Saturday, 2 March 2019

Sewing A Dress With Linda Hewett & JUKI Club {Experience & Tips For Dress Making.}

This post isn't instructions on how to make a dress. That would genuinely be pointless. Instructions come with a pattern and so do tip resources; this post is to tell you about the experience of making a dress.

making a dress with Sew Over It London

If you didn't know, I work part time with JUKI CLUB developing online resources, social media content and club support. I started this job a year ago and part of my development into the role has been about learning to use my sewing machine more. The first year has really been about understanding QUILTING and how JUKI SEWING MACHINES work. For those that don't know them, they are a Japanese brand who specialise in industrial machines but I work in a team promoting their home sewing machines. It has really opened my eyes to a creative world which I simply knew nothing about and has actually been a job where I have had to actively learn how to sew. 

making a dress with Sew Over It London

I had basic knowledge already and if you have read my blog for a while you will have seen that over the last 5 years there are quite a few simple sewing projects I have done. 
In our development for work we actually have been tasked with developing how we use the machines and using them for sewing projects that we have less experience in. We have gone from quilting and that being our predominant focus (due to the JUKI Machine being excellent for this kind of sewing) to making clothes. Last year you may remember the KIMONO I made and that was the start of us trying to delve into clothes sewing. Like all plans, other things came first and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that we got round to sewing a dress. 

making a dress with Sew Over It London

The pattern and fabric had been sat waiting for so long looking at us, longing for us to use that we eventually made our plan with the wonderful LINDA HEWETT, who is a woman of many talents, but the one we wanted to learn from was Seamstress!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

Linda has been making clothes for some time and I just needed someone who knew how to read pattern and tell me about sewing. For me, I throw away instructions most of the time so planning and preparing for sewing clothing left me very panicked and confused. The thing is with sewing clothes, YOU HAVE TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS, and multiple times before you start the project. Why? Because they really do tell you exactly what to do and following them means you are more likely to walk away with a garment rather than a sack!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

Linda was amazing. From the moment I walked into her home I just felt inspired. Not only was her home beautiful but it had a Scandinavian charm that just instantly connected with me. In fact, it had been a while since I had experienced {*buzz word alert} HYGGE but Linda radiated it and so did her home. 

making a dress with Sew Over It London


making a dress with Sew Over It London


making a dress with Sew Over It London


making a dress with Sew Over It London

What helped is that Linda's main job is a food demonstrator so this lady was sewing and baking at the same time and she just blew my mind; Woman goals right there! She had it and I suddenly became aware about just how much I could learn from her, not only with regards to sewing but with regards to LIFE. This work project took a sudden turn and I found myself once again being so thankful to JUKI CLUB for employment because without that, this opportunity would not be happening!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

What I went to learn from Linda was how to make a dress. What I did was a lot of observing, a lot of listening and spent a lot of time trying to understand the method behind sewing clothes. Why you needed a good straight stitch, why the pattern had to be pressed, how to use an overlocker......things that just hadn't really come up in my sewing journey so far!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

Anyway, the day started, we got set up and we made a dress. We had some beautiful fabric from RIFLE PAPER CO. which we had actually got from America {others are available} and in a soft Rayon weave which is great for dress making. It just drops and washes over your body beautifully. A dress pattern was by the brilliant London based SEW OVER IT and we used the 1940's WRAP DRESS PATTERN which we bought as the pattern and book, not the PDF. Having Linda with the knowledge was what was really important because she just knew what to do. The actual dress we adapted and made much longer to suit my height and you know me, I love an ankle grazer length on anything!!

making a dress with Sew Over It London


making a dress with Sew Over It London

Making the dress was the real experience. Linda has some fab tips which I will share at the bottom of this post on how to make a dress. For you reading this, looking for the how to SEW OVER IT has all that information, there is no point in repeating it, I would just be copying them. 

making a dress with Sew Over It London

What I want to tell you more about was the fact that I did peer to peer learning and it was awesome! Through the cups of tea, the home made soup and bread and the discussions about working on a JUKI SEWING MACHINE I found myself absorbing more than just information. Working with a partner on something so creative itself was inspiring, listening to direction, understanding reasoning allowed me to be so much more present in the moment where real education was being given.

making a dress with Sew Over It London

Linda's space helped, the big table, the natural light, everything being readily available meant that over the course of a couple of days we just were able to immerse ourselves in sewing and it was great!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

As I have said, this experience became not just about the dress but about a more symbolic communal opportunity that I found made me understand more than ever the term 'WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN'. I have always felt it quite feminist and never really used the term, women in my life have always empowered me, always had my back, always inspired me but this situation, something new and really quite alien made we want to punch my fist in the air and shout "HELL YEAH, GIRL POWER!" because here I was stood in a room with two other women being taught a skill that I thought was so beyond me! It was like a tiny WI club, an experience from "the good old days" almost, when we taught each other useful skills to bring more meaning to our roles in life. Sewing with others really inspires and enlightens you. 

I know this post is long but bear with me; we'll get more technical!

making a dress with Sew Over It London

Stepping away from the experience side of this post (I have written a lot about that) I just want to now share some top tips for sewing your own clothes that Linda passed onto me.

Tips for dressmaking: The Start
Do not rush into dress making. Getting the pattern right is key. I usually would love to just start a project quickly and get on but accept the dressmaking will always take time. Put your music on, get the kettle boiled and just enter into this project calmly.
Pattern Buying
Pick a pattern for your level. They are graded for a reason. Talk to people in fabric shops who are more likely to know more about this area.
Take into consideration the fabric you want to use also, is the pattern appropriate.
Find a friend or again, someone in a fabric shop to help measure you and if you are between sizes always opt for the bigger size as you can adjust accordingly.
The packaging will tell you how much fabric you need to buy also.
Reading patterns.
When you open the packet leave the paper pattern inside and remove only the notes/ instructions. Take your time.
Read the instructions twice.
Check and double check measurements on pattern against true body measurements to find the best size for you. Always go bigger if you are between 2 measurements.
 Cutting pattern.
Do not use fabric scissors to cut out paper pattern. Have a pair of paper scissors specific for this task.
Lay out one sheet at a time on your surface. Make sure you have lots of room. Cut only one sheet and do not cut on top of another. You need to clearly see the lines.
Always remove cuttings to another place, near the ironing board as you will be ironing them before pinning them to fabric.
 Ironing
Iron pattern paper using a dry iron setting.
Iron fabric ready for use.
 Changing Length
Keep off cuts of pattern paper to use in lengthening. If you are going to be adjusting it is nice to use the same type and weight of paper throughout. 
 Placing
Take time to place pattern on fabric.
You should have already considered the direction of pattern, grain line and folds which will be in the instruction booklet you have.
To pin, don’t just tack.
Pin with the head to the centre of the paper.
Keep the pin end not poking over the pattern edge so that it is out of the way for scissors.
Put as many pins in as necessary for your comfort level. If you have not done this before more pins may make you feel more comfortable!
 Cutting
Once everything is pinned, take your fabric scissors and in a slow smooth motion follow the edges of the paper.
Do not cut the paper. Just cut as closely to it possible.
Remove cut pieces from space. Clarity helps when dressmaking.
Remember, with your folded fabric {according to your pattern} you will have two pieces per cut. In this dress's case we did. So no need to unpin and re-cut unless indicated on the instructions. This is why reading them twice is vital.
 Adding in
If you need to make a dress longer,  always pattern dependent. If a pattern has a complicated hem line, a lot of panels or much flare.
In this case, we are not just adding a bit of length (a few cm) we have extended the whole dress to my tastes.
If you are adding just a few cms you can do this by inserting into the pattern. Some patterns will have markings for this.
In this dress's case, there is no panelling and we can simply draw onto the bottom of the pattern and piece paper to the right size.
We have extended the skirt to a midi length suitable for my height.

making a dress with Sew Over It London

So I bet you are beginning to wonder about the dress.Well, to save this post a bit I am going to create another with a direct link HERE to it. Maybe that's the easiest thing, give it its own screen time because it is beautiful and so worth it!!


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