As a high school student in an all girls’ school, it was mandatory that all students take textile classes in years 7 and 8; at first I loved this but as I got older I began to question it.
“Why should we learn to sew?” “Is it because we’re girls?” “That’s sexist, why can’t we do automotive studies too?” “What is this, the 1950s?” “I’ll bet all boys schools don’t have to do this garbage”.
Reality is in those formative years we were given a vast range of mandatory subjects to learn, to gain some important life skills. So along with English, math, science, Indonesian and Italian, we did home economics, art, wood work and yes, textiles. These are all skills that at the time I didn’t see as being skills but more of a sexist generalisation of what girls should do along with wood work thrown in to pacify…yes I have always been passionately unapologetic about women’s rights.
Now however, I am grateful that I can cook for myself, sew a new outfit and put together furniture all while maintaining that 1950’s glamour in a modern society where men should be able to do these things too to successfully adult…but I digress.
So in year 9 and 10, as soon as the opportunity arose to choose our own elective subjects, I dropped textiles but continued with home ec and wood work because I loved cooking and loved making things. Thanks to my parents for instilling in me a balance they never had, I learned to build things and use tools in the shed as a child with dad and create scrumptious goodies with mum, so I did remarkably well in these subjects.
In my first senior (VCE) year, year 11, I continued with home ec, and took up textiles again but sadly couldn’t pursue wood work due to lack of student participation.
But alas, my penchant for tomfoolery took over in my textiles class.
I wish I could go back in time and give my 16/17 year old self a stern talking to!
I would say, stop clowning around and pay attention, stop wasting time being difficult and use this class time to gain some knowledge. Future you will thank you, because guess what, at age 25 you will realise you love sewing and it will consume all your free time…which you will be completely fine with, so FOCUS!
Instead, I was given a satisfactory grade with a promise that I would steer clear of textiles the following year, which I happily did.
Now as I said, in my junior years, year 7 and 8, I loved textiles and actually paid attention and am so glad I did because it means as an adult I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. Having learned the basics in these years, like how to properly and safely use a sewing machine, meant as an adult I just had to learn…everything else!
So when I started to take more of an interest in sewing after getting into the pinup scene nearly 2 years ago, I realised there’s so much I didn’t know
Thankfully we live in the glorious technology era where there is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. The main thing I had to learn was how to read a sewing pattern. Since silly younger me spent a year goofing around in year 11 when I should have been learning this, I had to teach myself. Naturally I avoided doing so.
With my new wardrobe change proving to be quite costly though, I couldn’t put off learning to read for very long. Vintage reproduction can be very expensive and when postage and the poor exchange rate is factored in a basic gathered skirt can cost $160! So I started thinking maybe for basic things like plain dresses and skirts wouldn’t be so terrifying. So having decided on a new creative outlet and a new way to stock my wardrobe, I went to Spotlight and picked up some patterns.
When I first opened a pattern last year, I took one look at it, thought “nope” and folded it all up and put it away for the next few months. Late last year I decided I had put it off long enough and it was time learn. Being a visual learner, I went straight to YouTube and watched this very detailed video on how to read a pattern. From here I had a “uh ha!” moment and realised patterns aren’t so scary! I was looking at all those pieces and pages of instructions not realising that most patterns come with a few different designs and views and would therefore have pattern pieces and instructions to accommodate those, so I wouldn’t need all of them to create one garment.
So with this new understanding I decided to give sewing a go.
I was very lucky to have been able to use my mum’s sewing machine which served me well, even though it was older than me, my mum had kept it in great condition so I was able to create a lot of pieces with it. Now I am using my own limited edition Heritage Singer sewing machine my partner got me for my birthday and I absolutely love it!
So onto the actually sewing.
The first piece I made was a strawberries and cream circle skirt which I drafted myself from watching A Vintage Vanity’s circle skirt tutorials. It took me about a week and was super ill fitting because I was still learning, nothing a belt couldn’t fix though. Next I made a gathered skirt which really doesn’t need a pattern (I will be uploading a tutorial in coming weeks)…still avoiding patterns at this point. The gathered skirt took for ever too and looking back, the fabric I used was way too heavy for a gathered skirt and would have been much better suited for a circle skirt.
Since then I have made 2 different halter neck tops and these cute boat neck tops.
Plenty of skirts
And some dress rescues and upcycles
With each project I feel my skills, knowledge and understanding of garment construction have improved. I no longer take a week of solid sewing to make a single skirt…sometimes life can be distracting so things may take a couple nights work but I no longer pull all nighters just to finish.
Now that I have gotten over my fear of patterns I’m super addicted to making my own clothes. It’s lots of fun for me and is so satisfying being able to create something from scratch as well as being a great money saver! I wear vintage reproduction on a daily basis and as I said, this style of clothing can be quite expensive so making this style of clothing is definitely cheaper…if you don’t count spending hours at Spotlight (Australian fabric and craft store) and coming out with bags of goodies for new projects. For things like basic department store clothes, it’s cheaper to buy them from the store which is fine.
What’s next on my sewing pile?
I have 2 pageant outfits which I am ridiculously excited about and keeping very tight lipped on. I’m brainstorming an outfit idea for the upcoming GreazeFest Pinups On Parade show. I haven’t been accepted yet, but there’s no harm in being prepared. If I don’t make the cut, at least I’ll have a new outfit right? I want to try to do my own alterations. This is something I have been avoiding and an expense I could save on if I were to do it myself. So far I have added pockets to some of my skirts but I haven’t taken anything in yet despite having some things that need it. I also want to try making my own vintage trousers, which for some reason I am super intimidated by but by golly, I will try!
Have your discovered a love of sewing?
What have been your struggles and triumphs?
Share in the comment section below.
Miss Dottie DeMure