I have a very different relationship with sewing to the one I have with knitting. I’ve written before about the soothing calming experience of slow knitting under a toasty warm jumper as it grows. Sewing is in contrast, well, painful!
Knitting I just sort of gel with. Mistakes are undone and reworked with minimal grief and I believe I can knit anything provided the yarn and pattern are engaging enough. Unfortunately I seem to have taken this intrepid attitude into my sewing endeavours forgetting that I really have very little experience.
I tried to get back into sewing a while ago. I hadn’t really sewn anything since school where I got taught the basics and made a turned down pillowcase with some pretty programmed machine embroidery to liven up what was a few straight seams. I carted this William Morris print fabric bought at John Lewis around for a few years. It was bought for a Simplicity pattern sized for a skinnier me. But even skinny me doesn’t fit into traditional pattern measurements. I went back to the pattern a few times and tried to get creative with adaptations but always ended up angry – surely the whole point of sewing your own clothes is so they actually fit! If I wanted a dress cut for someone else’s body then I could buy hundreds off the peg – and at least they might get close to fitting me. Simplicity patterns seem to be cut for a scaled up 1950s housewife in a corset.
Last summer I got back on the sewing machine with an experimental harem pants self drawn pattern. The sewing shop round the corner was really inspiring and I just wanted to make anything from their batik fabric. They weren’t quite what I expected and I got nervous again about experimenting. But I still have a pinterest board called making stuff where I put shapes and ideas for clothes I think I may attempt to make one day.
That’s where I bumped into Ivy Arch and discovered her fantastically vibrant take on the patterns in the ‘Stylish Dress Book’ by Yoshiko Tsukiori.
I would never have considered a Japanese pattern book – having lived in Japan I know that Japanese sizes are not exactly accommodating for the European figure but they are sized up to a UK 16 and apart from that the styles are loose fitting at the lower body. The patterns are not easy by any means but there are a range of styles and the patterns are drawn out clearly once you’ve deciphered the colour coded overlay on the pattern sheets. Tuttle have done a fantastic job translating the instructions and extending the size ranges here. I was cautious at first and did some careful measuring of the garment measurements for my favourite patterns – thinking I might have to alter the patterns slightly. But they really are a size 16 (unlike Simplicity’s bizarre sizing which bears no relation to modern sizes).
My overconfident magpie eyes had been browsing pinterest images of various versions of these dresses and it was immediately the ‘T’ and ‘E’ dresses that caught my attention. Once I took my desired skirt length into account and using the longer ‘J’ dress sleeves I had just the right amount of my William Morris fabric to make the ‘T’ dress and use some lovely batik for the trim. So I went for it.
It has been rather slow going.
I don’t think that neckline trims are something I EVER want to do again. I have had a backwards learning experience. Sort of like what must have been going on in the Meno. I didn’t have a clear recollection of the process – and the instructions do not hold your hand any more than indicating an order for piecing things together. And then as I went along, discovering that my pieces were not a neat fit at all – the back neck trim just doesn’t fit the neck at all – I had a vivid memory of being taught how to clip a neck line curve and hand basting before finishing the neckline on a machine. Or rather, I had a vivid memory of the realisation that this takes ages and thinking: why would anyone want to do this! And it hurts!
So it has spent most of the last fortnight next door in the sewing room with me creeping in to attempt to baste another two or three inches without throwing the whole thing out of the window.
This morning I finished basting but I need a rest before attempting to top-sew a curved seam in contrast thread.