Sewing School

April 10th, 2011

Last night, my hand-sewing partner (and co-founder of the New York Nineteenth Century Society) and I taught an introductory hand-sewing class at Trade School on the Lower East Side. The concept of Trade School is very close to genius — people with unusual skills are invited to propose classes. People who want to take the classes promise to bring barter items (based on a list provided by each teacher) in lieu of payment. They’ve had two semesters so far — this time around, the classroom was in a building owned by Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was an old schoolroom, so there were wonderful chalk boards, bookshelves, and those wooden and metal chairs with desks attached.

When our hand-sewing class was announced, we planned to accept 15 attendees. Those seats “sold” out within the first weekend! In the end, 9 lovely people showed up for the class. We sat around in a circle, and talked about some of the social history of hand-sewing while learning basic stitches. Some of our class were experienced sewers who wanted to learn new techniques, but even those who had never used a needle before did a wonderful job sewing their sample seams. It was also exciting to hear how each person planned to use their new skills.

Because we only had 90 minutes, we stuck to sewing and felling, as demonstrated in this video that we produced in advance of our very first hand-sewing class last year (taught at The Old Stone House in Brooklyn).

I’m now thinking about an instruction booklet for hand-sewing stitches; about making my own hand-sewing sampler; and about organizing an ongoing class where people could learn all the various stitches and techniques required for garment construction. We are on a crusade to bring back hand-sewing!!