Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Immersion Style Sewing Lessons...Not for the Faint-Hearted!

Teaching the girls (Emily and Sarah, teenaged daughters of my dear friend, Pamela) to sew remains a real treat. It is so meaningful to be able to pass on something that has brought me such joy through the years. Today I taught the girls how to do Hong Kong finishes and Flatfell seams. They made a sample of each for their sewing notebooks. I also showed them how they could tuck piping, trim, rickrack, zipper teeth, beaded pearls or whatever into a flatfell seams before the top-stitching step to create an embellished seam. They thought that was pretty cool. Hopefully, it opened up some design possibilities for them. One more for their bag of design tricks! Then we looked over their sketches from last week's Project Runway-style mystery assignment. They did very well. Both their sketches showed burgeoning design potential. They are starting to think 'outside the box' and that was the purpose of the assignment. I'll have to see if they'll let me post their sketches here.

After reviewing their sketches and making a few suggestions, we began on their current projects - Emily's sheath dress and Sarah's lined vest. Emily finished her french seams on her dress, attached the bodice to the skirt and began preparing the back opening for her zipper. Unless the zipper installation goes disastrously, she should finish her dress next week. Sarah's vest ran into a bit of a fitting snag. This is a muslin, but what we hope will end up being a wearable trial run. However, this is our first time fitting anything to her as her previous projects have been more craft-oriented. We had settled on a pattern size based on the usual chest/waist/hip measurements. However, after a pin-fitting of the half-constructed vest today, it became obvious that she needs a much smaller pattern size with an FBA. So she learned to do some simple side seam and center front pattern redrafting using the "slide and pivot with ruler" technique. Fortunately, since this is a vest, she does not yet have to tackle redrafting a sleeve to fit a redrafted armhole.

Sometimes I worry that I didn't MAKE the girls pick simple projects to begin with and work systematically through the basics of sewing. They are tackling some fairly intermediate concepts right off the bat. Lining. Darts. Fitting with pattern alterations. Zippers. I see it as the "language immersion" approach to sewing. The danger in jumping right in is that the student has the potential of getting frustrated at the steep learning curve. But after some thought, I'd rather have a student somewhat frustrated, but with plenty of gentle support to get through it, than to have them bored and creatively stifled by sewing straight lines on paper for weeks before the thrill of being allowed to move on to a drawstring bag or apron. I love seeing how proud the girls are when they've successfully completed a french seam or drafted an item from scratch. It builds confidence in a way that being on a short sewing leash does not. So I'll let them tackle whatever they think they want to try. Even if it means I'm shaking in my boots a bit myself! LOL! They'll be given the proper heads-up that they might be in for a bumpy ride (Emily want to do a chenille coat with lining, zipper, storm flap, buttonholes and faux fur trim next!!!!! Yikes!) But if they're willing to try, I'm willing to let them.

And we'll keep our seam rippers handy, just in case....


1 comment:

Keith said...

When I first learned to sew my instructor let me pick anything also. I liked spending time learning on something I really liked and would use. It made me excited about the project and I didn't mind learning all the new techniques. I had something vested in the project. So, while it may be challenging for the girls with your guidance they will end up with things they are very proud of and this will give them momentum for the future.