Sew out of my mind: The results
Last Monday I began a 5-day course at the London College of Fashion. No, I’m not changing careers; I was just learning how to speak a new language: that of the home sewing pattern.
Quick recap: I hate pink. I’m having a girl. I want to make her some pretty, non-pink clothes. So I signed up for this class in my 34th week. Which was absolutely fine except the tiredness suddenly hit last week and there were 100 stairs I had to climb to the classroom on the 3rd floor, plus a one-hour journey to Old Street.
Have you ever looked at a pattern for making clothes? It’s like trying to read hieroglyphics. Arrows, dotted lines, triangles, “trim”, “dart”, “pleat”. This is the kind of thing you really need an expert to translate for you.
Luckily, I had Maxine. She was our fabulously patient teacher. Maxine used to work at Marks & Spencer in their clothesmaking department and what she doesn’t know about garment creation isn’t worth knowing. The first day, she taught us how to use the industrial-strength sewing machines, which had been “slowed down for the students”. After almost stitching my hand to the fabric for the millionth time, I started to question her definition of “slow”.
There were also industrial ironing machines, which I really wish I had space for in my house. Each ironing workstation had a 3-foot tall boiler attached to it for warming water. It took seconds for the steam iron to flatten whatever fabric I put under it. And then – get this – you step on a lever and the ironing board dries your cloth by sucking air through the surface. I’m going to miss those ironing boards when I start making clothes at home.
My goal was to make at least two outfits for Abdul. The first step in garment creation is to make a toile. This is basically a version of your garment made out of cheap fabric, like muslin, that you can then check for size on your model. As I was making baby clothes for a yet-to-be-born baby, the toile wasn’t that useful for me except as practice.
Remarkably, I did complete my two outfits (pictured above). I had to unpick my stitches many times, after realising I had sewn the wrong parts together, but it’s all part of the learning. Once I bought all the fabric, the pattern and the bits for making the clothes, there wasn’t actually a huge cost saving with making my own clothes, but I did have the satisfaction of creating something new with my own two hands.
I’m looking forward to trying to make garments at home, even without the comfort of Maxine’s infinite knowledge to lean on. Instead, I’ll have to rely the Internet’s infinite knowledge; however, I’m glad that Maxine gave me the information and confidence I need to start sewing.