Sewing to Fit: Thoughts on a Curriculum

If you’ve met me, you know I am not an average-sized person. I’m six feet tall and wear a size 12 shoe. Women like me are not allowed by garment manufacturers.  I’ve pieced together a wardrobe of lucky thrift shop finds and carefully chosen off-the-rack men’s jeans- but still. The things that fit me best, both by form and personality, are the ones I've taken time to make by hand.

We are all in the same boat. It’s rare to find off-the-rack clothing that works for our bodies, feels ethically good to buy, and is still affordable..

Because my mom is a seamstress, I have long had an odd knowledge of my body. One side of my ribcage is larger than the other.  My shoulders are narrow.  My waist-to-hip length is between 4 and 6 inches longer than "standard" – any pair of women’s pants I try on will cut into me at a very unflattering spot.  You get the idea. (And you can probably hear my teenage diatribe about how "they" choose "standard." Right next to my diatribe about the BMI chart.)

How does this translate? When I sew for myself, I have to add inches to the length of every pattern piece. I move bust darts and ease one side of the back. I change the shape of the crotch seam. Nothing looks like the original pattern piece when I am finished. It looks like me instead. We would like all of you to have access to these skills as well. 

It was with delight that I met Elizabeth Woods, who will be heading up our advanced sewing curriculum. Liz is a fantastic seamstress with some really fun and quirky costume design under her belt. She has a degree in engineering which helps her every day in her costuming business. Sewing is engineering, folks.

This is Liz, crying: Caps for sale! Caps for sale!  

This is Liz, crying: Caps for sale! Caps for sale!  

She's also a tough fit for off-the-rack clothing, standing just five feet tall. When we sat down the first thing we chatted about was the alterations we have to make to get our clothes to fit. 

Liz will be teaching a series of classes – from beginner to advanced – to get your sewing skills rocking.

We’re designing a three-pronged curriculum, roughly divided into 1) technical skills; 2) patternmaking; and 3) design and embellishment. These three areas do overlap, so things may not always fit cleanly into one category. There will be beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes available in each area. The curriculum will include everything from a simple learn how to sew class,  like Robin’s mitered napkin and tote classes, which teach you essential foundation skills; to clothing and pattern alteration and making custom jeans and lingerie, which incorporate all of the things you learn from the beginning.

Here are Liz’s thoughts:

How we approach the things that surround us, and particularly the things that surround our bodies, has a huge impact on how we carry out our daily lives. When clothes fit - in both style and cut - confidence soars. Clothes and accessories communicate wordlessly to the outside world, and it is powerful to deliberately set the messages being transmitted.  

I was nine when I learned how to sew, and I've had a needle in my hand every day since. I love to imbue the items of our daily lives with personality. I grew up on a farm with tight resources. I learned how to make things from what was available around me. My grandmothers taught me Depression-era thrift and dressmaking skill. Today, we have many choices about where our goods are sourced - mass-market clothing remains one of the deeply contentious industries, with rampantly unfair pay for workers and little service paid to individual needs for customers.

Join me in honing a set of skills that are boundlessly creative and deeply personal - defining and making your own wardrobe from the inside out.

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I hope you are as excited about the sewing curriculum as I am. Keep your eyes on our calendar for classes as they pop up -- Zippers is posted, and a cap class will go up in the next week, followed by a custom leggings class.  Please send along any requests or thoughts!

x Erika