For my first Sewing Showcase I'd like you to meet Portia from Miss P! Portia is a young mom from the UK and what I love about Portia is that not only is she working on making her own patterns (something I also like to do) but she's also great at finding unwanted garments and restyling them into something amazing! I wish I had that gift to envision what a garment could be rather than what it is. Oh, and did I mention that she also has a lovely shop full of vintage treasures?
Be sure to visit her blog, Miss P, and her Etsy vintage shop!
Have you always made your own clothes or is sewing something you started more recently? How did you learn to sew and why do you like making clothes more than home decor projects or quilting or other types of sewing?
Gosh no, I wish!! When I first left school I started my A levels in Textiles, Art & Design and business studies with vague ideas of earning a living in the fashion industry. Circumstances at the time meant I had to drop out after only 9 months of study.
Then "life" happened and I was busy paying bills and starting a family. It's only now, 20 years on, that I've come back to it. I started a college course about 18months ago to learn what I should have learned back then. I still class myself as a novice. I don't really feel like I've earned my sewing stripes yet..!
What are some of your favorite pieces you've made yourself? And what's on your list of must-sew projects?
In all honesty I don't have a favourite project as such, as I'm not yet happy with the standard of my finish. (God that sounds terribly self critical doesn't it?!) So at the moment I'll have favourite "bits" of various different projects. I like the concept of the refashion I did on the plaid dress (Using the excess of fabric from the hem to make sleeves,) but not necessarily my execution of it. I left the sleeve head too short which is why there are drag lines on the sleeve. Overall I quite like the denim shirt refashion too.
My "must sew" for Spring/Summer are a couple of pairs of 30's style lounge/palazzo pants in a lightweight print. The kind that swish round your legs and create their own breeze to keep you nice and cool! I bought a vintage pattern on Etsy that I'm hoping to grade up and adapt. That arrived this morning so I'm keen to clear some projects out of the way and get started on those.
You're working on your go-to dress from scratch. Could you describe what this project is and why you're doing it? What are you learning from making this dress?
I have a couple of dresses that fit me really well,are versatile,and I always feel good in. They are my "Go To" garments. My wardrobe fail safes. So I wanted to draft a pattern that recreated all the best elements of those dresses and that I could use as a template to create different variations of the same basic style. I'm sure if I'd have looked I could have bought a pattern that required much less work than I have put into drafting my own. But I find the process fascinating and it really supports my understanding of garment construction and fitting in general. Plus the sense of achievement and ownership is greater.
I never could understand how pattern companies could charge so much. But now I realize how much time and skill is invested in developing a pattern, the price tag seems very reasonable indeed!!
You have many "sewing basics" posts on your blog. What is a sewing technique you with you had learned when you were just getting started?
I wish I had read up on the basics of using a sewing machine. Instead I winged it a bit at the start which led to lot's of frustration and abandoned projects. (Although conversely I'm still an advocate of just diving in and puzzling it out as you go. I think it's a good way of learning) But "understand your machine" would be my best advice to anyone starting out. My first big revelation was the seam guide on the throat plate. It seems so obvious now. I really don't know what planet I was on, but I couldn't figure out how to keep my seams straight. Then came my red faced encounter with the assistant in out local haberdashery store. Intent on making me feel like a total muppet.
How was I supposed to know I couldn't use a 12 needle to sew upholstery fabric, lol! I must confess, I do get really bugged by sales assistants that roll their eyes as if you're a moron for not knowing something. "Don't call someone stupid for not knowing what you only learned yesterday". After all, these people weren't born knowing what a selvage was. At some point they didn't know either!
When thrifting for yourself for restyles - what do you look for in a garment? Pretty fabrics? A blank slate? Something you can take apart completely or just something where you can alter little bits like a collar or sleeves to make it work?
I'm totally led by whatever garments I come across. Some garments just need a little tweak to make them fabulous again. Others require reconstructive surgery! The major factor though has to be fabric. I don't see the point in putting effort into cheap and nasty fabrics. For me, they've got to feel great and drape well. If the materials you start with are beautiful, you've got a fighting chance of ending up with a beautiful garment.
(check out Portia's most recent restyle!)
Do you go thrift shopping with a plan in mind of what kind of clothes you want to make and search for something that can serve that purpose or do you shop with an open mind and let inspiration strike?
Nope. No plan at all. I tend to thrift quite instinctively. I scan with my eyes and hands and I'll be drawn to a color, texture or pattern poking out of a rail of clothes and investigate. (J takes the mickey out of me for it. He makes little noises like a radar bleeping when I'm out thrifting with him in tow. Yep. He's officially hilarious). Then I'll decide whether it'll go in my Etsy shop, my restyle pile, or my wardrobe. When it comes to restyles, sometimes I'll know straight away what I want to do with a garment. Other times I'll just keep it hanging in view for a while and ideas will pop into my head over time.
You're participating Me Made March where you challenged yourself to wear one self made garment each day in March. How has making your own clothes helped you develop your personal style?
Massively. When it comes to clothes, I've never been able to have exactly what I want before. Either because of budget,fit, or because I simply can't find what I have pictured in my head. As my dressmaking skills develop those constraints are slowly falling away. So for the first time,(I'd actually go so far as to say,ever) I am able to properly explore and experiment with what I want to wear and it's having a really positive impact on my confidence and self esteem.
Me Made March is pretty cool too. I'm finding myself experimenting with combinations I wouldn't normally consider, in order to incorporate the "Me Made" element. It's also helped to highlight what areas of my wardrobe need attention and provide a focus for my sewing projects. It's had such an impact in fact, that it's prompted me to have a massive wardrobe purge. (2 sacks worth of clothes, gah!!) As of now I'm starting from scratch, and the only thing I will give wardrobe space to, is something I feel really good in.
I know you have a young son. How do you make time to take care of him, go thrifting, post on your blog and, of course, do so many sewing projects? I don't even have kids and I have a hard time getting everything done! Any time saving tips?
Ah, my Little Tornado, yes! Elliott is totally the love of my life and I work everything around his routine. Which luckily is consistent enough for me to plan my day around. Basically I decide what I want to achieve that day and then break those tasks down into different categories. (Ha ha,I sound a bit obsessive don't I! But seriously, I'd never get anything done if I didn't plan like this.) There are things like housework, (yes, my 2 year old hoovers, it's hilarious)laundry and shopping that he's happy to be involved with. He follows me round with a duster and we turn the music up loud and sing and dance as we go.
Then there's the things (mostly my sewing) that I can only do when Elliott is napping (an hour each day), at nursery (6 hours a week) or asleep at night. (Usually I can fit in an hour or so in the evening) Then I'll squeeze in bits of blogging, college and Etsy while he's eating or happy amuse himself for a while here and there. Overall,when you tot the hours up across the week there's a modest amount of time to "play" with but because it's all pretty fragmented, it takes a little planning to take full advantage of it.
My best tip is to try and have a dedicated sewing space. We built a summer house last year and that is my space that I can just close the door on, then pick straight back up again when I get my next window of time. It's so time consuming when you have to pack everything away and then unpack it all again. If you only have half an hour to spare, you could spend the whole time just doing that. My summer house has been a total godsend.
Thanks Portia for your great interview! I can't wait to see even more sewing projects from you!