Thursday, January 15, 2015


Beginning. What a weird word. Beginning. Maybe I have been translating too much recently. I start to look at words and wonder what the root meaning is.

Anyway, it is a new year, and I am soon to be back at my regular contract gig. It feels a bit like September used to feel as a student. The beginning of a new session.

Here is my table all fresh and newly covered, binders with show info and budgets organized, ready to begin.

Speaking of beginning and beginners, I have been thinking a lot about beginners and how people view or assume to begin to learn tailoring. Beginning, the words gets stranger on the page the more I write it!

One was a personal experience with a student who had graduated as a designer, and the other a random Internet guy who had decided that he had an interest in clothes and wanted to become a bespoke tailor as a profession. Neither had actually ever sewn anything, never even bought a commercial pattern and made themselves a basic shirt.

Now I am someone who learned both from skilled individuals in a hands on environment as well as through books and experimentation without guidance.

I like to see people with initiative and a drive to get to their goals but in some cases it makes me wonder  about the disconnect between an idea and achieving it.

I am reminded of a friend's child who seemed to be addicted to video games and not much else. He especially loved the hockey videos, so much so that he asked to play for real and his parents signed him up.
What a shock he had! It was not the same as sitting in front of the monitor making things happen with the push of a button. It was cold, he had to wear a whole lot of gear, he had to actually skate which meant moving around and being physically active. The puck hurts if you get hit with it and the ice is cold and hard when you fall down on it. He wanted to drop out but his parents made him stick it out for the season. I wonder now 15 years later what he thinks about that experience?

I tell you this because wanting to become a bespoke tailor with no real sewing experience is going to be a bit more of a process than you may imagine and requires a bit more than a burning interest in fashion.

I won't begin another rant, but my advice is  - get some hands on experience. Start now. Buy a commercial pattern to start, make a drawstring bag, a placemat, a Christmas stocking- anything really. Look for a beginners sewing class to take. Look for a basic machine, basic materials to start. you don't need a lot of tools nor anything fancy, but you do need to practice making things. Not thinking about making things, really making things. Make these things over and over and gradually you will get better at making these things. Then build up your experience by making more complicated things, and do it again and again. Enjoy it.

You have to start there. Not by trying to drafting your own jacket pattern before you can thread a sewing machine. Not by talking about it, or reading about Savile Row, but by actually doing it.
You have to get out on the ice!


  1. This post is quite topical with regards to my life right now. I am realizing that I do not necessarily need any more sewing lessons, I need practice. I have been agonizing about how to sew faster and more accurately, I've been trying to discover the tricks, but really, I just need to sew more.
    I am realizing just how similar sewing is to high performance sports training...
    I am amazed at how long this realization has taken to really sink in.

    1. Maybe it has to do with the idea of instant gratification and the absense of growing up and hands on learning? Learning these days seems to be mostly in the head rather than the hands.
      Repetition is valuable and yes, like sports training you repeat until cetain things are second nature so you can then focus on aspects

    2. "Other aspects" sorry!
      You have to learn the technique -skating for instance- before you can concentrate on scoring goals.

  2. My time as a stitcher while I was in college was just so valuable! And I was lucky enough to have the hands on tutelage of three different designers, in a small shop, with freedom to make mistakes and polish as we went along. Nothing like having to make 10 welt pocket vests one season! Good to read this summary of what it takes, and I hope the lucky apprentices with you get to have as much fun learning as I did!

  3. Terri - may I ask what you use to cover your table? Inquiring minds want to know....Thank you - Spookietoo

    1. I have given in and covered it with vinyl. For the last 25 years, I had always recovered my cork tabletop with a heavy paper that was a lighter colour than the pattern paper we used. The paper was 4 feet wide and was perfect. After we ran out of that roll, i was told they wouldn't replace that kind of paper, so I coveted it with kraft paper. Not good for the eyes when the patterns and your table top are the same.
      So, long story, but I will try the vinyl for a season and see how it works out.

  4. You are 100% correct :) Just SEW.......Sew ALOT :) People have told me they were in SCHOOL to become a designer. Good luck with that :( They have also admitted they do NOT sew and have NO intention of learning. They have ZERO idea of how a garment is actually MADE and how it should FIT. There's a MASSIVE disconnect there. You become a GOOD seamstress/seamster by SEWING :) Sometimes a GREAT TALENT is born but we all have what it takes to become an EXCELLENT seamstress/seamster if that's what we choose to do :) You just have to put in the hours and years of work to become good at your work :) I tried to teach my 14 yr old niece to sew :( She wanted to jump AHEAD to MY level. She wasn't willing to put in the time to be at MY level, after 51 years of sewing, 20 plus years professionally. EYES ROLLING-I also got TIRED of hearing a SCREAM every single time she stuck herself with a pin or burnt her fingers on the iron..GEE WHIZ :( GET OVER IT or just QUIT NOW :( Cheryl Designs :)

  5. It takes some willpower to jump from the desire to the reality. A lot of people are just buying the next book and then the next, reading a lot and not doing much. It's not an attitude confined to tailoring either.
    It's understandable that there is a sort of fear of failure and fear of a beginning. It's tricky teaching yourself things that are usually taught by imitation and seeing them up close. Self-motivation is not a bottomless pit.

    Our societies have deprecated the ability to learn skills like these because they don't suit the concept of our economies. The idea of 'skills' and 'skill sets' and 'skills development' is now about the ability to make transactions and devise ways of moving money about. So little wonder that in this world of quickly-won non-physical activities (for certain strata) the concept of skills learned through hard practice and sometimes frustration is shied away from.