Friday, July 29, 2011

Sewing in DC: Singa, Inc.

Exterior of Building
So remember Garment District, the pop-up emporium for local designers in the Spring? It was a bummer that it had to come to an end, and the beautiful building where it sits at 7th and New York Ave NW has been empty since. So imagine my delight when I was walking home from the gym one night and saw this sign in the upstairs window advertising sewing lessons. So exciting! This is a prime location a fairly easy reach from all 5 metro lines near lots of night life and some retail with a lot of foot traffic. Sewing has gone high profile!

Piqued My Interest!

I looked around for more information and found this set of flyers on the door at street level. Apparel, fashion, and textile classes? Be still my beating heart! I wrote down the information and checked out their website when I got home.

I liked what I saw. They have a good solid set of classes, from comprehensive Sewing I-III courses, to one day fun classes on topics such as crazy quilting and refashioning. I sent an email to singainc [at] yahoo (don't want to get them spammed!) to learn more.

Singa Student (with teacher) The founder, Ms. Jackie Hart, quickly got back to me and arranged for me to visit a class. Singa, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1996 with the goal of promoting local fashion in DC. Offering sewing lessons to the public is only a part of its mission. DC has an active summer youth employment program, to keep kids out of trouble and introduce them to earning money. Singa has participated in the program several times, taking 100 kids who have never sewn and by the end of the summer they've made at least 6 of an item (tote bag, apron, etc.), created and defended a business plan, and taken their items to Eastern Market to sell. One of the students ended up with an order for 25 more aprons!

Singa Student (male) And of course there are the sewing lessons in DC! For a 10 week session with two hour classes fees range from $130-$160 (do the math--that breaks down to less than $10 per hour). They also have one day courses, such as for a crazy quilt or altering jeans into a skirt, for $50-$60. For the small class size, professional equipment, and talented and experienced teachers these are a real bargain. The class I observed was a Sewing II class taught by a former sewing teacher at Wilson High School. The students were clearly learning good fundamentals in a logical way, including the importance of precise cutting, good pinning, and careful stitching. As there were only 3 students in the class I visited, each of them got plenty of personal attention.

Singa Student (designer) Ms. Hart's true passion is design incubation in DC. She is a graduate of FIT and was a buyer for DC's venerable (and now departed) Woodward & Lothrop department store. In addition to her work with Singa, she teaches fashion history and textile science at the Art Institute of Washington. There are very few local internship opportunities and job opportunities for the students and graduates. Rather than seeing all the graduates have to move to New York or overseas to engage in their passion and profession, she would like to create an incubator/coop space where designers can go to work, get marketing help, and be connected with local boutiques looking for local designs.

This young lady in the sewing class is a designer--working under the name Thembe Fashions--who wants to learn how to sew to improve her skills. She will be participating in a fashion show next month.

Professional Dress Forms Do these professional dress forms make you swoon? I sure did. Turns out these are just a few of the forms Singa owns. How about these little half-size ones for draping? And then Ms. Hart mentioned that 20 industrial machines along with industrial sergers, hemmers, tackers, and zigzaggers that the organization has in storage.... These are meant to go into the design incubator space. Potential DC Project Runway contestants, take note of where you can learn how to use an industrial sewing machine!

The Fall session of classes will begin in September and will likely be held at the 7th and NY Ave NW location, 1005 7th St. NW. Singa is looking for a more permanent home (that beautiful old building is in some disrepair and does not have adequate heating for the winter). Visit Singa's website or email them at singainc [at] yahoo for more info on the classes.

All photos are here

12 comments:

Shawnta said...

Wonderful find and write-up! I will be sure to pass the info along to those I know in the area.

Cennetta said...

Trena, Thank you so much for reviewing this special organization. It's nice to see positive influences in the community, not to mention sewing.

geminimistress said...

This is wonderful. I love organizations that help the community in a positive way not to mention teaching kids and adults a valuable skill. I don't live in the DC area but this is something I will donate to. Thanks for the write up. P.S. I love the blog.

Clio said...

What a great organization!

Harriet said...

This is very close to where I work. Thanks for telling us about it! I hope they are successful with it.

Sewing Projects said...

That is sooo much fun! Keep us posted on how the sewing classes go.

Lisette M said...

How nice to hear!

Mary said...

Thanks for this information. I would love to visit this organization if I get a chance the next time I am in DC. I want to also add that it is heartening to see these efforts at a time when the country is beset by tight fisted politicians.

Fran said...

Very nice -- wish something like that was done around these parts!

a little sewing said...

So interesting, thanks for the report. I wish them lots of success!

McVal said...

Wow! That is a wonderful program! I definitely wish we had something like that around here! Are you going to sign up for a class or teach one?

Joy said...

Very interesting!