Aug 2020
Aug 2020
15 Nov
Our Interview With Dressmaker of the Year Winner Portia Lawrie

Earlier this year, Sew and our sister title Make It Today Dressmaker, launched the very first Dressmaker of the Year competition. As the second event gets away, we chat to Portia Lawrie, winner of the Customising category and the coveted title of Dressmaker of the Year overall, about her winning entry and her advice to other budding stitchers.

Dressmaker of the Year.

“I was totally surprised and delighted to discover I’d won Dressmaker of the Year… I had no idea I was in with a shot of winning even when I was shortlisted as a finalist, but then again I don’t think any of us thought we would! I’m a massive advocate of upcycling so when I saw the customising category, I thought ‘why not?’ and uploaded some pictures,” Portia tell Sew. “My coat was for a series called The Refashioners on my blog, which invites people to upcycle garments into something fabulous. The theme was jeans, so my coat was part of that.”

Giving unloved garments a new lease of life is close to Portia’s heart for many reasons. “It’s environmentally friendly, economical and ethical, plus there are other subtle gains, like challenging ourselves to see the potential in something,” she explains. “It unlocks a different part of the brain, and there is so much to be learned about garments by deconstructing them. I’d never entered a competition like this, and was keen to get objective feedback. I didn’t expect it to be so overwhelmingly positive!”

As many readers will know, creating your own garment entirely from scratch is a painstaking and time-consuming process, as Portia will agree. “I spent four hours trying to get my pattern pieces to fit right. I knew what I wanted, but it was a puzzle to put it together without sacrificing the design,” she reveals. “The coat was a massive labour of love, and it took two weeks to draft, fit and make. It pushed me beyond all of my comfort zones and I obsessed over every detail. At one point I was crying with frustration, so I felt gratified to hear the judges’ comments on cut, assembly and quilting, as I spent a lot of time agonising over those; a week fiddling with sleeve configuration – I kid you not.” Happily, her hard work paid off and our panel of judges were delighted to crown her as the very first Dressmaker of the Year!

Although sewing can sometimes be a solitary pastime, it can also provide the opportunity to connect with a network of like-minded people, sharing ideas and encouragement. “The dressmaking community is like having a huge network of friends, many who you’ve never met!” Poria agrees. “As a collective we support, inform, commiserate and laugh with each other; they provide the boost we need when we lose our ‘sewjo’! I’ve learned so much from the generosity of others, and I want to pay that forward to help others through my blog. I’ve learned that you’re capable of more than you think, so always try things you think are just beyond reach, and be kind to yourself. For any given technique, there are at least 20 opinions out there on the right way to do it. Don’t compare yourself to others: sew your own way. Engage with the sewing community. And remember: someone, somewhere, has written a tutorial for whatever it is you want to know.”

Dressmaker of the Year 2018
Our second competition is now underway, and Portia will be joining our line-up of expert judges to pick the winners! This year, there are five categories to enter: Everyday, Occasion, Vintage, Upcycling, and Childrenswear. Simply take a clear photo of your garment against a plain white background and enter it online at You can include up to five shots of your make and are also able to tell us a little more information about your entry or the story behind it. You can enter each category, with multiple entries if you wish, but each entry must be a different garment. All entries must be submitted by 9th March 2018. Good luck!

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