I have a big confession to make.
I won the SWAP contest in 2014 and 2015. I haven’t told many people, but of course the world of sewing is quite small and many of you found out.
But that is not the confession.
The confession is that I really shouldn’t have won, because my sewing wasn’t nearly as good as those who came second and third, and many who were not placed. I am a good enough seamstress but I cannot do fine work and many of my techniques are pretty ropey. I am not very patient, and not very accurate, and anyone who has a good eye will know that. I am embarrassed actually by some of my seams, the fact that my zips don’t match up that well, that I have struggled with a simple lace skirt. When I look at the quality of sewing offered up by Ruth of Core Couture, Stephanie of My Vintage Inspiration, Twotoast of the Spotty Dog Social Club, and the amazingly talented Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. I am blushing. Deeply. They show their workings, their beautiful neat seams, their perfectly mitred corners.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I am a bodger. I try quite hard (for example my Chanel jacket is pretty good, but not as good as most others you can see on the internet) but I am just not a perfectionist and I get bored long before I get it right. I don’t have a wide range of tools, or the right colour or brand of zip. I often choose the path of least resistance.
Of course being a great seamstress does not in itself guarantee you will be able to make a successful wardrobe. As well as being competent and effective at construction, making a nice set of clothes involves a number of factors.
- The overall colour palette and how it works together
- How the colour palette works with the colouring of the wearer
- The overall shape of the garments, and how they work together
- How the shapes of the garments complement the figure of the wearer
- The quality and suitability of the fabrics for the garments
- Getting the fit right
- The styling and photography
And, if I am honest, I am reasonably good at getting these things right, but it is not enough. I am going to try harder – not to win. I really don’t want or need to win again. I really hope someone else does. I am going to try harder to do better work.
This year my challenge is to try to up my game. I will be using some difficult and tricky fabrics plus old fashioned couture techniques to see if I can use this experience to learn to sew better. By concentrating on vintage designer patterns I need to use some couture techniques, and frankly honour their marvellous designs.
Just to remind myself how much I have improved I will show you two zips. One from SWAP 2014 and one from SWAP 2016. The pink skirt has a handpicked zip and you can see that the tab is a bit wonky and the end of the zip has come open a little bit as I didn’t finish off my stitching securely. The one on the right is what I am working on now -the1960 Biki skirt in light blue cotton with a silk waistband (Spadea NS 249). In between SWAP 214 and today I bought an invisible zipper foot and learnt how to insert them. It is pretty neat and I am pleased with it. Admittedly the pink skirt has been worn a lot but I felt a bit ashamed when I looked at that zip the other day.