Monday, May 14, 2012

There is always SO much to learn... (Part 1 of ... well... who knows how many?)

Anyone who creates garments, whether professionally, or even strictly as an enthusiastic hobbyist, gets pretty excited about learning new techniques. Classes can be hard to find, and expensive when you do find them. Books are great, when they are the RIGHT books, and videos can be great... but some of us just need to learn in a classroom setting, with a skilled teacher who uses his/her own HANDS and HEART to teach us. This inspired me to go on a bit of a hunt for learning opportunities. This post could go ON and ON and ON... so if you want more, just ask. I'll list my findings here, and welcome any of you to chime in with your thoughts, experiences, desires, and ideas!

When it comes to books, there are so many dedicated to sewing. Some technical manuals are far too technical, and some books written for home sewers are a bit too... well... "homemade" in their approach.

If costume design is your thing, check out The Drama Bookshop on 40th Street near 8th Ave (between NY Elegant and Sposabella Lace). You will be sure to find some inspiration and information there.

If you want patternmaking or design books, especially for the aspiring professional who doesn't want to commit to a course of study right now, you may discover some cool books in the bookstore at FIT, which is open to the general public. This Barnes and Noble affiliated store offers a good number of books and supplies, but also reveals a great deal about what ISN'T a priority for the school in these economic times. The book selection is heavy on the glitter and glamour aspects of the fashion business - not too much for the person who actually wants to design or participate manually in the manufacture of clothes. I guess that's just reality, though. If you want to be a factory worker or similar, why bother getting a degree when you can simply bootstrap it, right?

And while we're on the subject of bookstores, just WHO is the customer for $50 or $90 fashion magazines? Why do they even exist? Especially when they aren't even sealed in plastic! You can leaf through them right in the store, ya know? Someone explain!?!?

Now, across the street (250 West 27th Street - website seems to be down), you will find the Fashion Design Bookstore (open to the public), which has LOTSA stuff, and many interesting things to distract you.

I was looking at design books when... oh wait... Alexander McQueen paper dolls? Really?

Oh wait, I digress. I was looking at fashion books when... oh wait... a T-shirt screen printing kit?.... Oh wait, again, I digress. Not for the ADD creative person... clearly.

If you would like to learn draping, in my opinion , there is only one place to REALLY learn, because you really need the right equipment to do it well. Oh, and you should be able to afford the class, too. To learn how to drape, without pursuing a degree, you have to enroll in a Continuing Ed course at FIT. Now, if you have a bit of cash to spend, you can certainly get a good sewing education at Parsons, right in the very heart of the garment district. Click here for continuing education courses Parsons offers.

If you want to be a bit less formal about it, and a bit cozier, try The Sewing Studio. In my experience, they hardly ever answer the phone, but the classes must exist, since I know Gertie from the uber-popular Blog for Better Sewing teaches there, and I'd bet you money her classes are a blast!

If you are SERIOUSLY interested in an in-depth course of study, learn more about the Maison Sapho School. Not in the garment district, but a VERY serious Manhattan school, where French dressmaking techniques are taught in a no-nonsense course for only the most dedicated dressmaking students.

Next, I'll tell you about individual teachers, and why you might want to pursue learning options with them, specifically! To be continued... whew... my hands are tired!

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At May 14, 2012 at 7:05 PM , Blogger Suellen said...

Thanks so much for all this great info. Would love your thoughts on good books on learning couture style dressmaking and pattern making.

At May 14, 2012 at 8:43 PM , Blogger a little sewing said...

Mimi, you are a treasure! Thank you for posting this great info!

At May 14, 2012 at 9:13 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Okay - lots to tell there! I will put all of that info in one of my next posts, but to get you started, you NEED Claire Shaeffer's books. Couture Sewing and The Fabric Sewing Guide are both excellent books! (And she was nice enough to thank me for my teensy-weensie contribution to her masterpiece in the acknowledgements of the Fabric Sewing Guide).

At May 14, 2012 at 9:19 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

You are so very welcome... and hey... you are the one who made the KILLER Van Akker coat, aren't you????? Boy, was that fabulous and inspirational! So nice to see you here!

At May 15, 2012 at 3:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) "The book selection is heavy on the glitter and glamour aspects of the fashion business - not too much for the person who actually wants to design or participate manually in the manufacture of clothes. I guess that's just reality, though. If you want to be a factory worker or similar, why bother getting a degree when you can simply bootstrap it, right?"

I've taken Continuing Ed classes at FIT off and on for the last few years, and the B & N bookstore has never had a lot of hands-on manufacturing texts. A lot of FIT classes don't have texts. You take notes, although a course covering those issues would be a Production class, not Fashion Design, and I've only taken FD and tailoring classes.

2) Kathleen Fasanella's book is considered a good book for small, would-be sewing entrepreneurs. (Google it.) Her blog, "Fashion Incubator," discusses sewing manufacturing topics every week.

3) I once many years ago took a beginning garment construction class at Parsons. It was awful -- incredibly poorly taught. In addition, at FIT, you can use the classrooms and equipment after hours. I don't think you can do that at Parsons, at least nobody told me. I was once told that at Parsons a different staff teaches the evening classes. At FIT, the same teachers who teach the full-time day students teach the night and weekend students.

I've met two Parsons students who took summer or evening classes at FIT because they needed better technical skills to do their Parsons projects. If I had the money, I might try Parsons again because the classes are smaller, but the only way I could handle it is because I learned to sew at FIT.

4) I know a graduate of FIT and Maison Sapho and I once attended an open house at the latter. I wouldn't mind attending MS, but it is expensive and demanding. The FIT/MS graduate told me more than once that Mme Sapho can be very tough and I could tell from the time I spent with her. She's good, but she won't spare your feelings. She's getting on in years and said she didn't know how much longer she'd teach, so I'd enroll sooner rather than later.

5) I've taken some one session classes at The City Quilter that were good and reasonably priced, but they were more in the nature of a brief introduction to whatever was the subject. Still, they provided an intro to the technique and tools and gave me an idea of books to buy.

At May 15, 2012 at 6:00 AM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Great comments! Yes, I was a student at FIT, and the bookstore used to have quite a bit of technical sewing books, which I still happily own. Many of them were books written by the professors. The bookstore was once only for students, or anyone holding an ID, or having special permission. This is before everything went digital.

Yup, Maison Sapho cracks the whip!

Thanks for your Parsons comments. Seems experiences can vary widely. Some people rave about it.

At May 15, 2012 at 6:40 AM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Oh, and I have Kathleen's book, which is great ( I "know" her professionally), but definitely too advanced for the hobbyist. Her incubator discussion group can also be very helpful, if you are in the industry.

At May 15, 2012 at 6:52 AM , Blogger Phyllis said...

The FIT bookstore also sells waxed tracing paper which is has hard to find as hens teeth these days. They have it in red, blue, yellow and white I think. It's not listed on their web site but I might call them anyway to see if they'll ship an order.

At May 15, 2012 at 7:20 AM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Interesting. You might appreciate this link... explains why it is hard to find. Easiest way to get your patterns traced, though... right?

At May 15, 2012 at 12:52 PM , Anonymous Sara Noemi said...

Thanks for this brief. I decided that after the research, I hope to take a Patternmaking class at FIT but I'm waiting til I get NY residency so I can get in-state tuition. Fit makes you wait a year if you just moved so the in-state deal is something to consider. It's almost half the price (sometimes more) of the out-of-state tuition price!

At May 15, 2012 at 3:06 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Well worth the wait, then! Great! Glad I could help point you in the right direction!

At May 15, 2012 at 7:28 PM , Blogger Phyllis said...

Yes agreed! And it lasts forever.

At May 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM , Anonymous Irene said...

Maison Sappho sounds so awesome, I'm putting it on my bucket list.

At May 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

The woman who runs the school is quite elderly, so you might want to look into it sooner, rather than later, unless she has named (and trained) her successor...

At May 16, 2012 at 3:08 PM , Blogger a little sewing said...

You might be thinking of shams linen coat

At May 16, 2012 at 5:45 PM , Anonymous Irene said...

Yeah this fall term sounds like a good time to start; getting better at sewing is a good way to keep spirits up through those dreary cold months. By the way, their website doesn't mention the tuition at all, what order of magnitude of cost are we talking about here? Thousands, tens of thousands?

At May 17, 2012 at 3:01 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

yes... that's it!!!

At May 17, 2012 at 3:02 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Well the former students I know don't strike me as particularly wealthy, but I don't actually know.

At May 19, 2012 at 11:29 PM , Anonymous Ashlee R. said...

Hi! As an instructor at The Sewing Studio I can assure you we do offer an awesome array of beginning and advanced sewing classes. Our full class listing and all registration is done on our website, There are specific office hours for admin staff to answer calls since we are a small studio, so our website is the most comprehensive source of info and through email is the best way to receive a quick reply to any questions.

At May 20, 2012 at 3:23 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

Fantastic, Ashlee! Thank you for shedding some light!

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