We’re excited to be starting a Sewer Feature to highlight great sewing being done in the Irish dance community and to inspire those who may be considering sewing Irish dance costumes for the first time. Watch our blog and social media for new interviews dropping periodically, and share your own experience in the link at the bottom of the page!
Name: Taryn Wong
Where do you live?
Tell us about your sewing experience. How long have you been sewing? How did you start? What do you usually sew?
I’ve been doing some sort of sewing since a child starting with making clothes for my dolls. I am completely self taught with no formal training having picked up a lot from being part of online sewing groups on social media.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever sewed?
Honestly probably my daughter’s first Irish dancing solo dress. It was such a big deal, unlike anything I’d done before, and the result got so many positive comments.
How did you/your family get involved with Irish dance?
My daughter started dancing at 4 after watching a Riverdance video. We honestly had no idea of the competition side of things and now it’s pretty much our whole lives.
What pattern did you use for the dress(es) you’re sharing today?
3rd Edition Solo Dress + some embroidery files
What was your favorite part of the process?
I found it really wonderful to get support from those online when I ran into challenges, everyone was so helpful and kind. I actually quite enjoyed the process of doing the hand guided machine embroidery, it was time consuming but quite meditative too. I also really enjoy the stoning part of the process because it just brings the design together. The way I design stones are quite important to connecting design elements and the overall design so until they went on it felt quite empty. Watching them shine under the dining room lights as I worked on the dress in the evening was a lot of fun.
What was the most challenging part for you?
The final fit was a little tricky. I find zips hard to get right, they often end up wonky, so I had to unpick the back several times to get that correct. I also found embroidering the pear shapes very difficult. I did all the embroidery on both dresses without an embroidery machine and trying to get even pears while guiding it through my machine by hand was extremely difficult. After getting my embroidery machine I made a hairpiece to match my daughter’s first dress and used the Earnest Threads embroidery files for that, the pears are so much easier!
Where do you get your design inspiration? Where did you get the inspiration for this costume?
I had discussions with my daughter and her teacher. My daughter who was 8 at the time requested rainbows and her teacher suggested a white dress. The design itself was heavily influenced by what I thought I could achieve using hand guided machine embroidery so using simple lines rather than too much complex detail. For the second dress I made I wanted to give it a more modern feel so used quite geometric knotwork. I often start with a colour or colour palette that I think are striking but I also consider the options available in stones, there’s nothing worse than designing something and then realising that you can’t source stones in an appropriate colour. It’s really just a process of sketching until something feels right and the dress has balance. I have a lot of half finished drawings that I’ve abandoned because they weren’t quite right. I often start with a general guide of shapes and flow and then add in some knotwork before putting in details to bring it together.
What would you tell sewers thinking of making a costume for the first time?
It might not be easy but it is possible. I’d suggest picking something simple your first time and using stones to make the design stand out rather than embroidery if you don’t have an embroidery machine. Hand guided machine embroidery takes patience (and a good unpicker) but you can get really excellent results if you’re not in a position to purchase an expensive machine. Most of all enjoy the process. It’s a big deal especially if it’s your child’s first solo costume so allow it to create positive memories for you both. My daughter’s first dress will probably never leave because it represents such a huge milestone for us both.
What’s your next sewing adventure?
I recently purchased an embroidery machine as I now have two daughters needing dresses this year. I’ve also just started creating custom hairpieces and crowns for one of our local vendors. It’s a whole new rabbit hole to fall down and it’s so much fun.
Taryn will be launching a hairpiece and accessories venture later this year. You can follow her soon at @emeraldspiritdesigns on Instagram.
Interested in being featured? We’d love to hear from you whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned sewer! See details and submit your story in the form below. Chosen profiles will receive a 20% OFF coupon to use on our website.