Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winging It

What were your worst subjects when you were at school? Mine were definitely PE and sewing. PE because I’m a klutz and I wore glasses and couldn’t catch a ball to save my life (I was also cross-eyed and usually saw two of them, which didn’t help!) and sewing because ... well, I was just rubbish at it!

You’d think I’d be put off for life, wouldn’t you? But over the years I have improved slightly. I finally learned how to sew on a button (yes, without getting the thread all knotted and the button hanging sideways), I taught myself cross-stitch and actually finished a tapestry kit. Ok, so it took years, but I got there eventually. But recently I’ve had to be more adventurous – I needed to make a Regency dress.

I’ve always loved dressing up and jumped at the chance to do so for the upcoming RNA Regency Day. The only problem was that I didn’t have anything suitable to wear. Buying a dress or having one made was too expensive, so the only alternative was to do it myself. Why not, I thought?

It did seem very foolhardy for someone who can’t sew a straight line with a sewing machine and is very likely to draw blood every time a needle is used. But I figured that if I could learn to be an author, why not a seamstress? And it would be perfect “filling the well” time too – something to take me away from the writing completely.

So I went to buy material, thread and some buttons – then set to work. As with my writing, I decided to “wing it” (yes, I’m a “pantser” not a “plotter”) and improvise, although I did buy a pattern for the bodice part. Not that it actually fit – I mean who draws these things? Do they actually know how big the sizes are? Or was it just the fact that I didn’t follow the instructions properly? (Anyone else hate reading instruction manuals?) I made it fit eventually (I just hope no one ever looks on the inside!), and then I managed to attach the skirt bit and close up the sides. Amazing!

The only problem was that it looked a bit like I was wearing my grandmother’s curtains. Or possibly someone else’s bridesmaid’s outfit. Maybe lilac with white lace wasn’t such a good idea after all? But it’s done now and when I put it on, it sort of looks like a Regency dress. A very home-made one, but isn’t that what the poorer ladies did back then? Like Scarlett O’Hara, maybe they ripped down the drawing room curtains to make ball gowns out of? Well, that’s what I’m going to pretend anyway. I’m an author, I’m allowed to use my imagination.

Because I am going to wear it, despite the fact that it doesn’t look all that great. After all, I “wing it” with my writing, and I’ve had the courage to show that to the world, so why not home made clothing. Ok, so I had years of practice before the writing went on show, and I can see I need to practice my sewing skills a bit longer too. Still, it’s a bit of fun and I’m entering into the spirit of things – that’s what counts, right? If nothing else, I’ll give everyone a good laugh. And entertaining people is what authors do, isn’t it? But I think I’ll stick to the written page from now on ...

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz (if she’s stopped laughing by then !)


  1. Can't wait to see and you look wonderful in anything!

  2. The wearer will certainly outshine the dress, but then that's normal with you.

    Are you venturing into dampened petticoats? I mean, it's October and the wind is wuthering across Sainsbury's car park . . .

  3. Ooh I can't wait to see you! I shall be in red (and I didn't make my dress, I borrowed it off a friend, so am much less adventurous). I love the lilac!

  4. Yes, I agree with the others - you shine in everything! And there's something incredibly rewarding in making something yourself - more so, I think, if it's something that's not in your natural aptitudes!

    We are going to NEED photos!

    Anna Louise Lucia

  5. Thank you everyone, you're too kind! Can't wait to see what everyone else is wearing and yes, there will definitely be photos!

    As for dampened petticoats, absolutely not! I was freezing cold wearing two sweaters today :)

  6. Christina, I haven't seen the photos yet from Regency Day but I'm sure your dress looked perfect (love the material, it's very much you).

    You got me giggling, though, with your mention of Gone With the Wind, because all I could think of was this (funniest bit starts at 3:20):