How I got into sewing

Maeve Fanning

I first learned to sew when I was in National School, my first garment was a red wool skirt I made in 6th Class (age 12)  from a remnant my mother picked up somewhere. Mammy had a sewing machine so I badgered her to show me how to use it and kept sewing during my teenage years until work and life took over. I made floppy hats to sell at the Fleadh Ceoil the year I did my leaving cert. I’ve no evidence as we had no cameras back in the old days.


Starting to Sew

Sewing partly grew out of necessity – finding clothes to fit my unconventional body was a chore. I remember shopping in my mid 20’s for a dress to wear to a wedding. We were touring the west for a few days and while in Galway I spent an awful afternoon trying on dresses that just looked terrible on me. I walked away with nothing that day except a bad feeling about my pear-shaped size 12/14/16 body. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it) for me – I didn’t need the dress as we got stranded on the Aran Islands with bad weather and missed the wedding.

That shopping trip put me off wearing dresses for a long time – apart from my wedding dress – which was a lucky find (Blue fitted flowery number). For years I lived in badly fitting jeans, trousers and tops that were never just long enough for my long torso. I’d go shopping and look at all the clothes that were too short for me and think – I could make that myself and try and get it to fit me – but I never did as life was busy with work, trying to save the world and lots of DIY in the house and garden. I also didn’t have much confidence in my sewing those days – I was afraid everything would look ‘HOMEMADE’ (hate that word).

Then I had the boys, the recession happened around the same time Liam was a baby. The freelance work I had been doing dried up – so I couldn’t afford childcare and then couldn’t really commit to the odd job that came along. Like a lot of us mammies – rearing kids is the hardest job I’ve ever done. It is exhausting – I wasn’t one of those people who could stay up late working when the kids went to bed (I still can’t). I was at home all day with a baby and toddler – with no job prospects. It wasn’t a good time for my head. I got some wool and started knitting – I found a book on felting bags and dived into that for a while – everyone one was getting felted woolly bags for birthdays and Christmas. I then started taking out my sewing machine when the boys were having a nap. I started sewing bags – got lots of bag making notions and interfacings etc. This was before I discovered Etsy etc – maybe I would have started selling them if I had.

I made a few garments for myself around this time but they weren’t great – I wore them but  it was a case of not fitting well, not finished very well and using the wrong fabrics (such as crafting cottons for drapey blouses and tunics, cotton twill for a dress with a cowl neck – that never seen the light of day and a great waste of good fabric).  I think that’s most peoples experience- its a learning curve.

I started to come across sewing blogs when I was googling tutorials – first one I found was Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing shes has since become an international sewing icon and her new blog is here..

Soon after I fell into a hole of sewing blogs and started my own blog back at the beginning of 2014 to document my sewing. It gave me more confidence and all the information shared by bloggers was invaluable in becoming a better sewer. I haven’t added any new posts to that blog since I started Dress Fabrics.

At the same time independent pattern companies started to pop up – as you are all aware finding patterns and fabric in Ireland is difficult so to find all of these new small companies pop up online was brilliant. Then PDF patterns became available so we had instant access to so many styles and types of pattern – once you have the patience to piece the pages together.

I started ordering fabric online from the UK and started sewing jerseys – fitting issues were so much easier and sure that’s what we wear most of the time anyway. Some of the fabrics were hit and miss – that’s the trouble with ordering online (and why I offer a sample service). You do eventually get to know the fabric types and what to expect from the descriptions provided but it takes a bit of trial and error.

To sum up I found that sewing helped me in many ways – physically by giving me a hobby I love, clothes that fit my body and my style, mentally – gave me an outlet when I was despairing a bit when boys were very young, socially – opened up a whole new community of lovely people all across the globe who all share the same interests.

So if you are just starting out and getting a bit frustrated with your sewing – hang in there – keep practicing and enjoy the journey. Take a few classes in real life or online, join a crafters group.

Join our sewing community

I have a group on Facebook called Mydressfabrics The aim of this group is to show off your projects made with fabrics from our shop. We can inspire and support each other here in a nice safe space, you can ask for advice on any sewing related topic and someone in the group will have an answer.

If you’re not on Facebook – we have our mailing list – if you sign up you will get details of all shop updates, special subscriber discounts, information on our open days and sales etc.

I have a blog post in the works on how to start your own local sewing community – it took me years to realise that there are other folks out there that love sewing as much as I do. We also love to talk about it but its much better if you can do that with a fellow sewing person. More on that soon.

You can always contact me to ask any sewing or fabric related questions  at maeve@dressfabrics I will reply to you as soon as I can.

Enjoy your day and thanks for reading.



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