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Arts & crafts

dressmaking skills have changed

(43 Posts)
TriciaF Fri 31-Mar-17 18:31:57

Reading the thread about patterns for older people, started me thinking about one of my Aunties, who was a brilliant
dressmaker. She made me my first evening dress, turquoise net, low necked, bra support, full skirt etc.
Here's an idea of the work that went into them:

suzied Fri 31-Mar-17 18:49:00

I have been a keen dressmaker since I was a teenager many moons ago, and it's only since I retired 4 years ago, that I've been able to spend more time on my erstwhile hobby. I now go to college in London one day a week doing couture dressmaking and pattern cutting. So many people ask me to make/ alter things that I could make a new career but that's not what I'm looking for. I am currently making 4 bridesmaids dresses and an outfit for myself for my sons summer wedding and loving every minute. Textiles is an expensive subject for schools to run and children today are less likely to be taught sewing skills. A great pity. France and Italy have a thriving high end fashion and textiles industry , our seems ago have disappeared with construction in the Far East,

Ilovecheese Fri 31-Mar-17 19:37:00

It certainly has suzied what was once a thriving British industry has now been decimated. We are losing our skill base. What was once a good, quite well paid job for a woman (and a few men) has gone. Sewing is now just a hobby, and not a cheap one. I don't know if you have ever asked those people who would like to to make things for them, how much they would pay you? or would they say "But I could buy it ready made for less than that!" And don't get me started on alterations!
Having said that it is 'just a hobby' I must add that it is the best hobby ever, and so therapeutic and relaxing it could save the health service thousands.

mcem Fri 31-Mar-17 20:34:35

2 of my sister's DGDs have shown an interest in sewing and she has bought each of them a basic sewing machine.
This revived my interest and I've resurrected mum's dormant Singer.
My DGD and I are now planning a simple circular skirt for summer which will be made by 'both of us'!
The 3 girls are 9, 8 and 6 so wish us luck!
May call back here for advice if these projects take off!

Jalima Fri 31-Mar-17 20:37:49

I used to sew a lot, including bridesmaids' dresses for the DC; from the age of about 14 I made my own dresses and then made clothes for the DC because it was so much cheaper. One thing I dislike is altering something and I'm afraid I haven't made anything for myself for very many years, although I have made soft furnishings for the house.

I still have a dress in the wardrobe which I made from a Vogue pattern, all finished off inside although I didn't have an oversewer, a shirtwaister in silk with covered buttons and a proper belt, very Dynasty with padded shoulders! grin I just can't bear to throw it out.

tanith Fri 31-Mar-17 21:16:48

I also used to make my own and childrens clothes when they were small, also soft furnishing, curtains etc. I do still alter some things but really lost my love of sewing clothes a long time ago. Now it all seems to much trouble. I once made a beautiful smocked nightdress for my new baby girl I so wish I'd kept it.

Oldgreymare Fri 31-Mar-17 21:31:02

I've just treated myself to a new sewing machine, I used to make dresses and skirts for myself and all curtains (self- taught as 'A' streamers had to take latin, no DS, in my so-called Comprehensive in the 50s and 60s). Rather like you Tanith. I'm hoping to make a few cotton dresses (fed up of failing to buy cool cotton 'frocks' as they are mostly lined in a man-made fibre, which defeats the object!

overthehill Sat 01-Apr-17 17:33:02

Although we live in London getting material that isn't of Asian type is nye on impossible.

I used to make my childrens clothes, my own and curtains etc.

It all drifted through the years and now the problem is trying to get the material to make things. Even John Lewis in Oxford Street has an abysmal range of cloth, unlike the old days and it costs a fortune.

Added to this I seem to have lost the skill to a certain extent. I have made my DGD a couple of dresses and done bits and pieces but nowhere near the amount I used to do.

Badenkate Sat 01-Apr-17 17:40:20

Unless you're going to make something special, material just seems so horribly expensive. It's fine if you're a skilled dressmaker, but I haven't done any for years and got enthusiastic after watching the BBC competition, but then I went to look at material and got quite a shock.

tanith Sat 01-Apr-17 17:53:51

Dunelm Mill do a large selection of materials.

tanith Sat 01-Apr-17 17:55:59

They do have a large selection here


Antonia Sat 01-Apr-17 18:10:14

I used to sew nearly all my daughters' clothes but that was nearly 40 years ago, when making clothes was cheaper than buying them. I sew now for a hobby, and sell some of the items in my Etsy shop (pm me if you want to look). If you are into patchwork or quilting then a good site is They are not cheap but have really beautiful fabrics, plus free shipping over 60 euros. For dressmaking I use
They stock all types of fabric and generally the higher the price the better the quality, but I suppose that's true wherever you shop for fabrics.

Antonia Sat 01-Apr-17 18:13:05

Sorry the last link should have been

Ilovecheese Sat 01-Apr-17 19:33:25

Wow Antonia those sites look great!

Antonia Sat 01-Apr-17 21:13:27

Ilovecheese I have been using modes4u for over 4 years now and I have never been disappointed with their fabrics, they are excellent quality.

MartuB Fri 28-Apr-17 18:45:22

Message deleted by Gransnet. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Auntieflo Sat 29-Apr-17 08:40:33

I used to sew a lot when the children were small. I suppose I learned a lot from my Mum, but was also lucky in having a Domestic Science dept at school that was very good. My own first sewing machine was really a child's toy, doing a chain stitch. Mum even made curtains on it, and it certainly was sturdy. I still have it. Then I was bought a machine for my 21st, an old Singer that had been updated and electrified? with a foot pedal. I made matching outfits for me and DD when my brother was married, and a friend once said if I had half a yard of material I would cover a three piece suite. ( I did do that once) many moons ago. Now though it is usually small items or repairs. I visited a beautiful shop in Sturminster Newton, on holiday, that was a treasure trove of fabric, but don't know if it is still there. Sewing is a lovely hobby and you can lose yourself in it.

Mrskipling Tue 30-May-17 18:01:13

Auntieflo - that must have been Hansons then!
I live near there. Brilliant shop. I could browse for hours. I wait for the sales before I buy though - they do 20% off everything from time to time - well worth waiting for. Their workshops are good too.

Lillie Wed 31-May-17 06:18:48

I've been having similar conversations with DH about taking up sewing in my retirement. It's the same old objections - big initial outlay, expensive hobby when one can walk into a shop and take something cheaper (more fashionable?) off the peg, what if it becomes a five minute wonder etc. I think I will have to use some of your comments on the health and relaxation benefits to try and convince him!

Stansgran Wed 31-May-17 07:00:14

I am convinced that sewing is the best therapy ever. It also helps weight watching as you can't eat and sew and I make myself get up and walk to another room to iron so my knees keep moving.

Grannyknot Wed 31-May-17 08:28:35

The argument about sewing something from scratch or buying cheaply could be said about knitting too. I knit for relaxation, and my family have cottoned on to it as an excellent choice for gifts, so I get really lovely expensive wools and knitting accessories for birthdays etc. So no one thinks of it as an "expensive hobby".

Re sewing, my gran was a seamstress, I have strong memories in particular about how fussy she was about getting dress hems straight, with me on the table, and her with one of those clamps that measured hems, having to turn around an inch at a time. To this day I can't cope with a badly finished hem smile - and there are plenty of those!

Dressmaking was a wonderful skill. I've written before about how my grandmother was the town's "invisible mender" - her skills known far and wide as people brought clothes for mending, often back then with cigarette burn holes in gossamer dresses or sports jackets.

This thread (excuse the pun) has really brought back lovely memories for me.

Lillie Wed 31-May-17 09:35:44

Ah memories, *Grannyknot", standing on the table! My mum made me a ballet tutu once with layers of net. She tried it on me, not realising she had left in a row of pins. The insides of my thighs were shredded to pieces. I was not amused!

This thread has really inspired me.

JackyB Wed 31-May-17 11:44:00

A friend of mine used to work as a children's nurse. She said that she had visited a children's home recently and it was quite an eye-opener.

Whereas in her day, they would shorten sleeves of dresses or blouses where the elbows had worn through by hemming them and crocheting a border and sewing it on, "these days" they just cut the sleeve off!

I used to sew, but I was never very good, and I haven't done any for ages. I can't imagine not knowing how to, though. Neither of my DILs have the slightest idea. My three boys got taught more sewing than them!

janeainsworth Wed 31-May-17 12:13:22

I've rediscovered the joy of sewing in my retirement.
I wanted some new curtains for the sitting room & the fabric I liked was so expensive that I decided to make them myself rather than get them made.
One thing that makes a difference is that now DCs no longer live at home, I can have my machine permanently set up on a table upstairs, so there isn't the constant faff of getting the machine out and putting it away again.

HildaW Wed 31-May-17 13:01:10

Avid sewer here. Have had great fun sewing proper frocks of late as we do a bit of social dancing. Not the 'Strictly' stuff but proper dresses with fuller skirts. Had great fun making up a reprint of a 50s style dress. We also do a bit of a fancy dress once a year so I get quite carried away.

Its helped by the real treat of now having a sewing room - there is a spare bed in there somewhere....but you can rarely see it! Also in this area we have a really quirky charity shop that sells all things haberdashery and fabric that people no longer need. You never know what's going to come I just pop in and buy any larger lengths of decent stuff ....and usually find a use for it....or just re-donate it.