Mrs Bowden’s top tip – being an awful dressmaker

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – being an awful dressmaker

I am very lucky that the lovely people that come to my classes often bring me gifts or bits of sewing history that will be of interest to me.  On Monday this week a lady brought me a book that had belonged to her Grandmother entitled ‘The Awful Dressmaker’s Book’ by Violet K. Simons published in 1965.   I have not been able to resist sharing some of the very useful and blunt advice offered in this delectable little tome.

Well - that's an unusual title!

Well – that’s an unusual title!

I would like to quote from the introduction of this book. “Most women regard themselves as awful in relation to sewing, deep down don’t like the job.  They never get to like it because they feel they never succeed.  Sometimes the lure of pretty fabrics start a bout of enthusiasm which dies rapidly as mistake after mistake crops up which can’t be put right for want of know-how, or which could have been avoided by giving a little more thought.”

A truly self-thinking sewing machine - wow!

A truly self-thinking sewing machine – wow!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a machine that can think for itself!  However, the book does give some great advice.    “Raw edges.   Don’t run the risk of having someone tap you on the shoulder and saying ‘Excuse me, there’s a long piece of cotton hanging down from the hem of your skirt.’   The raw edges are bound to fray, even though they are on the inside, especially if you haven’t any pinking shears.  The easiest way to prevent this, and it is used by couture houses, is to oversew all the raw edges.  It doesn’t cause bulk and is very neat.  Some of the latest sewing machines are adjustable to form a zig-zag along the raw edges to stop them fraying.”

Bend, wriggle and check your garment

Bend, wriggle and check your garment

“Don’t think that by putting on a dress and looking down at it you will get any idea of what it looks like to other people.  The only way to get a general impression is to look at yourself, from a distance, and the only way to do this is with a mirror.  Keep going to the mirror and use a hand mirror as well to make sure the back is all right.  Make inspections at every major stage, and wiggle and stretch and do knees full bend in front of the mirror until you are satisfied with the results.”  I believe the lady pictured must be checking out the length of her playsuit.

Ouch - a pin

Ouch – a pin

“Leaving in pins.  This can be lethal.  A pin in the eye, and many other places, wouldn’t be funny.  Make sure you take them all out before they are lost from sight.  If you do fine the odd one, get hold of it with the head uppermost, and work the head back through the fabric.  It will find its way through the weave with a little guidance.”

checking my dress is appropriate for cycling

checking my dress is appropriate for cycling

A very big thank you to Abby Jarvis for lending me her Grandmother’s book and also a big thank you to Violet K. Simons for her invaluable and excellent advice.

In stitches,

Amanda xx


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