About Maija the seamstress

Sewing and other crafts have been been among of my favourite hobbies since I was a little girl. From Barbie dolls I moved on to a model with somewhat less amply developed curves, myself. At the time I was finishing senior high school I had not really thought that much about what to do for living, so as I was interested in clothes I decided I wanted to study dressmaking. After all, I was 18, living with my parents, and thus had somewhat obscure and idealistic views about boring things like getting a job and a steady income...

Not that my three year education has been wasted, even at finding a job, but first and foremost I still regard it as a great experience, giving me a wealth of know-how and urging me forward to go on experimenting with fabrics on my own. And there, I think, lies the true charm of the art of sewing: There are always new things to learn, every fabric is different, every human body is different, there are endless possibilities for experimenting with different things and striving for perfection. If you look closely at my project gallery, you may notice that I often use same type of cut and materials, and it's not just a matter of aesthetic preference (though that plays a role too). The thing is, that it's fast and easy to use patterns and techniques I'm already familiar with. Perhaps some day, when I've become very skilful, I'll begin working with thin bias cut silks.

I make clothes mostly for myself, though occasionally I sew things for friends too. When working with your own clothes you can experiment freely and not worry so much about totally ruining the thing. Of course this freedom and lack of deadlines sometimes has the side-effect of projects taking forever to be finished.

Most of the patterns I use I draw myself, though sometimes I do use ready-made patterns for simple projects, adjusting them to correct measurements if necessary. My studies included basics of the pattern drawing system of Müller&Sohn: drawing the basic patterns according to the customers measurements and then working those into different kinds of cut. Following the same principles I have since made patterns of my own, sometimes using the additional help of a dressmaker's dummy, and experimenting with mock-up versions of discarded bed sheets or other cheap material. Making the patterns and fitting clothes is for me one of the most rewarding aspects of dressmaking. You can find pretty ready-made clothes, also very well and neatly done with high quality materials if you can afford it, but to get perfectly fitting clothes they sometimes have to be made for your body from the very beginning.

About historical fashion

As every little girl who loved to dress up as a princess I have always had a vague interest for the history of european fashion, especially the romantic stuff before the World Wars and modern age. Over the years I have occasionally done some reading about the subject, especially about my favourite eras, and learned some more. My knowledge is of course still quite superficial, and as with any other thing, the more you learn the more you find yet to be learned. As mentioned above, I'm mainly interested in the fashion from late medieval times to WWI, and at the moment I cherish a special passion for 18th century, a favourite of many people and at the moment made popular by the beautiful films Marie Antoinette and The Duchess.

Browsing my project gallery you can notice that some of my clothes have elements inspired by historical fashion. For a long time I have dreamed of making "real" historical costumes, and during the last year I have at last made some modest progress on this project. My "historical" costumes are kind of like theatre costumes, accurate enough from the outside, at least to the eye of persons unfamiliar with the subject. For really ambitious, as-correct-as-possible reproductions I lack knowledge, skill and patience, and of course the matter of a budget brings its limitations too. Neither I have (at least so far) tried to faithfully copy a certain painting or a museum piece, but rather drawn inspiration from different sources, the materials I've managed to found playing a large part in the design too. It can't be avoided that modern beauty ideals have some effect too in the design process, and frankly I doubt that I would even consider a project that I don't find attractive, no matter how period correct it might be. Being awfully vain I also consider whether something will work at least moderately well with my figure, and the colours tend to be my favourites too - though I try to keep them somewhat within the limits of the period chosen. So far I have also used artificial fibres together with natural ones, as far as they look half-way right, though I may get more choosy here as soon as I can afford it.

I make patterns mostly with the help of Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion 1-2" and Norah Waugh's "The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930". In the project galleries there is more detailed information about the sources of each project.

What is it that I find so enchanting about fashion history? The obvious aesthetics are of course one main thing. Apart from that, I have also come to respect the amount of work and the quality of the craftsmanship in many of the museum pieces I have seen. They are an important part of creating the elegance so far from the simple, cheap mass-produced garments you see today (though of course I make the latter type of simple stuff for every day wear myself too). Thus the difference lies not just in design, but in the many-layered, lovingly crafted, superbly fitting attire. Of course the history of clothing covers also very simple garments, equally far removed from for example the breathtaking lacy creations of Belle Epoque, and there are also today magnificent, extremely well made clothes. And of course I also enjoy the easy, comfortable fashions of modern age, but yet there is a certain charm in the ceremonial, multi-layered toilette of the past.

The further into the past you plunge with your sewing projects, the more the way the garments are constructed changes too. The one big milestone is of course the invention and spreading of the sewing machine. The one rule in putting together a garment nowadays, the rule which I know by heart, is to manage to sew as much as possible with machine. It does offer charming challenges of it's own, too, but with pre-singer fashion you have to put it out of your head - easier said than done! Usually I cheat, though, and combine the two ways, using a sewing machine for things that don't show (on the outside) or in any other way alter the way the garment looks, at least to any great extent. And of course often I simply don't know what is the period method for something, and then I use my modern sewing logic or a likely method from different era.

About Couture Mayah

My husband Jarno has for a long time encouraged me to make a website. I enjoy reading other dressmaker's blogs and sites, and the thought of getting one of my own was interesting. Once I actually got myself to get to work, I got very excited. I noticed that I already have some material, and of course I hope that a steady flow of new stuff shall continue...

Even though many of my sewing projects are not very ambitious or spectacular it's nice to take and save pictures of clothes at least for sentimental value alone. Despite the grandiose name (which is more of a joke) Couture Mayah will never be a collection of highly extraordinary creations or a wealth of fashion history trivia.

The photographs of my clothes are mostly taken by me or Jarno. If not, the photographer is mentioned. The graphics are (mostly) from free sources. There may also be occasional inspirational pictures of paintings or museum pieces etc. to which I don't have any sort of copyright, but as this is a totally unprofessional site I'm not going to care. The web design is rather simple and will probably stay so, because I'm not very good with technical stuff myself, too busy/lazy to learn, and don't want to bother Jarno or web guru friends all the time.

In case anyone should be interested, the site is made with Seamonkey-editor (don't ask me which version, Jarno updates them every once in a while), and the photos manipulated with Gimp. And since I got started with the technical stuff, I'll add that my dear, strong but gentle sewing machine is a Juki, which I bought used. You can see a picture of it here. I also have a little Husqvarna, which I use nowadays for buttonholes and zig-zag, and an overlock machine, also a Husqvarna.

In case you might like to contact me for some reason, here's the email:

Reports of spelling errors and broken links are always very welcome!