Finished: Ladies’ Tailoring I (TL 111)!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all having a great week! I’ve been meaning to write about last semester’s class for ages, but kept forgetting! Now that I’m nearly halfway through Ladies’ Tailoring II, I definitely need to tell you guys about Ladies’ Tailoring I!

Ladies’ Tailoring I is the first course in a four-semester credit certificate program at FIT. You don’t have to be enrolled in the certificate program to take it, and you don’t even have to take it for a grade, so don’t let that stop you from taking it! 🙂 My class was a mix of hobby sewers, garment industry professionals, and full-time students, so there was a wide variety of skill and experience levels present.  The professor assumed we had some sewing knowledge, but we didn’t need to have previous experience with industrial sewing machines as she taught us how to thread and operate them. So if you’ve been wanting to take a class at FIT but are nervous about using an industrial, this class was a great way to get comfortable with them!

The class is focused on developing basic tailoring skills for cutting, sewing, and finishing, as well as choosing traditional materials and notions. While we used a sewing machine for construction, most of our time was spent on hand basting and sewing. While my day-to-day sewing isn’t very careful or slow, I’ve definitely found myself developing better sewing habits since I took the class- it really pays off to, say, always mark the wrong side of your pieces, or baste in zippers before stitching them. Taking time to save time, if you will!

The class is structured so that the professor demonstrates a technique, you try it out on a sample, and then you apply it to your garment. In this class, we handed in weekly samples- they accounted for a small percentage of our final grade, but more importantly, we got feedback on our technique before moving on to the final garment. It’s so much better to make mistakes on a sample rather than a garment! The final projects, two skirts, were due on the last class, so we were able to work on them throughout the semester.

In this class, the professor provided patterns for the projects (they were both simple straight skirts, one lined and one unlined), but she allowed us a bit of flexibility with the patterns so you could incorporate different elements in the skirts, as long as you included the required bits at some point (for example, you had to turn in at least one double welt pocket, but you could choose which skirt to put it on). I was happy that I was able to use odds and ends from my stash for every sample and project in this class- woohoo!

Some of the techniques we covered were: centered and lapped zippers, hong kong piping, hand overcasting, lining, applying sew-in interfacing, bar tacks and other decorative hand stitches, side seam pockets, welt pockets, 1/4 top pockets, and hand-worked buttonholes. So, nothing terribly revolutionary if you’ve been sewing for a while, but my skills definitely improved in all these areas and I found that the pocket techniques gave much nicer results than any I’ve sewn using home sewing patterns. But, like all things tailoring, they require many steps and many pattern pieces! But a faced, French seamed pocket is about a million times nicer than my usual “ehhh, just cut out a pair of pocket bags and jam them into the side seams” approach!

Bar tack in action!

Overall, I really enjoyed this class. I’m not always a fan of sewing slowly and carefully, but I really have noticed better results in my home sewing after taking this class. Of course, every class experience varies based on the instructor, but mine was kind and patient, and you could come to her with any questions and get a clear answer. And the format she preferred, doing a demonstration and then allowing us to try it right away, made it easier to learn and remember techniques, unlike my patternmaking class where we often had a lecture that lasted the length of the entire class. Like my patternmaking final project, I’ll never actually wear these garments (straight skirts don’t suit my lifestyle or taste), but they’re headed off to Dress for Success, so hopefully they’ll have a happy ending there!

Alright, friends, what are your thought on tailoring? Sound fun? Tedious? Both? Have you taken any tailoring classes, or would you, if you could?

87 responses

  1. Oh it sounds awesome! Wish I lived near where they do classes like that. I am using Craftsy a lot though and thats raken my sewing to another level.

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      • Well so far I have really enjoyed Suzy Furrer’s skirt slopper drafting class, Pam Howard’s Tailored Shirt and Gail Yellan’s 40 techniques Every sewer should know. As a beginner sewer I really love Gail’s class and it has taken my sewing to the next level of newbie intermediate 😉

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    • I’m actually not loving the work in Tailoring II! Maybe it will get better, but I’ve already made a pair of trousers and don’t like the finishing techniques we used (we had to hand overcast the seam allowances and they look like total crap, ugh). 😦

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        • It’s just the “traditional” technique- my current instructor swears by it because he feels it makes garments look handmade and therefore expensive. But to me it just looks messy, especially in my wool twill, which frays like a mother!

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      • I’ve done this for fun and it can look really good. If done nicely, it actually works quite a lot better than a zig zag which many people don’t have over the edge of the fabric, or if they do it is all wrinkled. It does take a little practice however, but after a while it is quite quick, enjoyable to do and neat. The quality of hand sewing is generally not very good and even professionals seem to be quite sloppy these days. The internet has not been good in this respect as some of the tutorials by popular bloggers are terrible with bad habits or errors that get copied and perpetuated and even end up in a book. That’s how knowledge gets lost or messed up.

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        • That makes total sense- I think mine looks terrible because of both my inexperience and my fabric choice (I chose a wool twill before I knew what the seam finish would be and it frays so terribly that there are ugly threads poking out from between the overcast stitches, eww). And basically everything I do in tailoring looks pretty ugly since I don’t know what I’m doing! Ugh, my handworked buttonhole is… an eyesore. 😮

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  2. I enrolled in TAFE here in Aus about 18 years ago. I know exactly what you mean, the teaching style can be make or break. Everyone in the class was at a different stage but needed to do the class to get certified, so the teacher rarely demonstrated the techniques – it was all very piecemeal. Can’t say I can recall as much as I’d like about the 2 men’s suits I made, but I do refer back to my samples from time to time. The suits were made of ghastly fabric – one was white seersucker! They were donated!

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  3. Gorgeous details on that skirt. It’s a shame there’s not photo of you in it but I hope it goes to a good home. It sounds like a great class. We don’t really have many classes on offer like this in the UK. I am envious of the knitting and craft industry in America. You are spoilt for choice over there!

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    • I’m quite lucky in that there are really only classes like this in a couple of places (NY and LA, for the most part). We didn’t even have home ec or sewing in my high school! So I’m trying to take advantage of these classes while I live in NYC because I may not be here forever! 🙂

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  4. So cool that you’re taking those classes! I didn’t realize you were doing a long series. As a fellow self-taught home sewer, I’m always pleased and surprised when I encounter some fundamental knowledge I missed learning on my own.

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    • It really is nice to uncover some hidden knowledge! It’s funny, though, because as a self-taught sewer and one of only a few in the class, sometimes I have to bite my tongue when I don’t like the way we’re doing something! 😀 I guess it’s easy to develop strong opinions when you do things your own way!

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  5. So cool! I love the idea of perfecting my skills. I firmly believe that you can teach yourself to sew, but personally I need some extra incentive (instructor’s expectations) to really hone the finer techniques. I just started taking a really great pattern making class. It’s motivating to hear about your experience.

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    • It does help to have some deadlines and incentive to really practice techniques that you might otherwise just skip. Plus, it really helps to have some feedback to help you get better and figure out what you’re doing wrong! Glad you’re enjoying your patternmaking class- such a good skill to have!

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    • Oh man, I totally understand why sewing patterns use the simplified versions of these things because SO MANY STEPS, but it really is nice to learn the fancier ways to do them! 🙂

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  6. Wow lady, you’re amazing!! Look at those pockets!! I’d love to take a class like this some day. I also like to sew “efficiently” (eh hem, lazily) but even if I didn’t use the professional knowledge on the regular, it would still be nice to have it and sneak it in on occasion. I mean ’cause seriously. …those pockets.

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  7. Wow. Sounds really cool. I definitely want and need to do something like this. It’s always so worth it to slow down and do things properly but it’s hard when there’s so many things on your to do list!

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    • I totally agree- when we all have such long lists of things we’d love to make, it’s really hard to slow down and spend an entire evening, say, hand working a buttonhole! But it’s nice to do and can be pretty relaxing to learn a new, slow skill! Hope you have the chance to take a class someday!

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  8. It sounds fun to me! I’d love to do a class like that, if I lived in an area that had that sort of thing. At least now I have the Craftsy option. Lovely detail work–it sounds like you’ve picked up some great skills for your future sewing projects!

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    • It really is awesome that there are such cool Craftsy options now! I’ve heard good things about their tailored jacket class, and also have had Kenneth King’s tailored jacket DVD recommended to me a few times.

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  9. I am a menswear tailor. Went to school and all and graduated with honours. LOVE IT! Sewing for men is way easier tjan sewing for ladies.

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    • That is so cool!!! Menswear is really, really fun to sew and I love love love all the fabrics- tweeds, shirting, wool flannel… mmmmmmm… It’s so awesome that you work as a menswear tailor!!!!!

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  10. This class sounds like fun! I would love to do something like this to improve my skills. I am basically totally self taught and I sometimes wish I could learn the “proper” ways to do some things. Plus I am super rubbish at hand sewing. I also think it would be nice to have something to push me out of my comfort zone and try new techniques. Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear you are enjoying it and I look forward to hearing about the rest.

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    • Honestly, I think hand sewing just looks ugly for a long time. It’s taken me ages to improve at it! You’re such a great seamstress for the very short time you’ve been sewing- your hand sewing will get better quickly once you start to do it more! 😀 Really, the best thing for me has been to just try lots of different sewing patterns. You follow different instructions and learn skills so quickly like that!

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      • Thanks Sonja! That’s really nice of you to say. I guess you do actually have to practice hand sewing to get good at it 😉 I seem to avoid it at all costs.

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  11. Oh, that sounds like a dream. Your seams looks amazing, by the way. As in, take me to your FIT leader. I tried my second Hong Kong seams the other day (first were all right), and ran back into the arms of French seams in a snap.

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    • Well, these were super easy fabrics to use, which REALLY helps with Hong Kong seams (cotton shirting bias applied to cotton twill). Plus I have a 1/4″ foot, so they basically sew themselves! 😀

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  12. I’ve looked at these classes for years because I’ve coveted that certificate. I’m so glad that you are taking them and that they are helping you sew better. Maybe I will be able to join you sooner rather than later!

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  13. Very nice tailoring details and hand-stitching! I like that you used some fun contrasting fabrics for your projects. I hope you got very high marks and that your donated items are worn & loved by whoever gets them!

    The past few months have been lots of tailoring at work for me. I’ve really been enjoying it because I’m learning more about custom menswear than I’ve ever had a chance to (usually I’m just paid to alter rtw suits, not build them from scratch). The bonus of doing so much tailoring at work is that I’ve been able to get some fitting help from my coworkers with some of my own tailoring projects – jackets and coats that actually fit me in the back, here I come!

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    • Oh, that’s so cool! What a bonus to be able to learn new skills from work (instead of, say, just hemming 100 pairs of police uniform pants or something like that)! So glad you’ve had that opportunity! I’ve really enjoyed your IG posts about tailoring lately- thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  14. Ever since I started taking a dressmaking class through adult education, I have been reintroduced to hand sewing. I cannot believe how something so basic, makes all the difference in making a nice garment, a well made garment. PS, my teacher is an Italian seamstress, pattern maker, sewer extraordinare. So inspirational. Oh wait, Sew Inspirational. 🙂

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    • Oh wow, that sounds like an amazing class!!! Hand sewing really does make a big difference, and so does basting! It’s so nice to learn the keys to really fine sewing. I wish I could take a dressmaking class that’s focused on things you make for yourself (at FIT you don’t generally fit anything to your own body; you just use standard sizes). Sounds like a fantastic experience!

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  15. Oh, I would be down to FIT in a flash to take their courses. Sounds absolutely great. And your work is a credit to their teaching methods. Very impressive. Such a shame you made such a beautful garment that you are not going to wear.

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    • The only downside to FIT is that you work from standard sizes and don’t do any fitting, so I felt like it would be less pressure to decide from the get-go that I wouldn’t wear the final garment and would just do the best I could on it and then find it a new home! 🙂

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  16. Sounds SUPER fun! I would definitely take these classes if they were available here! I also really love it that you’re donating your FOs to Dress for Success!

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    • I wish there was a similar resource in Chicago! It’s too bad- it was such a hub for dressmaking training decades ago! I’ve had a long, hard look at my wardrobe and have sent quite a few handmades (and RTW, too) to new homes… there’s a limited amount of space and it’s a shame for things to go unworn!

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  17. “taking time to save time” is HUGE. whenever i decide to skip a quick step in favor of barreling forward, i always end up taking two steps back.

    your skirt is perfection, and it’s so great that it’s getting a new life!

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    • That sounds like a fantastic retirement project! My mom has finally been able to take some community college classes now (she started working out of high school and was quite young when she started her family) and it’s so nice to be able to learn new things when you’re not tied to your day job any more. But I’ll cross my fingers for your lottery tickets! And as a few people have mentioned, there are new online resources popping up all the time between Craftsy, Creative Bug, and similar sites!

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  18. Thanks for sharing!! I’ve never taken a ‘real’ sewing course, so I’m always really interested in hearing about them. All the details are gorgeous, and I love that you’re donating the skirts to Dress for Success, what a great way to give them a new life!

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    • I have WAY too many clothes now and I knew from the start that I would never wear this style of skirt (um, I wear jeans errrrry day) so I just hoped they would turn out nice enough to donate! It would be so special if they helped someone to get a job or feel confident in a new workplace! 😀

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  19. This is sewing porn. Such gorgeous sewing! I’m SO INSANELY jealous of all those FITT classes. I was actually looking for a draping class here in Montreal because I just want a space to have fun and be totally creative in a learning environment and there is NOTHING. The only classes like this are part of college programs. I may come hang out in NYC specifically for this, haha.

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  20. one of the perks of NYC, right? classes for anything. Great that you have had this opportunity. To me tailoring is the foundation of sewing, at least the way I do it. I think once you learn all the techniques you can toss all pattern instructions aside and know how to put things together.

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    • I have to remind myself of the amazing perks of the Garment District and FIT when I’m dealing with public transit woes, disgusting streets, and neighbors fighting on the street late at night! Honestly, I probably would have left NY years ago if I hadn’t taken up sewing! 😀

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  21. Really beautiful work!! Your welts are perfect, and that catch stitching is impeccable – I’m guessing you got very good grades 😉 I would LOVE to take a class like this – you are so fortunate to have had the opportunity! ^__^

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    • Heeheehee, I did get a good grade- much better than patternmaking, hahahaha! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity, and have been trying to take advantage of classes as much as possible as I may not be in NY forever. 🙂

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  22. That program at fit sounds fantastic … Too bad ny is a bit out of my reach 😦 … Great class structure and the idea of giving it away to dressed for success can only be applauded!

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    • Well, we work from straight sizes at FIT so it would’ve taken some major adapting to get the skirts to fit me, and they’re really not appropriate for my work (I’m often outdoors so I really wear jeans and boots every day). So wasn’t a big sacrifice or anything. 🙂

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    • But really, muddling through can get you pretty far! 🙂 I can recommend the book we’re using in class- it’s called “Classic Tailoring Techniques for Womenswear” by Roberto Cabrera. It’s not a very new or fancy book but it covers LOTS of ground. I got a used copy for about $20. 🙂

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  23. This is definitely what I miss the most about living in NY: taking classes at FIT!! I did 3 semester of draping, 1 patternmaking and 1 of CAD patternmaking. I’m a school nerd, I love sewing homework!!

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  24. It sounds great. I am realising that going slowly is the way forward for me in sewing – I have a lot to learn, and if I can learn with each garment – in the end… I should be quicker? I love all the finishing touches that you posted, it does make it so professional, you must be dead happy with the results!

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    • Totally! The more you use and practice the techniques, the quicker you get, but without sacrificing quality! I am really happy with how these turned out… now, I just need to start working these techniques into my day-to-day sewing!

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  25. Just in case my other comment I made sounded snooty or personally directed, I just wanted to say that your own work looks fabulous and you are well deserving of a brilliant grade. The person wearing that skirt will be so lucky and feel a million dollars in it I know.

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    • Not at all! It’s really nice to hear from someone who’s got so much experience in the field, especially since there are so few people now who are really skilled at tailoring! Thanks for commenting!

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