Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dressmaking at Denman

This week just gone I went on a little trip to Denman, the WI's college. For those of your who aren't familiar with it, Denman has a wide range of courses on offer which cover just about anything you could possibly be interested in - in the few days that I was there alone, there were courses as diverse as Italian cookery, tambour beading, making willow creatures, discovering Oxfordshire and learning how to use ebay. All the action is based in the lovely grounds at Marcham Park in Oxfordshire, in the beautiful main house (seen below from Denman's herb garden) and the more modern additional teaching and accommodation blocks.

All the rooms are neutrally decorated with individual touches handcrafted by WI members added by different federations of the WI, here's mine - one of the modern rooms which was the work of the Avon Federation...

And an amazing wall hanging from the Worcestershire room which we saw as part of a guided tour of the main house...

As you would imagine from the WI, we were well fed with some delicious food throughout the course. The day starts with a range of breakfast options, in the middle of the morning everything stops for tea and some of the most delicious shortbread I've ever tasted, lunch sees a well-stocked salad bar, soup and hot meal options, there's tea and cake mid-afternoon and in the evening there are a choice of options for a three-course meal. 

A couple of courses caught my eye when I was looking through the course brochure, but there was one in particular that I knew I would really enjoy - Dressmaking Simplified. Being as I do so much sewing, I've been thinking for a while that I should start trying to make some of my own clothes but have always been slightly put off by the memory of the sack-like dress I attempted to make when I was about 15 and worries that anything that I made wouldn't be good enough to wear in public. Surely this course would help be conquer those fears. Add to that the fact that it was being taught by May Martin of Great British Sewing Bee fame, and the decision to book was a no-brainer!

I was joined on the course by 7 other women - some who like me are keen sewers just starting out in dressmaking and others who used to make their own clothes in the past and now felt in need of a bit of a refresher. We'd all chosen a pattern for a simple skirt or dress and selected our fabrics before the course, so once we arrived, after introducing ourselves to each other, there was nothing left to do but to get down to the business of dressmaking. 

We measured each other, worked out what pattern sizes we needed (usually not the same clothes size that you would buy on the high street), cut out the patterns, pressed the pieces and then the fitting started. Pattern pieces were pinned to clothes and any adjustments were made, then we got to work cutting out fabric and finally getting on with our sewing. We were a productive bunch, working hard (but enjoying it!) throughout the course and May was a great teacher, patiently solving all of the many fitting issues and guiding us through the various dressmaking processes, so we were all proud of the results at the end. Here's our little fashion parade...

I'll be back to talk about my project tomorrow, but in the mean time have a look at the courses on offer at Denman - there's bound to be something you're interested in (it doesn't matter if you're not a WI member) and if my experience is anything to go by, you'll meet some lovely people and have a great time!

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