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Jan 2, 2014

Professional Sewing Classes -- YEA or NAY?



Readers, what downside could there possibly be to taking a professional sewing class?

I'm considering doing just that, starting later this month.

When I completed my tailored tweed peacoat a few weeks ago, I thought it might be fun to take a men's tailoring class at the Fashion Institute for Technology (FIT), which is located, literally, three blocks from my apartment building.  Taking a class there is something I had never seriously considered before.

You may not know that FIT is part of the State University of New York (SUNY), and New York residents get a huge tuition break.  How huge?  Well, a standard 2-credit class (running January through mid-May) costs $368 for residents and $1,106 for non-residents, or roughly 1/3 the cost.

The class that interested me was called Tailoring II.  Here's the description:

This course introduces students to professional tailoring practices for the menswear suit jacket/blazer. Details specific to the jacket and appropriate finishes for a high-end tailored garment are covered throughout the semester. 

However, there was a prerequisite, Tailoring 1:
 
Students learn how to lay out, cut, and sew all of the details associated with the classically tailored trouser. Special emphasis is given to the fly, tailored pockets, and the creation of a handmade waistband curtain. Students also learn to fit the classic trouser on various figure types.

But Tailoring 1 isn't being offered right now.  So I sought the approval of the department to take Tailoring II.  Not so easy!  The professor (to whom I made a request in writing) has recommended I first take a class called Menswear Sewing.  The reason the professor gave was that I don't have experience sewing on an industrial sewing machine:

This course introduces students to the many processes involved in creating a first sample. Professional standards of construction are emphasized throughout the semester as students cut, layout, and construct a classic menswear shirt.

I reached out to a few people in-the-know, and it sounds like this may have more to do with wanting to discourage people from taking classes beyond their level, or for "merely" personal enrichment.  They'd like you to be on a professional track (and this may be related to $$$ as well).

(You can view the current curriculum here.)



I'm not opposed to taking Menswear Sewing; I doubt I'd find it a waste of time.  If nothing else, I'd meet other people interested in sewing menswear and I'd learn how to use an industrial sewing machine.  But what I really want to take is the jacket tailoring class.

I'm not sure what I'll do yet, or if I'll even take a class at all.  As a self-taught home sewer with a library full of sewing books, I believe you can teach yourself almost anything about sewing if you're committed to the process.  That said, there's a mystique to professional classes that makes me curious about what I might learn from them.  And as I said earlier, the cost is comparatively low.  Should I just bite the bullet and take the basic menswear sewing class? 

In closing, friends, have you taken professional sewing classes?  Did you learn things you couldn't possibly have taught yourself, or was it more for the structure (i.e., weekly homework assignments) or for the social aspect?

Professional sewing classes -- YEA or NAY?

89 comments:

  1. I recommend you (politely) persist. There shouldn't be a problem if you're basically auditing the class (i.e. not sweating a grade if it turns out to be more challenging than you expected), and I predict you'd come to terms with the industrial machines faster than ordinary mortals. In fact, the only danger is that you'd be tempted to add one to your menagerie.

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    Replies
    1. FIT doesn't like people to audit construction classes. I assume they're afraid that people won't be properly motivated. It's not unheard of, but is a major hassle.

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    2. If it's anything like here the state doesn't like to pay for auditing students. I tried to repeat a class I already took but in order to audit it I would only be allowed to attend the lecture portion but not the sewing lab.

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    3. I had a similar run-in with the chairman of the department that does the accessories program. This was something I truly wanted to do - it was going to mean a big sacrifice (move from family down to NYC and so on) for me. But it really did come down, from her perspective, of 'we're only interested in people who can make a lifetime commitment to the industry,' which I interpreted (and I think correctly) as 'Sweetie, you're too old and neither we nor anyone in the industry would be interested in working with you."

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    4. If you audit a construction class at FIT, you still pay the full price. They're not losing money. But they don't like it, and after having taken several courses there, I sort of understand it, even though I myself would find it easier to work without the pressure of a grade.

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    5. Toby:

      My experience is limited to Menswear and Fashion Design, but I know some older full-time or part-time degree students. Admittedly, most of the students are probably in their late teens to mid-thirties. I was interested to see how many classes required for the Associates degree are unrelated to sewing, tailoring or pattern making (also draping for Fashion Design). Much emphasis is put on drawing fashion figures by hand or on the computer, fabric rendering, creating specs and flats, and market research.

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  2. I think it sounds like a wonderful opportunity and considering the close proximity to your home, then I would definitely do it. I think you would get something out of it and might make some sewing contacts. Plus it might be a good intro to see if you want to take more classes.

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  3. I would follow the advice the professor gave. I just recently took a pattern drafting course and I have to say the most helpful, beneficial and jaw dropping light bulb moments came from the little tips and tricks that the teacher passed on to us from her experience. These are things I could not have learned from the text book alone, or indeed from my own extensive sewing library. I would do as they say and then take tailoring 1 followed by the course you really want. I am so in awe that that you have such a fantastic opportunity so close to you. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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  4. I would not ever again willingly take a group course in any needlework technique. I'd rather go it on my own, from books and videos. Here's why: I took Home Ec in 8th grade, at a time when all boys had to take shop and all girls had to take home-maker classes. Our Miss Brooks (her name really was Miss Brooks) was a giantess of a woman. I still sometimes have nightmares about her leaning over my shoulder, pointing out all the minuscule "mistakes" I'd made -- augh! She demanded that we pull threads to straighten the ends of our fabric (not easy with polyester doubleknit) and lay out our pieces exactly as instructed in the commercial pattern instructions ... we had to measure with a wooden yardstick to assure that our grainline arrows ran parallel to the selvedge along the entirety of the arrow, on each pattern piece -- even if the print was off-grain. We spent hours sewing over mazes printed on copy paper -- well, mimeograph paper -- with no thread in the machine, to hone our machine skills. I'd been sewing for more than five years at home, with excellent results, not following much instruction at all, so this part of the year-long class was torture to me. I've never since taken a professional sewing course. Drafting course, yes, as part of a postgrad stab at a degree in theatrical costume design, but not clothing construction. I blame it all on our Miss Brooks.

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    1. LinB, this is just like my experience! My mother bought me two yards of a fantastic "new" knit fabric to make the required straight skirt for project one in seventh grade. The remaining egads of fabric was for the matching poncho. I carefully folded the 60" knit down smaller to cut out the skirt front and back and along came Mrs. Cardulo who about had a heart attack and made me refold the fabric down the center and cut my skirts. Needless to say, my mother was absolutely furious when we had to piece together the poncho from the huge leftover scrap. Funny memories! After that, as I remember, Mrs. Cardulo just left me alone and I brought project after project to school - finishing about one a week all on my own. I wish I'd have held on to some of them - hats, bags, etc. because my mom was tired of buying new fabric after the first few weeks. I searched through her stashes and brought very creative ideas with me to have something to work on during class.

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  5. Take both classes!
    Take the "Menswear Sewing", then take the tailoring class.
    You LOVE to sew!
    You'll probably learn a lot of tricks, meet interesting people, possibly learn some professional shortcuts.

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  6. I'm not someone who learns best in a group/class setting, so I would look for a one-to-one tutoring situation if I wanted to learn advanced skills. So there is another avenue you might pursue.
    I agree with with the thought that the professor is trying to keep out non-serious/non-major students, possibly because of money. If you think you would like to pursue it, do yo think offering a portfolio of your work would show your serious intent and current skill level?

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  7. A private teacher can be an option, too, depending on what are your goals.

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    Replies
    1. For women's wear, Sharon Butler, an FIT alum, who also studied at a private couture school in Manhattan, is excellent. Her website is http://www.tailorchickproductions.com/ .


      Equally qualified private teachers of menswear and especially high-end tailoring are much harder to find, even in New York. Very few people are interested in learning these time-consuming skills and the people who are qualified to teach them are dying out. Even many of the full-time FIT students alongside whom I've taken classes have no interest in sewing for themselves or at a job. They need the construction background for designing and coordination of work with the people who will do the actual sewing.

      When I took Menswear Sewing with Prof. Blackman, he encouraged us to take the Tailoring sequence as soon as possible if we wanted to learn old-style techniques taught by people who began their training as children. People aren't trained that way anymore.

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    2. Peter - maybe you are the person who is needed to learn these dying skills and carry them forward? What a calling! A legacy for male pattern boldness to pass forward. If you think this might be true - begin at the beginning with their courses, get the best, oldest instructor you can find each time and take notes for your book!

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  8. I have taken both sewing and pattern drafting courses and learned tons in both. I say take the class(es), but I agree with ParisGrrl - if you're just auditing the class they should give you a pass on the pre-requisite.

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  9. Absolutely, take both, either Menswear first and then go on and on. I know you'll love it and will learn so much. I had sewn for years and took professional classes and am so happy with everything I learned and everyone I met. Lasting relationships and collaborations have resulted. Don't worry about being bored, learning to use the industrial machine is worth the patience and skill you'll derive. Have fun!

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  10. It makes me sad to see that - in the same way that Lady Bic razors are inexplicably more expensive than the male counterpart - the Ladies Tailoring classes are $460 each v's $368 for the Mens. Ho hum.

    As for the question - if time and money aren't large objects, I would do one more push for going straight to the tailoring class, and if not hand over the money and see if it's not fun!

    I had a friend in school who was not the quickest in class, but always combed through text books to find tiny nuggets of information she didn't already know. I was amazed at how much I (a fairly fast learner) had skimmed over because I understood the concepts. Needless to say, she's a very successful person these days. I figure the menswear class would be a good opportunity to really find all those great sewing info nuggets, solidify your skills - and sew at lightning speed!

    (I predict if you do go to the class, a future topic of a post will be "Should I buy an industrial machine - YEA or NAY?"

    (Edited for clarity)

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    1. Hahaha! Agree with your post! I've had mixed results in classes -- for me -- it depends on the teacher. BTW, I think men get it with their razor blades -- J.'s are 18.00 at least a box (Gilette or similar) -- mine are 3.49 for blades (CVS brand)

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  11. Take both!! Menswear sewing with Professor Blackman has the best reputation at FIT! I was in the same position as yours 2 years ago but I then started taking evening classes at FIT (3 semesters of draping and 1 of patternmaking and CAD patternmaking). And now that I am not in NY anymore I miss it sooo bad!!
    At first I was doubtful that I was learning anything (because of all the books I read) but after a few classes in the semester and ALL THE PRACTICE that you get from handing out the assignments (hello 8 different sleeves in a week), it really really brought my sewing game to a new level!
    This is why I would not recommend a private teacher. The value of the classes at FIT, is the equipment available and the demanding environment (if you ignore the bunch of slackers/complainers that seem to take the classes).
    Extra bonus, I met one of my closest NYC friend during these classes...

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    1. Sounds like great advice from someone who's been there! Also, you may want to contact Kenneth King for a second opinion. Dollars to donuts, he follows your blog.

      And, ahem, you are a professional - a professional writer concerning all things sewing.

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  12. Peter - I've long read the blog but never commented. Today I thought I might actually have something of value to offer. I have taken all of these classes at FIT and am currently registered for Tailoring III in the spring. In fact, I found your blog after taking Menswear Sewing. Having taken all of the classes that you mention, I would recommend each of them and would actually recommend Menswear Sewing as the first in the series. While your shirts look great, I suspect that you would still enjoy the class and would get a chance to become accustomed to the industrial machine at a reasonable pace. There is a slight bit of adjustment required to control the machine relative to a home machine (especially those in the labs, which are not always well tuned) and there is not a lot of time in the tailoring classes to catch up on this. I also suspect that you would enjoy the shift in mindset from commercial patterns to professional construction - in men's shirts there is not a big difference but you do learn a fair amount about why things are done the way they are done for production. I note that the instructor assignments are not yet posted for spring but if you have been in contact with the department and know if Blackman will be teaching one of the MW 142 sections, I would definitely take it.

    Tailoring I is also a definite must and, based on some of your recent coat/jacket work, may actually be somewhat more enjoyable than the current structure of II/III as you already seem to have the skills down but may pick up a few general techniques equally applicable to pants and jackets (the current instructors are old-school Italian tailors and emphasize a lot of hand work). The jacket class (Tailoring II/III) is still shaking itself out. The course structure was changed mid-way through fall semester to make the jacket a two-semester class. Unfortunately, the professor didn't know this until the third week of the class and the syllabus seemed to be in development for much of the rest of the semester. As it stands now, Tailoring II is intended to be components of the suit coat (we spent about 60% of the class on pockets, 10% on hand basting coat fronts, 10% on cuffs, and the remaining 20% wasted on tracing a pattern and cutting fabric for a full coat before the class structure was changed). Tailoring III was added to be a follow-on that includes the actual coat assembly building on elements developed in Tailoring II but it assumes that enough people have made it through the three pre-requisites and continued on to Tailoring III for the class to actually be held. As it was, Tailoring II (which was previously an all-encompassing jacket class) had not been offered for many semesters as there were never enough registered students.

    In short, the classes are well worth the price. I've taken a couple of classes at a private sewing studio and the FIT courses are both far better and less expensive. Both Menswear Sewing and Tailoring I are held often and I don't think there was anyone in the class that didn't find them both informative and enjoyable. However, if you are only interested in the suit coat, you might be disappointed in the current Tailoring II offering (basically pockets only) and in the uncertainty as to whether there will ever be enough registered students to hold Tailoring III and actually make the coat.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Eric. That is tremendously helpful!

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  13. Well, first point - you live THREE BLOCKS AWAY AAAHHHHH! So much jealous here. It's a great opportunity so if you have the time and funds, by all means.

    And take the prerequisite. It's there for a reason and it's probably a bit more complicated than just knowing how to use the industrial machine. Professional sewing course are different than home sewing. They are teaching you production techniques and also how to work on industrial machines. Likely you'll be re-learning everything you know.

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  14. Peter,

    I've recommended that you take classes at FIT more than once over the years. I've also taken Menswear Sewing, Tailoring I and II.

    Tailoring II is a very difficult class. It's also, relatively speaking, not that fun. You make samples of details of a jacket: besom (also known as "welt" or "jetted") pockets, vents, pad stitching. Then in Tailoring III, you go on to make the entire jacket. Why? Because as a Menswear professor once told me, when the class was just the jacket, many students couldn't complete the course, or their work wasn't satisfactory.

    I've seen your work. You have great enthusiasm and decent skills. But you will still learn a lot even from Menswear Sewing. Although it is a class for complete beginners, even the Continuing Ed night version, which you would be taking is very demanding. There often are people with industry experience, or want to apply to the full-time Menswear program or people who are just crazy-motivated.

    Take Menswear Sewing with Prof. Mark-Evan Blackman. He was the head of Menswear when it was a separate department (it's now part of Fashion Design.) He's the best garment construction teacher I've had at FIT. He is clear, organized, and extremely patient. If you have the time to come early to class, he will give you personalized attention: The man truly believes in teaching as a vocation.

    For Tailoring, the Continuing Ed. teacher to take is Benedetto Alibrandi.

    If you decide to pursue this, post it. I will send you a private message with some tips on negotiating FIT.

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  15. Hi Peter, I am in the continuing ed Tailoring classes at FIT now. I'm taking Tailoring III this semester. I think you could probably skip the Menswear Sewing class since all you do in that class is make a shirt (a whole semester for one shirt). All the classes have been great but I'm pretty sure that the shirt class is below your sewing level.

    The tailoring classes at FIT are pretty great, they are taught by an Italian master tailor who has been tailoring for about 100 years (give or take a few decades). There is a focus on hand finishing techniques which is something that you won't probably learn as well on your own.

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    1. Lewis:

      (I know you a little bit and that you're a very nice guy. :-) )

      I respectfully disagree. It's true that Menswear Sewing spends all semester on one shirt, but that's because it's a complex shirt and the goal is to try to learn to sew it perfectly. Prof. Blackman at least builds in time to practice on the industrial machines. He also adapts the project to the skill and experience of the student.

      I was allowed to take Tailoring I before Menswear Sewing, but that was only because I had taken other FIT sewing classes and performed acceptably so they knew my background. I still learned more about controlling the industrial machines from Prof. Blackman than in any other class. I think Peter should give himself a good foundation before proceeding.

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  16. I'm with Eric. Take the classes. I am mostly self taught. I've got lots of books too, but taking a class is really wonderful. About 30 years ago I took two sessions of couture sewing at a now defunct fabric store. It was a 40 minute trip each way for me and well worth the time and money. Not only did I learn a lot, being able to discuss projects with other like minded sewers was a great experience. If I lived 3 blocks away I'd be enrolled in a heartbeat.

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  17. Oh! I hope you take the classes. I would listen the most to the commenters above that have actually taken the classes you mentioned. Understanding what each class really entails will likely be the best way to know whether any or all of them are worth your time and money. You have proven that you can teach yourself quite a lot and make fabulous garments, but I do think there's something special about learning from someone with more experience. That said, I've always loved the classroom environment, so I'm very biased!

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  18. Yes, go the professional route, if even just for the exposure to the sewing professionals on the faculty and the contacts you will make. I took a semester at the School of Fashion Design in Boston and would have gone longer if the commute were not so horrendous. I took construction, drafting and sketching, all entry level. I found the entry level construction very basic, though I did pick some things up. But, you are in a whole different world when you are taking classes from professionals teaching on that level. My drafting professor owned his own bespoke bridal business. He was demanding but because he wanted things done right. I think that for such a minimal cost, the return will be worth it for you. Even if some of what you are taught simply confirms you are doing things correctly, you will pick some things up, and the environment will be stimulating.

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  19. That would really irritate me on principle - despite the fact that Menswear is likely a good class. All you need to do is refer these people to your blog of numerous years - wherein you discuss the zillions of things you know about sewing machines and sewing and tailoring. I sense it's a cash grab. Which is why I'd dig in my heels.

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  20. Peter I have been actively sewing for nearly 40 years, I teach and lecture home sewists, and I would go. I have gone to 'proper' classes and always learn heaps of stuff! Being self taught means missing out on all manner of little tips and tricks and when you are already a good sewist, you get so much more value out of the lass because you pretty much learn EVERYTHING; nothing goes over your head.
    And it also makes learning new stuff independently so much easier too.
    As a teacher, I must say that there are two types of students who are a nightmare to teach - newbies who don't have enough skills to work on their projects, and people who think they know it already. The former get bored and lose interest and the latter go off ahead and usually take a wrong turning and do not like being asked to unpick!
    Me, I would LOVE to do Menswear I, to go through every detail of making a shirt on an industrial with a professional. I've made probably 50 men's shirts in my time, yet I am sure it would be an eye opener.
    SO go do it, take one for the team! ;-)

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  21. As someone who has taken many a class at FIT, I think you should just push them to let you take the class you want to take. Industrial machines are not that different from home machines and I have and use both in my studio. Did you show them your work? It should not be hard to convince them that you have the skills needed for the higher level course. Interested to see what you decide to do!

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  22. If you have the time, FIT classes can be a very beneficial experience, but there are pros and cons:

    PROS
    --Classes taught by people with industry experience
    --Students usually are very motivated
    --Classrooms have industrial machines
    --Classroom have industrial irons that are always on
    --Classrooms have large areas for laying out and cutting fabrics
    --Classrooms are available after classes until 2 a.m. and often at other times
    --Reasonable fees for New York Residents
    --Taking one credit class (and sometimes even a non-credit class) qualifies you for many student discounts
    --Excellent fashion library from which you can borrow materials, as well as more general items and movies.
    --Access to computers (with many different programs), light boxes, other specialized facilities.
    --Seven hours of free tutoring (per class?)
    --Walk-in Sewing Lab with tutors available at certain hours
    --Some teachers make themselves available outside of the class and will help if you are a motivated student.
    --Locker rental for a very reasonable price ($10 a term?)

    CONS

    --The classes are a bit too big. I think biggest class I had was in the low 20s.
    --Depending on one's level and standards, they can be demanding.
    --Most of the teachers insist that the work be performed on an industrial machine, so if you don't own one, you do have to be there.
    --Everyone sews the same pattern, although the sizes may vary. The classes are construction courses, not fitting courses and it's also easier to judge the work of the class if everyone uses the same pattern. But some teachers will help you customize your pattern.

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  23. Granted, like K. Line said (and I totally agree!) you can give your blog as your experience, your published articles in the various magazines and on Mood as your experience. Might just do the trick. BUT, if it were me, I'd take both classes. You never know what you might learn. After all, the people teaching the classes have decades of experience sewing. I would love to take classes at FIT in Los Angeles but it is too far away. :(

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    Replies
    1. FIT is in NYC. If you're in the L.A. area many of the community colleges have excellent fashion departments very open to hobby type students. Cheap too less than $100 for a 16 week class.

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    2. Natasha -- I think she was referring to FIDM. . .but I'm searching for some excellent fashion departments at more industry type schools in LA -- If you know of any I would love to hear your recommendation -- I know many industry programs are here.

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    3. P.S. I'm living in Ventura County.

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  24. When I took Menswear Sewing, there was a woman who was a member of a garment worker's union who was made to take Menswear Sewing as a prerequisite to Tailoring I. She also had to pay the out-of-state rate. She had much more right to complain. The teacher gave her and someone else more advanced projects while everyone else was working sewing cuffs and collars.

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  25. Here's a link to an article discussing Menswear Sewing. I know the writer a little bit. It is 100% accurate. Every time I read it I laugh.

    "Shirt Happens: How I Sewed a Men's Dress Shirt in 162 Easy Steps."

    http://www.jonathanvatner.com/shirt.html

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  26. A hearty yes. I have take everything save one that the fashion department offers at the local community college in the last 10 years and its worth it just for the like minded people. Also if you early or a fast worker you can cut your other projects out on those big long tables.

    #1 reason they want you to take the intro class is to do with the industrials. I can't tell you how many horrible things I've seen students do to machines and its usually the ones that know how to sew that break a belt or shove something in backwards.

    No skipsies!

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  27. I have been taking a construction and pattern making diploma this year and the practice on an industrial machine is invaluable. Picking up tips in a sewing class is really good too. I have bee sewing since I was 8 and learned a goodly number of things I had never heard before!

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  28. Another vote for taking the classes. What with the classes being so close by and so reasonable in price, I couldn't resist if I was you.

    Imagine how much fun it will be learning how to use an industrial machine.

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  29. I like to take classes at FIT because instead of bouncing from book to blog to website to DVD (and I've read or viewed them all) I'm required to commit and learn specific techniques. I use the time to really work at them because I don't want my own clothes to look like the product of a mediocre home sewer. I know what a superior level of sewing looks like. I probably do work harder than I would if I were just futzing around on my own. For one thing, it's hard for me to sew at home.

    There's a different vibe to being with people who either have professional aspirations or who are passionate amateurs. The best teachers are very good, and the experienced tutors are a fount of information. I know many ways of doing things, from low-end to high-end. I also get tips on services in the Garment District from the full-time students.

    Outside of FIT I sometimes work with a private teacher (an FIT alum, among other places) to help me fit patterns for myself. Fitting a "real person" is a completely different skill set and one that most people can't do for themselves. I've asked the professional tailors at Cutter and Tailor and they don't fit themselves.

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  30. You could, undoubtedly, teach the Menswear class, but If I were lucky enough to live THREE blocks from FIT I would take both of them!

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  31. I am another one that falls into the "Oh my goodness what an opportunity on your doorstep I am so jealous" category. Take both classes. It will give you a foundation for what to expect, learn a different mindset re garment construction, make contacts and have fun and we would get to hear about it!

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  32. I'm torn. I took a college level pattern drafting course and it was wonderful. They let me skip the intro course. Sewing on an industrial (I think) can be done in one lesson. When I met students at Parsons, they were sewing on home machines in their dorms and said they rarely used the industrials. Obviously not the same school.

    Oh, also, I was by far the best seamstress in my class. Most people could barely work a machine. It was slow and painful to watch.

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    1. Cidell/R:

      (Enjoy your blog, btw.) I once met a Parsons student who was taking a summer draping class at FIT on the sly because Parsons doesn't emphasize technique and he needed it to create the garments for his graduation collection. He said he wasn't the only one. Proenza Schuler, whose founders graduated from Parsons and had their thesis project bought, did not sew their own collection, they had the whole thing contracted out. I also took some Continuing Ed classes at Parsons years ago and they were incredibly confusing, not to mention, very expensive. I got nothing out of them and the teacher couldn't have cared less. Nor was there access to the facilities after hours, or any other benefits, such as student discounts (I bought some software for several hundred dollars less once), or use of the library.

      In sum, FIT is a better bet for people who want to learn techniques at a reasonable price.

      In my Menswear class the teacher insisted that the work be done on an industrial machine because the stitch produced was better and he could tell from the homework. Although the machines are slowed down for students, they're still very fast.

      In the same class, we were instructed to take our shirts to Jonathan's Embroidery for the buttonholes because professionals would do a better job.

      Delete
  33. I've attended lots of 'craft' courses including sewing and I think the value is totally dependent on whether the tutor is a good teacher or not. I've attended classes run by great artists and crafters who weren't great teachers and haven't learned anything I couldn't have learned at home from the web or a book. However when the teacher is good I think they can be really valuable as there's nothing better than in-person support. Plus the chance to meet other like-minded classmates is always of value.

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  34. You have gotten some great advice here! All I can say is why the heck not?! So jealous! 3 blocks down the road where I live gets me just past my mail box.

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  35. You have gotten lots of good advice; I'll add my 2 cents, anyway! I have learned a lot on my own, and from books and videos, but some priceless gems have come from the experience of being in a class. Most of the sewing classes I have taken were before the days of bloggers and all the info you can find online. But still, the experience of an actual classroom can be invaluable.You often learn that one trick that is, as a fellow sewing student used to say, "worth the price of admission." And then you can share with us!

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  36. You HAVE gotten great advice here! Please take both! It will give you a whole lot of meat for your blog and I am guessing you will learn a lot.
    I took a pre tailoring class at Mpls VoTech in the 70's and I did love it. We sewed on Industrial machines. We learned one technique after the other, making samples of welt pockets, bound buttonholes, etc. There were many variations of pockets with contrasting fabrics etc. I still have the samples somewhere. It was far beyond reading pattern instructions. I'm intrigued at this step between your love of sewing and being self taught, and taking professional classes. Holley in Roseville Mn

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  37. I would take both if I could. There's likely a lot of good stuff to do with industrial machines, and tips and tricks to pick up, besides the contacts and meeting other people who love sewing.

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  38. Peter, take both classes, and tell us EVERYTHING!!!

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  39. It's difficult to judge, but for me having the industrial experience is not significant pros if you are focus on individual sewing and tailoring: different techniques serve for different purpose. I love tailored garments with a lot of hand work. On the other hand, I would attend the classes to expand network and to learn some short-cuts like ironing and working with difficult fabrics.

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  40. Jen in Sunny (?!) MelbourneJanuary 2, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    The first "assertive" thing I ever remember doing involved learning to sew. My mum had always sewn and had taught my older sister to sew clothing too. But after what seems like years of practising sewing lines on paper and making tea-towels and pillow cases (straight lines only) every summer holidays, by the time I was ready to move onto actual clothing, Mum had gone back to work and didn't have time to teach me. So one day I looked up summer holiday programmes in the paper, and found a class and insisted (that was the assertive bit) that Mum had to ring up and book me into the class.
    (I think I was probably around 9 or 10.) We drafted a pattern for a shirt (I think), made a (different?) shirt and a skirt from a commercial pattern, and forever after, Mum was not happy with my "finishing" techniques (I often couldn't be bothered cutting all the loose threads etc.)
    Since then I've done a couple of courses on pattern drafting and general sewing techniques, but mostly I just follow the pattern instructions on commercial patterns, and tear my hair out over bits that I "just-don't-get."
    Oh, and I do have experience on industrial machines - a year of sewing kids' clothes as my regular job on a kibbutz in Israel (which I was assigned because I could sew, despite my lack of knowledge of Hebrew), and gathering nets for tutus in a ballet shop for a few months before I got my current job which doesn't involve sewing at all.
    I hope you do get to do the courses you're interested in, and that you'll report on them to your faithful Blog followers.

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  41. If I lived that close, I'd take both. But the big question is - if you use industrial machines in class, how long before we be reading about you trying to fit one in your apartment? :-)

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  42. You are so lucky! If I lived that close to FIT and got to take classes at a discounted rate, I'd be proudly walking to some class ever term!

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  43. along similar lines, Peter (or anyone): any recommendations for online sewing tutorials for newbies? i know how to thread my machine and wind a bobbin, and that's about it, so i'm at square one. thanks!

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    1. Frank,

      Craftsy has two free classes that you would find helpful The first is called "Sewing Machine 911". The second is "Sew Ready: Machine Basics." There's also a free class "Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z", and one on zipper techniques.

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    2. Craftsy also has a number of free courses on zipper insertion that looked good to me.

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    3. i've never heard of Craftsy - my world is bigger now. thank you!

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  44. Take the classes. I was trained by an (ole skool) master Tailor for Armani. He was what I needed. (I thought I knew it all) anywoooo, I learned ton's, even to stop putting pins in my mouth! My hand crafted welt pockets are to die for and I enjoy hand sewing as there is a "right" way to sit and do it. After tailoring class, my work greatly imporved and I started getting booked for many big professional gigs including some Better Homes and Garden spreads! The tailoring classes improved my sewing knowledge/skills in home dec and apparal sewing. Have at it! Your work is great it can only get better. My teacher told me once "it's the difference of being able to charge $1000 instead of $100." I love that quote!!

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  45. There's nothing better than learning more about something you love from a great teacher. Elle

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  46. If I lived three blocks from FIT then I'd take all three courses, because you're definitely going to learn something in each. It makes me want to spend some time in New York after I finish uni!

    (If you find a small woman hiding in the walls and sewing shirts, pay her no mind.) :D

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  47. When I first read your post, I thought, "heck, Peter should take the class that he's really interested in. Sewing with an industrial machine is easy (really, easier than sewing with a domestic) and won't take him but a minute to master." But then reading the comments of those who have taken all the courses, I have changed my mind. You would undoubtedly learn a ton, so why not start with the class FIT recommends? Less hassle, and sure to be revealing. You will also gain a pretty clear notion of whether the FIT instruction "suits" you. From the other comments, it sounds difficult and rewarding.

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  48. I live out in the "sticks", so limited on where I can go. You're very fortunate to be in the hub of things. Have you considered Craftsy classes? There's one one tailoring. I'm taking Susan Khalje's couture dress.You just can't beat the price, and you can sew in your pj's on your own machine. Drawback is it isn't a class setting where you get an instructor to show you something at your machine, however you could ask online questions, maybe take the garment in question to MOOD, if you're really stuck.

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    1. Susan Khalje's couture dress is very good. I wouldn't have been able to follow it as well had I not taken classes at FIT. Medina Charifova is an excellent couture teacher there, but I think she's on leave.

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  49. Well, you've had heaps of advice, so I'll add only that I think you should take the classes just so you can write about them so we know what they're like.

    I've never really thought about where your apartment is, but if you're three blocks from FIT, then once upon a time we were (nearly) neighbors - in the early '90s I lived at 14th and 7th in a wonderful, ruinous old walkup. Twelve foot ceilings, gorgeous moldings, and two 15-amp circuits for the whole building...

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  50. I always learn something in classes, even when I'm teaching them. I'd do both it in a heartbeat

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  51. Another vote for taking the Menswear sewing class! I have taken classes at FIT, and 1 sewing class - which is kinda similar, the Sewing Techniques 1 class which is a prereq for some of the other sewing classes. In that case, even though I'd been sewing for years I learned new things - how to use an industrial machine (it sits in a tub of oil!), how to use an industrial overlocker (they called it a merrow), buttonholer machine, and they had gravity feed irons and large surfaces to cut. I think your level of sewing will probably be higher than most of your classmates, but even if the class is one shirt for the semester, you will be surprised at how much time it does take to make that shirt, and you will add to your shirtmaking knowledge.
    I forget the name for it, but they have "office hours" or something where they allow students to work on their projects in the classrooms at certain times. Peter, you live three blocks away! You could work on the shirt and your own projects in the FIT classroom! That is something I always wanted to do, but don't live close enough for. If I lived so close to FIT I'd be there every semester...

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    1. I've taken Sewing 1 and Menswear Sewing and wish I'd taken the latter first. In Sewing 1, you do many things, but I, as an inexperienced sewer, who did have trouble controlling the industrial machines, never thought I mastered any of the projects. Menswear Sewing is focused on a shirt. (The version for the full-time students is more extensive).

      As taught by Mark-Evan Blackman, the class is well-structured. You're introduced to the machine, given exercises, work on pieces of a shirt, then you sew a shirt with collar, collar band, and placket, but no sleeves. The remaining weeks are spent learning how to sew a sleeve placket, attach a sleeve, and you sew a full shirt. Some people sew more than one. It's a question of how much time you have and what you want to get out of it.

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  52. Go for it Peter! As you said,you'll meet people with the same interests, you might pick up some tips or techniques in the class and you'll probably learn from the other students too. :-)

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  53. I occasionally teach sewing classes here in L.A. And other classes around the world regularly and I would recommend taking all three classes in the correct order. The info and techniques would be invaluable; and from the teacher's perspective, it is very frustrating to teach when one of the students doesn't have all the rudimentary skills AND the shared common vocabulary. In a class Enviroment, that means you wouldn't get the full experience or training that you're actually spending your time and Monet to get.

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  54. OK here's the deal. I took a class about 20 years ago from Kenneth King. I found two things very clearly: 1.) Truly creative and talented people share generously (this is almost an infallible rule) and 2.) I knew a lot more than I thought I did. Both were invaluable and worth the cost of the class.

    So if the worst thing happens and you discover that you knew/know everything they teach/taught in class, then that just tells you that you're on the right track and keep going on that same track. And I would say that the cost of the class is worth it to find that out. If you do learn something in the class, then you're still ahead of the game. Either way you win.

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  55. The thing is - there is only so much you can learn from books and online videos - however being exposed to classes and actively shown how the professionals do things can only add to your repertoire of skills and techniques. You'll also get the opportunity to discuss and exchange new ideas. Now with regards to the Professor insisting you take menswear classes is ultimately your choice, again I can see advantages to joining classes, but if you insist on doing just Tailoring II - rather than just directing them to your blog, also offer to meet the Professor in person and bring a few samples of the clothing you've made to give him/her and an indication your level of competency. Then perhaps it would be a smooth sailing into the Tailoring II class.

    As for me I'm still saving up to take a short term pattern drafting course at the London College of Fashion!! If the LCF offered reduced rates to Londoners - I'd be there in a flash!!

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  56. Your tweed jacket is gorgeous. Your shirts are beautifully made. You don't really need classes, and while the cost is impressive value for money, it's still a lot of money. However! I live too far from FIT to take those classes so I want you to take the classes and blog about them. You have a talent for clear explanations of sewing processes. I'm probably not the only one who never attaches a collar on a stand without checking the post from your Negroni sew along. I have the David Coffin book, but it isn't as useful as your post.

    If you put a PayPal 'tip jar' on your sidebar, I'll be happy to contribute to the cost of the course and I bet lots of other people will too. Imagine, MPB at FIT! That's gotta be a happy new year.

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  57. I love the blog and love your enthusiasm, I find it infectious! You’re like I used to be.
    I think that the question that you need to ask yourself is do you want to be a home sewer who can produce anything, as you can now, or do you want to be a professional, because once you buy into the courses we all know that you’re not going to do just one or two…….
    What I would say is once you get used to using an industrial machine and see the difference in the stich and finish of the seam you really will want to stop using your domestic machines as there is no comparison between the two.

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  58. If I lived 3 blocks from FIT I would take all the courses they offer. No matter how elementary the first courses are, they are taught by professionals who have much more experience than you and you will learn things you don't know now. The student discount alone should be worth the cost. I think you would enjoy being around like minded people.

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  59. Peter, you are so unbelievably fortunate to have the opportunity to take classes of this caliber, right down the street from where you live. If we were talking about a class at the local sewing machine dealer, I'd say forget about it -- even a community college sewing class could easily turn out to be a waste of time for someone like you who has come so far already. But FIT? For only $300?

    I totally understand the prerequisites. Industrial sewing machines are different beasts altogether, and in an advanced course it would be unacceptable for the professor to have to stop and help one student with basic machine operation issues while other students -- many of them from out-of-state, having invested thousands because they are there to prepare for a professional career -- twiddle their thimbles and wait. At FIT, I'm sure that even in the Menswear class you are bound to learn enough to justify the cost of your in-state tuition, some kind of time-saving trick or couture technique that yields superior results, or that just plain inspires you to try something you'd never considered before. Then there IS the social aspect. We KNOW you enjoy hanging out with others who sew, online as well as IRL.

    Also, selfishly, those of us who don't live anywhere near FIT are dying to take the class vicariously, as you are bound to produce even more fascinating sewing posts while you are taking the class. So you could even think of it as an investment in blog content.

    By the way -- you find the coolest vintage sewing photos. I love that first one.

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    1. That's it -- I'm convinced. I'll do it!

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    2. Good decision. I always thought that with your drive and enthusiasm you'd get a lot out of FIT. And it's only three blocks away. You live closer than some full-time students.

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  60. Peter -- this blog post and these comments are amazing. I've learned so much from the commenters and concur with your decision.

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  61. Yayyyy, Peter! I read faithfully through every comment, hoping hoping ... and I'm Yayiiiiinnnggg! at your response. Such a wise one. Can't wait to follow your New Year's Adventure.
    With affection, Tina in San Diego

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  62. Obviously, lots of great advice here, just dropping in to add that I learned that I could just drop in to FIT as a student for a class or two, but only up to a point. I think you can only take about 10 credit hours within a major before they make you apply to take an associates or bachelors. I think it has more to do with the funding and reporting and making room for the kids who are in the major (imagine being a student trying to get a degree and not being able to get a class you need because registration is full from random people who aren't part of the program).

    That said, FIT is lovely and once you have met professors and gotten your foot into the community, there's nothing you really can't do there.

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  63. I never took really professional classes myself, but I have considered it.

    I have worked with industrial sewing machines and I can tell you that, for someone like yourself who is used to sewing with all kinds of home sewing machines, mastering that to a level which will allow you to work with it should take no more than an hour…

    Reading your description of the courses, FIT seems to take sewing and tailoring seriously, which kind of endears the institution to me, despite their somewhat condescending attitude. That makes me a bit jealous. I've worked with some people who took classes at local forms of fashion education and their level has always been quite disappointing (as in, I could teach them…). I'd love to have access to something like FIT even though I'm not sure I'd use that either...

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  64. I've taken a couple of sewing classes around here in the NE of England and had mixed experience. Mind they were nothing like FIT level. The first sewing group I joined was a bunch that had retired from a factory and had two industrial machines from the place that had closed. The main difference was that there was a knee lift for the presser foot and they go FAST. I find group work frustrating in a class. If you get stuck, you have to wait for help rather than go get a book or computer and look it up. You may or may not learn new things or things you want to know. However, as you pointed out, the people there are all interested in sewing and if you get the right teacher it can be a fab experience. Getting the right teacher of course is key. Given you have this wonderful resource at your doorstep, I'd at least give it a go. Look forward to hearing what you decide.

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  65. Go with your gut instincts. You will make the right choice.

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  66. It's great. I did not have that problem but Seneca college in Toronto is not FIT. I loved every minute of the sewing classes I took and you gain so much be being surrounded by people who understand you passion for sewing.

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