Where does your love of sewing come from and how did you get started?
I’ve been making things and hand sewing for a long time, but have been dressmaking for about 3 ½ years now. It was the Great British Sewing Bee that got me started on my actual dressmaking; my mom had always told me about how she used to make clothes for her and her sister but we never got around to actually doing any dressmaking together. When the sewing bee started, it sparked something in me and I felt like I could do it if all these people could too! Now my mom has got me making things for her – this is a picture of us both wearing something I’ve made.
What’s the first item of clothing you made?
The first item I made was a purple circle skirt, but it was too big, so I cut it and tried to take it in – big mistake! The zip was also supposed to be invisible… I have no idea why I didn’t just unpick it! I might have made the Colette Sorbetto top next which I was over the moon with, but my favourite thing that I was much happier with was the Colette Hawthorne dress. Looking back on it now, it was too big, the waistline was too low and I had tucks in the join of the skirt & bodice. I’d actually like to go back to that dress now I know what I’m doing!
How about the most advanced?
The most advanced thing I’ve made is definitely my Kelly Anorak. I love this coat and am so proud of it. It took a long time (and a lot of money…!) but I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m just sad that the weather has got so much nicer now – I want to wear it all the time!
How much of your wardrobe is handmade?
I’d say 98% of the clothes I wear regularly are handmade. I’ve got a real problem with being able to let things go though, so there’s still lots of ready to wear stuff just hanging up in there. I still have to tackle jeans; once I’ve conquered those then my handmade rotation will almost be 100%!
I’ve got plenty of t-shirts and jumpers I wear all the time, and lots of dresses that get worn to work.
In this picture, the right hand side is all handmade, with the left hand stuff all being ready to wear. I really don’t wear much of this stuff at all, maybe it’s time to try my hand at refashioning!
Where do you look for inspiration, and of course patterns and fabric?
Inspiration is a tricky one; I really hate “trends” and tend to stray away from what is on the high street. When I first started sewing I would make most new patterns that came out, but now I know what suits me and what I enjoy making too, so those are the things I stick to. Instagram is my big place to get inspiration though if I’m going to look anywhere, there are some amazingly talented people on there!
Go on, tell us how big is your fabric stash?
It sounds unbelievable but I think I’ve got less than 30m – which really isn’t much at all! I’ve had some fabric for a couple of years. One of my favourite pieces is this beautiful green wool that I bought from Birmingham Rag Market – I’ve got big skirt-based plans for this but haven’t found the right pattern yet!
How have you styled your sewing space?
My sewing space is somewhere that needs a lot of work at the moment which makes me really sad! We moved into our house in July last year and we’ve prioritised shared spaces, so the downstairs really. My sewing room is in a prime location in the loft conversion, so I’ve technically got sewing floor – even though it’s the only room up there, haha! I’ve got a few things on the walls to make it a bit more “me” including some cross stitches I’ve done, a lovely print I had for my birthday last year, and some fun postcards from Paperchase. I need a new floor in there, and a lick of paint on the walls so nothing too major – it will get there in the end!
You also knit and crochet – how do you find time to fit it all in?
I’m really fortunate in my job that I can start and finish really early, so I’m home most days between 4pm and 4:30pm, this leaves me with loads of time to cram everything in! I love a good box set so I tend to do my knitting/crocheting while I’m curled up under the quilt I made. We’ll ignore the fact I sometimes fall asleep there because I’m so cosy! Weekends are for sewing, which is made even easier as my boyfriend is out for the majority of the day on Sunday playing American football so I get all day to myself!
Your blog at www.rachagainstthesewingmachine.co.uk is incredibly popular – do you have any big plans for taking it even further?
Aaah thanks! I’m surprised anyone still reads it, my posts are so sporadic! Haha. I’d love to do more with it, I think collaborations with other bloggers are probably where I’d like to head. I should start by blogging more though I think!
What would your advice to anyone looking to get started in dressmaking be? And how about makers new to blogging?
My main advice is just to go for it. I felt quite vulnerable when I started blogging; you’re putting quite a lot of yourself out there and hope that people like what you see. The first time you get some interaction from a reader is such a wonderful moment!
Dressmaking has opened up a whole other life for me. It sounds so crazy but I was quite lonely before and didn’t have much to do, my boyfriend worked weekends and til 10:30pm on evenings so not only did it keep me occupied during these times, but I have made some of my best friends through dressmaking/Instagram connections. Now there’s not a month that goes by without me seeing someone I have met through the sewing community. These people really are the friendliest, most welcoming bunch and we’re always after new members of the sewing gang!
See more of Rachel’s great makes at www.rachagainstthesewingmachine.co.uk