Modifying Mimi

Over the summer, I bought Mimi, a tailor’s dummy, to aid me in my dressmaking activities. In my younger days when I made a lot of my own clothes, my dear friend Mrs Robinson (although she wasn’t Mrs Robinson then) lived just up the road and we’d help each other out with dress fittings and adjustments. On one memorable occasion, we adjusted a dress that she was making to wear for a wedding three times before the big day (it had a fitted bodice that really needed to fit) as she seemed to expand and contract somewhat unpredictably (or maybe it was my fitting skills). Anyway, we are still very good friends, but she lives a couple of hundred miles away now, so help with dress-making is something more of a challenge.

Mimi in a shawl

But the arrival of Mimi means that I can make clothes – even fitted ones – without help. So, my first project using her has been one that allowed me to test out how useful she is… and whether I got my dimensions right. I chose to make an apron dress using a pattern from The Assembly Line. I bought some wool/linen double gauze fabric from Merchant and Mills for this project… never again (the fabric not the vendor). It’s lovely soft drapy fabric, but the loose weave and double layer means that it moves unpredictably as it is being sewn, so requires very careful pinning and stitching otherwise pattern pieces don’t align and it doesn’t hang properly – something that was essential with the particular pattern I had chosen.

The pattern itself, however, was clear and easy to follow, with the pattern pieces printed on thick paper, making them very robust. I ground to a halt at the point when I had fitted the dress to Mimi, but needed to see whether it worked on me. For quite a while Mimi wore the garment and I kept forgetting to try it on when I was getting dressed in the morning. Eventually I set aside some time and made the effort to get undressed again during the day. I’m glad that I took the time to do this because it turned out that the straps were much too short (they were only pinned in place, so this was easily remedied). When I considered it, I realised that, whilst Mimi had been set up to be the right distance around, she actually has a chest rather than a bust and she doesn’t stick out at the front much. I actually knew about this issue but it had slipped my mind. The resolution is easy – put Mimi in a bra* and stuff it so that It’s the right size. This done, the fitting went very smoothly and I’m happy with my new pinafore dress.

The process has given me confidence to make garments that require more shaping and, therefore, more careful fitting and I have already ordered another Assembly Line pattern.

-oOo-

* Good grief, I can’t believe I’m showing you my underwear AGAIN!

Sometimes I even inspire myself!

I spent last Sunday afternoon making a cotton shopping bag so that I could photograph the steps involved and post the instructions here on my blog. I wasn’t in desperate need of another bag (although they always come in useful), but I really wanted to show how simple they are to make. In order to do this, I had to get my sewing machine out and set it up . Once it was there and ready to use I began thinking that it would be a shame to put it away without giving it a bit of a work out… and anyway, I was suddenly feeling enthusiastic about sewing again.

I have recently noticed that my night attire is starting to fall to bits… this may be linked to trips out to deal with chickens early in the morning – wellies, a nighty and a shawl, what could be more glamorous? Or to the fact that I haven’t bought any new night clothes for quite a lot of years. So, I thought, what better use to put my sewing machine to? Now don’t get over-excited about negliges or baby doll pyjamas, I was thinking practical and warm!

All set to go - fair trade organic cotton and two patterns

All set to go – fair trade organic cotton and two patterns

I love the fact, these days, that I can have an idea like this and immediately search for patterns and fabric without moving from my chair. I am not a big fan of trailing round the shops, I much prefer sitting at home with a cup of tea and a dog at my feet. In addition, we live in quite a rural area, so a trip to any place that can provide a good selection of shops for fabric and sewing patterns would require a whole day out and lots of fuel. Plus, the internet gives me so much choice… something I really wantedin this case because I decided to seek out ethical cotton (preferably organic as I want to minimise the number of potentially toxic chemicals next to my skin), and I don’t think Swansea is well stocked with fair trade fabric shops.

But the internet is a wonderful place. I managed to find a couple of sewing patterns that appealed to me from a shop that allowed me to view the details of the materials I would need, then to search for suitable fabric. After a bit of hunting around I came across Fair Trade Fabric, who

source cotton fabrics that help to improve the lives of poor and marginalised producers, from those who grow the cotton, to those who dye and weave it. The cotton is grown organically and produced to minimise the impact on the local environment so both people and planet are protected

What a great find! Lots of lovely cottons sold by the metre or in fat quarters. I chose two lovely designs to try out and placed an order. And by the magic of the Royal Mail, two days ago* both patterns and fabric arrived and so I’m all set to get going… I just need to stop dogs trampling across the paper patterns whilst I’m cutting out. Oh, and work out whether there is some sort of ethical interfacing…

-oOo-

* I got distracted yesterday because of my lovely shawl pin arriving, so this post got bumped by a day!!

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