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2020 Make Nine Challenge: I made a motherflipping dress!!

2020 Make Nine Challenge: I made a motherflipping dress!! Posted on 12/02/20209 Comments
Ahoy, hello! My name is Jenny. I am a thirty-something human female from Manchester in the north of England. I enjoy rainy days and sad songs, custard donuts and salt & pepper chips and beer, lentil dhal and fried okra, X-Files and Twin Peaks, fierce fat heroines and mental health advocates, dogs and cats and otters and a very special beirdo. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath: "I blog because there is a voice within me that insists on writing lots of ridiculous chuff".

Ahoy friends, guess what, you’ll never guess, but GUESS ANYWAY! I’ll tell you. Shall I? I MADE A DRESS!!!! I made it with my hands! My hands operated a sewing machine and I made a dress!!

So, some back story maybe…. Some of y’all will know that my Mum passed away suddenly in September 2017. Since then I’ve been inheriting various bits and bobs that belonged to her, or that she had gifted to other people and that had come back to me. Jewellery, things she created. My Mum was tremendously gifted in the creativity department. When she left school she headed off to complete a degree in fashion design in between competing in the commonwealth games and generally crapping all over society’s expectations of a young female wheelchair-user born into an extremely working class family in England’s north east.

I, on the other hand, have never been particularly gifted creatively. I dabble in this and that and if I’m not amazing at a New Thing IMMEDIATELY then I pretty much abandon it entirely. My brain spends a few months obsessing over a new hobby or pastime and then I suddenly find myself not so interested in bullet journals but with an enormous collection of expensive Japanese stationery. Mea culpa.

I’ve always been a bit disappointed in myself for not picking up sewing machine and dressmaking skills any earlier. With a fully qualified mother I didn’t really have too much of an excuse (aside from my teenage obnoxiousness). I’m pretty sure I even once spent approx. 17 minutes in front of a sewing machine in home economics when I was about 12, but I never really caught the sewing bug. Over the years my Mum very generously made the occasional item of clothing for me, including That One Time I Went To Whitby Goth Weekend And Asked Her To Make Me An 18th Century Gown With Bustles In About Five Days. Parenting is brutal, yo.

But over the past few months, as I watched more and more YouTubers upcycle secondhand clothes and fabrics, I started to get the sewing itch. I started a Pinterest board (isn’t that always how it starts?) and I plotted some craft sewing projects. I told my stepdad that I was thinking about saving up for a sewing machine and he kindly offered to donate my Mum’s ol’ reliable Elna to me. I ACCEPTED.

Y’all, can I just give a huge shout-out to YouTube for giving so many folks today a free flipping education where stuff like this is concerned? Honestly, say what you will about spending hours watching videos online but YouTube has improved my life skills significantly. And sewing is no different – I finally got over my sewing machine fear and learned how to use the darn thing.

For those of you who are still a bit scared of your sewing machine, or who could use some solid 101 videos along with some simple beginner-friendly tutorials, check out my own playlist here.

I got the sewing machine in mid-December, and in the past month or so I’ve made napkins, box pouches, cushion covers, an iPad cover, tote bags, a cutlery carrier, and some other minor bits and bobs. And then I made some jammy shorts by copying a pair I already had. And THEN I bought my first dress pattern. I figured, how hard can a “1 hour dress” really be…..?

I’ve always been a fan of a sleeveless shift dress for the office so this seemed perfect for me. I picked up a delightful printed soft black canvas fabric with scribbly red circles at the recent creative craft show and, this past weekend as the storm raged, I decided to tackle the 1-hour dress.

I doubt this would have been achievable in 1 hour for any absolute beginner, so I don’t feel too bad that in total this took me maybe 7 hours. It’s a 1-day dress! I took breaks for dog walks, lunch, and dinner. But it was finished by bedtime, and I added the pockets the next day.

Y’all…. I MADE A DRESS!!!!!!!!!!! I mean…. Yes, I seam-ripped more than once. I had to look up a few new techniques. I will definitely alter the pattern slightly the next time I make. And I failed completely to understand the top shoulder seams and DIYed it with top-stitching in the end. But I made a DRESS!!


And so, with the Great New Dress of February 2020 I do declare a Make Nine Challenge open. Here I’m going to list the 9 patterns I hope to turn into real clothes in my wardrobe before 31 December 2020 rolls around….

1. The York Pinafore (Helen’s Closet)

The PDF pattern is $14 USD and the sizing runs to a max 54″ bust and 58″ hips.

2. The Fuller Cardigan (Cashmerette)

The PDF pattern is $14 USD and the sizing runs from US 12 to 32 with three bust sizes available.

3. The Estuary Skirt (Sew Liberated)

The PDF pattern is £13 GBP and the sizing runs from UK 8-30.

4. Fernway Culottes (Twig & Tale)

The PDF pattern is $14 USD and the sizing runs to a 51.5″ full bust and 53.5″ hips.

5. The Surtout Coat (Ensemble)

The PDF pattern is £12.50 GBP and the sizing runs from UK 6 – 26.

6. The Indigo Smock Top/Dress (Tilly & the Buttons)

The PDF pattern is £11.50 GBP and the sizing runs from UK 8-24.

Annnnnnd….. I’m leaving the other two open for now, and hopefully by the time I’ve made a few more beginner pieces I’ll be ready to level up to intermediate…. We’ll see!

So, friends, have you ever considered making clothes? Whether to avoid fast-fashion (which is tricky in the plus sizes, by the way) or to have more freedom over what you wear? Or are you taking part in the Make Nine Challenge this year, with any craft at all? Let me know!

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  1. I grew up sewing, so it is semi second nature. Problem is that I hate cutting out patterns and finishing projects. I get so excited by the act of making random pieces of fabric into a functioning clothes, that when it comes to all those fine details I get annoyed and just want to be finished. But I have stacks of fabric that I got from other people, so I am going to try and do more sewing for me and my kiddos.

    You might have better luck with the more indie patterns. Sometimes they have more specific and detailed instructions than mainstream brands. My Mother use to love Vogue patterns because of the instructions alone.

    1. A big yes on the indie patterns! All the ones I’ve shortlisted so far are indie ones and I’m also planning to buy a couple of books this year too by indie designers. I read somewhere that people used to call Vogue patterns ‘vague patterns’ because of the instructions but your Mum obviously figured them out! 😀

  2. I am terrible at sewing, I feel accomplished when I can do some minor mending without stabbing myself. So I am always super impressed by people who do sew. One of my friends makes all her own clothes now, and always has several different projects on the go, and I am in awe.

    Also totally in awe of you for making that dress, which looks amazing. And heck yes to pockets!

    Not sure if we still have out old sewing machine but I am feeling maybe even a little compelled to take it out if we do…

    1. I would highly recommend giving it a go if you have a rainy day! I’ve been having enormous fun and it’s very satisfying. I think (like Jennifer said above) some of the indie pattern designers have REALLY straightforward instructions for basic patterns. And you can choose any fabric in the world! Novelty fabrics ahoy!! I feel like you would enjoy many of the delightful cat patterned fabrics out there 😀

      1. Haha, cat themed fabrics would feature heavily, there is no doubt! Alas, I just investigated and our sewing machine was donated to charity several years ago.

  3. So cute!!! Great job on the dress. Very impressive!

    I took sewing class in junior high. I smuggled my project home (a wallet), and had my mom do it for me. She got a B-. Haha! I also managed to sew through my fingernail.

    Luckily, I married someone who loves to sew. He has his mom’s sewing machine, and he’s made some dresses & costumes for me.

    1. That is lucky! I should definitely have smuggled some school projects home, I would’ve expected my Mum to get at least an A- with her formal training 😀

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