“Wow, this is like the inside of my head” exclaimed my crafting companion as we entered a small door off an alley near south London’s Clapham High Street and into the world of The Papered Parlour—a crafty paradise full of reams of bunting, tiny teacups and walls covered in vintage dresses.
The Papered Parlour is an independent craft venue set up in 2009 by two enterprising local women, which has already won a young business of the year award. We were here for the ‘make a dress in a day’ course, which for my craft-loving but time-poor life sounded perfect. Our teachers for the day were Claire and Mia, who explained the idea of the workshop was to teach us how to make a simple dress but also to give us the knowledge and tools to go away and do something more complicated once we were confident with the basics.
After a quick introduction to the machines, we set to work measuring, snipping, pinning and sewing. The workshop covered all the stages of making a basic, but beautiful dress—from initial design, pattern cutting, machine sewing and finishing techniques. All equipment was provided, including lovely printed fabric and copious amounts of tea.
Soundtracked by Bon Iver and Joanna Newsom, the day flew by and just when I thought the place couldn’t get any cuter, we were rewarded at 4 o’clock with a big piece of homemade Victoria sponge.
I was very impressed with the instructors. Claire studied sculpture and art theory and gets her kicks from the design process, while Mia is a fashion designer who has been featured in Vogue. Despite these impressive credentials, the ladies were friendly, down to earth, and not afraid to get stuck in (I’m sure I spotted Mia unpicking one of my mistakes in a nearby café at lunchtime).
Our workshop was made up of nine people of all different abilities- from sewing virgins like me to people arriving with mood books and their own machines and everybody walked away with a dress they could be proud of. The price of the workshop does seem a little bit extravagant but creating something wearable in one day is really satisfying and having a dress that fits your exact measurements and using your chosen fabric makes it worth every penny.
I am looking forward to a crafty autumn using the techniques I learnt to make myself a whole new wardrobe of bespoke dresses.