HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A DRESS?
I am frequently asked how long it takes me to make a dress; it’s not a straightforward answer because we don’t make one at a time from start to finish. Still, I’ll do my best to explain! This is the process:
- FABRIC SELECTION – Choosing fabrics is always the first, and most fun, part of the process. A lot of the time agents come to me, but I can also never resist browsing my favourite design studios online or popping in for a visit to their showroom. I always choose cotton – either a print or a weave – and, unfortunately for future me, nearly always forget to consider how easy it will be to cut. The easiest are scatter patterns (like on our Reversible Elsie Dress) as the fabric can lie either way, whilst the hardest are linear or checks (as on our Reversible Ava Dress) because the fabric then has to be laid out with the vertical and horizontal repeat matching. Despite the occasional difficulty I come into later though, fabric selection will always be my favourite part because it’s where all of Roundabout’s products start and get most of their character from.
- MARKING OUT – The next step is actually drawing the pattern onto the large pieces of fabric. I always start by laying out one length of fabric and marking out the pattern pieces using tailor’s chalk. I find it easier to lean on the table than a thick pile of fabric and I will know how much fabric I need for the other layers. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to mark out depending on the dress. Our more traditional Emma dress has more pieces so it takes longer, but I could never sacrifice the eye-catching waistband for the sake of efficiency.
- LAYING OUT THE FABRIC – This step takes the most time and it’s easy to make mistakes – but that comes with the territory of handmade products! I can cut a maximum of 16 layers of cotton with my electric rotary cutter. I try to alternate with the two fabrics for the dress, placing them right sides together. For the Autumn/Winter dresses, the corduroy is wider and I always have to cut it separately. I try to buy fabric on the roll, but some companies only supply it on the bolt, which means ironing every layer. With ironing, laying out the fabric can take a few hours, although I try to make it more bearable by having the radio on in the background.
- CUTTING –They say practice makes perfect and I’m sure I’ve done my 10,000 hours. I am definitely quicker than I used to be and can finish a set of dresses in as little as 40 minutes. I have had some serious mishaps with the cutter, though, from cutting through my thumb to cutting through the electric cable; that made quite a bang!
- READY FOR THE SEAMSTRESS – The final stage on the Rhiannon dress is marking the pocket position (I know from experience that children love to have somewhere to hide whatever they might find whilst out and about). Then I bag up the pieces by size, choose a thread, count out the labels and they’re ready to go to the seamstress. Depending on the dress style, they take between 25 and 40 minutes to sew. The Emma dress is more complicated because it uses both an overlocker and a flatbed machine, but the pockets on the Rhiannon dress are very fiddly. I owe a lot to my team of very experienced and talented seamstresses because, without them, Roundabout truly wouldn’t be what it is today.
- FINISHING TOUCHES – When the dresses are returned, they all need to be ironed and checked (though rarely do my seamstresses actually make a mistake – once again, I’m very lucky). I put on the poppers where necessary, 5 to 10 minutes depending on how many poppers – it’s a great upper arm workout! Then the products are labeled and hung ready to send out or take to a show – this is the final product you all get to see!
Putting all these processes together, one dress probably takes just over an hour to make from start to finish, not including choosing the fabrics. It’s not necessarily an easy process but it’s one I enjoy. Hopefully this gives you some insight into everything that makes a piece of Roundabout clothing.