As you’ll no doubt know, I was super excited to sign up for a community education class in dressmaking this month. I eagerly awaited the opening of the online enrollment and kept refreshing the page until 09:00 on the dot hit and the website allowed you to sign-up online.
Yesterday was the first class and I’d spent the weekend ensuring I had the required materials for the course and getting stressed out about the idea of being the worst seamstress there. Because I suffer from anxiety, I felt physically sick right before I set out as I was going to a new environment with people I’d never met and to be observed practising a skill I am new to. However, I steeled myself with the fact that I’d already paid for the course and I couldn’t let £50 (almost) be wasted.
I thought I knew where the school was but it turned out to be another school and not the one I was after. Panicking a little about being late, I made a few wrong turns before I found the right place. Secondary schools seem to be massive! I accidentally went into a guitar lesson and bumped into someone on their way to a Spanish class before I found a fellow sewing enthusiast who showed me the way.
After all that pent up excitement and fear, I was brought crashing back to earth when the teacher made herself known. It was fairly clear from the outset that she is not an artsy type of teacher who encourages experimenting and creative flare. It was clear it was her way or it was the wrong way. Hmmm.
There are 10 of us in the class – 3 of us are newbies and the rest were there last term (or the past five terms as was the case for one lady). We were asked to introduce ourselves and explain our skill level and I was asked to go first.
“Hi, I’m Felicity. I’ve been sewing by hand since I was little – doll’s clothes and cushion covers mainly – but I got my first sewing machine at Christmas. I’m new to dressmaking.”
I wish I hadn’t gone first. I didn’t realise how detailed a history of their sewing experience people were going to give and it soon became clear I’d sold myself short. In the teacher’s mind, I was a beginner at sewing full stop, not simply dressmaking. Cue two hours of mind-numbing boredom as she demonstrated how to thread a sewing machine and hand sew a hem. We then practised sewing in a straight line on a piece of card. And then -the true challenge (note the sarcasm) – cutting a heart template out of paper.
These are templates for pin cushions we’re going to have to make. Forgive me, but I don’t think you can wear a pin cushion so where exactly is the dressmaking aspect of this?! A pin cushion is what a kid in school makes.
When the tutor asked me to unpack my bag to show her the heart template I’d cut out I couldn’t help but stare for a moment. Did she honestly think I was incapable of such a simple task?! I just said ‘mine’s like hers’, pointing to a classmate, and followed it hurriedly with ‘See you next week.’
I was very alarmed to hear that the students who had attended last term were hoping to learn to put in a zip this term. Surely that’s the 101 of sewing?! I cannot fathom how you can make it through an entire 10 weeks of sewing classes and not learn how to do something as basic as inserting zips!
So, I am worried I have wasted £50 and 16 hours (by the end of the course) of my life. I’m not insinuating I know how to do everything. I know I need to take lessons and read more and practice loads, hence why I signed up for the class. But I honestly thought a course on dressmaking would allow me to learn to create a variety of garments. Instead, the schedule for the 8 weeks appears to cover little more than fitting sleeves and inserting darts in terms of skills I need to learn. I dearly hope I am wrong.
The projects the other people in the class were working on seemed very basic; t-shirts and shift dresses. They’ve not learnt to insert pockets or sew with lace yet. One student spent the entire two hours laying her pattern (which she’d already cut out) on the fabric and cutting it out. This was a simple three panel tunic without sleeves: it should not have taken that long. The general air amongst the second-term students was one of almost fear – a fear of sewing. They seemed to have little confidence and very little desire to try new things and learn through making mistakes. It’s the opposite of how I view sewing. I hope this isn’t what happens when you take this class!
Anyway… As I said, I really, really hope the class is going to be far better than this initial session was. At the very least, the two other newbies seem lovely and one of them makes beautiful children’s skirts with elasticated waistbands that look stunning. The other is also a beginner in crochet so we were exchanging ideas and tips about that craft as well.
Until then, I feel the need to sew some basic skirts and bits and bobs just to prove to myself I still can! 😉