A few people asked me for learning resources for beginner tailoring after I posted about my Burda jacket. So, here’s a run down of what I’ve gathered over the past few years – in no particular order, and with no particular expert insight. All you can take for granted is that there’s no school, book, resource or teacher here that I (or my immediate family!) haven’t personally engaged with.
Readers Digest Beginner’s Guide To Sewing
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I still think this is the most comprehensive paper and ink resource out there. I refer to it maybe once a year, but it’s hardly ever let me down. It came in particularly useful when I was trying to hem my Vogue 8548 winter coat. Don’t do what I once did and walk past the copy in a charity shop window.
Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated by Claire Shaeffer
Even more rarified than the above, I refer to this – ooh! – once about every two years. But I think it’s one of those books worth getting out of the library or having on your shelf. I’m a big believer in a range of reference. When I was a voracious child reader, I ranged from Enid Blyton to A Pilgrim’s Progress. Why should it be any different in my sewing career? This book was recently really interesting on the topic of fusible interfacing in tailoring. You might not want to block fuse your fabric if you want fluid movement at the waist. (And if you don’t know what block fusing is, you can read this!)
Conclusion: online resources are comprehensive, but a well curated library is no bad thing either. Don’t forget your public libraries. They need our support.
I did some of my first formal learning at Morley College. (That’s me in a toile, tutor in the background, nearly four years ago. Check out that excessive ease. Jayzus!) The college is subsidised adult higher education, which means resources are pared to the bone. You ain’t gonna be getting a slice of cake and colour coordinated pins with your sewing! I seem to recall you need to put down a 50p deposit for your bobbin. What it does have are affordable classes and experienced teachers. I’ve studied twice here and am thinking of returning. The quiet word on the street is that these classes are killer – shame they’re midweek when I work full-time. I am very tempted by the tailoring classes, such as this.
English Couture also tempt me with their classes. I’ve never attended (deep though my desire is) but my mum has! Wrong part of the country for me and wrong time of day, but I was very jealous of my mum’s learning and the samples she brought away. Check out her guest class review here. Guys, you receive a Certificate of Excellence! Maybe these classes are for you, if you’re in the north of England?
Craftsy has become a by-word for online classes – and sales of online classes. Therein lies the ironic rub. I have signed up to several, yet fully completed only one. I still need to finish my Susan Khalje Couture Dress class, despite it being a … I was going to say fast route, but that’s wrong. Susan’s particular class is an intentionally slow and careful route to intense learning with a highly respected teacher. So what are the issues here? Why can’t I complete a class? Too quick to hit the Buy button, videos freezing on my laptop, solitary learning … and, dare I suggest, perceived value. So many classes, access to some of the best teachers out there … lots of them on sale, a lot of the time. Constantly available. That special moment with special teachers suddenly feels diminished.
Conclusion: specialised real time learning seems hard to come by if you have a full-time job or other daytime commitments. Opinions, anyone?
A couple here, for my money.
First of all, I’d highly recommend reading all the back catalogue of Sunny Gal Studios. What this woman doesn’t know about home tailoring probably isn’t worth knowing. Beth is also appealingly honest about her own shortcomings (including how tiresome tutorials are to write!) and will happily admit to running out of steam on a project or just choosing the wrong pattern. Then, in the next post, she’ll knock it out of the park with a perfectly fitted dress or give you all the insight you need for lapel perfection.
Fashion Incubator strikes me as one of the most comprehensive blogs out there. It’s intense, but don’t let that put you off. You wanted to learn!
Conclusion: thank goodness for blogs. Your search engine can be your friend.
Never underestimate the power of the reader. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and experts might be reading – all you have to do is ask the right question. Make it clear you’re open to polite and constructive feedback, and I bet there’s someone scrolling through your blog who has decades of sewing knowledge and a diplomatic way with words. My favourite is Maryanne, the queen of constructive and cheerful feedback. (My equal favourite is Kenneth D King who has forgiven me for the time I accosted him in the street and has been generous enough to leave comments.) Reach out to your online friends!
Conclusion: expertise is everywhere.
Okay, guys. I hope that helps! I’m off to do some sewing. Let me know if you have any recommendations of your own. Not just for the sake of my readers – for me, too.
UPDATE The Thrifty Stitcher has just Twitter recommended Richard James Weldon for tailoring supplies.