Monday 11 July 2011

a seamstressing interview

I got interviewed by in house magazine Parklife for their interesting hobbies feature. Unfortunately since we redesigned Parklife to look prettier we have less room for photos so although I've reproduced the text here, I've also added quite a few more piccys (as well as the one of Lisa and myself on the morning of the wedding that accompanies the original). Enjoy!

I've been making clothes since I opted to take a textiles GCSE at school. My school specialised in the arts and our textiles teacher gave us quite a lot of freedom in what we chose to make and we also had the luxury of having state-of-the-art technology to hand (a sewing machine that can do embroidery from your doodles anyone?).
After leaving school I was quite tempted to take a creative arts course but my parents insisted on A-levels, so dressmaking became more of a a hobby with me spending quite a lot of time hunting out materials from our local fabric store and online and matching them with patterns to create items of clothing I wanted but couldn't find in the shops. This is probably the most exciting bit of the process - getting inspiration from various different garments and combining ideas.
The focus of my sewing efforts changed direction slightly a couple of years ago when I got my first 'serious' sewing machine and found myself getting more into formal dresses. I set myself the challenge of doing on a year and instead of just copying the patterns I also wanted to start altering them. The first dress I tried this on was a purple evening dress. This dress is actually made with upholstery fabric - I live in terror that one day what I'm wearing will match a chaise lounge or sofa, but the material was a reduced remnant and I just fell in love with it.
Friends started to notice my wardrobe expanding and the masses of material lying about my house and I got approached to do commissions, first mostly alterations (scary because you are messing with other people's work) and then later the most exciting commission of my life, making a wedding dress. I'd never done anything like it before. Design and construction of the actual dress was more like architecture/construction as there were many layers and you had to build the overall 'shape', and probably wasn't helped by the fact the corset top had to be hand-boned. I also didn't realise how much emotion would be involved in making the dress match the brides expectations -fortunate this was for one of my best friends, so she was really clear about what she did and didn't want.
I did survive the wedding dress and have recently done another wedding commission (this time making cravats and hankies for the groom and male members of the wedding party so they matched the bridesmaids) and have just taken on another commission for a Jane Austin dress to be completed this autumn. After that I suppose i should really address the large pile of remnants in my fabric stash...

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