Tag Archives: easy sewing patterns

The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking – a peek inside…..

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……

beginners guide to dressmaking coverThe simple and gorgeous cover – I love this image.

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.

beginners guide to dressmaking projectsThe projects section with an inspiring page of outfits made from the 6 patterns to get your creative juices flowing!

beginners guide to dressmaking techniquesThe 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.

beginners guide to dressmaking customisingThe 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.

beginners guide to dressmaking pattern sheetsOne 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.

beginners guide to dressmaking projects summaryHere’s a summary of the 6 projects along with examples of how easy it is to make completely different versions from the same pattern.

Each project is laid out like this:

beginners guide to dressmaking t-shirtA 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.

beginners guide to dressmaking t-shirt instructions1Next, 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.

beginners guide to dressmaking t-shirt instructions2Then, how to lay your pattern pieces on the fabric, followed by detailed instructions with diagrams explaining how to put the garment together.

beginners guide to dressmaking t-shirt make it your ownAnd finally, ideas using techniques from the customising section on how to change the basic pattern to make it your own.

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.

See you at the Knitting & Stitching Show

Later this morning I will be heading off to London town to spend 5 days at the Knitting & Stitching show at Alexandra Palace.  If you’ve never been it really is an amazing event, my two pieces of essential advice if you’re going…….

  • wear: comfy shoes and layers
  • take: food!

There are three halls full of stalls selling everything you could ever need and more for sewing knitting and creating in general, exhibitions, workshops and fashion shows.

I’m playing with the big boys this year in the Great Hall with MIY Collection on stand O19.  I’ll have my sewing patterns, tools, accessories and an advance copy of my book.  Here are some new things I’m launching at the show……

cowl sewing patternA new sewing pattern for the show: MIY Cosy Cowl – quick, easy and perfect for this time of year when you’re not quite ready for your winter coat!  Available to buy online when I’m back from the show.

scissor earrings Teeny tiny scissor earrings! A treat for you or the perfect gift for your stitchy friend.  Also available to buy online when I’m back from the show.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Another Brilliant Sewing with Knits

Sewing knitted fabrics was today demystified for another 5 students and the world of making wearable, comfortable, easy, modern clothes welcomed 5 more converts!

This workshop really is the workshop that keeps on giving!  Almost always fully booked with a waiting list, I’m never disappointed by what students create in a day.  I think my students leave feeling pretty good too.  Here’s what today’s batch made:

sept14knits-cowlsTwo cowl neck tunics/dresses by Andrea and Sally.  Completely different looks all down to fabric choice!  This pattern will soon be available to buy. 

sept14knits-dress-skirtA lovely striped straight neck dress by Assuntina (with an excellent bit of stripe matching!) and an asymmetric fold-over waist skirt by Gehya.  Both these patterns are available to buy online from MIY Collection.

Last but not least, a gorgeous orange drapey cardi was soooo close to being finished, but I have been promised photographs of the end result.

I find this workshop really satisfying to teach.  I use 9 sewing patterns of my own design and I’m always surprised by how many different versions of the same patterns my students manage to make.

Here’s what the students thought of the day:

“My first time sewing with knits was great.  Wendy’s pattern was easy and straightforward and thanks to her prior instructions I had all the right things with me.  As always Wendy was a wonderful teacher.  She’s patient, clear and fun to be around.  Looking forward to more workshops and classes.”  Assuntina

“I’ve had a wonderful day at MIY Workshop as usual.  Wendy’s been very helpful in giving guidance for sewing knits.  I haven’t had time to finish my cardi but I already know it’s gonna look gorgeous!”  Maelenn

“Lovely course, great to go home with a finished garment.  Very informative providing lots of useful tips and instructions.  Thanks Wendy!”  Gehya

“A very enjoyable and inspiring day.  I have learnt some new and useful tips and am keen to do more with renewed confidence.”  Andrea

“I’ve had a really lovely day learning about sewing with knits.  Wendy’s a great teacher – very patient and clear with instructions.”  Sally

Thanks to all my students and I hope you all enjoy your fabulous new garments!

If you would like to join the club of happy “sewing with knit” dressmakers, I will be running this workshop again soon.  To get priority booking, sign-up for the MIY Workshop newsletter here.

Which Pressing Tools Do I Really Need?

pressing tools for dressmakingYou need slightly different pressing tools if you’re dressmaking rather than craft sewing and patchwork.  And remember, pressing isn’t simply ironing!  It requires more precision, often more heat and a lot more than just an iron and ironing board.  Here’s the ideal pressing tool kit:

1 – IRONING BOARD – buy the best you can afford, ironing boards last for years! The 3 crucial qualities in an ironing board are: the size of the ironing surface – as big as possible (!), the height it can be adjusted to – more important if you’re taller than average, being hunched over a short ironing board isn’t pleasant and finally how sturdy it is – rickety ironing boards are dangerous. Here’s a great review of the best ironing boards by Good Housekeeping. My recommended brands: Brabantia

2 – IRON – your iron should not be too lightweight which might go against what you would instinctively look for (lightweight = easy, no aching arms!), but to press well, you need some weight, so a lightweight iron actually means more effort is required from you!  Irons are now available with a whole range of high tech materials on the sole plate which can glide over your fabric and also be non-stick (handy when ironing on fusible interfacing), make sure the sole plate also has plenty of steam holes and has a nice long tapered point at the end to make it easier to iron in and around those fiddly bits of your sewing. Also look for a variable steam setting, a long cable and a large water tank.  The irons that come with a separate steam generator (that look like they’re sitting on a tank) can be useful but obviously take up more space and the cords tend to be a bit shorter. If you live in an area of the country with hard water, always use ironing water to avoid your iron scaling up and leaving dirty marks when it steams. My recommended brands: TeFal, Rowenta, Morphy Richards.

3 – PRESSING CLOTH – a simple piece of unbleached or white cotton muslin will be the cheapest and most useful addition to your pressing tool kit.  It allows you to protect delicate fabrics whilst ironing and will also protect your iron. Place it between your fabric and the iron and always use one when ironing on fusible interfacing.  Some people use a tea towel for this job, but it won’t work as well because you need a fairly open weave fabric like muslin which allows the heat to pass through it, tea towels are too densely woven and will simply block most of the heat.

4 – SLEEVE BOARD – might look like a luxury, but once you have one I guarantee you will use it a lot! They’re not just for sleeves, they’re handy for any awkward to get at bits of pressing such as inside leg seams, pocket openings, cuffs…..see what I mean?! They’re a bit harder to get hold of than ironing boards, but not if you shop online – you can even find them on the John Lewis website. Sleeve rolls are a good alternative – these are long sausage shaped objects filled with sawdust to make them more sturdy.  I’ve even heard of people using rolling pins wrapped in a towel! My recommended brands: Minky, Brabantia, Prym or look for a nice vintage wooden one.

5 – TAILOR’S HAM – so-called because of its ham-like shape, this is another tool that once you have, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without! Stuffed with sawdust to make it solid and compact, a tailor’s ham really is the best thing for pressing darts and any curved, awkward to get at areas of your garment while maintaining their shape. Choose one that is a reasonable size (get an idea of scale from my photo) and make sure one side is covered with a slightly hairy wool (usually checked) and the other in a smooth cotton for pressing different types of fabric. I don’t really have a preferred brand for these as there are so few making them, have a look at some of the shops listed at the end of this post, most of them stock tailor’s hams.

6 – IRONING BOARD COVER – a padded base on your ironing board covered with a reflective cover gives the best surface for pressing.  A bit of padding supports your fabric and reflective covers have multiple benefits: they reflect the heat from the iron back into the fabric for a thorough press, won’t absorb spills and leaks of water from your iron and are easy to clean (things tend not to stick to them, unlike fabric covers).  My recommended brands: Lakeland have a separate padded base, Brabantia for reflective covers.

Where to buy?

Here are some online shops (some that also have bricks and mortar shops) that  I’ve found to be good sources for pressing tools and equipment:

Next in this series on tools and equipment a question that keeps cropping up from my students: Should I buy a mannequin?

Make Your Own Leggings

That’s certainly what yesterday was all about!  Five students, five lots of very different fabric, five hours later…..four and a half pairs of leggings finished! Yes, one pair will be finished at my class on Tuesday evening thanks to a pesky bobbin running out at just the worst minute – don’t they always do that?!

Here’s what was finished yesterday…..

make your own leggings

This is what the students thought of the day:

“Wendy as usual makes everything work, I could not believe that I would go home with a perfectly fitting pair of leggings and the day was such fun.”Brenda

“Fantastic course and a fab pair of leggings at the end of it.  Don’t know what all the fuss was about on the Great British Sewing Bee!” Naz

“I have had a fantastic day, Wendy taught me so much and the other girls were great fun.  I will certainly make more leggings now!” Joy

“Brilliant day, learned lots and was really good fun!” Mel

Of the four pairs that were finished by the end of the day, three were proudly worn home!  Now that’s a good day’s work.

This legging pattern will soon be available to buy from MIY Collection.

Do You Know Your Weft From Your Selvedge?

If not, here’s a little reminder…..

understanding fabric

Download MIY Collection Sewing Patterns

It’s one that seems to divide stitchers – you either love using PDF download sewing patterns or you hate them!

This is what people have told me are the positives of using digital sewing patterns:

  • ease of storage
  • ability to re-use once size has been cut – just print out another
  • no taping together tatty old patterns – just print out another
  • cheaper to buy initially.

And these are the things that put people off using them:

  • cost of printer ink
  • size of printouts being accurate
  • time and hassle involved in taping the pieces together
  • accuracy of the pattern once it’s been taped together.

Well, in an attempt to keep everyone happy I’m starting to make my sewing patterns also available as downloads.  I feel like I may be slightly doing things back to front as every other indie sewing pattern company I look at seems to have done it the other way round ie. PDF patterns first, then hard copy, but hey ho, I like to be different!

The first PDF pattern available is my straight neck vest and dress.

MIY Collection digital sewing patternsHere are some examples of MIY Workshop student makes from this pattern:

MIY Collection digital sewing patterns

They’re available at just £7 from my Etsy shop and once you’ve ordered, the files will be automatically available to you to download and get started on, including a step-by-step guide on how to print your pattern and how to piece it together!

What are you waiting for?!

Some Fabulous Work from Students

Confession: I’ve been a bit slow at adding pictures of some of the fantastic work that my students have been producing recently.  So here’s a bit of a box-set for you to feast your eyes upon…..

leggings-june14 leggings-june14-2One legging pattern – so many variations.  Clair even managed to make two pairs in one workshop!

pc-dresses2-june14Some beautifully fitting dress toiles at the Pattern Cutting for Dresses 2 workshop.

summerfrockmaking-july14-webFabulous frocks at the Summer Frock Making workshop, all made using MIY Collection sewing patterns.

studentcollageAnd a brilliant collection of makes from my some of my weekly sewing & dressmaking students:

Top row – Joy in her beautiful pink wool skirt which is fully lined, Salva in her dress with beautifully matched print at the seams and Lou in her fold-over waist skirt made from this MIY Collection pattern.

Middle row – Lou again in her denim shift dress made using my soon to be available MIY Collection shift dress pattern, Lizzie in a really well-made shirt*, Debbie in one of the many dresses she’s made from this pattern of mine and  Assuntina in her gorgeous shift dress** using the same pattern as Lou.

Bottom row – Lizzie again in my loose shift pattern and Lou in her cosy cowl (another pattern soon to be available from MIY Collection).

*Lizzie started classes with me about a year ago as a complete beginner, not sure if she would enjoy sewing or be any good at it.  Hasn’t she made amazing progress?!  Partly thanks to sticking with it and practising on her new sewing machine that she went out and bought once I’d got her hooked after a few classes (!) and partly thanks to following a progressive approach to her sewing by making sure that each project she tackled challenged her with something more than the previous one.

**Assuntina is another example of a student that’s made fantastic progress – starting last year as a nervous absolute beginner she has also taken a progressive approach to her sewing, starting with some easy cushions and now making gorgeous, well-fitting dresses, with skirts and tops along the way.  Shirts next Assuntina…..!

Inspired?  If you need that extra push to find time to sew or have always wanted to learn, join us at some weekly classes.  You can come to as many or as few as you like and start at any time when a space is available.  Get in touch with Wendy to book your sewing time on 01273 693451 or miyworkshop[at]gmail.com

Is Your Sewing Progressive?

I went to the gym today where there is a poster reminding us all to “Keep Your Training Progressive”.  Meaning?  To keep changing your exercise routine by adding new exercises and increasing the difficulty of existing ones.  The way to push your body to increase strength and fitness.

Now, I’ve written in the past about the similarities between exercise and sewing (stay with me, you’ll be surprised) and it was while chatting with two of my students today (Assuntina and Lizzie) that I realised this progressive approach also applies to your sewing.

Assuntina asked me what sort of project she should tackle next to keep improving her new found sewing skills (so far in classes she’s made cushions, my A-line skirt and my shift dress – all great successes, which have provided the encouragement and motivation for Assuntina to want to learn more).  Lizzie has taken this progressive approach to her sewing since she started with me as a complete beginner last year.  She started with my A-line skirt, has had a go at a dress sewing pattern, made my pull-on shift dress, had a go at knits with my cowl neck dress and drapey cardi and recently took on the key challenge of making a shirt and made a fantastic job of it.  She’s now making loose covers for a chair!

If you choose a sewing teacher with lots of experience in the areas in which you’re interested (be that home sewing, dressmaking or craft sewing), you’re going to progress too, but if your teacher doesn’t have much experience you’re never going to move beyond the basics.

Here are some ideas for a progressive approach to sewing your own clothes:

A PLAN FOR PROGRESSIVE SEWING

The First “Make Your Own Leggings” Workshop

And what a success it was!  Look at the fantastic end results:

leggings-april14

All finished bar a couple of hems, Emma (2nd from right) not only finished the pair she’s wearing in the picture but also started a second pair which she finished yesterday evening and three of the leggings above were worn home!

I think this new workshop can be officially considered a success and a popular addition to my list of Sunday workshops.

If you feel inspired to make your own leggings, I still have availability at the next date for this workshop which is Sunday 8th June.  Get in touch to book your place!

Here’s what the five students thought of the workshop:

“What a lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday!  The ever-patient Wendy and the four other ladies made for a relaxed and productive atmosphere and I even got to wear my new leggings home!  Another splendid workshop and I cannot wait for my next one.”  Jo

“Leggings are way easier than I thought and Wendy’s pattern is so much nicer than the ones in the shops!  (No outside seams down the legs!)  All my relatives (male & female) are going to get leggings for Christmas!”  Emma

“Loved the day spent with other sewing lovers.  Learnt lots and went home a very happy lady with a brilliant new pair of unique leggings.”  Maria

“Great workshop on making leggings.  Good fun, good day and fab results.  Can’t wait for the work shirt and trouser making day ahead (!)”  Debbie

“Wendy’s legging day was fantastic fun, a lot to learn in an enjoyable environment.  A great confidence boost for sewers of different abilities.  Will be looking forward to continuing classes.  Thank you!”  Rachel

This workshop came about thanks to a request from one of yesterday’s students a few months ago.  A few more ideas were added to the list yesterday!  Do you have any ideas for workshops that you’re desperate to do and that you think others would enjoy?  I’m always open to suggestions!