Sewing a Mary Quant style mini dress

I have wanted a sewing machine for a while but I had been putting it off, but a few days ago I decided to get myself a sewing machine. This is my first project.

Choosing a new sewing machine

There are a wide range of machines on the market and it is easy to become overwhelmed when looking for a sewing machine. As a complete beginner, I had absolutely no idea what I was buying. Drawing on my only previous experience sewing, I really wanted a computerised machine and I was also won over to the Janome brand by my previous positive experience with a Janome machine. I therefore did very little research really and jumped straight in with a Janome 230DC, which seemed the best compromise between price and features. I was very excited once I had ordered the machine and it was then time to choose a first project.

Choosing a project

Typing the words ‘Free sewing pattern’ into google returned the V&A museum page very high on the list, with a free pattern to make a Mary Quant style mini dress. Since this was free and came with complete video instructions on how to make the dress, I didn’t think too hard about choosing this as my first project. I had envisioned making clothes from the moment I bought the machine, so this seemed an idea way to start and learn.

Choosing some fabric

It was then that I realised with a sewing machine on the way, I had no fabric to sew. At this point I had no idea where people even get fabric from and I don’t know anything about fabric. So once again google was the answer here and a quick google search reveals Minerva crafts right at the top of the list. Navigating to site site and typing in shirting cotton, as advised by the pattern I was immediately presented with the coral rayon shirting fabric which I purchased, lured in by the reduced price, great value at £2.99 per meter. Adding also some interfacing to my cart, I checked out and waited patiently for my fabric to arrive and start sewing.

Fabric arrives and I start sewing

So when the fabric arrived I was a bit surprised to find the plastic like feel to the fabric. This is the danger of ordering fabric online I have learned. You can’t really tell what your are going to get, especially if you aren’t familiar with fabric types, as I am not. You can of course order a sample but I was far too impatient for that and I wanted to get started straight away. Anyway, this fabric would be good for a craft project (I used it to line a pencil case later on) but I wouldn’t choose it for a dress. I decided to use it anyway however, as I didn’t have anything else.

While I had been waiting for the fabric to arrive I had taken the time to print the pattern and stick it together. This was quite a major job in itself and I hadn’t managed to get everything lined up perfectly. I continued on regardless and got the pattern pinned to my new fabric (after washing the fabric of course.)

It took me some time to figure out the layout, but I managed to get the pattern pinned on.

At this point I was ready to start cutting. It was then when I came across my next challenge. I only had a pair of kitchen scissors. These did not even cut the fabric at all, they just mangled it all up. So back online I found a pair of fabric shears, ordered them, but had to wait three more days for delivery of those. At the same time I ordered some buttons as I had also realised I needed those.

After the scissors finally arrived I was able to start cutting. Everything progressed pretty smoothly from that point as the instructions were very clear and the video was extremely well produced and very helpful for a beginner such as myself.

Finally, some sewing on my new machine. Here I am finishing some edge with the help of the Overedge foot, which is designed to catch any loose edges on the fabric and help you get the zigzag perfectly at the edge. I learned that you need plenty of thread for doing this as I ran out on one occasion.
After the buttons I ordered were a completely different colour than I expected I had to use these tiny shirt buttons.
I found out the hard way that the material melts under a hot iron. I had to do this pocket again.

Finished dress

It took me more than two weeks in total, although most of that was waiting for deliveries of supplies. I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started this, but I learned so much as progressed through and was so satisfied once I finished. There area few wrinkles here and there but overall I am very pleased that I managed to persist through. I learned something about choosing the right kind of fabric as I would definitely not have chosen this if I had seen it in person before buying it. I learned that I should be more organised and plan the materials I need before ordering them I and I learned a lot of new sewing techniques including preparing a pattern, cutting, applying interfacing, using facings in fact too many things to list as everything was brand new to me. I really enjoyed this project and would like to try again one day in the future once my skills improved and I look forward to my next project.

The finished product

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