After a little difficulty (I really must buy a fabric pencil!) I got my three main pattern pieces marked and cut out on the material. I wasn't really sure how you were meant to mark the places for darts (since I was making this up as I went along) so I cut them out of the pattern and marked round the inside of the cut paper - it seemed rational.
I stitched up the front darts but thought it would be cunning plan to pin the three pieces together and see what it looked like before sewing the two back darts which turned out to be a very good idea. Once, pinned on I stopped worrying that it was going to be far too big and started worrying instead that it would be on the small side. The back darts, therefore, will be left unsewn.
Mum was a great help in all this as she was able to share the secrets of her dress-making past!
Also, very excitingly, the parents suggested that I might like a sewing machine for Christmas* (would I!) so I'll be researching that in the next few weeks. If anyone has any personal recommendations I'd be very interested to hear. The budget is between £100-£200 and I'd be using it for quilting and clothes making.
* this, of course, could just be a cunning ruse to stop me cluttering up their home with sewing stuff every time I come to visit!