Monday, April 14, 2008

Ta Dah! The New Classes Are Here!

Ta Dah! The new classes are here!

I've been thinking about how so many people think sewing is a mysterious skill, with tricky stuff like zips and buttonholes, and machines that Go Fast! I've read the books with titles like Sewing Industry Tips and Trade Secrets. Well, the biggest trade secret is that by making people think that, they can sell more books and stuff. It's like most marketing. By making you feel like someone else knows more, has more, or is more, we'll want to buy what we think will make us more like them.

Guess what? You're good enough already. Even if you can't sew a stitch, there is no reason to think it's a skill that's beyond you. The clothes you are wearing were probably sewn by a un-educated person under high pressure to complete their one seam faster faster faster. They were shown on day one how to line up the fabric, and push their foot down, and they don't wobble because.... machines sew straight (true, they do. Even yours).

I've worked as patternmaker foor the sewing industry for ages. I make my own samples.
If my patterns are hard to sew, money is wasted. Factory patterns are like assemble-it-yourself furniture. It should be pretty much self-evident how to make it, because there is no time to read instructions, (and the sewer might not understand the language, or even be able to read anyway). All the components must fit together. No fiddling, just grab and sew.

So, where is this leading? I bet you've guessed. I've taught sewers for ages, and feel like there has to be a better way than home sewing methods. It's a bit obvious, really. I don't use these methods myself, why teach them? Well, partly it's because domestic machines are a bit different to industrial ones. They have a tiny, raised work area, so you have to deal with the weight of fabric pulling away from the needle, and they chug along slowly, leaving plenty of time for fabric to slip around so you need lots of pins. And partly it's because the patterns are made using a format that has fossilised and can't change because the home sewing industry has been set up around them. Don't get me wrong, I love patterns. I have thousands. Probably, I don't have time to count. But I rarely read the instructions, and I don't use them the way they come out of the packet. Actually, I often find getting the pattern ready to sew takes more time than sewing it. I like them because even fussing as much as I do, it's faster than drafting from scratch. And I like the insight into other designer's heads.

So what has this got to do with anything? Here it is. I'm offering classes in which you can learn to sew by learning principles, not techniques. I've made a bunch of patterns which are pretty much industrial patterns with a few changes that accommodate domestic equipment. They fit well, they look good, and if you make all of them in co-ordinating fabric, you'll be able to pack a suitcase and be well dressed for weeks. Even better, each garment is planned to introduce new sewing features sequentially. If you complete the series, you'll have a solid skill set and the knowledge of how to apply these principles to any new garment you want to make. I explain the whys of what you're doing as you go, so you can learn to make considered decisions about your sewing.

OK, so how about if you can already sew, and want to improve. You're very welcome and will learn a heap, but .... you'll need to go with the flow. Leave what you already know at home, and be prepared to upgrade. It'll be fun, and I'll show you how my patterns are different, so you'll have a good idea how to convert any pattern.

Now, this being a blog and all, I'll get a bit personal. We're heading away for the school holidays tonight, on the redeye special with two little kids. The cheap tickets, so no frills. I decided to cover some small pillows for the kids to use as they sleep on our laps. Well, my son wanted a go. He's seven. Far Out Brussell Sprout! He made the pillow. At first he sat on my lap, while he got used to the idea, but then we put the pedal on a stepstool and a pile of books on the chair, and he sewed. And sewed. And when he finished the pillow, he made a tote bag for it, and the only way we could get him to stop for dinner was to promise him he could finish it tomorrow. He woke me up, asking to keep going. When I said we there would be a sewing machine where we are going, he ran around punching the air yelling "Yes, Yes, Yes!". And guess what? He's good. Really good. And even better, when he stopped for a loo break, his sister took over. She was at least as good, possibly a bit better. She turned five last Wednesday. Am I boasting? You bet. But, what makes them so good is something everybody can manage. They had no fear, no preconceived ideas, and they accepted my instructions at face value. I can see I'll need more machines. And don't worry, no-one needs to sit on my lap to learn to sew.


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