Friday, July 22, 2011

Have You Taken a Sewing Class in NYC?

A reader emailed me today, asking where he could take a tailoring class in NYC. I advised him to check out FIT and Parsons, as these two educational institutions always seem to have the most advanced sewing and patternmaking classes around. Beginners and advanced beginners looking for classes in the NYC area might want to check out Sew Fast Sew Easy and The Sewing Studio. But aside from a "sit 'n sew" taught by Susan Khalje and Kenneth King here in the Garment District, I personally haven't had the opportunity yet to take a sewing class in NYC. What about you, readers? Have you taken a sewing class in New York City? What did you think about it? Please share here.

Coming next week: A glimpse behind the scenes at Garment District trimming factory Regal Originals….


  1. I haven't taken a sewing class per se, but I do take private draping lessons. I love it! With a full time job it's hard for me to make a regular class and do homework. I work with my teacher at my own pace and learn whatever I want. If you have the means and opportunity I highly recommend it.

  2. I took tailoring 1 at FIT. We made a pair of trousers and 2 skirts. Taught by Alibrandi, amazing master tailor! Also took sewing 2, which was basically a sewing class. We made a pair of trousers and a tailored blazer. Taught by Tommasso Proscia, also a master tailor. He has extremely high standards. They are both very thorough and really expect a lot from you. Very professional and helpful.

  3. Because of the space limitations imposed by Blogger, I have to do two posts.


    I took a couple of classes at Parsons many years ago. Admittedly, I was not able to focus because of work and other personal matters. I also took a class at Sew Fast Sew Easy and I had a conflict with the head of the school, which, I understand is not unheard of. Moreover, FIT students, of whom I am very fond, teach there. In other words, talented KIDS. I know someone who took the Kenneth King/Susan Khalje class and loved it; but it is expensive, and probably more advanced sewers would get the most out of it. I had Kenneth King in another class and I think he's extremely informative, funny, and smart, which, unfortunately, is a combination of traits that can be unusual to find in a sewing teacher.

    For the last few years, I've taken an evening or Saturday class at FIT most terms. Although FIT is far from perfect (Boy, is that an understatement), there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is the best value for sewing education in New York, possibly the United States, especially for someone walking in off the street.

    First, the cons:

    --The classes are too big (20+).
    --The place can be overwhelming and confusing, although it's gotten somewhat better. (Continuing Ed students with issues should try contacting J. Nathan Bullock, the coordinator of adult credit programs. He will make a genuine effort to help.)

    The pros:

    --Although the fees keep going up, as a New York State subsidized institution, the class fees are relatively reasonable for a New York State resident.

    --The teachers have real experience, and it is varied.

    --I actually learned how to sew at FIT. Not everyone is nice and encouraging and "supportive," to use a term beloved by sewing bloggers. In fact, some were jerks and passive-aggressive. At Parsons, the two teachers I had were beastly or indifferent and I learned nothing (but as I said, part of this was my fault because of my schedule.).

    --FIT provides after-hours access to workrooms. If that was available at Parsons, I never got the memo.

    --FIT has a Sewing Lab, which at times is staffed by superb tutors with various kinds of training. Maria Pastras is especially beloved. Sometimes it's not open when it's supposed to be, that's the maddening part. Budget cutbacks probably have shortened the hours. But when it's open, and you can get a machine, you get great guidance.

    --FIT offers small lockers for a reasonable fee (last time I rented one it was $10 a semester) for evening students taking classes in certain areas.

    --FIT used to offer an hour of free tutoring to anyone who signed up for it. Again, budget constraints may have cut into that.

    --FIT students learn how to sew on industrial machines, not those Brother machines I see in the frame at Parsons on Project Runway.

    --Parsons students have been known to take FIT summer classes.

    --The vibe at a school with people who aspire to enter the fashion industry is much more intense and interesting.

    --The student body is very diverse and cosmopolitan.

    [To be continued]

    New York Sewer

  4. II.

    It should be noted that FIT is an industry school. A home sewer will learn basic sewing, pattern making and fashion design, but probably will need to seek an outside tutor to apply what s/he learns unless the student is shaped like a Size 6, 8, or 10 female fashion industry dress from.

    I've had a Benedetto Alibrandi for two classes, Ladies Tailoring I and Tailoring I (a Menswear class). He's a wonderful, very patient teacher. Tommasso Proscia is very highly regarded, but he has a reputation for being quite intimidating and making people cry. He also reputedly does not let people take notes, or at least not during the first demonstration.

    Following is my understanding of the technique classes at FIT, at least the major ones, starting with tailoring:


    Ladies Tailoring I, II, III, IV (from skirts to a coat; this is a series that is standalone and leads to a certificate.).

    Tailoring I and II. (Menswear Department) While Ladies Tailoring is production-oriented (for example, you go to Quick Fuse in the Garment District to have weft fusible applied), Tailoring I is devoted to a high-end garment that is sewn largely by hand. The training is more in the bespoke tradition. We spent 15 weeks on a pair of trousers.

    In Tailoring II, you advance to a vest, and I think, a jacket.

    Tailoring Techniques (Fashion Design Department?)
    I believe this offers supplemental or advanced techniques for a women's jacket, but I'm not sure.

    Sewing I (Fashion Design Department). A very rigorous beginning class. You do hand and machine sewing exercises, seam samples, a dickey or a bodice with a regular zipper, a skirt with an invisible zipper and a fairly complex blouse.

    Sewing II (Fashion Design Department)
    Production-oriented making up of a jacket and a pair of women's pants with a zipper.

    Menswear Sewing I (Menswear)
    The making up of a complex men's shirt.

    Haute Couture Sewing Techniques (Apparel Design Department?)
    More refined and demanding sewing samples. Don't take it if you can't stand basting.

    Haute Couture Embellishments
    Beading, embroidery, applique, etc.

    Haute Couture Technology
    The making up of a suit using couture methods. Kenneth King had the students transfer the sewing line by pouncing. I haven't taken this yet, but a friend did.

    There also are many other technique and portfolio classes, as well as courses in the Flat Pattern Design and Draping series. Degree students also take classes on textiles, drawing, anatomy, and study software required to work in the fashion industry, e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator, Web PDM.

    Caveat: Some of this information may be dated, or inadvertently incorrect, but at least it's a start.

    Good luck.

    New York Sewer

  5. Finally, if you take a class at FIT, bring pattern paper or oak tag to the first session, along with tracing tools. After getting an overview of the class and supplies from the teacher, you generally make a copy of the pattern to be used by the class. It also helps to arrive early.

    New York Sewer

  6. To find a tailoring tutor, if classes are not possible:

    I once was in Beckenstein Men's Fabrics and a visiting tailor was having lunch with some of the workers (there appears to be a shop, in addition to the selling floor). He said he had been featured in Esquire a long time ago and offered small classes in which people worked on their own clothes. I meant to get his name and number. In any event, Beckstenstein might have some contacts for potential tutors.

    I would also consider writing to "Sartor," the creator of the Cutter and Tailor forum and asking him for the names of some New York tailors who might be available for some tutoring. Or you could just post a query in the forum.

    New York Sewer

  7. Thanks, New York Sewer, for taking the time to write these comments. I'm sure STGD readers will find them helpful.

  8. Thanks. I have strong opinions, but am happy to help someone have a good experience.

    Another benefit of taking even one class at FIT: You get a student ID that entitles you to student discounts. (I don't recall Parsons issuing me an ID, but I could be wrong.)

    I was able to buy the Adobe Creative Design Suite for about $300 less than the regular price because I had a student ID. I qualified for the Amazon Student Prime free membership offer, so I'm getting two-day delivery for free for a year. FIT just renovated its fitness center and students taking 1.5 credits can use it for free. Some Garment District stores offer modest discounts to people with an FIT ID (New York Elegant Fabrics -- 8 or 10%).

    The FIT Library has an excellent selection of books, DVDs, magazines, journals, designer files, etc., as well as scanners, light boxes and electronic tablets that can be checked out for use in the Library. I believe that students can make appointments to review garments from the FIT Museum collections.

    If you have the time and inclination to use the resources, FIT's a very good deal for a cost-conscious student, even with the too-large class sizes.

    New York Sewer

  9. Coincidentally, I'm taking Gertie's "Sewing Plus" class at The Sewing Studio in Chelsea--which starts today!

  10. I've taken a couple patternmaking classes at FIT and have found them to be enormously helpful.

    As for sewing, I recently met someone who told me about Maison Sapho, a couture sewing school on the Upper West Side. She said it was very hard, but very good. The website is:

    She told me the classes were intensive with at least 15 hours of homework each week, so it seems like an option for someone with a lot of time or drive to learn to a great deal.

  11. I went to fit and it was great just took fashion design illustration then I went to mayer school for fashion design I learn so much there but the school dose not exist no more. I say f.i.t. is the best in nyc for sewing.


I welcome and encourage your comments. Please note that I do reserve the right to delete any comment I deem inappropriate for any reason whatsoever without consent.