Thursday, 2 December 2010

W for Workshops

W is for Workshops
Image from
Are you keen to learn how to sew? Or, are you an experienced stitcher ready to take your knowledge further? more? Although books and their contemporary counterparts, such as craft blogs and YouTube videos, are useful learning tools, nothing can compare with some top-notch instruction from a patient, passionate teacher. Thankfully, a wide variety of workshops exist throughout the UK and cater to every stitching level, so there’s no time like the present to expand your skills!

Before you book onto a class, however, here are The Make Lounge's top five things to consider:

1. Understand your goals. Before you book onto a class or a workshop, think about what you’d like to gain from the experience. Are you looking for a week-on-week series of classes teaching a broad range of techniques? Or, if your time is limited, do you prefer to build your skills quickly by learning and completing specific projects in one or two sessions?

2. Read the class description. Always check the web site or course listing to be 100 percent clear about the level of experience needed for your particular class. t’s easy to overlook these details when you’ve found what sounds like your dream class, but arriving with too-little knowledge will prevent you, and everyone else in the class, from getting the most out of the sessions. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to pay for a class that covers familiar ground. If you're not sure if a class is right for you, ask the organisers.

3. Check the supplies list. Once you’ve signed up, you should receive a list detailing what, if anything, you’ll need to bring to class. Do you need to bring your own sewing machine? (Or, if you'd like to, is that an option?). Are sewing staples, such as fabric scissors and needles, included in the price of the workshop? If not, does the facility have a retail shop on site where you can purchase them, or will you need to source elsewhere prior to your lesson? If you're required to bring fabric and trimmings to class, don't wait until the day before class to shop for the perfect shade of lining or a specific width of bias binding as you might not find what you need.

4. Investigate the instructor. Find out what you can in advance about the instructor teaching the class, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the organisation presenting the workshop. Keep in mind that an instructor with a roster of book titles under his or her belt may not necessarily be the best teacher. Leading a group takes a specific brand of passion, enthusiasm and patience; some authors lack this real-world experience. If the web site or class description doesn’t include information about the instructor, ring the sewing school to find out what you’d like to know.

5. Visit (virtually) the venue. Today’s sewing lessons have moved on from taking place in rented church halls or dark basement spaces to occupying airy, purpose-built venues. It’s a welcome change, since stitching requires good lighting, large workspaces for cutting, and plenty of room to spread out while sewing. Most reputable schools include photos of the venue and its work spaces on their web sites; a few mouse clicks can ensure you like the look and feel of the space. Although it’s not necessary to visit the venue before your class, do familiarise yourself with the location and public transport routes (or parking restrictions if you’ll be driving to class). And always arrive ample travel time - there’s nothing worse than arriving late and harried to class!

Jennifer Pirtle is the director of The Make Lounge, which offers more than 35 different stylish, social contemporary craft workshops, plus a retail shop stocking craft supplies and handmade goods. The Make Lounge,, 49-51 Barnsbury Street, London N1 1TP, 0207 609 0275.

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