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Finding Your Style

Deborah Simms really stood out for me on The Sewing Bee for her brilliant sense of style.  I loved the bold fabrics she used to create funky garments so I got in touch and asked if she would share some tips on finding your sense of style when dressmaking.  Over to you Deborah...

Deborah from The Great British Sewing Bee


When you decide to take the plunge and make your own clothes, you are basically throwing open the doors. You are no longer constrained by what is available in stores, but only by the limits of your imagination. This can be quite a daunting experience; there are so many options out there, where do you begin?

I would start by saying, what do you love? What are the items in your wardrobe that you wear three times a week even though you have a wardrobe full of clothes? Don't have any of those? Take it down a notch, maybe you love the hemline of one thing and the waistline of another. Pick and choose all of these elements and draw what you want it to look like. Try and draw this onto your body shape, you can do this by using a croquis, there's a great tutorial here.

This gives a great idea of what your dress pattern will look like on you, rather than the pattern envelope.

Once you have your shapes down it's time to talk fabric, one of my favourite subjects. There is such a huge variety of fabric out there, and it's important to not become overwhelmed by choice. The best way of limiting this choice is to look specifically for those fabrics that will suit the drawings you have already made. Don't be distracted by the thick corduroy when you need a pretty summer dress.

I've given you below three of my top picks, three patterns, along with fabrics that I would choose to go with them.

 Deborah Simms - DFabricate - Great British Sewing Bee series 3


I've started with the Washi dress (pictured above). I've become a little obsessed with this since my first version here, as it's comfortable (it has elastic!) but also provides a great expanse of undisturbed fabric to show off a large design. I bought the pictured fabric from the Knit and Stitch show, it's an Alexander Henry and I love the muted colourway (yes I count this as muted ha ha).


Sewaholic shirt pattern - Dressmaking tips


I've recently made forays into the shirt world.  Like Caroline of Sewaholic, I've always struggled to find a blouse that fits my shoulders, bust AND hip, so making my own is a bit of a revelation. I self-drafted my shirt pattern, but it is very similar to Sewaholic's Granville, which was recently released. This soft viscose material, with a small mushroom print would look amazing with a burnt orange pencil skirt like this one I made years ago.

Kelly skirt pattern - Deborah Simms

Some people noticed that I was wearing the Kelly on the first episode. You can read all about my skirt here.  I used the Cath Kidston Cotton Duck, which has a lot more body than your average quilting cotton, so it holds the pleats well. The dinosaur fabric I used is no longer available, but I love thisfish fabric from Cath Kidston! I used pale blue/grey needlecord on the waistband, and used it for piping on the edges of the pockets, using some royal blue cord would really make the blue in the fish fabric pop.

I hope this gives you a little insight into how I go about making up my style. My final tip would be.... Be brave! Once you start pushing the boundaries of your imagination, you will find your style will come to you!

Find out more about Deborah and her latest sewing projects by visiting her blog: You can also find her teaching at Ministry of Craft in Manchester.