Hello and welcome! I'm Tara Martin, founder of The Dressmaker's Apprentice, here to remove your sewing frustrations and build your sewing confidence. Our unique approach provides you with a completed sample of each sewing process so you can hold it in your hand and see exactly what you are trying to achieve, no more pausing YouTube or squinting at Instagram pics, instead it is just like having a sewing teacher sitting beside you!
I set up the Dressmaker's Apprentice with the aim of removing the fears and frustrations I see new sewers experience. During lockdown, I saw there were so many people keen to learn how to sew but there was nowhere for them to go to learn the very basics of sewing or for reliable, accurate information. Everywhere seemed to assume knowledge and dove straight in with making garments which resulted in people giving up their sewing dreams due to the complexity of such projects. Dressmaking and sewing are not the same things! How can you insert a zip if you haven't even learned how to sew straight yet? How can you beautifully finish a seam edge if you have no awareness of the techniques available to you? There seemed to be so much misinformation and poor advice online in the sewing world, and even in some of the newer sewing books! Self-taught can be great but without the support and guidance, that experience brings, basic processes are missed, over-complicated, and, even worse, taught incorrectly.
I was taught to sew by my mum and 'nana' when I was young, simple hand-sewing stitches on a needle case, and clothes for toys. My grandfather worked in linen, at Old Bleach and a cousin worked in Liddell's, then Ulster Weavers in New York, we were surrounded by linens, weaving, and sewing, it was a part of life. Sewing was then taught in primary schools - hand embroidery samplers on scrapbook covers, a bejeweled toy elephant - and continued into secondary school with Home Economics - my first machine-stitched batwing top! This love of sewing and dressmaking continued and I had the pleasure of completing a 4 year BA in Fashion Design in the 90's - an exciting time in fashion with Alexander McQueen and John Galliano blazing the way in the French couture houses, showing what sewing could achieve at the highest levels. I had the privilege to be one of several hundred fashion students showing their final year collections for The Clothes Show at Student Fashion Week in London, and was selected as 1 of around 20 finalists to show in the final gala show, alongside then student Stella McCartney, having my finalists collection displayed in the window of BHS - the show sponsor. Exciting and inspiring times, all thanks to sewing.
As fashion students with no money, one of our favourite weekend pastimes was to visit the charity shops on Saturday morning, buy a pair of old curtains or a duvet cover, stick newspaper pages together for pattern paper, and have a Vivienne Westwood rip off jacket or pair of Alexander McQueen inspired trousers all sewn up and ready to go out that night. Wearing something unique and made by you, just for you is one of the great pleasures of sewing and creating. Following my degree, I went on to design, pattern cut, sew and show several womenswear collections, at the Guinness Fashion Awards in Belfast, back home in Ireland, and at the Pure Womenswear trade shows in London.
To support my sewing I took a part-time role outside of the sewing world and although I thought it would be temporary I ended up staying and successfully climbing the corporate ladder. I looked successful, but I felt lost in the corporate, dog-eat-dog world and missed being around like-minded, kind, generous, creative people and the art of creating itself. Lockdown caused me, like many, to rethink, I saw where I could help others and decided to come back to my first love of sewing, to share this love with others wishing to learn, so the Dressmaker's Apprentice was born.
Sewing is an empowering act, being able to use a needle and thread to repair a garment, to simply sew on a button, add embellishments to a top, or create your own garment from scratch, these are all wonderful things that anyone can achieve. People forget that the use of a sewing machine at home is quite a recent development and that prior to this all garments were constructed by hand with a needle and thread, the tradition which continues in the couture ateliers and Saville Row today. At the Dressmaker's Apprentice, we truly believe there should be no barriers to sewing, no need for expensive machinery or gadgets and definitely no overlockers (sergers) required! We are firmly in the tradition of helping you make beautifully sewn and finished garments on a basic machine or by hand, rather than fast fashion and factory finishes. Our lessons take all the years of tradition, sewing history, sewing knowledge, and expertise and condense these into sewing lessons that give you all you need to be able to learn how to sew and build your sewing confidence. By providing you with a complete sewn sample of each sewing process you are learning, you can clearly see what you are trying to achieve, it really is like having a teacher sitting beside you. Each lesson can be completed by hand or by a basic sewing machine. I cannot wait to see your sewing and where your lessons take you, please do share your pics with us at The Dressmaker's Apprentice.
What's stopping you? Let's get sewing!