Christine McCaughey wearing handmade shirt

Dressmaking for dummies

So last September I signed up to take a dressmaking class at my local college.

It was one evening a week for 12 weeks.

Formative Fashion

I have always been interested in fashion-y things and I really wanted to make some clothes for myself. I spent my teenage and formative years feeling frumpy and fat. This was due to not being able to find good, no actually great fitting clothes.

I tend to find that a lot of “off the rack” clothes can be boring and to be honest a really poor fit on me.

I have big boobs and most fashion lines forget about things like that.


I suppose at this point I should also mention that my mum is extremely ‘crafty’ not in the sneaky sense (? lol) but in the knitting, crocheting, sewing, general artsy way.

I can honestly say that I inherited NONE of those skills.

The Class

During those 2 hours on a Thursday night I learned so many useful things. I took the class with my friend Clare. It was so much fun and would do it again!

I started by getting to grips with a sewing machine.

Just learning how to thread it, set it and all things bobbin related have set my mind at ease and I’m very familiar with my own machine now on the back of taking that class.

Can I just point out that my class cost around £60 which was amazing value for money.

Premise behind the class

The idea of the class was to get a pattern and some fabric and basically the teacher would show you how to make the garment.

We could pick our own pattern and fabric and we were given advice on what to choose. We were also shown how to cut our patterns, assemble the garment and even use an overlooked (serger).

I picked a red crepe fabric and a pair of basic wide legs trousers.

I liked the class.

And I liked the tasks. So I made the trousers, and a dress and a waistcoat.

Then I made a coat too. So when the 12 weeks ended I had quite a pile of garments made.


It made me happy and I vowed to continue sewing at home when the class finished.

After the Class

Skip forward 6 months and I’ve just completed my first project since then.

I invested in a sewing machine and an overlocker to help me with any projects I decide to undertake and again I was taught how to use them at the class which made for much easier use at home.

My project

So back to my project …. it’s a shirt. I chose the pattern because it was so versatile and could be four different types of shirt/ dress.

I suit this style of clothing so I was happy to give it a go on my own without the help or advice in a class setting.

Now I must admit I found some parts of the pattern hard and I had to get onto the internet to find out how to complete some of the steps but I did end up with a finished shirt that had my own spin on it.

I used the McCalls pattern M7387 for reference and I made up design A.

The fabric

The fabric was a stretch checked material with flowers on it and it feels gorgeous on the skin.

I decided not to put buttons on it but to instead add poppers which will make it more versatile to me.

I bought the fabric in Mrs Sew’n’sew in Portadown but there are plenty of fabric shops around and online with a huge variety of fabrics to choose from.

The pattern will also give you a guide on the types of fabric that suit the pattern eg chambray, cotton, lycra etc.

Making the shirt

I stared by taking my measurements and then picking the size on the pattern that matched them. Pattern sizing can be strange so don’t worry about picking a size and just go by your measurements.

Ask a friend to help if you have trouble taking your measurements.

Then when you have selected the size, ensure that you buy enough material to make the pattern choice in that size (eg style b in a 16 may need 1.2m fabric).


Cutting the fabric

Cut out all the pieces of the pattern that you need and then cut the fabric out.

Make sure you follow this process carefully as once the fabric is cut it can’t be uncut! Ensure you make notches and any other markings so that the pieces can be matched up properly.

Then put your garment together.

I love this part where a pile of fabric pieces transform into a shirt or a coat right in front of your eyes!

Take your time and pin your pieces together before sewing (I’ve ripped out many a wrong stitch!)

There are still plenty of imperfections and I am completely okay with that because I am ten times better than the red trousers!

Plus I can keep going and get better each time!

How did it make me feel?

Don’t be afraid to plan ahead and think about customising your piece of clothing eg using two different fabrics or adding detailing.

Anything can be possible when you make something. Honestly it is so great to have a unique one of a kind piece that you know no one else will be wearing!

I did have ribbon and buttons in case I changed my mind about the poppers or wanted to add different detailing but I am so pleased with the finished product.

I hope you agree it looks great!

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