Sunday, October 7, 2007


I wanted to be a fashion designer before I ever even knew what the word truly meant. Life had other plans, though and so I became a computer graphic designer, but I still sew and have not given up on the fashion design dream. Besides it IS easier to haul around a laptop than a Singer sewing machine. :P I have sewn pretty much as long as I can remember. I used to make dresses for my dolls at first and many a good mother’s lesser worn dresses got victimized. :P When I was about 12-13 I started sewing for myself as well. I have done some pretty horrific things (sweatshirts, oversized jeans), and I certainly do not have photos of everything I have ever sewn. :)

I am not very good at following guidelines, nor am I too patient. So, everything I do has to be fairly quick (doable in one day) and I take shortcuts pretty much everywhere possible. Anything rarely gets sewn together by hand before throwing the entire thing under the machine. That’s for what they invented bobby-pins, right? ;) Usually I make my own patterns as I do not feel like messing with tracing the real ones. They are certainly far from perfect, but if it fits right, then who really cares? It is not really all that complicated: I usually just take something that vaguely reminds what I want to make for myself and see what kind of pieces they have used to put it together, measure everything and then draw my own pattern on newspaper. Due to MANY life’s lessons in this field I have however discovered that every single thing has to be measured 10 times before even thinking about using the scissors! And even then one should cut it a little bigger. You never know when that extra centimeter could come in handy. Also, if in doubt, cut the same piece out of some scrap fabric left over from another project and see how it fits, only then move to the real fabric. While every sewing teacher-professional will advize you to sew the pieces together by hand first, at some places it can be overlooked. Sewing together the sides will not take too much effort anyway. :P I have definitely done my share of unstitching and raveling, but in my mind that is easier than having to bend over handstiching everything… There are some places where it is unavoidable, though – more difficult hems, crimping and gathering, collars, putting on sleeves... But overall it is good fun and especially when the end result is something no one else in the world has! Do not feel intimidated about sewing as it really is much easier than one might think! So, here are some of the things I have done.

This dress is made of really soft jersey and so it is incredibly comfortable and great for the Summer. The top is folded over fabric (rectangular pieces, nothing fancy) with a little rouching of the front piece. The rouching is done at the sides. The skirt part is made of 6 panes that are narrower on the top and wider at the bottom.

This is one of the more recent projects (not even a month old :P). It was made of a fabric meant for a skirt that I found in my grandmother's stash. So, needless to say, there was not much to work with. I was certain I would barely get a vest and was thusly psyched when I had enough for short puffy sleeves as well. The pattern is once again made by myself. At first I made the pieces of the jacket in another fabric, tried it on and only then moved to the real fabric. There literally was NO room for errors! The collar is actually fairly simple. I had only ever seen this kind of collar on a photo, but overall it turned out to be much easier to make than for instance regular suit lapels. The blazer also looks really good with a long-sleeved t-shirt worn underneath.

This is a dress I made for attending a wedding. Well, the wedding itself is yet to happen but at least I have the clothing worries behind me. :P It is made of rouched slightly shiny fabric with little sparkles woven into it. Once again no pattern, but the dress itself is very simple. 2 chest pieces, 2 (back and front) mid-section pieces and 3 layers of the skirt. The shoulder straps are crossed on the back and the dress is fastened by a zipper on the left hand side. I used a shirt with a similar design to see what kind of pieces would be needed for the top part of the dress. This one required a lot of handstiching due to all the rouching of the fabric and to make sure they were all equally distributed. It also has a soft jersey lining to prevent it from scratching my skin. :P The little interwoven sparkly bits can be really hurtful. Overall it is a decent mermaid costume if nothing else. :P

This strapless dress is not entirely made by me. It was bought as a very pale pink shift dress from a second hand shop. I chopped off the top part of it, made it a little snugglier and threw it into the dye. Several times... The fabric is a linen-cotton mix so thankfully it put up with the abuse quite well! The first time the dress came out of the dye pot it was dark-dark purple. Definitely not the kind of colour I wanted. Next I threw it into the bleach and out came a very blotchy lavender dress... Once again, nothing I would have worn! Third time (thankfully!!!) was the charm and with a different dye I finally got a decent turquoise colouring. It is one of my most favourite Summer dresses now and I might have to dye it again for next Summer. The colour has started fading a little...

My most recent project!!! I have a really cool soft jersey dress that unfortunately is so snug and clingy that it definitely needed either a lining or a petticoat. So I made one. I discovered much to my surprise that petticoats are no longer sold in Estonia! What, the dresses nowadays do not climb up your legs? They do not cling to all the inappropriate rolls? Anyway, I had to make my own petticoat and I think it turned out pretty decent. No pattern again, simply cutting two identical pieces and then making the back piece straight across my upper back. The shoulder straps are left-overs from a bra that came with extra straps. And the dress fits MUCH better thanks to the petticoat now. ;) And when I tried it on with the dress, it really made a difference in how I felt as well! I felt so feminine thanks to all the different frilly layers. ;) I have decided to make more little 'dresses' like this one to be warn as camisoles over jeans...

What an unattractive angle at which to be photographed! :D But, to the point: I have made tons of these tops, both for myself and other people. They are perfect for warm Summers and are also super-easy to make! Yes, all it is is a rectangular piece of lycra, sewed into a tube, and then the top and bottom sewn together to avoid any hemming (can be messy when you do not have the special machine). When worn, you simply turn the tube when the hem is inside it and put it on. It does take some consideration when the fabric is patterned as to where the inside hem will be, but it is still by far the simplest top around! ;)


IAmBecauseILove said...

that dress is amazing! i love it! any chance you could do a step-by-step post of how to make it??? pleeeeeeease?

IAmBecauseILove said...

oh, i meant the black & white one (but the other clothes are great too! very talented)

Maiken said...

Hi, thank you for your comment and compliment! ;) Of course, I can do the step-by-step for the polkadot dress. Just give me a couple of days to get some fabric for it and I will simply be making another one for myself and photographing each step.


gilda said...

that polka-dot dress is sooo cute. i love polka-dots! :) pretty amazing for someone who never had real training! wow.