Posts Tagged ‘sewing classes’


img_20161120_180053763Regular ODFL readers might recall that for most of 2016 I have been on a journey learning to sew. I’ve taken four classes using a sewing machine and as part of my continued education I decided to take a hand-sewing class at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco.

I first learned to hand-sew when at 9-years-old I signed up for a kid’s quilting class through Parks and Rec. I made two quilted pillows all sewn by hand. My mother preferred hand-sewing and she taught me as well. Still, I wanted to relearn and hopefully add to my skill set.


Instructor Natalie Wiener has learned much about hand-sewing from her years building historical costumes.

That I did from instructor Natalie Wiener, notions buyer and manager at Britex. The class of six met for two hours on a rainy Saturday morning. We jumped right in learning:

  • Running Stitch – good for basting
  • Full Backstitch – to repair seams
  • Spaced Backstitch – topstitiching and setting zippers by hand
  • Fell – hemming
  • Slip – also hemming
  • Catch or Herringbone Stitch – hemming knits and my fave!

But there’s more! Natalie talked about tools and materials, for example the importance of thimbles – did you know they come in sizes? She also shared tips such as wax your thread to calm the thread fibers. (There is one tip that we all agreed has now changed our sewing lives, but sorry, not telling. You have to take the class.)

The two hours flew by. I really enjoyed the class and came away anxious to add some hand-sewing into my current project.

More classes will be scheduled in the new year. Check the website for information: https://www.britexfabrics.com/

Thank you, Natalie and Britex!

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Under construction.

Sewing. My great grandmother was a master at it. My grandmother also sewed and designed. My mother, too. But not I.

Oh I started, pretty young but my mother actually didn’t care for sewing and she was working, so it got dropped as soon as I needed help. (Having worked full time myself most of my adult life – I understand, Mom. Who wants to drag out the sewing machine after a long day at the job?)

Over the years since then I’ve picked up a class here and there. But after the project was complete I was done for the time being until I picked it up again and started almost from scratch.

Not. Any. More.


Inside out. 


Once and for all I want to be able to make my own clothing – at least the basics and as a fashion writer, I want to understand clothing construction. I’m committed and luckily, I have found the right class or I should say, classes.

I’m just about to take class number 3 with Kamal Ragbotra through Mt. Diablo Adult Education. I’ve been binge sewing since April and so far I’ve made a pair of pants with pockets and a knit dress.

The wonderful thing is these classes are challenging but not overwhelming and it’s so much fun! I credit Kamal for all that. Her approach is serious but everything is doable and mistakes are learning opportunities. Like the time in the Knits Class when – two stitches in, using my double needle for the first time, it broke. “Why?” I screeched. Oh … because I didn’t switch the machine setting from zigzag to straight stitch. Kamal had warned us about that but in all the excitement over the double needle I forgot. Bet ya, though, that I won’t forget again.



Add a tuck and a button.

With Kamal, who has a degree in fashion design, it isn’t just about the project at hand. She spends quite a bit of time lecturing about fabrics and patterns. For example, I have never had a sewing instructor explain pattern sizing and ease of wear. I was thinking one day, “Hey we’re in sewing grad school!”

For the Knits Class I chose to make a dress from a double knit span/rayon blend – the rayon provides a nice drape. Kamal suggested I use the reverse side for the sleeves. When the sleeves were slightly too loose she showed me how to tuck them and then had the idea to add buttons. (Very handy for us that she shares her designer instincts.)




Up next is the Studio Class, to which we bring our own projects. That for me will be a skirt and my first zipper. After that? Hmm … something vintage inspired I suspect.

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It’s quite odd that I don’t know how to sew. My great-grandmother was an accomplished seamstress, having sewn all the clothing for her three children. My grandmother did one better and not only learned to sew but also studied fashion design. My mother also made some of her own clothes including all her maternity dresses – Vogue patterns no less.  

I started off promising at nine-years-old with a small sewing machine of my own, but I could never get the bobbin to work right. Later I learned how to hand sew in a quilting class and I’ve always appreciated having that skill.  But in my generation, sewing was not important. Mom was working so she didn’t have time to teach me and home economics in school was a thing of the past. My interest faded and that was that.

Until now. Since I write about fashion, I want to understand the basics of clothing construction. So I recently took a beginner sewing class at Stone Mountain and Daughter with Alice Elliot. Oh boy it was a challenge, but fun and satisfying. I chose to make a kimono-style robe from Kwik Sew – a company known for their simple-to-use patterns.

The whole process is a bit of a blur but my approach was to take it one step at a time and follow the instructions, which often made no sense to me (simple-to-use is relative). Luckily, Alice saved me several times from messing up.

Some of the unexpected things I learned:

  • a lot of time is spent not sewing
  • cutting the pattern, pinning and then cutting the fabric is slow work
  • patience is required
  • ironing is involved
  • I thought the sleeves were going to be the hardest part, but it was the neckline that caused the most stress because sewing a curve is hard as hell
  • time and space are required
  • if you’re not in a good mood or otherwise feeling off, don’t sit down at the machine  … go have a drink instead
  • sewing is a bit like putting puzzle pieces together except you are also making the pieces

The fabric I chose is a reproduction of an Art Deco print in cotton. (No surprise there.)

My creation is not perfect but darn close. I look at it and think: My gosh, did I really make that? Can I do it again?  Sure I can. A friend has kindly given me her extra sewing machine (thanks, Sara) and away I go …

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