When I was 10 my grandmother bought me my very first (and to this day only) sewing machine. It was made of shiny white and pink plastic with a tiny pedal that I could just about reach if I balanced precariously on the very edge of my stool. As much as I wanted to be able to work with as much accuracy and focus as she did – carefully laying out transparent patterns which rustled and crunched as she meticulously pinned them to the fabric – my sartorial aspirations culminated in nothing more than tangled treads, bunched polyester, and utter frustration. The only thing I successfully made was a mess. But almost 15 years later I finally felt ready to pick up a needle and thread again.
After borrowing my parents brand new sewing machine, purchasing a beginner’s kit from Argos (super cheap and containing almost everything needed to get started), plus an essential copy of Sewing for Dummies, I was good to go. But it wasn’t as straight forward as I had imagined. I had hoped my gender would render me naturally able to navigate my way around the machine’s cogs and levers, but I may as well have been staring under the bonnet of a car, tying to fix its dilapidated engine. It took me the best part of an hour just to thread the machine and wind the bobbin, learning about stitch width and tension was more than I could cope with, and I wasn’t convinced it was all that important anyway. I was wrong. My needle bent. Then it snapped. It was time to phone a friend…
Sure enough, after a few basic lessons from a design graduate / seasoned sewing fanatic my confidence was growing. The next step was to find a garment worthy of my newly honed skills, and Beyond Retro on Cheshire St was my first port of call. Locating a vintage piece that was suitable for customisation was surprisingly challenging. It had to be fairly simple – a bit of a blank canvas for my creative vision – but still stylish.
After what felt like hours of rummaging through floral frocks and metallic, 80s, shoulder-padded jumpsuits I emerged victorious. A nautical dress, perfect for spring. It was too long and too wide but had heaps of potential.
Back at home it quickly became obvious that fitting and pinning a garment is definitely a two person task. Re-enter design graduate friend. Once she had carefully position the pins she helped me ease the dress off over my head (all the while telling me to think of the pin pricks as free acupuncture…hmmm) the sewing could finally begin.
To say I made my first hem slowly would be an understatement. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but unpicking a stitch takes a lot of concentration and patience – neither of which are qualities I posses in abundance – so if I was going to do this, I was blimmin well going to get it right first time. Somehow, four hours later, I had customised myself a sleek little sailor girl outfit. I’m not quite sure how so many bloggers have the skill set and the time to blog DIY posts on the regular. This might be the only one I ever produce. In fact I may never look at another bobbin again, but this was a big achievement for me. I’ve done my grandma proud.