Sewing courses: what have I learnt?

16 Aug

Just before I went on holiday, I had the last session of the dressmaking course that I’ve been doing (ok, I realise that was a while ago now, but this was the blog post I forgot to send to myself at home before I went away!). I’ve now done two sewing courses – a beginners’ one which I did last year, and the dressmaking one that I’ve just completed.

I started my sewing adventure by completing a beginners’ sewing course run locally. I chose this particular course for a couple of reasons – it was for complete beginners, no sewing experience was needed, and it was involved making a tote bag and a zip up make up bag which, at the time, I was more interested in than making clothes (how things change!). There was also a course starting fairly soon which was great, as I couldn’t wait to get started! The course was six 2-hour sessions, run on Thursday evenings and during that time, we covered basics from how to set up our machine, do various different things with it, and make the two items. We also covered how to hem trousers/skirts (although not actually putting that into practice myself at the time, I’m not sure I remember exactly how to do it). The first thing we made was a reversible tote bag. Man, curtain weight fabric is hard work to iron!

sewing tote bag

sewing tote bag

We were provided a PDF document in advance of the course, which included all the instructions for everything we were going to make, and the other skills we would learn and also included a basic kit list, as well as what we would need for each item, so that we could buy it in advance. The second item we made was a zip up make up bag (although mine currently holds sewing accessories!), which is a useful item to know how to sew, as well as getting some practice putting a zip in.

sewing make up bag

sewing make up bag

My main reason for doing the course was to give me some confidence, and give me the kick I needed to actually complete some projects and really get into sewing. I’m sure I could have learnt a lot of the things we did by looking up instructions and tutorials online, although it was helpful to have someone there who could tell you where you’d gone wrong, but it was just *getting started* and knowing where to start that the course really helped with.

The classes were really structured, as we were all working on the same items, so we’d all sit round the table with our machines and work on the same sort of thing, or the teacher would go over stuff with us. I found this format really helpful because, as a beginner, I needed the structure of being told exactly what to do.

The dressmaking course that I’ve just done has been a completely different format. This was a council run course (and my word does their website needs some improvement!), the same one which the colleague who inspired me to start sewing had done. The teacher who ran my beginners’ course also ran dressmaking courses, but they were shorter than the council one (5 weeks as opposed to 10 or 20), and worked out more expensive per session. Because of the shorter length, there was also only really time to make a skirt, whereas on the council one, you could choose what you wanted to make (I really wanted to make a dress!). One of the girls from my first course signed up for this one, so I decided to go to that one along with her.

In theory this course was a beginners’ dressmaking one, but there were also some people who had been on a previous round of this course, and come back for more. So it was a bit mixed ability in the class, but as we were all working on our own things, this really didn’t matter. For the first couple of weeks the teacher provided more guidance to those of us who were just starting out – how to lay out our pattern pieces on the fabric and cut them out etc, but after that, as we all progressed at different speeds and were working on different things, we generally all got on with our own pieces and she would come round and help each of us in turn. Because we were all making different things, and were at different levels, it wasn’t so structured. I’m actually glad that I did the beginners’ one first, as I think I might have found this one a bit daunting if I’d come in knowing absolutely nothing. It was really great to learn all the basics in a class where no one else knew any of them either!

simplicity 1803

Again, I think the main benefits of the course for me were confidence, and motivation. It was helpful to have somewhere there to guide me a bit when laying out my pattern pieces and cutting into my fabric for the first time. Not to mention that there were actually tables big enough to lay everything out on, which was a massive help! Because we had a slot each week, it meant that I always had at least a couple of hours of sewing time each week (although as time went on, I found myself less inclined to sew in the class, as I had everything set up at home and it was hassle to lug it all around! I did use the time for laying out and cutting out a couple of other projects though!), but it also meant that I was motivated to do something at home each week, so that I had something to show in the next class. During the 10 weeks (which actually only up being 9 sessions because our teacher couldn’t make one, and the council don’t let her add another one onto the end (wtf?!), they just give us a refund for one session), I made my dress above, and almost finished my swimsuit as well.

I’d definitely consider doing other courses in the future, particularly around specific skills – pattern fitting or drafting etc. If you’re just starting out with sewing and thinking about doing one, I’d say go for it! It’s a great way to kick start your sewing!


3 Responses to “Sewing courses: what have I learnt?”

  1. Gjeometry August 18, 2013 at 06:13 #

    Glad you got something out of your sewing courses! I’ve taken a beginner sewing course and a beginner patternmaking course at a college near me and they were both helpful. Just for how to do techniques and even the patternmaking course allowed me to envision how to sew something a lot easier than with just instructions from a pattern. Happy Sewing!

  2. Ela Sews and Doesn't Sleep August 19, 2013 at 10:13 #

    I love your reversible tote bag! I want to make one for sister as a Christmas present. And I really think it is worth to go to sewing classes – I have been to several ones as well. It is just nice to sit together with other like-minded peple and to get proper explanations from the teacher when you are stuck. I actually was thinking about doing one of these Council courses as well. Because they have overlockers and as you said massive tables!

    • Kelly August 19, 2013 at 13:36 #

      I’ll email you through details for the bag if you want? I made another one for my sister for Christmas, and adapted the pattern very slightly. I also made some smaller versions for some of my colleagues’ kids, they were cute! Unfortunately our course was held in a school textiles classroom, so although they had good machines and big tables, you never really knew how clean they were going to be! Goodness knows what they did to the things! And the iron…don’t get me started on the iron!

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