I've always loved the idea of knowing how to sew. As a kid, I remember being very impressed that my mom had made that "cool" dress I pointed out in an old photo album.
I also remember watching in wonder as my Grandma constructed a tiny black velvet cape, with cranberry-colored lining, for my Samantha doll.
Even further back in my family history, sewing is prevalent. My great-grandfather, Urbano (or "Papanon" as my mom called him), was trained as a tailor in Italy. When he immigrated to the United States, he got a job working at Stackpoles men's store in Hartford, Connecticut. My mom still has a tuxedo he made for my grandfather.
Although I inherited a love of working with my hands from all sides of my family— I've done everything from ceramics to beading— I never really got around to sewing. So, a few months ago, my friend and I signed up for a garment construction class at New York's Fashion Institute.
Now, once a week, I leave work at 6pm and take the train over to FIT for 3 hours of threading needles, cutting fabric, and coaxing a sewing machine into submission. I have to say, sewing is a lot harder than you might think. When I first told my Grandmother about the class, she said, "I hope you have a lot of patience!" She wasn't kidding.
The class's first assignment was a skirt. To prepare, we learned how to sew all kinds of seams. Easy.
Next, we cut our skirt patterns out of oak tag. Armed with an Exacto knife and a ruler, my pattern was beyond precise. Then we cut our fabric. So far, so good . . .
Or so I thought. Despite the fact that I measured everything diligently, when I went to attach my waistband, the circumference of my skirt did not match the length of the waistband. Hmm . . .
See how there are two lines of stitching on the dart? That's because I had to get the skirt circumference to equal 27 inches. I borrowed a 1/2 inch from the darts to make everything match up.
Looks like notes for a Physics class, right?
All that note-taking didn't stop my waistband from being wider at one end . . . sigh . . .
Despite all the little mistakes along the way, I'm really enjoying the learning process. It's a lot about attention to detail, and definitely patience— two things it never hurts to have more of. In fact, I've already bought fabric for the next skirt I'm going to make.
I've also gained a deep appreciation for the clothing I already own.
You start to understand what goes into making a beautiful garment— from the pattern-making to the finishing. This Zac Posen skirt is a pencil skirt not unlike the one I made for class; but look at the detailing on the front, the notched waistband, the precision . . . I might never get to the point where I can make something of this quality. But I'll still know exactly why a piece like this makes people stop me in the hall at work and proclaim, "What a great skirt!"