Inspired by London Fashion Week and suffering from SFW (Serious Fashion Withdrawal), I headed to London Textiles Studios in Bow Road, to try my hand at their ‘Make a Dress in a Day’ beginners course that was on Groupon. I was an A grade A-Level Textiles student (boast) so surely this would be a doddle – right?
There were 10 of us in the class each with different reasons for attending, and surprisingly less than half were complete beginners. Reasons varied from “thought I’d have a go!” to “I’m a fashion buyer looking to get into womenswear” and “I just botch stuff together and I don’t know how to do it properly”. The latter I could definitely empathise with as I tend to be from the “forget the technicalities, as long as it looks alright at the end” school of thought.
The class was run by a lady called Lillian, who began by showing us how to do the correct measurements if we were customising or making something from scratch with our own pattern. Measurements included waist, bust, neck, body rise and much more.
We then had the opportunity to choose a fabric for our dress – a task that had panicked me every textiles lesson at school. We would lurch for the fabric ‘bin’ grabbing in all directions for anything that wasn’t burgundy corduroy or something resembling curtains from the 70s. The selection here was reasonably varied with an array of African prints, polka dots and florals. I went for the navy blue and white polka dot, as I imagined it would go rather nicely with some bright red lippie; these things are important.
The nicer fabrics were around £6-7 and although there was a free fabric available, it was brown. Fine for practising, but if you want to make something you will actually want to wear I would recommend buying your own in advance or taking some extra cash.
We were shown how to thread up a sewing machine properly, what would happen if we used various stitch settings, and how to use a zigzag stitch to finish an edge neatly. This was news to me as I had always had trouble battling with the overlocker, consequently making a mess of all my edges. They are also around £200 to buy, so this would definitely save me a couple of quid!
So there you go; 10 minutes in and I had already learnt something. We practised on a bit of rough fabric and then launched into cutting out our dress pattern. This is what we would be making:
See what I mean about the brown…
The dress would be made of 4 pieces – front, back and 2 facings (the bit inside the top of the dress to give you a neat edge). The patterns were ready made in sizes 8-18, ready for us to chalk onto our fabric and cut out. These pieces would make up the dress.
After we had cut out our pieces, Lillian showed us how to do a ‘Tailor’s Tack’ to mark where our darts would go to give the dress some shape.
We all had our own sewing stations which meant we could all work at our own pace (and make our own mess). I got very excited about the success of my zigzag stitch for the bottom of my ‘front facing’ so I thought I would share it with you here… bask in its glory.
After I’d finished the armholes and straps (definitely the fiddliest bit), all that was left to do was hem the bottom of my dress. I had shocked myself throughout the day as rather unlike my ‘that will do’ former self, I had assembled my dress with military precision. I had even unpicked a bit and redone it because it was a bit wonky. Sacre bleu!
The hem was something I’d been dreading as you can see if the stitches aren’t straight, but Lillian reiterated that I should take my time and not get carried away by zooming to the finish line and ruining an entire day’s work. I took my time as instructed, and here’s how it ended up. Not bad eh!?
So that was it – dress complete. Ta da!
I’m not sure this is something I would wear (maybe in leather actually) but regardless, I definitely refined my sewing skills and by the end of the day my confidence had vastly improved.
The workshop was at the perfect pace with Lillian drafting in some help from other teachers at the studio so no one was left struggling. It definitely hadn’t been easy and to actually get stuff right was a test of my patience and rather short attention span. The class has inspired me to dust off my sewing machine, and okay; I may not be Alexander McQueen, but hey – you’ve got to start somewhere!
London Textiles Studios are featuring on Groupon today, so make the most of their dressmaking class for one or two people with 68% off.