Sunday, May 30, 2010

In the immortal words of Take That... (Or: Anyone can learn to sew)

... "We've come so far."

Every time Ruby stays over at my parents' she comes back with something or other that she has begged, borrowed or stolen. Last week she came back with a little pink dress she had found hanging on a forgotten hook somewhere, the first thing I ever sewed for her.

It wasn't that long ago, maybe two years, but I'd kind of forgotten about it. I'd forgotten that when I started out I really didn't know how to sew. I just knew that I wanted to. Obviously the girl has grown in the interim so you'll have to forgive the fact that she looks like an extra from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but whatever allowances you make for that you will surely wince, nonetheless, to see the flaws in the shaping, the way the upper bodice gapes while the lower bodice barely makes it across her belly...

... the, um, generous armscye and the poorly finished seams.

The wonky stitching...

... the seams that didn't quite stand the test of time ...

... and the raw edges ...

... raw edges everywhere you look.

It made me really happy to see how for I've come in what seems now to be quite a short time. I've learned everything I know from sewing blogs, tutorials and books, from my marvelous mum, and from good old-fashioned trial and error. When I started I couldn't sew a buttonhole; I didn't know how to set in a sleeve. I had never sewn elastic, never used bias binding, never sewn a rolled hem or a french seam. Back then I didn't know what a placket was, let alone how to sew one. If something got ripped, or stained, or outgrown, it went to the charity shop, or in the bin. Now when Ruby outgrows a dress, I make it into a skirt. When my jeans don't fit properly, I alter them. I couldn't find a dress I liked enough to wear to my friends' wedding next weekend, so I am going to make one instead.

Two years ago I was no better at sewing than when I walked out of my last needlework class aged eleven. Now I feel as though I've always sewn. There is so much that I still want to learn, I'm standing right at the foot of the mountain, but it's not intimidating any more. I don't look at something I want to make and decide against it because I don't know how to sew in the zip, or what to do with the interfacing, or because I don't like the sleeves quite like that. Not any more. Now I look at something and work out how achieve what I want to achieve. I know that few things are as hard as they look.

So, that was the first dress I made for Ruby, which was only ever worn once or twice, which never really survived the wash, but which, like everything else I make her, was stitched so lovingly, with so much care. It was my prototype.

My other prototype turned three yesterday, but this one can't be improved upon. She's perfect just the way she is.


  1. Happy birthday Ruby, and well done mum!

  2. wow! I never realised you just taught yourself! Very, very impressive indeed. I would love to be able to sew, to adjust clothes to fit properly, or to tweak things to turn them from 'ok' to what I'm actually looking for. I have zero patience though so not sure I'd be great at teaching myself...