Oh, my. There’s a layer of dust everywhere. Pardon me for a second.
Now that I’ve blown the dust away, time to resume the blog.
On my last blog update, I had signed up for four fashion classes at City College of San Francisco. I figured it was ambitious, but doable. The four classes were: Fashion Illustration 2, Garment Fitting, Apparel Construction 1, and Custom Tailoring.
Plans changed very quickly. Shortly after classes started, an opportunity for some freelance work (not sewing-related) came my way, and so I started working two days a week. That meant I had to drop at least one class. I wasn’t giving up Fitting or Tailoring, and dropping Apparel 1 wouldn’t have made much difference, so I let go of Fashion Illustration 2.
Even so, I’m OK with the decision in hindsight. The Illustration class was a lot of homework, and as it turned out the Tailoring class needed every moment I could spare and then some.
So here’s a very quick summary of my fall semester classes and their outcomes:
Apparel Construction 1
This was a beginning apparel construction class. So the projects were pretty basic up until the last project, a short-sleeve shirt with a camp collar.
The class did gave me the opportunity to learn how to use industrial sewing machines with a professional instructor, as well as learning some industry techniques for some sewing tasks such as installing zippers. And I also learned some important hand-sewing techniques, just in the nick of time for Tailoring.
Edited to Add: a photo of the camp collar shirt.
This class was a blast. Lynda Maynard’s fitting technique is based around muslin test garments with horizontal balance lines and grain lines. This is just like Sarah Veblen’s fitting methodology, which I have written before on this blog. But Lynda Maynard’s process is more streamlined in many ways, and she focuses much more on reading the overall balance of the garment, including issues like the proper hang of pant legs which is not well covered in Sarah Veblen’s books.
Overall, this class was hugely valuable in terms of furthering my conceptual grasp of fitting. Plus, I left with custom-fit patterns for shorts, pants, vest, jacket, and a peacoat, as well as a vest I made as the final project.
This class was a mammoth effort that consumed nearly all of my free time, and required everything I had in terms of sewing skill. But it was so worth the effort.
The entire semester was devoted to creating a single tailored jacket, completely done with hand-tailoring techniques. It was a challenge for my instructor (also Lynda Maynard) to cram all the necessary content into a single semester; this could easily have been a two semester course.
Out of a class of about thirty students, only three finished their jackets at the end of class. We all gave presentations of our completed jackets or work-in-progress. I have posted updates on this project during the semester on my Instagram feed.
At the end of class, only two significant tasks remained on my jacket: setting the sleeve, and making and installing the collar. I worked through those tasks over most of January, emailing the instructor when I had questions for something that wasn’t clear from the class notes.
As of this writing, the jacket is fully complete except for a collar press, buttons and buttonholes, and overall final press.
I am going to take the finished jacket to a local tailor to have handwork buttonholes done, then to a local cleaners that is exceptionally skilled in pressing tailored garments.
This class has not only broadened my skills, it has changed my perception of sewing. Previously, I was willing to do anything to avoid handsewing. The tailored jacket has tons of internal structure which is all largely handstitched in place. All told it was at least 90% hand sewing, including padstitching, catchstitching, slipstitching, and so many other tasks.
I now better appreciate the advantages of sewing by hand, and will work it in holistically with future sewing projects. I also appreciate the value of couture techniques such as thread-tracing, or marking all stitching lines by hand with basting stitches. Finally, hand-basting, something I would never have bothered with in the past, is a valuable technique for achieving accurate seams as well as dealing with difficult fabrics.
Finally, I also gained an appreciation for tailoring as a sculptural art. A lot of making a tailoring garment is working with precision – cutting, marking, and stitching accurately, something I’ve learned to do mainly through making men’s shirts. But much of producing a tailored garment isn’t so much working with precision, but molding and shaping the fabric in special ways to make the finished garment look clean and beautiful.
Here is one example: to set in the sleeves, you follow seamlines, but you also must shape the sleevecap and ease it out to fit into the armhole beautfully. I had a little north of 1 1/2 inches of extra fabric to ease into the armhole, and getting the sleeve to sit nicely was as much sculpture as it was sewing. I tried measuring the shaped sleeve caps, and the corresponding armhole. And eventually I realized this is a task that can’t be done by numbers, but only by shaping the fabric, basting it in place, and evaluating the combination by eye. Does the sleeve hang right? Are there ripples in the sleeve cap or in the garment along the armhole? If so, pull out the basting stitches, do some more shaping and positioning, re-baste the shoulder and try again. When all is good, then you use the sewing machine to stitch the sleeves into place.
I have a lighter course load this coming spring semester. Currently I am only enrolled in two classes: Apparel Construction 3, an advanced sewing class, and Flat Pattern 1, a beginning patternmaking class.
I intend to cover projects in these classes in more detail as we go along. More about my next project is coming soon. Thanks for sticking with me.