Follow Me On
Category Archives: Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking
The simple t-shirt from my book “The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking” is featured in the current Making Magazine (issue 61 – June 15). It’s the perfect project for this time of year – it’s quick to make, you can mix and match different knit fabrics making it a great stash buster and you can’t really have too many t-shirts, can you? Just click on the image above to download your pdf copy of the pattern. If you fancy a t-shirt dress, the pattern lengthens easily into a great little dress for layering over leggings or chucking on over your bikini on holiday…..
So, I did a window at MIY Workshop to celebrate the launch of “The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking”…..
…..and then the book reached number 2 (briefly number 1!) in Amazon’s chart for Bestselling Dressmaking books and I figured I’d better have a bit of a do to mark the occasion.
Despite terrible weather, lots of lovely folk turned out to help me celebrate.
And unbeknown to me, two of my multi-talented students Emma and Croianna had been secretly plotting during classes to make me these:
Who else can say they have had a cake of their book?! Fabulous aren’t they?! That pin cushion is a stroke of genius! These two are creative whatever they turn their hands to, Croianna is an amazing knitter and spinner as well as dressmaker and Emma is a great dressmaker, does loads of crafting with her kids as well as fantastic decorating projects for her home. Have a look at some of her creating here.
Student Diane did me proud by turning up in a gorgeous version of the shift dress from my book that she’s been working on in class and got full marks for finishing off hand sewn invisible hems hours before the party! I’m wearing the sleeveless version with added collar. Diane’s fabric is from Ditto, mine is from Minerva Crafts. One pattern, two completely different looks!
And finally, of course Gypsydog got in on the act. Helping us clear up the morning after!!
By the way, my book is still number 1 in the Most Wished For Dressmaking books on Amazon, number 2 in Bestselling Dressmaking books and number 3 in the Most Gifted Dressmaking books. Bit of a winner all round, even if I do say so myself!!
So, my book is finally, officially published this week on Friday 7th November. If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, you can currently save a whopping £6.40 on the cover price of £19.99 from Amazon, where it’s number 2 in the bestselling Dressmaking books chart!!
The book is aimed at new sewers who want to have a go at making their own clothes but feel a bit daunted by the prospect. It covers 14 basic dressmaking techniques and contains 6 multi-size patterns printed full-scale on 2 pull-out pattern sheets.
Once you have a few basics under your belt or you’ve already made a few clothes but want some patterns for modern, classic everyday wearable clothes there is also a whole chapter on making the patterns your own style which covers another 5 techniques such as pockets and collars.
You can have a look inside the book here.
I have been teaching people to sew for 7 years and I use my own patterns extensively in my classes, so you can be sure that the patterns in this book are tried, tested and easy to follow. The patterns come in 5 sizes which cover the following range: bust 84-101cm (33-40″), waist 68-85cm (27-33.5″), hips 92-109cm (36-43″).
I have 2 copies of my book to give away (to entrants in the UK), for winners outside the UK the prize will be a PDF version of the book. To enter, answer the following questions:
**Competition now closed – winners to be announced shortly!**
If you want to share this competition with your followers on social media, include the hashtag #wearwhatyousew
One entry per person. Two winners will be chosen at random after the closing date of Friday 14th November at 18:00 GMT and sent a paper copy of the book if their address is in the UK, or a pdf if outside of the UK. Only entries with both questions completed will be entered. Your details will not be used for any other purposes or shared with any 3rd parties.
If you want to sign-up to my newsletter, you can do here.
For how many years have I dreamt of writing this post?! A lot.
You’ve heard me going on about it for long enough, but now it’s finally here. Last week the first delivery of my book “The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking” arrived and I’m very excited that you can now buy a signed copy online!! Advance copies have been winging their way out to magazines and reviewers over the last month, so you should hopefully start seeing it out and about in the virtual sewing world very soon. In the meantime, I thought you might like to have a little sneak preview between the pages……
The book is divided into 3 sections: Projects, Techniques and Customising.
There are 6 projects (all garments – no cheating with accessories!) with full-scale multi-sized patterns printed in colour on pull-out pattern sheets at the front and back of the book. All you have to do is trace the pieces you need and off you go.
The techniques section covers all the techniques used in the 6 projects: Working with Fabric / Using Paper Patterns / Taking Measurements / Sewing Machine Basics / Sewing Seams / Sewing Hems / Sewing Darts / Gathering / Creating Pleats / Adding a Centred Zip / Using Bias Binding / Understitching / Setting in Sleeves / Sewing Knit Fabrics. If you work your way through the projects in the order they appear in the book, by the end you will have a thorough set of really good basic dressmaking skills to stand you in good stead for further projects.
The Customising section includes easy ideas for adapting the basic patterns to make them your own style and create different versions of the garments. Customising techniques covered are: Adding Custom Seams / Adding Ruffles / Adding Patch Pockets / Adding Side Seam Pockets / Adding Collars. All pattern pieces required are also included on the pattern sheets, ie. collars and pockets.
One of the two pull-out pattern sheets. They’re inside the front and back covers and are printed both sides and colour coded by project making it easy to find the pieces you need, trace them onto a new piece of paper and start making!
Who is it for?
The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking is aimed at anyone who would like to make their own clothes but feels a bit daunted by many of the sewing patterns available. Basically like the majority of people I teach! It explains absolutely every step in detail in both words, diagrams and photographs and I hope the fact that I spend a lot of my time teaching adults how to sew shows through in clear, user-friendly instructions. I wanted to create a book that was both beautifully designed and inspiring to look at, but would actually be used. I don’t want your copy to be a pristine coffee table book, I want it to be well thumbed, scuffed and battered and be full of your own notes.
Each project is laid out like this:
A description of the pattern with a shot of a couple of different versions (Gyspsydog didn’t manage to photobomb all of them…), a summary of the techniques and customising ideas used and jargon-free descriptions of what kind of fabric to choose.
Next, a chart showing the measurements of the garment when made up in the different sizes so you know what size it will turn out (something which is often missing from sewing patterns and dressmaking books but which my students find really helpful), and how much fabric you will need.
After spending 7 years teaching adults to sew I felt I had a good idea what people wanted from a sewing book and I also thought there was a huge gap in the market for a sewing book that included full-size patterns for everyday clothes with a modern contemporary look. There are lots of sewing books available now with a very particular, often vintage style. Just because someone likes to sew or wants to learn to sew, doesn’t mean everyone likes the same kind of design, just like when you’re shopping for ready-to-wear clothing, we each have our own style. That’s where I wanted to use my experience in the fashion industry and design background to create everyday simple clothes that can be further adapted to suit different styles.
The team at David & Charles my publishers have done an excellent job and were a pleasure to work with, as was my amazing editor Lin Clements. They took on board every single one of my ideas, preferences and whims and ran with them to create a book that I’m really proud of and which is pretty much what I had in my mind’s eye when I started the book 10 months ago.
I was lucky to have all the photographs in the book shot by the very talented photographer Julian Ward (no relation!) and they were all styled to perfection by my good friend Lauren Courtney who can work wonders with anything. They were a fantastic team to work with and I already miss our photo shoot days where we worked our socks off, but always at some point ended up almost crying with laughter at something or other!
Yes the book is available at a discount on Amazon and yes I’m selling it full price. I just can’t compete with Amazon. But, if you want a signed copy, I’m the only place you can get it! Buy yours here.
**NOTE ADDED 30/10/14** the patterns are printed full-scale in 5 sizes which cover the following range: bust 84-101cm (33-40″), waist 68-85cm (27-33.5″), hips 92-109cm (36-43″). Three of the patterns are for stretch fabrics so aren’t very fitted, the other three patterns are for woven fabrics and two of them are fairly fitted.
Last Thursday we did the 2nd photoshoot for my sewing book. Here’s a little peep behind the scenes of what was a really busy day. It’s amazing what you can do in a day with a great team!
Gypsydog did a bit of photobombing again this time, but we didn’t catch her in our snapshots!
In case you missed it, here’s behind the scenes of the first photoshoot.
Monday was the first photoshoot for my sewing book. It was soooo much fun.
Julian Ward (no relation!) is the photographer and he is fantastic to work with. He totally got what we were trying to do and made sure we got the shots we needed and more.
My good friend Lauren Courtney was styling the photos. She has this amazing ability to arrange things and make them look fabulous. You might remember her from her fantastic work on the MIY Workshop Christmas window which won us that prize…!
I’m sure most of you must know by now that I’m in the process of writing a sewing book. Something I’m chuffed to bits about and have wanted to do for a long time, but not something that happened overnight.
I thought I would share a bit of behind the scenes with you about how the book came about, what’s going to be in it and what is the reality of actually writing it!
The whole process started months ago with me sending a proposal for a book idea to a few publishers. A book proposal needs to give an overview of what your book will be about (including a suggested contents list), who it’s for, why you’re writing it and what makes you the best person to write it! Piece of cake eh? NO, you can see that even at this early stage, the process needs some focussed thought and work. I found some useful guides to writing book proposals on the websites below:
The main players in the UK craft book market are:
- Search Press
- Laurence King
- Anova Group
- The Guild of Master Craftsmen
- and last but certainly not least, my own publishers David & Charles who are part of FW Media.
Now, if you’re fancying the idea of penning a craft book bestseller with £££ in your eyes, let me next dispel that myth. Unless you’ve appeared on TV, you’re not going to get rich writing books! My main reason for writing a sewing book is that I want to put all my years of teaching and previous experience working in the fashion industry into a project that can reach a wider audience, by writing a quality dressmaking book that will equip you with the necessary skills to make sewing your own clothes a way of life. Like a whole series of MIY Workshop classes and workshops condensed into one place!
My book is going to be a combination of sewing techniques and pull-out full size patterns. The deadlines are really tight to get it published later this year so I’ve got to be super-duper organised to do this alongside running MIY Workshop. Here is the nerve centre of sewing book operations….
This contains all my thoughts, plans, rough drawings, fabric swatches and notes for every section of the book. I’d better not loose it!
One of the best bits about writing a sewing book is all the sewing I get to do. It may sound obvious, but the day-to-day running of MIY Workshop doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for sewing so it’s been sooooo nice having the workshop to myself occasionally and making lots of things. Thankfully, I haven’t needed to trawl the country’s fabric shops to make my book samples as I have a wonderful shop for dressmaking fabric right on my doorstep in Brighton. Ditto fabrics is a dressmaker’s heaven and Gill the owner has been kind enough to let me make regular visits to her unit rather than the shop so that I can look through the full range of her fabric stock. What an Aladdin’s cave of fabric, I was like a kid in a sweet shop on my first visit and was a bit over-awed at first, but I soon got going. Here’s Gypsydog vetting my fabric choices……
The next exciting stage is the first photo shoot, which is happening at MIY Workshop in a few day’s time!
Incidentally, although I’m totally obsessed with my sewing book at the moment, I have worked on another book: My Fashion Label is a book I wrote about fashion design for kids and is beautifully illustrated by Robyn Nield whose fashion illustrations have appeared in Vogue. Contrary to my current book, this one was a very long project which I first got involved with in 2010. It’s finally out in August of this year and here’s a sneaky preview of the cover……pretty fab, no?!