Turnin’ 3

It’s been 3 years since The Dressmaker’s Companion was published. Many thanks if you bought a copy or borrowed it from the library.

The book has seen a bit of a revival during the pandemic – from people at home learning to sew? Because of Zero Waste Sewing? I can’t be sure.

Here’s how I came to write this book

The beginnings of The Dressmaker’s Companion emerged back in 2006.

I was working as a freelance patternmaker but work was very seasonal. Sometimes I worked 10-hour days for weeks, and at other times I worked only 10 hours per week. Designers produce ranges at certain times of the year, weddings occur in certain seasons etc which means patternmakers aren’t needed all the time.

To get some consistency to my week and the household budget, I started a job teaching sewing. I had no teaching experience but they took a chance on me. It sure was a learning curve! However, it was refreshing to be around enthusiastic people learning to sew – I’d been around highly experienced, skilled people for so long I’d sort of forgotten what it was like when sewing is new.

Most of the students were self-starters and highly motivated, and they were all really nice. I enjoyed writing and illustrating little how-to hand outs for them.

At the same time, I started studying Cert IV in Training and Assessment, where one of our electives was to create learning resources. I did some sewing ones and this I really enjoyed. Why is it that the electives are always more fun than the core subjects?

The sewing how-tos and the learning resources were to become the beginning of The Dressmaker’s Companion.

Students often asked me if I could recommend a comprehensive sewing book they could refer to. At the time, all I could suggest was The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (a great book, by the way; the 1977 edition is still considered the best). Bear in mind that in 2006, sewing blogs were few and Youtube was only a year old (and many people didn’t have the bandwidth to view videos anyway – our household was still on dial up internet). I thought it would be a great idea to write a sewing reference, the sort I wished I’d had when I was learning to sew.

Then….I worked on it part-time for the next 7 years, had 2 children, moved to the country, decided to self-publish…..

and…. 3,100+ drawings, 231,647 words, 460 pages, over 1,000,000 mouse clicks, 2 weeks of anxiety trying to upload files and one book award later, here it is!

My entire publishing story can be read here and how the cover was made is here.

Happy Birthday The Dressmaker’s Companion!



  1. Dianne Kenyon on September 6, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    I still remember the first time I used The Dressmaker’s Companion. I needed to insert a zip into a skirt for a Christmas production costume. I’d never done it before, so I carefully followed the well written instructions and, woo hoo, the zip was in, neat as a pin.

    • lizhaywood on September 7, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Ah, that’s great Dianne!

  2. Julie on September 7, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Congratulations Dressmakers Companion! It is a fantastic resource – I have one and use it solve all my mmmmm what to do? Thanks for pouring all that knowledge into one place…. and probably wearing out a mouse in the process!

    • lizhaywood on September 7, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Many thank Julie!
      The hand is wearing out quicker than the mouse!

  3. Carol Cooke on October 1, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Gosh I am So pleased to have read your article on self publishing. I am creating a book on contemporary embroidery and will Self publish. It has been a great project with so many embroidery samples and then trying to write the explanations! Thanks so much for being so prepared to share all this information.the links are going to be very useful Covid has given my permission to take more time to get this right.
    Evolve:Embroidery by Carol Cooke – launch date late next year. Many thanks Instagram: cookeart

    • lizhaywood on October 1, 2020 at 9:35 am

      That’s great! Enjoy the process 🙂

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