Aside World Magazine
Winter 2020 Issue
A Beginners Attempt at Sewing
Article by Tammie Conway
Photos by Tammie Conway and Jennifer Stevenson
If you read the last Aside World. then you know I am a beginner in even the most basic of sewing knowledge. If you have seen my size you know that I am on the short and "fluffy" side, and if you are at all familiar with side saddle then you know that is not the typical side saddle silhouette. So finding anything that fits (especially vintage) is like finding hens teeth. For years I had been looking for a nice modern habit that fits, so when introduced with the idea of making my own apron, I jumped at the opportunity to learn. It all started by being invited to a sewing weekend a couple years ago at Carla Peetros' house. It took all weekend with Kate Hopkin's tutelage (and help from Shelly Liggett, Carla, and Jennifer Stevenson) to construct my first bespoke apron that was modified just for me! I left with an apron in hand (minus the button holes and buttons on) and a pattern for the future!
That weekend, was when I first saw someone working on a Renaissance gown, it was then and there I decided I wanted to make one of those as well! As you can imagine, that would be a big undertaking (which I was no where equipped to handle yet) and apparently you need a corset for this type of habit anyway so the ladies came up with the idea that we needed to do another weekend making a corset. That would give me more experience sewing and I would have another vital part of the outfit. My mother came up for that trip, and we ended up making another apron and the corset. I was hooked and have been making trips "up North" ever since for extended sewing weekends.
On this most recent sewing adventure, we decided as a group since everyone was already in NJ for Fall Camp Leaping Horn that we would extend the trip for a couple days to get in some quality time sewing with the side saddle sisterhood. Each of us had projects at different stages, so we unanimously voted we should all try to complete our current projects, so upon the next get together, we can all start on the same new sewing adventure from the start (what a novel idea right? Everyone be on the same steps at the same time!?!). I just had a couple odds and ends that were easy to finish, (sewing Velcro on for example) so I was done in no time. Shelly was working on her newest Ren gown, Jen was trying to finish her "never ending gown", and Kate was finishing up a quick project as well as helping each of us complete ours. Since I finished up first and was still yearning to glean more knowledge from the great Kate, we decided to take advantage of Shelly's extensive pattern collection, and I would make copies of a vest that Kate said has a beautiful silhouette. The problem is it is not in my size so there would need to be extra work involved. I ended up making an extra copy for Jen as well, and still had time on my hands so we figured why not try to hurry up and just make the vest? So that's what I did (minus the buttons and holes)!
I had every intention to do like the last article and take pics at each point writing how I made my newest piece however I quickly learned that was not going to be an easy feat. The pocket alone would drive Einstein crazy- thank God Kate was there to walk me trough it! I will say I learned so much in a very short amount of time-which is typical from each of my jaunts with the ladies. We started off with me trying on the vest that matched the pattern to see how far off it was, then I made a copy of the original pattern which Kate measured to see what needed adjustment. She then had me make a muslin mock up so we could make any final alterations without messing up the nice fabric. She then did her magic to transform it into what I call a "big girl" pattern. She sure is a miracle worker and knows her stuff because it was perfect with her alterations. We then planned a road trip to the fabric store since I had a pretty piece of remnant fabric, that I loved, but it was only enough to make the front of the vest but not the back or lining. Lets admit it, we also all LOVE the fabric store and feel a girl can never have too much (sorta like chips & horses). After considerable debate and input from everyone (at the second store I think), we settled on a beautiful navy patterned back fabric and a goldish color liner (funny thing is the liner was more expensive then the plaid front!).
With my loot in hand, (and to be honest the car filled up with everyone's bootie) we returned to Shelly's--the other ladies to continue their outfits, and I would start on my vest. Cutting out the fabric was easy for the back panels and liner, but the decision to use an asymmetric plaid was being doubted once it came to start cutting out the front panels as well as the pocket flaps. I don't know why Jen and I have an uncanny knack for finding the hardest patterns to match up but we are drawn to them like a moth to flames. Anyway, it took a lot of moving around the fabric, but with Kate's help we found the best placement of the pattern to line up the front pieces and waste the least amount of fabric (because why should it be easy, and you actually buy enough? What fun would that be?) Kate had me sew the darts on all the pieces, then I can't even remember all the steps or order, because it sure was a ton of them. I remember it took no time to get the liner and the back done. The majority of the project was spent on the pocket lining (is that what you call it?) and attaching the "points" onto the waste of the vest so it has a fitted appearance. I was better about pressing each seam as I went along so I think the end product was much better then my stock tie, lol.
After getting the majority of the liner and outside sewed together we then had to put the two pieces together and then flip it. This required substantial help from Kate, because the pattern was so complicated. But this is often the the case in many of my side saddle endeavors... teamwork makes the dream work. Keep an eye out for this piece at the PA Horse Expo!
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