Monday, November 23, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - my impressions of NYC Sit and Sew

ooops, there is really one more category: The Awesome.
So I will start with that- The Awesome thing about the sewing workshop is how inspired I feel.  I am already looking at my calendar to select a workshop in 2010. 

The good:
  • New York City!  I really wanted more orientation to the garment district.  Visiting the garment district was one of my New Year's Resolutions in 2007, but life got in the way.  I finally made it there.  It was fanastic to run out and pick up any notion, fabric or tool you might need.  And did I mention? Yes, I will say it again- the prices are lower in NYC.
  • Two, count 'em, two masters of tailoring and couture.  Both are fantastic teachers and they bring different points of view to problem solving.  What a treat!
  • The other classmates.  You could come to class and spend the entire session watching demos by Kenneth and Susan, watching other people work and observing the guidance coming from Kenneth and Susan as classmates tackled their respective challenges.  One young woman was sewing her own designs and they were incredible.  Many of the participants are teachers themselves.  Many have college-level coursework under their belts.  All were experienced and skilled.  There was a strong vibe of the zen of sewing; that sense of enjoying the process.  The companionship aspect of the workshop was quite enjoyable.
  • We were in a sewing lounge space that sells sewing machines, notions, their own line of patterns and sewing classes.  The owner was a fun young man who took wonderful care of us.
  • Being in NYC, it is easy to find a wide fresh, healthy & yummy food.  I never spent more than $10 for a fast meal.  Lots of walking meant I didn't miss my beloved gym classes.
  • I could go on ... but you get the picture!
The bad:
  • New York City!  Space is at a premium.  There were 4 good sized work tables for a class of ~12.  When I had to wait for space to free up, I just watched Susan or Kenneth and I was learning non-stop.
  • More than once, I had carved out some workspace but walked away to find a notion or ask a question.  When I came back my stuff was moved and I had to find new space.  I wasn't the only one who experienced this frustration and we had it worked out pretty well by the end of the workshop.
  • The sewing machines were low-end, but that didn't bother me too much knowing I would be doing a lot of hand work.
  • Hotels in New York are pricey.  I mitigated that expense by using priceline to get a good deal located about a half mile from the sewing studio.  That meant no quick dash to the hotel to change my outfit and freshen makeup before the Friday night dinner with other bloggers.  But cabs were plentiful and I always took a cab in the evening when I was too tired for the walk.
  • Differing approaches between the teachers.  Early on, I decided to follow Kenneth's method because he transfers his fitting adjustments back to the paper pattern and works with the paper pattern throughout the process.  Susan's method is to transfer fitting adjustments to the muslin fabric and use that as the pattern.  Why would I care, you may wonder?  Well, I was using a pattern from BWOF and I wanted to come home and analyze my final Kenneth-fitted pattern to learn where my body differs from the BWOF block.  I have that now and I WILL make use of that information!  Yes, I realize I could have accomplished the same thing by comparing the final fabric muslin- but anyway, they do follow different methods to get to where they are going and this is a good thing- it was fun to watch and see the differences.
The ugly:

OK, here is where I hit my wall *LOL*.  I did hit a wall on the 2nd or 3rd day, it's all a blur now:).  And I did, yes I did, retreat to the Ladies Room for a good cry.  Then I put on my Big Girl Panties and got back in the game.
What happened:  By following Kenneth's path, I wound up spending a lot more time making paper adjustments early on.  My original pattern was on a very sheer, but delicate paper I got in an art supply store.  He had me re-trace all of my pattern pieces on the sturdier paper.  He also had me leave some extra paper around the edges so I was not cutting the pattern on the stitching line (my usual method). I had a plaid to match and I was OK with all of the bodice pieces, but when I got to the sleeve, I had a grainline and a horizontal line at the base of the armscye, but I did not have notches on the sleeve pattern.  They weren't there on the original pattern piece (I swear I could not find them on the BWOF pattern when I first traced it, but I could be wrong).  So I didn't have any landmarks to use for pattern matching on the front of the bodice.  I tried to go back to the pattern and create my own notches, but I was stumped.  I was tempted to go back and sew the muslin back together, just to mark matching notches, but first I wanted to get input from a teacher.

Also, working with solid colored paper, that was NOT cut on the stitching line was driving me bonkers.  In my way of working, I rely on that transparent paper to line up the grainline, horizontal balance line and seeing the plaid.
Kenneth and Susan were both amazingly good at helping lots of people keep moving on their projects.  Of course, you had to wait for one of them to be free to answer a question, but it was always interesting to watch them while waiting. 
So, bear in mind, this part of my post is just a description of how I felt.  My confidence was dropping fast, I started feeling stupid and over my head.  When that happens, I don't get more assertive or bitchy, I turn into a wimp.  My chin quivers.  It's just how I am, what can I say?  HaHa. This personality trait can be a drawback.  For example, I would not run for political office, LOL.

I took a break, went out for bite to eat and ran into Marji on the sidewalk.  She was so supportive :)
When I returned to the studio, Susan and Kenneth had worked together to place notches on the sleeves AND matched the plaids on each piece! 
So here is where the story wraps up with a happy ending.  I finally got to SIT and sew!  I love hand-basting.
I came home with Kenneth's CD on How to Construct a Jacket, so I know I can finish this on my own.

Final score? A+

Today is just an extension of the workshop.  I am stting and sewing all day, then back to work tomorrow.


  1. Robin, I'm so glad I got to meet you and that you gave this class an A+ in the end. Susan and Kenneth are great, aren't they? Just the best teachers you could want. Let's hope they can find a better space in NYC.

  2. Thank you so much for posting your assessment of these Sit and Sew workshops. I have been considering one of these and now I have a better idea of what to expect. Maybe I'll bring a guard dog to watch my space!

  3. You are coming away with more skills than you left home with. Those skill that will be with you forever. Sounds like a fantastic workshop.

  4. I'm so glad that it worked out for you...I was getting worried as I read through the post! I have to tell you that I really admire you for taking that class...the switching of the fabric so that someone else could take the spot would have driven me CRAZY!

    I'm so happy that you have today off to sit and sew and work on the project. I'm sure it will be wonderful!

  5. It sounds great, and you sound a lot like me. I admit, though, I *hate* working areas that are too small, and having to be "assertive" to get any time with needed tools or the instructor. I've actually sworn off particular locations because of it. I think it used to be that I was the youngest shyest one in class (not any more) and I didn't speak up. While I was waiting, I took great notes though, that everyone who cut in front of me to the ironing board, or moved my carefully laid out fabric wanted copies of at the end. Oooh! I have some issues, don't I?! I'm glad you were inspired, and it was REALLY helpful to hear ALL about the good, the bad, the ugly and the awesome. I can see that I might need to grow up some more (or get much pushier) before I attend something there. I'm in my 50's now, so maybe in my 70's ;-)

    Thank you so much!

  6. Great and honest story, thank you. Enjoy your sewing day (there must be a bit left still) in quiet and with no one taking your place!
    It all turned out well in the end, and you learned all those new skills. Good experience and I still wish I could do such a class sometime in the future.

    And could you please tell us a bit more on the DVD? I'm curious to know whether it's as good to have as his book Cool couture.
    No hurry, but would be nice sometime.

  7. Robin thank you for a very honest report... (an After Action Report :)
    Like Sigrid I'm also curious about his Jacket DVD.

  8. Robin, thanks for the honest report and all the details about the class. I would like to do something like this someday but wonder if it is out of my comfort level.

  9. It was wonderful to meet you! I enjoyed your very personal review of the class. It sounds wonderful and worth every penny!

  10. What an amazing experience. Workshops really test your mettle. They are so intense. It sounds like an amazing event.

  11. Sounds like you've had a great experience! Maybe some day I'll be able to join all of you in NYC for one of these.

  12. I appreciate your honesty about your experience about the workshop. You provided views from all vantage points which gives us readers a good sense about what to expect.

  13. What a great review of the workshop, both the good and the bad. It was an amazing experience and sometimes a frustrating one, but very inspiring for me. I think I was the most "behind" person there, but the whole experience was very encouraging and I feel that it was the perfect way to really kick myself in the ass and move into serious sewing again.

    And I was so thrilled to get to meet you.

  14. I wouldn't really worry about being a wimp, you sound like a lovely person and that counts for a lot these days.
    I will never manage to get to one of these sewing days but thank you for you wonderful review.

  15. Oh Robin, I know exactly what you mean about hitting that wall! I did the same thing on day two. But unlike you, I didn't go in the bathroom and cry (wish I did). Instead, my Irish showed up and I started swearing like a longshoreman. I think I shocked Susan at first. Fortunately, she started laughing. But I wanted to crawl under the floorboards.

    Like you, I ended up going out with my fellow sewing friends that night. We had dinner then went a little bit crazy at Fur & Furgery on 37th. It was a great, great time all weekend!

  16. I think I would have cried like you! It would be very emotional for sure. Thank goodness it turned out good in the end.

  17. I took tthe class with Susan and Kenneth last August. You gave an honest assessment of what can happen when you are in a class and space is at premium. Somehow the ladies I took the class with where respectful of each other. And after day 2 the space was re-arrange so that we all could have a small space to work. Of course the ironing was another matter.
    I also understand about folks who seems to think they the are the only one in the class. Somehow Susan and Kenneth are able to work with everyone and smooth situations out.
    It's a learning experience, that in the end just like you I rated it A++.
    Thank you for a great assessment

  18. How much fun you all must have had. I'm so green that I couldn't be there if not for the classes, but mostly to meet all of you. I know they will do this again, and hopefully my schedule will permit. KK is one of my favs and I just can't imagine not learning gobs of neat things from him!!!


Thanks for visiting my blog and Happy Sewing, xo

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.