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News from the Workshop - Adventures in Fashion

Back to School! 

Have I mentioned that I'm back at school?...I'm not sure if I did...Well anyway, I'm a student AGAIN and just finishing up my 2nd year of a 3 year part time course at the Mallow College of Design and Tailoring. I must say it's absolutely exhausting but I just love it, which is a good thing given that I have a 1hr 40min drive, each way, part of which is on a crappy road. If you get stuck behind a truck on the N73 from Michelstown to Mallow you're gonna be late! 

I have made clothes in the past, maternity wear for myself and shirts for my boys but have always used a commercial pattern...and I wanted to take the next step and learn how to draft and design clothes. This is especially handy when you are just under 5ft 2" and have to alter every garment you buy. 

(Yours truly wearing a top I whipped up that very afternoon) 

Year 1 was handy enough. We all learned how to assemble generic garments and how to draft basic pattern blocks in the run up to Christmas. When January arrived it was time to choose 2 or 3 garments to complete an outfit and we had to use commercial patterns. I chose a simple pair of pants and a peplum blouse from NewLook and a Vogue trench coat. At 35 euro per meter for the coat fabric you can be sure I measured at least twice before taking scissors to it :) 

handmade purple trench coat

Fellow Student Eileen modeling my coat as it's being made. The poor girl had so much of her own work to do and she was constantly being bombared with requests to strip off and try something on. 

The school year finished for all students with the annual fashion show in Cork and I was happy to have a finished outfit. 

Nuala O Farrell fashion show outfit


Year 2 began in September 2018 with a warning.....stay on top of your work!!!!

They were not kidding! There was quite a bit of homework to be done, which I somehow managed to get through and lots of art which was completely outside of my comfort zone. At one stage my 17yr old son Ronan was in hysterics of laughter as he watched me trying to affix pasta to a page using pva glue and becoming frustrated with my sticky fingers. I remember being a child in school and the excitement when the teacher said 'let's do art'. I loved it! Where had that child gone???? Here I was in October and November dreading the paint and crayons. 

How many custom teepees have I designed over the last 4 years???

Hundreds of custom designs I'd say and nearly all of them have a sketch or drawing and I nearly always say the same thing to my trusting clients. Don't worry....I can sew better than I draw. 

I survived the art.......none of it will every hang in a gallery but it served its purpose and by January it was time to design 2 full outfits from scratch and to draft all patterns ourselves.

Outfit 1 was fairly handy. I made a top with pleated inner sleeves and a pair of fit and flare trousers. Between drafting, making toiles, tweaking and assembling the outfit I must have put in about 40 hours. The belt took about 5 mins :D 

 handmade top nuala top fashion showtop with pleated sleeve

nuala outfit for fashion show mallow

Again...poor Eileen is called on to try garments on for fit! God bless her good nature. Rachel needs to be careful with that you know how long it took to make those sleeves???? 

Outfit 2... began life as a jacket and dress. I was delighted with the jacket and look forward to wearing it myself but the dress was another issue. It looked like the uniform for a worker in a care facility or hotel housekeeping staff....complete with pockets to mind your dusters!!! It was dreadful...and with time running out a quick fix was needed. I took the scissors to the abomination and hey presto! now we have a workable top AND a valuable life lesson!!! 

Throw it on over a little skirt and we have a complted outfit....Yay! 

mustard top and demin skirtladies bomber jacket skirt with cutout and leather strips

I learned so much and got fantastic support from my teachers Sue and Mary and from my fellow students, many of which have been sewing forever. When you are all doing pretty much the same stuff from Sept-Dec it's exciting to see the differences that Jan-May brings. My fellow students have made some truly beautiful and inspiring garments and I can't wait to see them at the 30th anniversary fashion show tonight!! 

Speaking of fashion show did I mention that my 2 outfits are walking the runway tonight??? Eileen tried on both tops for me but my skirt and trousers have yet to be seen on a human and I have no idea if they'll even fit.....take risks much!!! 

I may need to drink a bottle of wine to cope with the stress! 

Cheers...Nuala xx 

nuala with wine




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