Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The journey begins

Today was the first day of my industrial sewing methods class at MCTC. There are 20 of us in the class. My classmates seem like a good bunch. We’re all interested in the fashion industry. Some of the students seek an eventual career in high fashion, but no one seems stuck up and pretentious. Some people in class have a lot more sewing experience than I do, some have less. Only one or two have experience with the industrial machines we will use. I think the middle will be a comfortable place for me to start. I expect to enjoy class and have a lot of fun this semester.

This class is an introduction to sewing with an emphasis on industrial equipment. We will not be doing any design, but that’s ok. I need to learn how to use the equipment and become comfortable with it before I can do anything fancy. We will work with both straight stitch and overlock machines. Class meets on Tuesdays for 4.5 hours. The first hour or two of class will be spent in the classroom, and the rest of the time we’ll spend in the lab sewing. Our three projects for the semester are a baby t-shirt, an adult t-shirt, and a tailored shirt.

Today we spent the first two hours getting started and going over the basics: introductions, expectations, the syllabus, class info, and all the normal first-day-of-the-semester stuff. Then we went into the lab for our introduction to industrial straight stitch machines. The instructor warned us that despite a similar appearance, home sewing machines and industrial ones have very little in common. She added that after we get used to the industrial machines we’ll never want to use a home machine again.

I knew the industrial machine would be powerful, and I knew it would be a lot faster than my home machine, but I really had no idea what I was in for. Holy cow that thing is fast. All we did today was use the machine to trace lines on paper. No thread or fabric was involved. We started with long straight lines, moved on to right angles with shorter lines, upgraded to wavy lines, and finished with spirals and curves. The straight lines were a lot harder than I expected they would be. I hit the pedal, and vroom, the entire sheet has flown by with my perforations veering far from the printed line. It took some time, but I eventually got the feel for the pedal and was able to trace a line. The short lines and right angles were a little more difficult, but by the end I felt comfortable with them too. Then I hit the wavy lines. I was able to make a wavy line, but my lines and those on the page did not always match up too well. Next was a large spiral that seemed easier than the wavy lines. My final sheet combined small circles and wavy lines. I’d be lying if I said I could consistently follow those lines, but even on that sheet I noticed significant improvement from start to finish. I’ll need a lot more practice before I feel comfortable with an industrial machine, but then that’s why I’m taking this class. By the end of the semester I expect I’ll be sewing like a pro and that I’ll never want to use a home machine again.

It is still early, but I think I have already accomplished my most important goal from this class. I applied to UW-Stout in the belief that I wanted to earn a degree in apparel design, but since I have never been in any way involved in the apparel industry (buying and wearing clothes doesn’t count) I was afraid I had made a foolish choice. All we did today was talk about sewing and use the machines to put holes in paper, but I feel confident that I am in the right field. Class was fascinating and I am excited about apparel construction and design. This is just the beginning; I want to do a lot more. Even the sound of a sewing machine seems to perk me up and bring a smile to my face.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


School starts Tuesday.

I received my high school diploma in 1993. Between 1994 and 2003 I attended five colleges but never earned a degree. I majored in religious studies, physics, education, Hebrew, and emergency medical services, and I took classes in a number of other fields. I have been working full-time since 2004. I had and lost a great job; now I have a job.

In the past I did not particularly want to go to school. I enjoyed the college environment and I liked learning new things, but I never felt passionate about what I was doing and I had no desire to pursue a career in anything I studied. I went to school because it was expected of me and I was told it was the right thing to do. My ambivalence about school led to my repeated changes of majors, my failure to ever finish a degree, and ultimately my decision to stop going to school. But now I think I am finally ready to go to school and finish a degree.

I understand if my past performance does not inspire confidence in my ability to earn a degree. But I think that this time I’ll finally manage to accomplish my goals. Sixth time’s the charm? In the past I started at school, then chose a major. This time I picked the major first, then searched for a school. I will be majoring in apparel design. I have always enjoyed sewing, but I never did much with it before. I would like to become a costume designer, but fashion design looks good too.

I start at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) next week, and I’ll transfer to UW-Stout in January. I will only be taking two classes at MCTC: Industrial Sewing Methods and Fashion Sketching Workshop. I do not expect to transfer the credits to Stout. I am taking these two classes to ease myself back into school, to prepare me for the classes I will take at Stout, and to ensure that this is indeed the field I wish to pursue before I make the move to Wisconsin.

This blog will chronicle my time in school as I progress from amateur neophyte sewer to fashion/costume designer and master tailor.