The Consulting Dressmaker: Uncomplicate Your Sewing

The idea of The Consulting Dressmaker came to me some time ago, when I was reading “A Study In Scarlet”:

“I’m a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is. Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight… They are all people who are in trouble about something, and want a little enlightening. I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.” –Sherlock Holmes, to Watson

I’m not a crime-fighter, I’m a sewist and a teacher; Holmes is a little more mysterious and glamorous, but the idea is much the same.  I listen to your sewing problems, you listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.

When I first started sewing for myself, I wished for someone to watch over my shoulder while I cut and sewed- someone to help me avoid mishaps and help figure out where to go next with my sewing.  It never happened.  However, I learned I could use my hard-gained knowledge to help other sewists achieve their goals- I spent several years teaching open-ended intermediate sewing classes.  (I will be once more from February!)

In the intermediate class, I taught anywhere from 3-14+ students at a time.  My students bring their own machine, their projects, and a willingness to work and learn.   In return, I teach the very best techniques and concepts I know and create a positive, supportive learning environment.  It’s very satisfying to teach a “good” way to do something and know my students will avoid making many of the same silly mistakes I made as a beginner/intermediate sewist.  The group atmosphere is fantastic- no stress allowed, and when one person learns to put in an invisible zip, the entire class gets a lesson.

With the glaring exception of helping to pin-fit a garment, I can provide many of the same services to the online sewing community that I do for my Brisbane-based students.  That means even if no one within 100 miles of you sews, you can still get personalized sewing guidance and instruction. The Consulting Dressmaker is an umbrella, which covers a variety of possible services depending on your needs.   I’ll introduce a few “new” services as I work out the production kinks.

But I have to start somewhere!

The Nitty Gritty: Contact me with your sewing question.  I’ll give you the option of “The Short Answer,” “The Long Answer,” or “Custom Answer.”  A Short Answer is relatively brief, a Long Answer pushes me a little harder and you get more help and information.  Some project answers may take a little more skill or effort on my part, and for those types of questions we can negotiate the pricing.

Appropriate questions include but aren’t limited to:

  • Project Planning- (what skills will you need, is this garment a good match for you, is there a nicer/better rated pattern out there, how to focus your time)
  • What is it/how does this work out?  Simple questions that are hard for Google to answer- such as “are nettle and ramie the same thing?”  “How do I make an FBA on this weird pattern piece?” and “how do welt pockets in hemp fabric work out?” (Freebie answer- very badly indeed.  Don’t try it.)
  • WHAT THE BLEEP IS WRONG WITH MY MACHINE?!  I have had a LOT of machine training.  I can probably tell you what’s wrong in Short Answer form.
  • How Do I Do _____?  A short answer will mean me pointing you to the technique or tutorial I use.  A long answer would be for a more advanced application of a technique, something juicy and arcane.  If I get repeated requests for the same technique, I’ll make a video and share it if applicable.
  • Wardrobing Advice- Depending on the individual or the scope, this may be a Long Answer, or could turn into a slightly larger project and we would negotiate the terms.
  • I Can Read Your Wrinkles:  I found the toughest part of learning to fit my body well was in diagnosing “fit wrinkles” and figuring out how to fix them.  I can guide you through this process.
  • Style Development- I am not interested in making others into clones of my own style.  I firmly believe that personal style is *personal* and I really enjoy helping my students learn to sew garments they’ll treasure.  I can do that here, too.
  • Encouragement/Slave-Driving- You tell me your project, give me the deadlines and I can help you work out how to complete it in the time given.  I’ll happily write you short daily notes of encouragement or humorous prodding like “Are you watching TV right now?  Remember, 30 minutes a day on that dress or you’ll go naked to your sister’s wedding!”  Encouragement or Slave-Driving, it’s your choice for the cost of a Long Answer.


I will not divulge or share your information in any way.  I will acknowledge a request within 24 hours of receipt, and we’ll proceed from there.  I absolutely do not know everything and would never pretend to.   I will not lie to you.  If I don’t know, I’ll tell you so and find the answer.  If I can’t help you, I will tell you.   If I recommend a technique or a fabric, it is because I know it works.  I am willing to barter- a consult for a pattern, or a piece of fabric, or shiny metal shank buttons, or for referrals.  Try me!


$5- Short Answer/8 minute Skype consultation

$15- Long Answer/25 minute Skype consultation

$Negotiable- Bigger Projects

These are the prices for now.  I will invoice you after our consultation via Paypal.  If you don’t like my advice, don’t pay.  No hard feelings.  However, I will be less interested in questions from those with outstanding invoices than from those who pay for my time.

The Consulting Dressmaker’s Office Hours are 6am-12pm, Thursdays, via Skype (consultingdressmaker). Sometimes it’s easier to talk through these issues rather than write them down.  That’s 3pm-9pm Wednesdays EST and 8pm-2am Wednesdays GMT.  I’ll be up and drafting during office hours tomorrow, feel free to “drop by” for a short chat.  I’d love that!  Since tomorrow is the first day, I won’t worry about scheduling, but from next week I’ll be taking proper appointments.

I’m also happy to field questions via email (stephc at 3hourspast dot com) or contact me through twitter (@3hourspast).  Your first short answer is free.

I hope I covered the basics and everything makes sense!  This service will grow and evolve as I work with you all.  In the very near future, I’ll be launching various fitting and pattern drafting services, as well.

3 Hours Past will remain my personal sewing blog, and I’ll still write my opinions on fabrics, patterns and style as before.  The Consulting Dressmaker service lives at 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World.

Uncomplicate Your Sewing!


  1. Fantastic news, congratulations on your new venture! I love it! I will definately making a call and signing up for your lessons in February.

  2. What a great idea! I have gals writing to me all the time asking questions about altering their patterns and suggestions on lining etc…I write back with answers and drawings but never thought to charge…good on you, girl!

    • Yes, to be sure… I happily answer questions via email when I can but time is often an issue and I can’t help as well as I’d like. I teach and sew as a profession, and I work hard. This is my way of extending what I do in “real life” to my interwebs peeps. I’ll still be doing plenty of tutorials and so forth here on the blog. :)

    • Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sewing are out there? I know people who do ONLY home-dec or nothing but quilts… It’s interesting.

  3. Great idea! I’m hoping to try your blank canvas Tee this week. I was also thinking I might try downsizing it to fit my daughter. At 5 she has her own fitting issue with the mass produced shirts available in the shops!! I may as well get started on learning how to fit for her too. The option of getting some advice and guidance here gives me the confidence to try on my own!

  4. Awesome. Let me know how it turns out. :)

    I keep putting off making one for Lila.. Little girls are more simply shaped than mommies, I think it would be pretty easy to draw a T-shape more or less like Blank Canvas, but tiny. And the front and back could be much the same, especially since its a knit.

    Guidance and problem solving- that’s what I’m all about.

    • It’d be nice just to support my sewing habit a little. ;) Mostly I really, really want to offer people I know online the same services I offer my students.

  5. I love the idea of consulting!
    Though I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, only today did I look over all the info scattered on the sidebars. I am so impressed with your organization skills, and the ability to lay out all the information so clearly. If that is any indicator of your teaching, I can only imagine what a joy it would be to be in one of your classes.
    As an aside, I had to look up Brisbane to get an idea of how Big of a city it is ( you are a long way from the edge of the world). Now where I live, on the edge of the nowhere, it is tiny, and the few sewists here are quilters. I am a garment sewer at heart, learning to adapt.

    • Thank you! You’re so kind. :)

      The edge of the world thing comes from a joke a few years ago when we were heading up north for a holiday. I was disturbed to realize I’d be 3 hours from Papua New Guinea… Which was weird, because in my mind the whole time I was growing up, PNG was THE EDGE of the world… And now it’s so close.

      Hang out here! We all sew garments! :)

  6. This is such an awesome idea! Also, I have to say that after you said “curved waistbands!” I found a half circle skirt with a curved waistband in the thrift store, and tried it on. OMG amazing. I’d totally tuck in shirts with that one! The two reasons I didn’t buy the skirt? It was a beige and sage green plaid, and it was a heavy fulled wool. So, not my colours, and it didn’t drape well over my hips.

    A half circle skirt with a shaped waistband is on my list of Things To Make now, though! Too bad I’m so slow with my sewing! :)

    • YAY! I’m glad you found a skirt that worked, even if you didn’t take it home. Win. Luckily, half circle skirts are pretty easy to make compared to say, a 16-gore bias cut skirt… :)

  7. I think this is wonderful, I lurk in the background learning all I can, not wanting to open my mouth and show how much i don’t know. I mostly do alterations to thrifty finds, some work great and others not so much. I experiment to try to get things to fit on a very un proportionate body, I can design roadways but am scared to death on creating a pattern to fit me. go figure. So I will definitely be picking your brain, even on stupid stuff – because I don’t know where to begin the thought process. (i hope that makes sense). I have couple of dirndls that I absolutely love and wear, and fit me perfect (well I should take them up cause they touch the floor), I would love to recreate them but don’t know how.

    So again Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Luckily for you, dirndls are REALLY easy to do. I’ll try to work in a dirndl post next week, to say thank you for making my day. :) I’ll ask you the question I ask all my firsties in classes- what is it you want to be sewing?

  8. Hi again, hope your day is going well, I would love to make my own dresses and knickers, I wear long dresses, I prefer a fitted bodice, which is also my problem (the thing that I struggle with the pattern). I am small but large at the same time, I stand 4’6″ have big breasts 32f, have about 9 inches between my breast bone and belly button, about 6.5″ from my adams apple to breast bone, and about 12″ between underarm and top of hip. I so un-proportioned, front top heavy that other than my dirndls I really have never had really good fitted clothes. I take a minimum of 6″ off the bottom of everything, pants, and capris usually come up just below my breast bone; I don’t wear sleeves cause their either too low or to confining. If I try “petite” clothes then to fit my top I need to go a couple sizes bigger and then it doesn’t fit anywhere else. It is aggravating, but I still try and experiment with altering clothes to fit. It makes me nervous thinking about, trying to figure out how to make a form fitting pattern. If I could copy my blue dirndl that fits good.

    I’m rambling, I must be getting tired, you have a good night.

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  10. Wonderful idea and offering. I was just thinking as I read your blog how much I’d like to take a class with you if I ever was lucky enough to find myself in Brisbane (not likely). There was an interesting article in Entrepreneur about a lady who did just this thing for teaching dance. Many of her private students utilized the service to keep up with lessons when the instructor was on the road or vice versa. It has been successful for her and I’m sure will be for you. The prices are very reasonable. I’d rather pay 15.00 USD for some expert advice than yet another yardage of fabric that I really don’t need.

  11. This is a great idea and I think you’ve set it up excellently. I’m doing a series on my blog right now where I’m making 2 pairs of culottes – a vintage pair (my first vintage experience) and a modern pair. I have a feeling I’m going to encounter questions so I sure will drop you a line!

  12. Pingback: Finished Object: “Merino Kimono” Wrap Top « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  13. Oh boy – I have you on my resource list for when I just can’t get it right etc and there will be plenty of those sorts of moments in my future I know it. Wonderful idea StephC.

  14. Pingback: How To Book with The Consulting Dressmaker « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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