By Diane Ako
I've decided to enroll in a sewing class to learn how to sew better. Why? Because for years, I've been sewing my own hems and darning my own rips and tears.
Now and again, I want to sew something custom-made that I can't find in a store (usually a cover for something) and at my few stabs at it, I've found it nearly beyond my skill level. My guesswork creations are rudimentary and hard-earned, if they succeed at all.
Lately, the mommy in me has wanted to sew pretty clothes with fancy embellishments for my daughter - and a little matching outfit for the dog and/or cat, because it would delight Olivia to wear an outfit that matches her pets.
I can do straight lines. My mom forced me to take it up in high school, so one summer I enrolled in a short course in which I produced a few skirts and tank tops. I was never that interested at the time, but she insisted it was a life skill.
Later, my junior year Home Economics class reinforced the skill by having us all make shorts. OK, score one for Mom. She was right to make me do this.
Decades passed, and my interest sparked in 2000. After 11 years of toying with the idea (who ever said I wasn't a procrastinator?) I researched a few sewing classes and enrolled in one that fit my schedule. (I actually had to take vacation to achieve this.)
I wasn't sure what to expect, but at this particular class, I found it to be more like a paid club of crafters who get together as their schedule allows, to have access to a nice workspace and a skilled seamstress who acts as a resource/ mentor.
The teacher doesn't stand at the head of any classroom and lecture from a lesson plan. In between helping students she works on her own projects as well as the store's other service, alterations.
I prepared my supplies and had bought a pattern for a girl's skirt. Once at class, I whipped it out and explained my background, my goals and what I was trying to sew for this project.
The teacher, a very nice Japanese lady, reminded me more of a mother, as she looked at the pattern and said, "OK, cut here and here." Over the next three hour session, we would have this back and forth dialogue in which I would say, "What next?" and she would tell me what to do.
The good thing about this method is that I really learn by doing. Without a lot of chatter, I was able to 90% finish a skirt for Olivia in the first class.
The drawback is that I don't have a comprehensive overview of what I'm doing. I could not independently sew another pattern without assistance. Each method has its pros and cons.
I'm sure that over the years, students drift in and out, while a core group remains. On my first day, there were four other "regulars." In talking to one of them, she mentioned she has come every Monday for the past four years because she likes to have the teacher there to lean on for occasional advice and feedback.
I enjoyed myself and was very proud of my progress - I had not expected to get that far in one session. I had fun, too.
The next day I was ready to return, but I was having a heck of a morning: I had found a huge box of supplies at my mom's and put it in her driveway. My intention was to drive up with my car, and load it up before I went to class.
However, it started pouring heavily, so by the time I returned, the cardboard box and first layers of fabric remnants were soaked. The box was heavy and in the two minutes it took me to get out of the car and put it in the trunk, I was drenched.
I also realized I forgot to brew myself coffee before I left. I drove back to my house to change clothes, dry my hair, and make coffee. Ever had one of those mornings when nothing goes right?
Then I decided I wasn't going to kill myself to get to class. I called to let them know I wasn't coming today, and after I dried myself, I sat down with my cup of hot coffee and the newspaper. That's just as good a morning, too.