Picking up sewing on your own is far from easy. I could make pyjama pants (thanks Grandma!), but when it came to things like attaching bias tape and inserting invisible zippers, I was lost. Add to that terminology like “stitching in the ditch”, “interfacing” and “french seams” and it can truly be a mind-boggling affair.
After a disastrous experience trying to pick up drafting from an old school tailoring shop (with a tutor that conversed mostly in mandarin, what was I thinking??), I decided to get myself to a basic sewing class that would familiarise myself with the sewing machine and simple dress-making terminology. A couple of weeks later, I signed myself up for a 5 week skirt making class at The Workroom and included a field trip to Singapore’s fabric market in Chinatown.
I’ll let you in on a secret… the main attraction of the class for me was the field trip. There is nothing in sewing (and I really mean nothing) that terrifies me more than a trip to the fabric shops at Chinatown where the shopkeepers all seem to view me as a youngster who knows nothing about fabrics (which is kind of true actually…). Here’s what a regular exchange with a shopkeeper auntie sounds like:
“What are you looking for?”
“What do you want it for?”
“I’m sewing a skirt” (shows the shopkeeper a picture)
“Cotton twill make this type of skirt not nice one, you must use this kind.”
“But my pattern says cotton twill….”
“I tell you not nice one la, this one better” (At this point my ego has just shrunk 10 sizes and slinked away)
(In a small voice) “Ok… I take that one then”
You can see why the prospect of following someone with lots of experience to the fabric shops and learning how they choose their fabrics and interact with the shopkeepers would be IMMENSELY attractive to me. And our field trip was everything I expected and more. There’s nothing quite like having someone show you the difference between a light and medium weight fabric, how to identify a denim from a chambray, what cotton gauze vs a lawn or a voile feel like, and what considerations to take into account when buying a border print fabric. I can safely say I learnt a whole lot of things on that one Saturday afternoon that I could not have picked up myself from the world wide web.
So began my journey in dress-making. The classes (and field trip) were conducted by seamstress Fiona Lee (she blogs about her makes here!) and were a joy to attend. We sewed two skirts, the Wiksten Skirt and Libby A-line skirt. I was mostly behind because I missed a couple of lessons due to an overseas trip and a bout of flu, but Ruth from The Workroom very graciously opened up her studio for my use in her free time and helped me catch up with the rest of the class! Fiona’s instructions and demonstrations were also clear and very helpful, plus she spent quite a bit of time helping me out with fitting (I had cut out the wrong size of the Libby skirt whoops).
After just over 5 weeks, this was the result: two very wearable self-made skirts and one very much more confident sewist!
If you’re interested in learning dress-making and are based in Singapore, I would highly recommend taking one (or more!) sewing classes at The Workroom. They also run other craft lessons like book binding and calligraphy so look out for those too!