From a very early age I loved to make dresses. As a teenager, before commencing a job as a dressmaker, I made my own patterns with taped together pieces of greaseproof paper and lots of imagination! I was inquisitive, and, lacking the pattern cutting skills I later learned, would scrutinise garments in an attempt to understand the shaping and construction techniques.
It was a dress that sparked my strong interest in pursuing a career in sewing. Thirteen year old me watched a man making cotton dresses in Afflecks Palace, Manchester. I bought one from him that day and excitedly took it home on the train. I enjoyed wearing it for years. Sadly there’s no photographic evidence but here are just a few of my favourites, including the first professional pattern I created, aged 17, made using a lovely blue floral cotton remnant I found in a wonderfully jumbled up fabric shop (pictured below). I thoroughly enjoyed drafting this pattern accurately, from a basic dress block, using dot and cross paper (shown in the photograph), a sharp pencil and my lovely new set square from Morplan.
Since then, I’ve made many dresses. Cotton dresses are by far my favourite to make and wear for myself. I’ve also worked as a pattern cutter in a nightwear factory where I learned such a lot, particularly about bias cutting and pin hems. I really enjoyed making wedding dresses, in the days when I took on made to measure commissions.
Working for Betty Foster, in her pattern cutting studio, when I was 20, was a fascinating experience. You can read a little more about that on the About page.
These days I love to make dresses for myself as well as teaching people the skills to make their own. I feel just as excited about sewing today, as I did as an apprentice dressmaker.
Here’s my trip down dress memory lane…
Pattern pieces for the first professional pattern I created from a dress block in 1988! The same Patternmaster is still going strong.
The first dress I made using professional pattern cutting techniques and my beloved Patternmaster. So worn, it eventually ripped. Happy memories of receiving a Prince’s Trust award and passing my driving test whilst wearing this dress.
Rie Rasmussen and Jamel Debbouze in one of my favourite films, Angel-A.
With a neckline very much inspired by the dress worn by Rie Rasmussen in the beautiful film Angel-A, I created this pattern for myself.
I wanted a full skirt combined with the neckline I had seen in the film, so, I created a paper pattern from my personal dress block. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know how short her dress is!!
I inserted a concealed zip at the centre back.
I was given this gorgeous piece of soft, pure cotton, fabric. The print makes me think of Monet’s paintings of Giverny. I used my dress block to create a halter neck pattern with rouleau loops and little brown buttons at the front.
I used my dress block to create a halter neck pattern with rouleau loops and little brown buttons at the front.
A special someone bought this lovely book for me. It’s full of interesting information and beautiful pictures.
Dawn O’Porter wearing a dress that came to me as a quirky unfinished project. I don’t know it’s history but I loved reworking it, giving it some much needed tlc and then seeing it in the intro of Channel 4 series This Old Thing. The fabric is a beautiful gondola print linen.
Questions or comments? Do you have a favourite dress? Are you interested in booking my sewing tuition services? Do get in touch via email or social media.
PS No copyright infringement intended. Images from This Old Thing and Angel-A taken from screenshots with much respect to all creative people involved in making of both.