garment school (week 1)

If 2008 was the year of upheaval, 2009 the year of adjustment, and 2010 the year of treading water, then I want 2011 to be year that sh*t got real. 2010 was by no means a bad year but it was definitely an unhappy one. I’m still trying to unpack the reasons why that might be. One thing however is clear to me though. I traded in discipline for survival and it shows in so many areas of my life. I think because I was so tired, overworked, and overwrought I applied the “enough to get by” standard to most non-work areas of my life, and nowhere more so than in my crafting. So I enter 2011, five pounds heavier, financially not at all where I want to be, up to my eyeballs in clutter, and staring down an unfinished mountain of projects. I’m still working on rectifying a lot of this (most of it will require a lot of work and attention throughout the year, see my resolutions list) but this Saturday I took a big step towards the last item on this list–I started a 10 week class on garment construction and design.

I think it’s important to know when to ask for help. I’m proud that up to this point, my only formal instruction in sewing, is one afternoon workshop I took in law school at my local fabric store. I’m largely self taught, learning what I could from books, the internet, and a helluva lot of trial and error. All that has only gotten me so far though. Nothing makes me cringe more than garments that look “handmade.” If I wear a garment of my own making, I want someone to say: “Damn, you made that?” and not “Oh yes, that looks handmade!” With that standard in mind, I found myself getting frustrated by the growing stack of unfinished garments in my unfinished projects graveyard. I think part of the reason behind this is that garments demand a level of attention and precision that I could not provide in 2010. Garments are unforgiving. There isn’t much room to fudge.

As the pile of unfinished projects has grown, so has my anxiety about garment making. At some point, I realized I wasn’t going to get out of this mess alone so I bit the bullet and decided that I’d commit ten Saturdays in 2011 to getting serious about garment making. I had my first class on Saturday and to say that I’m elated doesn’t even begin to cover it. I think I learned more in those three hours than I did in my entire first year of sewing. We covered a lot of ground–some basics about garment construction, fit, pattern-making, and the history of garment making and design–and we had our first demo in draping. Draping is a fascinating process. It’s a very intuitive and collaborative process; you spend a lot of time listening to what the fabric is telling you.

draping demo 1
draping demo 3
What I absolutely love about this class is that our instructor spends a lot of time telling us the WHY of things in addition to the HOW–why a fabric behaves a certain way and then how to address that. I realize now that a lot of the frustrations and roadblocks I encountered in garment making are because I wasn’t listening. I picked the wrong fabric for the wrong project. I didn’t realize there’s a better way to do something. I followed instructions blindly. I didn’t make muslins (this perhaps, is my greatest grievance). Basically, I was fighting the process at every turn. Should I be surprised then that I end up with garments that make me cringe?

Next week we’re going to “copy” a garment that we bring in–that is make a pattern from an already finished garment. Then we are going to construct a muslin, address fit and pattern issues, and based on our pattern, make a final (hopefully wearable garment) in a fabric of our choosing. I already have a garment in mind to copy, this cowl neck that I adore. I can’t wait to tell you more about what I’m doing and learning over the next several weeks! Hope you had a lovely weekend!


11 responses to “garment school (week 1)

  1. that sounds pretty amazing! I’ve always been fascinated by draping and would really love to learn more about tailoring. one of these days i should sign up for a class like that!

  2. This class sounds Amazing! I’ve always wanted to take a similar one. Where did you find it? Fabric store? Tailor? Art/fashion school? Adult Ed program??

    • It was totally random. The Art Center (from what I hear, it’s the largest in Chicago) just happens to be in my neighborhood. It’s a community ed type place and they teach all sorts of stuff for all ages, not just textiles. I passed by it all the time and decided to see what sort of classes and things they offered. I signed up for a dyeing class there ages ago (just a one-day workshop) that was canceled at the last minute. I’d forgotten about all that until I got an email back in December saying that they were giving discounts for early registrants of winter classes. I checked the catalog and decided to spring for the garment class. So far I’m loving it.

  3. I don’t think anyone has ever made me enthusiastic about taking a garment making class, but you certainly have. Sounds wonderful. Looking forward to what the course will bring you. Enjoy!

  4. The class sounds great, Sara. I am so excited for you.

  5. ooh, sounds like a perfect class! nothing pisses me off more than the “because i said so” explanations you get in many of these types of classes. hooray for you!

  6. “I traded in discipline for survival and it shows in so many areas of my life. I think because I was so tired, overworked, and overwrought I applied the “enough to get by” standard to most non-work areas of my life”

    Wow, this has really struck a nerve–your words sum up the last few years for me quite perfectly. I can’t tell you how many times that I said, “I’m tired of just putting one foot in front of the other,” yet I did nothing. Anyway, there were several things that happened to me today to make me realize that it’s time for me to take some of those first steps in my own life, and this post was the first thing that happened. Amazing.

    I wish you well on your journey, and thank you for sharing it with us. I look forward to hearing more about your class! How great is it that you such a wonderful resource in your own neighborhood?!


  7. Wow, this is so exciting! Can’t wait to see what you whip up 🙂 By the way, I just got a bunch of Japanese/ Chinese sewing books for kids (I read Chinese but not Japanese, but could guess some). I was surprised to discover that unlike American patterns, seam allowance is not included in the pattern pieces, because there’s a different requirement of seam allowance for every seam! I’m sure there’s a reason for it, I’d like to hear what your thoughts on it (now that you’re professionally educated!)

  8. this is awesome! actually, this is something I think I would totally do with you!! but, for now the budget and the travel on sat to downtown are hurdles. Did I ever tell you that my grandma is a pretty good seamstress, and I made outfits back in junior high and early college? sewing well is difficult – and an eye for design tricks and fabric are a whole other level (which looks like you will be mastering!)

  9. What a divinely awesome class this is!!!! When I move back to Chicago, I may have to look into some classes at the Art Center!! Keep us posted on all your projects! And I’m sorry to hear that 2010 has been an unhappy one. I can totally relate to you…three years in Iowa…each year a completely different level of adjusting…feels like it never ends. And now that we are moving back to Chicago, even though it is my home, I feel like I’m going to have to RE-adjust. Let’s have coffee when I’m back. Hope you are still here =)

  10. Exciting news! Looking forward to more.

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