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April 30, 2013 / KristenMakes

Proper Dressmaking

I don’t sew very often nowadays.  I’ve made lots of complicated things – my prom dress, a wedding dress, a lined jacket, etc – and even earned my BSc in Fashion Design & Technology where I learned proper drafting, patternmaking, draping and construction.  But after over fifteen years of sewing, I’m only just now starting to learn more about the seamstress that I am.  Or used to be.


Prom, 2000 – yes that’s me and the husband, when we were young!

Years ago my personal sewing style was to make something quick and dirty.  I knew all the right things to do, but I deliberately cut all the corners to get so a finished garment fast.  But along the way I started to knit – a lot.  Knitting forces you to slow down, to consider every single stitch and how it affects design and shape.  The more advanced I became in knitwear, the more I realised how I appreciate a well-thought-out garment and a perfect fit.


When I would have in the past sewn a quick shirt that after a few months I’d realise isn’t fitting right, or doesn’t sit well in my wardrobe, I found myself just not sewing at all.  Then I started lose faith in my sewing abilities.  I’d been so out of practice, and a lot of the more recent things I’d made I just wasn’t that keen on anymore.  If you’ve read this blog for a few years, you may remember the Crafters’ Ceilidh, a blogger meet-up in Edinburgh.  Meeting up with so many fantastic sewists renewed my resolve to get back into sewing again, and to do things right this time.  That’s when I made Minoru.  What a success that was!


Then I made a Lonsdale dress.  Again, a slow but perfect success. I was really started to understand that by taking time, planning, sewing in stages (no more all-nighters ending in tired sewing and angry seam-ripping), I could make a real piece that was just perfect for me.  And perfect enough to wear to my big brother’s wedding!

And now, I’m on to my next project.  The Kat Strapless Dress by Grainline Studio.


[Image via]

A few weeks ago I bought and downloaded the pattern.  Last weekend I bought my fabric – enough of each colour to later decided which should go where.  This weekend I made a muslin while watching dressmaking videos.  Months back, I also purchased the Sew Retro Bombshell Dress online class by Gretchen Hirsch through Craftsy.


[Image via]

I don’t think the lines of that dress are right for me, and while in the future I could easily adapt it to something more me, I’m not just ready to do that yet.  So while working this weekend on the Kat dress muslin, I watched through a lot of the class videos, just for tips and to get into the dressmaking mindset.  It really helped to learn a few tricks I didn’t already know, and was nice to have on also in the background.  Plus if something strikes you and you want to ‘bookmark’ it, you can with a notes option!  So while watching the videos, I also started to think about which colours to put where.  I realised I couldn’t visualise it properly and had to sketch out different versions.


I thought that I’d prefer the predominantly pink version, thinking it needed the heavy blue at the bottom to anchor it, but looking at the predominantly blue version, I think that’s my actual favourite. Which is good because blue is more flattering to my skin than pink. It was easier to continue with the muslin too, after having made the decision. Its nice to envision which fabric I’d be working with when on a particular piece.


So it turns out that the fit of the muslin is perfect!  Obviously, you see it here pinned to the mannequin, but that’s just for display.  The mannequin isn’t exactly my size, but rather more for photography purposes – rest assured, it does fit me!  Some might think, well that was a waste of time since no pattern alterations were needed but I’m glad that I made the muslin.  I feel that sewing the muslin familiarised me with the pattern and steps.  I now know where I should clip in order to prevent puckers, and I know where to expect trouble.  There are a few puckers and creases, but I now know where to expect the trouble, and how to compensate for it.


Making the muslin of a pattern whose design you are still working out the details for is super helpful in encouraging you to make those decisions.  Plus now, I’ve had the time to think about other changes to make.  For example, I’ve decided (thanks to the Bombshell videos) that I’d like to underline the skirt portion with organza to give it more body.  Looks like I went from a sewer who used to cut corners now to one who creates more corners.

This morning after assessing the finished muslin, I decided to clean up, shower, and do dishes.  Years ago I’d have stayed in my pajamas, dirty, hunched over the machine all day, rushing and making bad decisions (sure, why not a pink zipper for a blue dress? I don’t really care).  But today I’m glad I put it all away.  I’m excited to get it all out next weekend, once my properly-matched zipper and my organza have come in.  I think my finished dress will be just perfect for taking my time.  So now, 9 PM on a weeknight, what I really want to do is start cutting out that fabric, but what I should do, and will do, is settle in with some tea, my ongoing blanket knitting, and a book (I’m currently reading Foundation on my Kindle) to wind down before bed.  Look at me, growing up!



Leave a Comment
  1. aviewintomyworld / Apr 30 2013 4:42 pm

    funny how you ended on a look i’m grown up note because I do think thats a factor. I take much more time now than i used to aswell, and in fact having less time to sew makes me think through my project in more detail in my head (when i’m cycling about or doing something completely different) so often i feel as if i’ve already made one by the time i get to sewing i’ve spent so much mental time on it!
    had spied your pics on flickr and was hoping there was a post in the works, as always i love your sketches, my fav was the predominately blue too.
    Happy sewing & knitting & reading! 🙂

  2. Helen / Apr 30 2013 5:34 pm

    Having just rushed a project, which I am not that happy with, I’m now taking my time with my current make (Mathilde blouse) and really enjoying the finish of my first ever French seams, proper seam allowances and just taking my time! I know I won’t always do this, but it’s good to see why it’s worth doing!

    Great post!

  3. Sølvi / Apr 30 2013 5:47 pm

    Mmm – delicious colors, regardless of how you end up choosing. I try to take my time too, and I find it easier to do with more elaborate designs, like a dress like the one you are making, or a jacket. I still have a hard time taking it slow with knits (and I mean sewn knits, just to clear that one up;-), for some reason. For me, it´s kind of like – the more pattern pieces – the better results!

    Have fun with your crafts! 🙂

  4. Amanda / Apr 30 2013 6:36 pm

    I have found myself on the same path (albeit far more slowly). I’m starting to take more time putting pieces together and focusing on fit. In saying that sometimes I fall back into bad habits and have to stop myself… Your Kat muslin is looking fab!

  5. Marilyn S / Apr 30 2013 8:32 pm

    Well, you KNOW this post makes your momma happy! On so many levels!
    Proud of you, DD….though I always am!
    XX Mum

  6. Sue / Apr 30 2013 8:35 pm

    Before I read your favorite version from your lovely sketches, I had picked the blue one. So I guess we agree. It should look great. Nice for a summer wedding in the states.

    Loved seeing the old prom picture. Fond memories. And I didn’t realize you’d made a wedding gown.

  7. Marilyn S / Apr 30 2013 8:49 pm

    Sue, Did you see their foot wear in the prom picture? Those two have always been rebels!

  8. Franca / May 1 2013 5:17 am

    I’m still in the messy stage, but I aspire to do it properly too. I still love that coat you made – amazing!

  9. didyoumakethat / May 2 2013 5:05 am

    Beautifully written! What a great record of the sewing journey.

  10. Sue / May 2 2013 8:00 pm

    Marilyn, I did notice their feet in the prom picture. And I remember that well. They’re the cutest of all rebels.

  11. gingermakes / May 2 2013 11:04 pm

    Love this post! I used to love to work fast and dirty, but it’s so worth it to take your time and do things the right way!

  12. SRHJNE / May 9 2013 2:48 am

    It’s great to hear someone else’s reflections on rushing sewing. Got my first sewing machine when I was eight and from that time until the time when I made my first prom dress I basically just ignored any pattern that I couldn’t make in an afternoon. Once I started taking the time I realised it was more than worht the extra time spent to get a well fitting perfectly made dress!

  13. Richie / May 15 2013 8:59 pm

    What a handsome older brother!!! :p

  14. Rue / May 19 2013 10:14 pm

    What a great reminder to slow down and focus on the details. I’ve found myself rushing into knitting patterns and projects lately, with the result often being that I frog much more than I otherwise should have. Thanks for the reminder to take it one step at a time (and do my number crunching and swatching beforehand)!

  15. dandeliondrift / May 31 2013 2:37 pm

    I need to work on my patience with sewing. I have been picking more complicated patterns recently to help me slow down and do a really good job, instead of get it done quick! I can’t wait to see the finished dress!


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