My Mum like many others had a sewing machine it lived in our hallway was quite a clumsy object but I loved it, it was a Singer treadle machine. This is the sort that is powered by your foot on a pedal, pushing back and forth, quite a skill to acquire I might add. These were some of the first sewing machines and would these days be classed as antique. I took Needlework at school and learnt how to make a pin cushion and progressed to a basic skirt. We were taught how to sew on a button, mend a tear and other basic skills. I didn’t continue with the subject at O level choosing to take Art instead, it was only after leaving school that my interest was rekindled. I soon discovered that with a sewing machine at my disposal, I could create original items, personalise an old pair of jeans and repair a broken zip on favourite clothing. Being able to make my own clothes meant I could save a fortune on purchasing designer dresses, this is where my sewing machine came into its own. Everyday clothing can almost always be bought for less than you can make it yourself these days with the advent of fast fashion, but with a good pattern and stylish fabrics, creating a one-off piece for that special occasion is pure joy, and wait till you get the compliments and questions, where did you get that beautiful dress, I have never seen anything like it? and you can answer smugly ” oh this, just something I created myself “. I made all my own maternity wear, preferring my style of the feminine to that which was fashionable at the time. When my children were born, I had endless fun making their clothes, cute little dungarees and smocked dresses as well as practical robust outerwear. Another thing that gave me great pleasure was being able to create fancy dress costumes for my children when they had the annual school competition. One event I remember with some success was the Ugly Bug Ball which was held at my children’s primary school. My daughter was dressed as a Ladybird, easily done by sewing red spots onto a padded out backpack and my favourite was the caterpillar that I created for my son by simply modifying an old green sleeping bag to fashion a body and then attaching some antenna onto a headband, sometimes the most fun comes from the simplest things.

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at dressmaking, I never had any formal training, If you choose a simple pattern to begin, the best advice I could give is to follow the instructions on the pattern to the letter, however straight forward it may seem, don’t be tempted to take short cuts. Follow the pattern step by step and slowly but surely something wonderful will be created, from here you can move on to bigger and better more sophisticated garments. One dress I made will last in my memory forever, it was an evening gown in shot taffeta, off the shoulder with a boned bodice and a fishtail skirt. It was amazing to wear and received so many compliments, I truly felt like the Belle of the ball, cost me a fraction of what it would have been off the peg and fit perfectly since I could make adjustments just where they were needed as I went along.

Today you can buy sewing machines that will do almost anything you would ever need, as with anything, I would advise doing your research and looking around before making a purchase. If you are looking to do just the simple projects like curtains or taking in a skirt then a basic machine would suit you fine and serve you well as you develop your skills. Maybe though, you see yourself progressing onto bigger and better things and would be advised to buy a more sophisticated machine. There are so many machines on the market, I would recommend buying the best you can afford for your needs.

There is so much you can do sitting at your sewing machine from lovely soft furnishings for your home to just practical things like adjusting the hem on trousers. one of my largest projects was to make curtains in my living room which is the through lounge style with large wide windows at either end. I purchased my material which had a large pattern and because I needed more than one width of fabric in each curtain, I needed to allow for pattern matching on each one. I don’t know where I heard this advice but measure it twice and then measure again, its really important not to leave yourself with too little fabric. I also created a pelmet in the same fabric using a design I came across in an American soft furnishing book which used the main pattern on the fabric and repeated it across the width of the pelmet, now this was quite a challenge to cut and match. As you can imagine across two large windows almost floor to ceiling there was a lot of material and that first cut was very scary indeed. Which brings me to another piece of advice – NEVER
EVER CUT INTO FABRIC AFTER 9 PM. This was some of the best advice I ever received, much as you want to make progress it would be prudent to wait till the clear light of day when you are at your most alert. If you have the space in your home, set aside an area for your sewing projects. Keep your machine set up and good to go, this way if you need to do a quick repair, the machine is on hand and the task can be completed quickly and efficiently and you will feel like superwoman.

I hope I have inspired you to dust off your machine or even treat yourself to a state of the art, all-singing, all-dancing affair. Take yourself off to the nearest fabric shop and lose yourself for a couple of hours just perusing all the many and varied fabrics and haberdashery that are available and come away raring to go with a new project.

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