Monday, May 3, 2010

Class Notes {05.03.10}

Since I've been undertaking some major continuing education lately, I thought it would be fun to do a post on my weekly progress in each of my academic endeavors. First up, I'll share a few tidbits from my trouser class with Kenneth D. King, and secondly, my private draping instruction with my wonderful teacher Sharon.

Trouser Class #1

  • The pace was brisk yet manageable in this three-hour class. We broke up into pairs to measure each other. My partner is a regular reader of this blog named Elizabeth! She'd taken the bodice drafting class with Kenneth so she kept me up to speed.
  • I'm glad I'd recently taken my true measurements so I wasn't shocked by what we came up with - a waist measurement of 31" and 43" on the hips, if you're curious. This makes me decidedly curvy on the bottom, which required a little bit of pattern finagling later on.
  • Kenneth is just as charming as everyone says, and he amused us with anecdotes throughout the class. Two choice tokens: 1) he doesn't use a thimble and his mentor used to tell him he would get cancer (!) from the pin pricks in his finger, and 2) he gave us a short, racy history of women in fashion careers and told us that when Madeleine Vionnet called Coco Chanel "that milliner," she was really saying "that whore." Good stuff!
  • After measuring, we spent the rest of class drafting our front trouser pattern. If you're interested in learning how but can't take this class, all the info is available on a CD book entitled "Trouser Draft" here.
  • Tonight we'll be drafting our back pattern piece!
Draping Class #1

After writing here about desperately wanting to learn draping, I looked into some educational options. As many of you pointed out, I live very close to FIT and can take classes there. Well, I've taken a patternmaking class at FIT and while it was extremely useful for fashion-career types, I personally found it a bit misguided for the home seamstress. I waded through tons of homework and VERY tedious demonstrations to get the kernels of knowledge that I could apply to my home sewing.

Hence, I made the decision to seek out a private draping instructor and let me tell you, after just one session: SO worth it. I believe I found Sharon through this page on the Find a Dressmaker site. Sharon does "house call" lessons, and she came out to my place for three hours of sewing fun. She's super friendly and extremely knowledgeable. Here's what we went over.

  • First we chatted a bit about my goals. We decided to start with a basic dress drape, and then move on to more complicated stuff once I understood the principles of draping.
  • Second, we took a detour into bound buttonholes. Sharon showed me how to finish the back of my buttonholes and it BLEW MY MIND. More to come, obviously.
  • We determined a problem: my dress form. 1) It kind of sucks - it wobbles back and forth and won't sit straight on its base - and I need to look at getting a new one fairly soon. More to come on that front too. 2) It is not AT ALL to my measurements. Sharon suggested rectifying the latter situation by draping the basic dress to the current measurements of the form, using a two-inch wide seam allowance and then fitting the dress to me, and finally padding the form to fill out the dress. Clever, eh?
  • We marked the horizontal "balance lines" - bust, waist, and hip - on the dress form with twill tape.
  • We prepped pieces of medium weight muslin by tearing in on grain and then blocking it, which means getting the grain to lay straight by pulling the fabric strategically crosswise until it lines up with a grid. Blocking = surprisingly fun!
  • We draped the front bodice, shown above. I really liked the process of molding fabric with my hands. Seeing the pattern made up three-dimensionally gives one such a better understanding of grain, dart excess, and fabric in general.
  • Turns out I made a good decision in my draping book purchase. Sharon and I are using that very book as our basic text.
  • Our next session is in two weeks, and I have homework! I'm reading up on how to mark the draped pattern and then will be attempting the back bodice drape on my own, following the text book.
A couple stray observations:
  • Both Kenneth and Sharon are extremely educated, obviously. I especially liked that they both made constant mention of their mentors and their methods. It really goes to show you that all sewing is craft passed down from one teacher to another.
  • If you don't have a sewing school in your area, try finding a dressmaker who will do one-on-one lessons with you. Such a great way to learn!
That's it for now, friends. Remember: money invested in your education is never wasted!


  1. Where do you find the time for all this Gertie? I'm so envious! I like how you have a little furry helper for when your tutor's not available... :)

  2. I have toyed with the idea of attending classes at our local vocational school, but the course descriptions don't seem oriented toward the home sewer, and with reason. But I never thought of private lessons--I will tuck that away for future use.

    And even though I have feline helpers who make inconvenient but effective pattern weights, they are not as elegant and handsome as Henry, so I don't know if my homework would go as well.

  3. May I just say that I am extremely envious of your "continuing learning" and really wish I could be a fly on a wall to soak up all that wonderful information!

    Thanks for the heads up about Kenneth D. King's CD books--I always forget about those! Methinks I may just have to treat myself to one this week... ;)

    Anyway, thank you ever so much for sharing your "class notes" with us--I am really looking forward to what else you have to share! :)

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  4. I'm so glad for you. As I mentioned before, my drafting/draping classes are the highlight of my week. It's so much fun learning things that are so gratifying (you immediately see progress on the dummy, for instance). Good luck with your lessons.

  5. How exciting! It sounds like you've learned a lot already. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Also, I love that a new buttonhole technique BLEW YOUR MIND. :) Your enthusiasm is awesome.

  6. I've been reading your blog for quite some time, but have never posted. I enjoy reading your posts everyday, and I am so interested in the classes that you are taking right now. Thank you. I once took classes from a seamstress that would come to my house. Those classes were the best. I loved them.

  7. I really enjoy reading your blog. I am returning to sewing after an absense of many years. Proper fit is something I really, really want to learn. Do you suggest The Moulage by Kenneth D. King as the starting step? Or is there something else you'd recommend first? Is there any way for a person to fit herself without the help of another person? Thanks!

  8. I am looking forward to your future class notes posts. :) Could you do one on blocking? I find it extremely tedious and challenging with muslin in particular... Perhaps I can learn to get excited it about it too. :P

  9. I just ran across this today, then I read your blog and thought you may want to take a gander at these. Anyone out there have one that can vouch for these? The price is pretty decent, but you know how that can go sometimes...

  10. Thank you so much for sharing what you are learning with us. I live in a rural area and the only sewing teacher I have been able to find just retired. I read your column and pick up new techniques. I also look very closely at (but cannot always buy) your book recommendations. Thank you again!

    P.S. 'Am in complete agreement with 4th Daughter that I don't know how you find the time.

  11. How have I not read your blog previously?! Just spent the last hour reading back through entries, a lovely way to pass the time. I also live in Queens (Astoria) and I found your page looking for images of the Colette Macaron dress, which I'm hoping to sew up shortly!

  12. Sounds fabulous. Wonderful to find teachers with so much experience.

  13. I so agree with you about taking classes from the masters—it's the best way to really improve one's sewing. And Kenneth! The man is a hoot!

  14. Thank you so much for mentioning my site on your blog! I agree... Sharon is the best! I was wondering why the site had such a sudden increase in visitors...

  15. Wow... someone thinks blocking is fun - that blows my mind a little. Every time I start a new project it seems to take me hours of sweating and swearing to get my fabric straightened out. I can't imagine it being fun. If you have any tricks, please to share...

  16. This was a great post. You took great notes. Sounds like you are having a lot of fun.

  17. Your kitty does not look amused to be photographed.

  18. I have toyed with the idea of attending classes at our local vocational school, but the course descriptions don't seem oriented toward the home sewer, and with reason. But I never thought of private lessons--I will tuck that away for future use.academic essay writers


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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