Five firsts

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things post conferences, and decided to dust off the old keypad and the shutter button finger and have some bloggy fun time. I have so many projects to share and ideas for posts, so I’ll be doing my very best to get those up and running over the next few weeks. I thought for today, and for something a bit different, I would rustle up a bumper trip to nostalgia town.

I’ve come to sewing blogging part way through my handmade wardrobe exploits, but I do have quite a long pre-blog history of making my own clothes and not all of them were outfits for Sylvanian Families (if you’re very lucky one day I’ll dig out the photographs of those for a post). Under the bed in the spare room/study/sewing room is a box containing all the old makes that I don’t wear any more, but am lovingly keeping as a reminder of those early slapdash sewing days. And some of those have even survived my many ruthless wardrobe culls and are still in action today.

The ‘never let Mae Martin see these seams’ dress

DSC_1335_editThis pink dress for example. This is the first dress I ever made using a pattern, spending hours tracing the pattern out of Burda Style magazine, carefully selected a wool blend poly weave fabric in palest pink, and spent a day sewing it all together. I was completely ignorant of notches, my seams are pretty wonky and let’s not even look at the underarms, but I love it. And still wear it, come the winter this cosy dress will become one of my work wear staples.


One day I want to make another of these dresses, using all the tricks I’ve learned to make it perfect (not to mention my beloved overlocker) and in a really fancy wool that doesn’t smell of fish when I iron it… Aah, cheap fabric.

Knitted capes of joy


Although I have now graduated to knitting jumpers – I have two on the go at the moment – my first attempt at knitting anything more substantial than, well, dolly blankets was a lovely black wool cape with jazzy fuzzy trim. The chunky yarn just slipped off the even chunkier needles like a dream, and I finished the first one in a few days and the second in a few hours. I’ve actually now made three of these – two for me and one for my mum, which is, of course, the most beautiful in a gorgeous rich navy. Plus I made it extra long for winter schnuggling.  Once my jumpers are finished I am really tempted to make another for me this winter in another colour. On a dark winter night there is nothing better than cosy pjs, big fluffy socks and one of these bad boys to keep out the chill. I like to accessorise this look with a glass of mulled wine.

The First Dresses

orange dress swimmers dress

Excluding outfits made for Sylvanian Families, these were the first dresses I ever made. I rustled up the orange number a few years ago when I didn’t know the difference between a weave and knit. I just knew I wanted to make an orange dress, and not really knowing anything about fabric or where to buy it I pottered into John Lewis and bought two metres of something orange, for the orange dress I was going to make. When I got home I picked a sleeveless top to use as a template, drew straight around it onto the fabric, cut it all out and sewed it together. I had a vague notion of how bias binding worked, so I added some of that, and some sketchy looking pockets with BIG FAT buttons on the front. With hindsight, the only reason this dress works is because of the knit fabric. Subsequent attempts to make a bodice the same way using woven fabrics failed miserably, but I couldn’t figure out why!

The swimmers dress is the the only one of all these makes that no longer exists. When I made this dress I was every inch the fashion blogger in Swedish Hasbeen wannabes and a cute printed frock. Some people totally rock this look, but these days I feel much more comfortable in some simple flats and something loose. This was another ‘make it up as I go along’ dress – I used the same vest top from my orange dress to design the bodice, and then ran up a circle skirt with the help of my mum. Once I gave up on wearing this style of dress for good I took it apart. The fabric from this dress is stashed away, carefully washed and pressed and waiting for a project more relevant to my personal style.

That time I pretended to be a fashion designer

And finally, I have to share this little gem, because it was a pretty stressful but very proud moment for me – my first (and probably only) clothing collection. I took part in the UCL Fashion Society’s annual show, and while my little offering wasn’t the most skillful and definitely not the most wearable I was still pretty proud of it. Keen eyed viewers might spot one of my knitted capes!

So there you have it, a little glimpse into my sewing history. What were the first things that you ever sewed? Do you still have them, squirrelled away somewhere? Or do you perhaps continue to wear them?

What do you think?