Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sewing Glossary, or What I Learned from Teaching

People are often telling me that they want to learn how to sew and (depending on how much I like them) I volunteer to teach them. Several months ago a friend of mine called to see if I was free on a Saturday night because her husband wanted the house to himself for fight night and she was being kicked out. Though she is one of my few friends who also enjoys dancing (I love to go dancing) I wasn't in the mood to go to a loud bar. This particular friend is an admitted workaholic and while we were on the phone she was telling me that taking all three days of a three day weekend off left her at a loss for what to do with all that time. I said she needed a hobby, and maybe I should teach her jewelrymaking. She said she'd rather learn sewing. I then had a duh moment--we should use our Saturday night for sewing lessons.

That Saturday night we went to the fabric store. Normally, the first sewing lesson I give is a skirt that is a rectangle with an elastic waist. Even this simplest of projects takes 3-4 hours. She said she had made a skirt in her distant past. She has a full bust, a challenge with which I am not familiar, to say the least but one that makes buying Ready to Wear as challenging as my small bust. I wanted us to start on a princess seam T-shirt, if such a thing exists.

I made the mistake of letting her look in the Vogue book. She found Vogue 8422, a fairly complicated wrap top, and said, "This one says 'Very Easy.'" I did not adequately convey that Vogue "Very Easy" and real-life "Very Easy" are nowhere near the same thing and in a moment of weakness agreed to do the pattern. This project would take me about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to sew up, so I figured it would take us five or six. Well, I learned my lesson. Four sessions and twenty hours of sewing later (and this does not count the 2 1/2 hours of cutting) we had a top. Unfortunately, because the project was so complicated, I didn't so much teach her as tell her what to do. She sewed all the seams, but the construction was difficult enough that I couldn't really impart a lot of information as we went along. From now on, easy elastic waist skirt it is!

And there is so much information to impart! I forget how complicated sewing is until I try to explain a concept, and then realize it references other concepts, which reference yet more concepts. So I got the idea to do a sewing glossary. I'm sure this has been done many times, but it might be fun to do. Maybe I'll make it required reading for when I give sewing lessons.

The other thing I'm considering as a pre-requisite for sewing lessons with me is a requirement to come over and observe me working on a project. I learned by osmosis--I watched my mom sewing from the time I was a baby until I just naturally picked it up. I still got a lot of help from her on early projects, but there were a lot of details she didn't have to teach me. The biggie I've noticed in giving recent lessons to people who have never sewn is simply how to hold the fabric while it's going through the machine. The natural instinct is to use the left hand to pull from behind the foot and it's really hard to break people of this habit so that they guide from the front. Maybe if they had observed proper form (well, as close as I come to proper) for a couple of hours the hand placement would make more sense.

I'll tag all the entries with "Sewing Glossary" so they'll be easy to find.

1 comment:

Little Hunting Creek said...

I think Very Easy Vogue translated means, "not Ralph Rucci"