her now handling 30 teenagers 27 of which were absorbing all of her attention through being well, teenagers and causing havoc.
I remember absolutely loving the cupboard full of fabrics I loved looking at them and organising them into categories, but I never actually thought “wow this would make a cool dress, t-shirt, trousers etc” I just liked them in their raw form.
The projects for the year in the textiles class were ‘Make a Tote Bag’ and ‘Make a soft toy’ I remember the tote bag I made - it was purple with sequins (not hand sewn) and I couldn’t get the inside pocket zip to work. Luckily I had a talented friend in my class who helped. But when it came to the soft toy it took me about 4 months (broken down to 2 lessons a week = 32 hours which felt like an eternity especially because my teacher was stretched so thin). The soft toy I made was a dog, it didn’t look much like a dog, and I stuffed it with old tights, but I was so proud. I remember the final line of stitching (some hand sewing on the inside of his tummy) and thinking “wow I really hope I never sew again”.
After I returned from university I decided to start a new hobby. I was already getting into knitting and this crossed over for me with sewing. I took a beginners sewing class at Sew Over It in Clapham and again fell in love with all the fabric. We made a make-up bag and a tote bag (this one was 100% made by me hah). This lesson triggered in me a love for sewing which I had no idea could exist.
I’d come across a charity event where in the far back corner of a warehouse two ladies were sat surrounded by fabric. They told me that a woman had donated all the fabric because she used to be a seamstress and had recently become too elderly to sew. She had stored all of her wonderful fabric in suitcases and it was immaculate. I wish I could go back to this point in my life and buy it all. At the time I didn’t really have any experience buying fabric. I bought some Liberty paisley cotton (because Liberty) and it’s still in my stash, some red jersey and dogtooth patterned wool. I used a Youtube video by Annika Victoria to draft a half circle skirt and created my first ever skirt. I recently looked back at this skirt, there are gaps where I didn’t sew the waistband correctly (and still haven’t fixed).
I knew I still needed to learn a hell of a lot so I attended a beginners dressmaking weekend class at Sew Over It in Islington in 2015. This class was FANTASTIC, I was taught by Julie and remember writing her a rave review because she was brilliant! Such patience! I made a tartan shift dress which is a regular in my wardrobe and a purple circle skirt.
After this I bought my first ever dressmaking pattern from Tilly and the Buttons, it was the Coco and I am in love with Coco. I used the red jersey from the charity warehouse as my practice because I’d discovered it was quite itchy, and when I tried it on my waist was around my tummy and I looked horrendous. I was so disheartened I hung the dress on the front of my wardrobe and sulked about it for days. Finally when I got over it I tried it on again I amended the pattern to fit me. I now have 5 Cocos which regularly circulate.
I still consider myself a beginner - and I still really struggle with zips. Only at the end of 2016 did I attempt buttons holes [thanks to the almighty Cleo pattern]. But I am absolutely loving this sewing journey. Here are my first wearable Cocos..