Searching for a new hobby to help fill your extra downtime? It’s time to get back to basics and start making your own clothes. AISLINN COFFEY tries it out …
Alexa Chung and Tan France’s Next in Fashion, an updated Project Catwalk of sorts, sets out to find the hottest (already experienced) fashion designer on the block. Inspired, and armed with my new Singer sewing machine (€99 at Lidl), I head for Grafton Acadamy-trained Ann Flavin’s fabric store and design studio Texture, in Monkstown, to learn how to make a dress from start to finish. For those of you who haven’t visited the store, it is, in my opinion, the best ready-to-wear fabric store here. Flavin is a true sewing enthusiast, and together we decide on the quintessential shirt dress. It will last forever, worn in the summer cinched with a great belt, or over a knit come autumn. Flavin chooses a textured white fabric, that she ordered after spotting it on the catwalk. She says it will drape brilliantly.
Buying dressmaking patterns is a minefield: Flavin’s customers recommend Makers Atelier (if you like OSKA-style clothes) and Colette Patterns, or you can do as college students and younger sewers do download directly from the web. For the fashion conscious, Liberty of London’s newly launched dressmaking patterns draw inspiration from its archive, with added contemporary style details – a fresh twist on classic vintage prairie-style shapes, very SS20. I’ve also followed #imakemyownclothes for inspiration. I discover having a one-to-one teacher makes the whole process easier. My tool kit comprises Fiskars scissors (lightweight and easy to use), Gütermann white thread (the best), John James needles and a tailor’s tape and chalk from Home Focus at Hickeys.
We don’t have a pattern so it takes at least 20 hours in total to complete the dress, much longer if Flavin were not helping me over a couple of sessions. In reality, I expect it will take me more than a year to learn how to sew, even to a basic level. Sewing a straight seam seems to be my biggest challenge right now. I cannot imagine how I will cope with the buttons. But I will. Pressing is a necessary evil and an artform. But if I do it right, step-by-step, hopefully I can wear what I have made and have fun along the way. I’m still that girl who dreams of running up a new “going-out top” for Saturday nights. Last month, Material Girl Madonna posted her and her sister Paula’s seamstress skills on Instagram.
“We sewed our own dresses from Butterick patterns,” she wrote. “I was always so embarrassed we could not afford store-bought dresses. In retrospect, I’m glad I learned how to use a sewing machine,” she added. Jenna Lyons still reminisces about the Butterick-pattern skirt she made in school and maintains that it raised her social status in class and set her on her fashion career path. Actress Julia Roberts, also a keen sewer, claims her hobby stops her brain from turning to “mush” as she gets older. So, it seems you reap what you sew. Flavin offers customers the choice of buying luxury fabrics and haberdashery in-store or having a bespoke piece designed and made (pattern or no pattern). And, if you ask her nicely, she may help you with your newly acquired machine too.
Texture, 24 Monkstown Cresent, Co Dublin; www.texture.ie.
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