Monday, May 25, 2009

Teaching and Learning: The Santa Monica T

Maybe I should just stick to teaching hats. Think about it. Hats more or less fit, minus or plus an inch or so. A beginner can make a cap from start to finish and feel a sense of accomplishment, plus have something that FITS and is cute to wear.

But clothes? Is it possible to make students happy? Can they walk out of the classroom more pleased than peas about what they made? That it doesn't have the homesewn look? That it looks better than something bought at Marshalls, Target or Kohl's? I think this is nearly mission impossible even with a beginner pattern and basic instructions.

The reason I say all this is I had a workshop on the Santa Monica T yesterday. Fantastic pattern in my book. Easy. Four pieces. Hardest part is the dart in the shoulder. All three of my students finish constructing the top, but I'm not sure even one really likes the final product. Two found the top a little too snug. The third walked out mad when I ruined (I wasn't trying to really) the neckline in the last ten minutes before the store closed. The tee was really looking good up until that point. Nice ease, great fit. I offered to do twin-needle top stitching on the neckline. This is an advance technique, something I wouldn't even expect most sewers to know. So I got down to business, whipped out the Wash-Away Solvy. Cut it into strips to use under the stitches. Oh boy, this neckline was going to look great. This tee, out of them all, was going to be the best. The star of the show! So in true "Project Runway: ("You have 10 minutes left!") fashion I worked on that neckline. Got nervous when a needle broke over some bulk. Luckily I had an exact replacement ready. Yippee! Threaded up the needles, and finished it in the nick-o-time!

I held it up. The neck opening looked massive. Like a crater crashed into the pattern. Uh oh. More boat neck than crew-neck. More Marcel Marceau and less Marilyn Monroe. My student looked at it. She was not happy. "I can't wear that," she said. I suggested we could put some stretch lace on to close up the neckline. That didn't go over well. "This was a $100 day, " she complained. "I spent $45 on the class, another $12 on the pattern, another .... on the fabric, and $5 for someone to watch over the dog. I always take classes and come away with something that looks homemade."

She gathered up her stuff, and walked out the door. I felt terrible. I followed her. I apologized and told her the next class would be free if she wanted to take it again. That seem to please her.

In retrospect, we should have staystitched the neckline. But I'm going to blame the instructions here rather than myself. There was nothing about that in there. What do you expect with a cotton jersey? That stuff grows!

So can I say I'm having second thoughts on teaching how to make t-shirts? I'm set to teach the Santa Monica T more than a few times this summer. Maybe teaching something as personal as a top was a bad idea. You know leggings - that's hard to ruin. I think. Underwear? That seems pretty straightforward too. But a t-shirt? What was I thinking?

One of my students modeling her version of the Santa Monica T in a stretch lace knit. $3.99 a yard at Vogue!

Probably the best part of my day was getting on this train. I was able to board within about five minutes of leaving the store. It was freezing and I wasn't dressed properly, but within another seven minutes or so I was inside my apartment.
Yeah, when I really wanted a Guinness to sooth my wounded ego, instead I had a ride on Metra. Sewing teachers, how do make the most of a day that doesn't go quite the way you want? I do have ideas on what I'll do differently next time, but it's Memorial Day today. I don't want to work the brain too hard now.


Angela said...

The tee in the photos looks fantastic! Obviously, you did something right in your instruction.

I'm sorry about your experience with the "Moody Mary." I think that most of us that sew realize that techniques can be hit or miss sometimes. I hope she sticks with it so that she can reap the rewards of persistence.

Lindsay T said...

Uh-oh. I am set to give private sewing lessons soon, so your experience makes me pause. Wonder what others have to say about teaching sewing...