Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sewing Classes for Newbies and Semi-Newbies!

You've been looking for classes, haven't you?

You may have read my recent blog post, focusing on sewing classes for beginners.  Well, you may remember that I offered a survey, to get a feel for what sewing students might want to learn. Below is a summary of the results, and what I learned:

From a sample of about 50 survey participants, I learned that most beginner sewers interested in taking classes have attempted to sew something at least once before.  Only 4 of the respondents had never touched a machine.  Only 5 people had never tried to sew using a commercial sewing pattern.

But... here's where it gets interesting...

Most who used patterns needed additional help understanding the instructions, and, whether they got the help or not, most found that help to be insufficient.

About half of the respondents had tried other ways to make things, using written, text-only instructions or grids to enlarge.

75% of respondents longed to sew to fit their own figures (or someone else's), and 50% also wanted to sew for creative reasons.  Saving money, income potential, and professional aspirations came in... wait for it...

dead last.

The survey respondents desired a variety of types of sewing classes, and the company I am about to profile offers almost all of the choices selected.  Clothing that fits and home decor items were the clear winners in the "things you most want to sew" question.  With all of that in mind, read on...

On Finding Sewing Classes in the Garment District

The area formerly known as the "Garment District", also now lovingly referred to as "The Fashion District", refers to a pretty specific geographic area in Manhattan.  As you may have noticed, I've expanded our definition for the purposes of this blog, since so many of these completely accessible businesses feed and cooperate with each other, creating a symphony of creative resources for people who make things.

If you visit the Fashion Kiosk, for example, their jurisdiction is limited to the area they serve, which means that a great business, perhaps just a short walk further than many of the fashion and notions stores is not in their database of businesses to recommend. Ask for sewing classes at the booth, and you'll come up empty.  But there are always new places to explore!

Can I Learn to Sew in/near the Garment District?


On my radar for quite some time now, but just a short walk further south and east than my own usual fabric and notion-related haunts, you will find The Sewing Studio.  (Note: As of September 6, now closed) With locations in New York and Toronto, they have advertised some pretty exciting options for the beginner to moderately advanced sewing student.  Yesterday... yes yesterday, July 15... in the EXTREME NYC heat, I wandered into the studio, and fell in love with the place. And, not only for the air-conditioning!

The brochure/pamphlet they offer gives a concise overview of what the studio offers, listing the prices and descriptions of each class, in a very clear format, inviting you to learn more.

Paraphrased from their own literature: 

The Sewing Studio provides fresh, fashion-forward sewing classes. The team is an enthusiastic and patient group of teachers who provide hands-on demonstrations and a wealth of sewing expertise.  The courses are comprehensive and fun.  

Yes, you heard me correctly.

I asked myself... Could this be true?

In a bustling creative building, full of rehearsal spaces and other fun businesses, I took the elevator up to the 8th floor, entered the studio, and was greeted by Tamara (syllabic emphasis sounds like "tomorrow", by the way), a warm and engaging employee, who gave me a grand tour.  A group of students were absorbed in a sewing class, fully engaged in a creative experience, and weren't one bit distracted by my presence. The space is wide-open, beautiful, colorful, neat, well-lit, appropriately climate-controlled, and efficient.

New Janome machines lined the tables, which you learn to use in the classes. Because of their relationship with Janome, the Sewing Studio also sells their machines at a VERY significant discount.

Classes are taught by Sewing Studio employees in the space, sewing and fashion camps for kids and events are held in a similar studio across the hall, and I was welcomed in to see the kids' sewing camp in action.  A young boy (perhaps 10 or 11 years old) rushed over to Tamara, excited to show her an Ipod case/wallet he had made.  It was indeed awfully cool, and I told him so.  Unsolicited, he gushed to me about the program, and said that while he wouldn't even care if there were other boys in the program or not, the other kids were so cool, that he would have made plenty of friends in the classes he's taken even if he were the only boy (which, by the way, he wasn't).

I was then introduced to Nasya, the studio director, who shared a million more exciting details about the place with me.  Feel free to follow the Sewing Studio on Facebook and/or Twitter for more information. I assure you, it looks to me like a beginners' paradise. Offering courses year-round on weekday evenings and weekend days (with some day programs, too!), a live person at the Studio is easiest to reach by phone between 2-6PM weekdays.

And... it gets better.  No kidding.  They teach what you actually want to know. Just look at the course offerings.  Wanna copy your favorite clothes? Wanna expand a ready to wear item after you've gained a little weight?  Want a bit of pattern making guidance? Want to make a clone of a designer bag?  They even offer a single 2 hour beginner basics class, just to get your feet wet, if you have any fears about diving in!

So, here's the deal.  You can be a complete novice.  You can take a class here if you have never touched a machine before in your life.  You can throw a sewing party here.  You can take private classes. You can buy a gift certificate for someone else to learn.  You can do workshops, where you can learn while following a specific theme.

No lie.

This place is awesome.

Look into it.

The Sewing Studio
134 West 29th Street #804


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At July 16, 2013 at 8:23 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Oh how I wish I lived in the city now. This sounds fabulous. They need to expand! Thanks for sharing all the wonders hidden in NYC area.

At July 16, 2013 at 8:31 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

You can get here, Rebecca. No plans to expand for now they say... They've got their hands full with two fabulous locations they have!

At July 16, 2013 at 10:09 PM , Blogger Jenny said...

Oh I was thinking the same thing! I'm going to have to open my shop like this!

At July 17, 2013 at 1:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The studio space offer sounds great.

As I once commented, the best deal in New York for a serious sewer is FIT. You usually get high-quality teachers who have worked in the industry, are taught on industrial machines, and have access to workrooms, tutoring, and discounts. Because it's a state school, the fees are fairly low for New York residents. But the credit classes (which are the cheapest) require a 15-week commitment and they're offered only two or three times a year. So they're not for everyone.

If I wanted to learn to sew really well and had no experience with industrial machines or precision sewing I would start with the introductory Menswear Sewing class at FIT and would try to take it with Mark-Evan Blackman, who is exceptionally patient and thorough. You spend the entire term learning to sew a menswear shirt, but there are so many details that you need the time, especially if you have no experience. After that, if I wanted to take women's sewing classes, I'd take Sewing I, which is a very good class, but has many more projects.

Here's a link to an article by an FIT alumni magazine writer who took Menswear Sewing.


At July 17, 2013 at 2:49 PM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

As a former FIT student myself, I hear what you're saying... but...

Here's the thing: FIT sewing classes (speaking from past experiences) can be truly intensive, and a bigger time commitment. It is aimed at the person who wants to sew at a professional level, which isn't even the aspiration of many sewers who want to sew creatively, or learn how to fit their own bodies. I'm an enormous FIT fan, but they do serve a different customer. The studio space rules have recently changed at the Sewing Studio (I just learned that today), but any person may call or email and inquire if they have any questions about it.

At July 22, 2013 at 10:01 PM , Anonymous Ashlee said...

As an FIT alum AND a Sewing Studio instructor, I can attest to the fact that nearly every one of our instructors is not only a life-long sewing enthusiast, but also an industry professional if not a graduate from one of the country's top design schools. So, not only will you find instructors that are passionate about what you want to do, we are passionate about all aspects of what we do, which always comes full-circle back to giving you the best, tailor made (pun!) education you can find in the city. In addition to the classes Mimi has so kindly outlined, we also offer private lessons on practically anything you want to learn, and for one-on-one instruction you'd be hard presses to find a similar level of attention in a place as comfortable as ours. Thank you so much for stopping by, Mimi!

At July 23, 2013 at 10:30 AM , Blogger mimi jackson said...

You are so very welcome, Ashlee! And thank you, for your comments here!


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