I love questions from my readers! I like to problem solve. Let’s be honest I love problems. Sorting things out makes me tick. Joyce asked how to ease in a sleeve, so I wrote to her directly. Karine asked for a view of President Omaba’s beige suit. Another reader requested advice on a reversible dress. I am so flattered that people think I have something to offer. Of course I am not an expert really but I will have a go, and make suggestions if I can. But last week I got an enquiry last week that I am not sure how to answer, so I will share it with you.
Rachel Goodyer writes:
I request you blog about superb easy patterns for beginners. I’ve loved the Vogue wrap dress and have made three. I’m looking for patterns that are easy but with style and that wow factor.
I have written back and asked Rachel what sort of style she likes beyond the DVF-type jersey wrap dress. When suggesting patterns as well as the level of skill required (beginner) we really need to know something about the wardrobe personality, and if you have a straight or shaped body outline. I haven’t heard from Rachel, but let’s assume she has a classic wardrobe personality and a shaped body. This I surmise from her enthusiasm for the wrap dress (but I could be wrong – “wow” may mean she is a dramatic!).
Now I need to state that I am not very au fait with the wide range of commercial patterns available, as I tend to use second-hand, vintage ones, or I make or adapt my own. The main reason for this is that I am fairly stingy (new patterns can cost £6-£15), and I don’t think the date matters too much if you are just looking for the basic shapes. The classic shapes don’t change very much over the years.
However there are many great bloggers out there who follow the most up to date trends, are much more prolific than I am, use contemporary commercial patterns, so they have a lot more experience than me. I am thinking especially of Ruth and Fairy who are both encyclopedic in their knowledge of what is available, what is nice to make and might suit a beginner. Ooobop regularly reviews what Burda has available. My friend Lyn is fairly new to sewing too and she may comment on patterns she has tried. Maybe other readers could make suggestions for Rachel.
So, as someone who doesn’t always answer the exam question, I will provide you with my suggestion for a beginner who wants to sew a few great items.
I would start off with a fitted skirt – either a pencil or a flared skirt, with a proper waist band and zip. I would make a few versions until I got a good fit. I would play around with the pattern – trying different fabrics and lengths, different depth of waist band, perhaps include patch pockets or trimming, then with a lining. I would keep going until I was happy with how the skirt fitted, and I had a great looking skirt. You can get an old pattern on eBay for a pound or two, or you could draft one to fit you (it is not difficult).
Then I would work on a sheath dress, or perhaps a princess line dress, in the same way. I would be focusing on fit and technique. You can see how most patterns offer a few variations, so you could do both these dresses and then include your own variation – maybe a V neck or a more revealing back. Shorter? Full length (with splits), shorter as a tunic top to wear over trousers?
I haven’t yet talked about style or wow factor, but for me the wow comes from getting a good fit and using a really attractive fabric. I know that some of the designers have created wow outfits with amazing asymmetrical features, pleats, ruffles, patchwork combinations, volumious pockets, arty belts, and unusual silhouttes, but as a Classic dresser (with a little twist) I am less attracted to details, and more interested in line, structure and an elegant (figure flattering) look. I do like interesting pattern cutting and would happily wear Vivienne Westwood. While I like the classic shapes I am not particularly conservative.
Next I would move on to a blouse or perhaps a shirt-dress – something with button holes. They are not terribly challenging with a modern sewing machine, but need to be conquered. The collar and cuffs are also challenging but keep going. WIth this pattern you get a nice flared skirt too!
Then I would make a jacket. By now you may be regarded as an experienced beginner or intermediate seamstress. It doesn’t have to have a collar to start with.
I am sure others will have more sensible suggestions in response to your query. I appreciate the question and welcome any topics for blogs or questions about style, colour, design or construction. I will do my best to help.
Lots of love from Aunty Fabrickated.