In case some of you didn't know, I am an ardent reader of sewing blogs. They are one of my main sources for both learning more about sewing in general but also to find new and inspiring techniques and creations. And because a typical blog is updated daily or weekly, I know I will be getting my fill of 'sewing goodness' frequently.
Blogs also offer something many books do not, and that is a look into the author's day to day life and his/her past. This aspect of blogging makes learning a sewing tip or technique special. For example: how did I learn how to baste underlining to the garment fabric? Uh, let me think. . . It was through Tasia's blog when she was making her Twin Spruce Dress, of course! See what I mean? That is why I wanted to try out something a little different for this post: an interview with a blogger who loves to sew. My first 'interviewee' is Dixie from DixieDIY.
Dixie, who lives in Austin, Texas, began teaching herself how to sew when she was a teenager. "I'm self taught which probably meant that it took me much longer than others to learn how to sew properly. I started by hand sewing a-line skirts then I bought a super simple machine when I was 15. I didn't really start making clothes until I was in college, though, when I finally decided to read the directions that came with a pattern and tried to figure out why something didn't fit. I made a lot of mistakes in my early days."
Dixie says she wasn't much into fashion until she started making her own clothes. And so now her style of choice lies in vintage Hollywood. "I really like Kathrine Hepburn's classic sense of style. She really broke the mold by wearing trousers before it became acceptable for women to do so. Another actress I like is Faya Dunaway's film style. I'm a huge movie fan in general and her on screen styles span several of my favorite fashion decades, 30s, 60s and 70s."
Dixie gained a good sewing footing by way of the Built by Wendy sewing patterns and books. "When the Built by Wendy Simplicity pattern series was released, it was a real eye opener for me. Here was something young, fresh and simple, rather than last year's already dated styles. After snatching up many of Wendy's patterns I found her clothing line and her books. I loved the books because I was just starting to learn how to alter and make my own patterns and her books were so helpful in discovering ways to turn a plain design into dozens of different ideas."
I never heard of these books and patterns until Dixie mentioned them on her blog. Interested in learning more? Check out some of these books written by Wendy Mullin:
Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe
Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics
Unfortunately, the Built by Wendy sewing patterns are out of print. However, you can find them almost always available on Ebay and Etsy.
So right about now you are probably itching to see some of Dixie's work. Yeah, me too! Here are some of the sewing she has done, starting with her favorite two:
I've noticed with so many of Dixie's projects where commercial sewing patterns were used, she is altering the style or the fit in some way. This fearlessness of setting forth into the unknown has led her to do a lot of which would scare most of us. One of which is refashioning, or as she says, restyling. I, for one, get goosebumps every time it crosses my mind. But after seeing what Dixie has accomplished I might just pull back my sleeves and give it a go. Check out some of her refashions. . .
In regards to restyling, Dixie says, "I feel guilty about throwing anything out. I hate feeling wasteful. But I also hate having clothes I never wear clutter up my wardrobe. It feels good to be able to salvage something even if it just means changing a collar or hemming the bottom of something. I'm going to try to do some restyles of old failed sewing projects to see if I can make them work."
She also takes altering patterns one step further and actually enjoys drafting them from basic blocks. Take for instance the dress she just recently drafted and sewed:
Pretty, huh? She even has multiple sized patterns available on BurdaStyle and her website. See them here and here. I can't wait until the dress above is available!
Because I've always been extremely interested in the field of drafting patterns of my own, I had to ask Dixie if she had any tips or advice on the subject. Here's her response:
"If there are classes available in your area, take one! Having someone show you in person how to move darts and make basic pattern pieces is invaluable. You can also start by learning how to alter existing patterns. The ideas are the same for making your own. I like the Built by Wendy books because they give you basic pieces and a number of ways to alter each piece. Eventually you'll learn how to make your own pattern blocks (basic pattern pieces used to make a variety of designs) based on your own measurements. So much of pattern design is related to fit so I reference this site often. It is written by a company that makes historical dress patterns and they show you ways to fix common problems like shoulder angles and how to deal with short waists and varying bust sizes. Pattern making is a lot of trial and error but the results are very rewarding."
So what are Dixie's future plans? "I hope to make more patterns to share on my blog and other places online. Transferring them from paper to the computer and scaling them to multiple sizes takes time, though. Eventually I'd like to make my own small clothing line in addition to patterns."
She is definitely ambitious and you can tell that she really enjoys the craft of sewing. "There's something soothing about making something with your hands. I love learning a skill and after years of making mistakes (and I still make mistakes), I'm now good enough at it to look at a piece of clothing in the store and say, 'I can totally make that!' I also can appreciate how much work and skill goes into designing and making clothes now that I know how to do it myself."