Learn To Tailor – Some Resources

Burda-7020A 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.

BOOKS

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.

CLASSES

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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?

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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?

BLOGS

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.

YOUR READERS

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.

Sewing at Tilly TowersUPDATE The Thrifty Stitcher has just Twitter recommended Richard James Weldon for tailoring supplies.

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19 Responses to Learn To Tailor – Some Resources

  1. CurlsnSkirls says:

    About those on-line classes ~
    Haven’t signed on to any of them as I’m thinking there’s always something really important I’d need to know to fix a problem, and it won’t be covered… or the logical-to-them doesn’t work for me. And there’s so much to be said for having to put aside the time, and meeting others, all working on the same thing (shared learning – yeah!). But loved all the hints in your previous post, which had me feeling much better informed before tackling a jacket or coat.
    Thank you so much! Happy holidays!
    del

  2. Lesley King says:

    I’ve never paid for online tutorials but I find YouTube amazing for free tutorials. I’ve been teaching myself InDesign and other computer packages on YouTube the last couple of years.

  3. ThreadTime says:

    Books and Craftsy are my two favorites on this list. I do love blogs and find wonderful nuggets. Your comments regarding online learning is interesting. We have zero opportunities for quality hands-on classes where I live, so online learning is my go-to. I’ve also taken Susan’s class and still not made the dress. I tend to watch the class all the way through and return for pointers when actually working the garment. While I haven’t made the dress, I’ve used so many of Susan’s techniques. So that was a total win for me. I also took Kenneth King’s class on drafting a pattern from a current pair of jeans. Love his teaching style! Again took a look of techniques and tips from this class.

    I have bought a few classes that were a little superficial and/or weak, but on the whole, I’ve been pleased with the resource. They’re great for folks without real class time available.

    I do love it when those of you who are able to access those classes share the experience. So thanks so much for that! Merry Christmas,
    Ramona

  4. Jen (NY) says:

    I would recommend David Coffin’s Making Trousers for Men & Women: a multimedia workshop (book with dvd). This is not a book about fitting, but just about the making part–including those details that suggest professional. Pocket making is particularly enlightening. The author shows how to make pockets (front and back) with totally enclosed seams. I will never overlock pocket edges again. I also like all of the pictures of pants, from designer to l.l. beane, showing the different contraction techniques and quality issues.

    Recently I also got the Shirtmaking book by the same author. I haven’t had a chance to try out the techniques yet – but it is at least as detailed as the pants making book.

    ~Jen

  5. Fadanista says:

    I have a wonderful library of vintage sewing books compliments of my mother, which I like referring to (particularly the one about recovering from bodges!) I have also enrolled in Craftsy classes, and whilst I have many I haven’t even started, I have finished a number and found them fabulous. If I sew along with them I can work through them efficiently and like being able to stop, start and rewind. I quite like solitary learning but am planning to enrol in face-to-face classes when I retire from work next year.

  6. Lisa says:

    Morley college rocks. Take the tailoring courses run by Daniel Kinne, he’s just the most amazing teacher. I ended up doing a 200-mile round trip for each class and it was totally worth it every single time.

    • I’ve just finished the (weekday) tailoring course at Morley. Daniel is an excellent teacher. You do have to be prepared to sew on your own between classes. If you can’t do the weekday class – he also teaches the tailoring masterclasses on Saturdays, which covers the same techniques.

  7. Stephanie says:

    This is very helpful. Thank you for the introduction to Sunny Gal studios in particular.

    I must admit that I like in-person learning so much that I don’t refer to my books very much (although I like to browse through Claire Shaeffer’s book). I enjoy blogs, because there is narrative that I find interesting. I also find that lately I am referring to pieces of clothing that I own (including vintage) and thinking about replicating the features that I find therein. I enjoy doing a kind of forensic examination to tease out the choices made in the process.

    I like that you mentioned constructive comments from experts. I am a fairly novice seamstress and my favourite comments are helpfully critical. I want to learn to sew, not get patted on the back. If someone is generous enough to take the time to give me a suggestion, I am truly appreciative.

  8. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the pointers on books and blogs, I didn’t know Fashion Incubator. What you say about online courses is interesting. I’ve just signed up for one and find it hard to fit in watching the videos and sometimes the connection is just not good, but will persevere because I am learning a lot. I do like face to face, I did a one day overlocker course which was fabulous.

  9. Ruth says:

    Thanks for the resources! I’d say it’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye out in charity shops for the Reader’s Digest book – I found it on the bargain table of one of my local ones, possibly the best 50p I’ve ever spent!

  10. amcclure2014 says:

    I have always loved books and have quite a number of sewing books which I do refer to quite often, including those you mention. I have also bought Craftsy classes. My favourite so far was Linda Lee’s ‘Underneath it All’ which I did in full and have referred to several times since – including this weekend – for how to draft a lining for an unlined jacket and then how to attach and bag the lining. I went to an individual class near Chesterfield to make a jacket – this was my first attempt at a jacket so I chose an easy pattern and not much in the way of tailoring techniques though there could have been if that was what I had wanted. I have also signed up for a tailoring techniques class in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne in February – we won’t be making a jacket to fit, just a half scale, but will go through all the techniques. I could then go on to have some individual sessions to construct a jacket for myself. This is local to me. More resources are becoming available. I’d love to go to Morley College or some of the others I’ve seen but I can go for 2 or 3 or longer consecutive days (then need to take cost of course, travel and accommodation into account so expensive – I did this with Chesterfield) but can’t go to a weekly class. Thank you. Anne

  11. modistegirl says:

    That Reader’s Digest Complete Guide was the one I inherited from my mother who was a great (and most probably self-taught from this book) seamstress. I think books are the best, but also I have had the great fortune to have access to a decent local teacher. One technique she showed me was for making a collar with a clean point and nice roll, and I have recently found the exact same technique in Claire Shaeffer’s book The Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts. It’s not the best designed book but it is a little treasury of amazing tips, if you can find a second hand copy grab it. I have fallen for the Craftsy marketing a few times but I have no doubt their teaching is high quality but I really prefer my teaching to be more direct.

    • modistegirl says:

      Another book worth having is “Sewing” By Ann Ladbury. She was sewing guru from the 70s I think. The illustrations are really excellent and there is a wealth of information very clearly described, the section on zips and fasteners alone is huge and very informative.

  12. fabrickated says:

    I agree about good books, the internet, friends and commentators, and classes. Personally I am a great fan of “Adult Ed” and if we don’t use the classes they will get cut. A qualified teacher in a generalist “clothes making” class will be able to teach you how to tailor women’s wear. Daniel Kinne’s class is quite advanced (ideal if you want to make a man’s suit for example) if you want proper, formal tailoring, and personally I find Morley a bit too structured and restrictive. I have tried learning Illustrator from an online Burda course and found it almost impossible.

  13. Sewing Nomad. says:

    Hope the following is useful.
    Craftsy for me means access to highly qualified tutors at a fraction of the cost, in my time and in my Pj’s. I constantly play them while sewing as the sound of a sewing tutor spurs me on, even if it is background noise – I pretend I’m there! Love them!
    Gill Arnold, runs fabulous Sewing Courses in Solihull, centre of England and near so many motorways. She has been known to do one on one courses. The Fitting Course was a revelation, even though I’d been sewing for over 40 years. Highly recommended.
    Threads Magazine and it’s resources are a gold mine!
    Blogs: Bunny from La Sewista, well worth checking out.
    Ann Rowley, winner of Great British Sewing Bee, visit her Flickr pages for Tailoring advice. Fabulous photographs of how to make a jacket. She is also a key figure on Artisan Square.

  14. Michelle Pye says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for mentioning me in your blog. I have just put all the dates for next years courses on to my website.www.englishcouture.co.uk I teach in Leicestershire which is in the East Midlands & also in Sheffield.Both venues just off the M1 motorway. My courses cover all aspects of tailoring so I teach using fusible interfacings, I draw on my training as a bespoke tailor to teach traditional tailoring using canvases. You would be welcome on these or any of my other courses at any time.

  15. Janet says:

    Really useful, thank you. I’m going to start by reading the ‘nameless tutorial’ on Fashion Incubator – it looks as though it contains the answer to my eternal coat problem – which is getting the hem, facing and lining all to match up at the bottom!

  16. MrsC says:

    Happy New Year my lovely! Sorry I haven’t posted earlier but my usual device has developed an allergy to several of my favourite blogs so I can’t post to them. Finally a moment at work where I can leave a comment 🙂 Thank you so much for the kind words – I am always a little conscious of being the Hermione Grainger of Blogwarts, so it means a lot that my contributions are useful 🙂 I love seeing what you make and I particularly love the subtle evolution over the years of your expertise and as a result, willingness to invest time and effort into good quality fabrics and well considered garments. I’m still on that evolutionary trajectory myself, even after 40 years, although we all need to break out and ninja up a 3 hour make don’t we! 🙂

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