People always ask me how i got started sewing, so today as i turn 31 and celebrate 20 years of sewing, i thought i’d share with you these photos of how it all began.
I learnt to sew when i was 10/11 years old. I had my own ideas about what my Barbies should be wearing, and so i cut up my own clothing, and hand sewed little outfits for them. When my mom found out, she gave me a sewing machine, taught me how to use it, and helped me through my first real apparel project using a sewing pattern – a quarter circle wrap skirt.
The machine was an Elna Lotus from the 60’s. I could wax lyrical about this machine – it’s gorgeous and so precious to me. All metal construction and manufactured in Switzerland, it still works like a dream. It only has two stitches, straight and zig zag – but as a beginner, do you really need more? Nowadays I keep it in my workroom where i can see it all the time.
Armed with the sewing machine manual and a lot of determination, i spent the next few years teaching myself to sew and fumbling through figuring out how things were made. I moved on from cutting up my own clothing to cutting up my mom’s clothing (sorry mom!). I would rip things apart to figure out how they were made, what stitches and finishes were used? I was constantly investigating and trying and imagine the order and method in which things were constructed.
Sometimes i would try using a sewing pattern, but I would be frustrated by the instructions and poor fit, and had little knowledge of how to work through fit issues or alter a pattern properly.
I wish it had occurred to me to buy a book, or ask to be sent on sewing lessons! Oddly i was a child who didn’t like to ask for help, so my world was sewing machine manuals and reverse engineering.
I made some truly terrible things – but i learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t – don’t try and use velcro in jeans instead of a zipper! don’t sew your trainer bra to a blouse! hehehe
It was only when i learnt to drive and began going to sewing stores regularly and asking questions (so many questions!) that i found how much more there was to learn. I began collecting books and tools at lightning speed, and i feel like this is the point when i started making things that didn’t smack of “homemade” anymore.
When Chris and i were married my mother in law passed on her overlocker, pressing ham and vintage dress form to me, and again a whole new world of techniques opened up to me. After that i switched to text books on pattern drafting and grading, fashion illustration and anything i could get my hands on that was at a technically high level.
But I never ever forget that it all began with Barbie, a pair of scissors, a needle and embroidery thread.
When we found the box of these little treasures a few months ago Bunny asked to play with them, so we snapped a few photos of her playing Barbie dress ups with my childhood creations. The only one we didn’t play with was my favourite, the red blazer and skirt set as they didn’t fit any of her dolls. I’m so glad we got to share them together, it feels full circle, and i look forward to the day when i can show my kids how to use a sewing machine.
So here is to twenty years of sewing and never being too old for Barbies!