Learning how to sew with the Ministry of Craft in Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 December 2014
I've written about clothes and styled fashion shoots for many years, writes Janet Reeder, but there's one skill I wish I'd had - the ability to sew.
I’ve written about clothes and styled fashion shoots for many years, writes Janet Reeder, but there’s one skill I wish I’d had - the ability to sew. I’m not a complete novice. I once made a skirt in ‘Domestic Science’ at school and would kit my dolls out in shapeless homespun dresses. It’s rather limited experience which occurred in the dim and distant past but that didn’t deter me from booking in for a four-hour session called Make Yourself a Pair of Pyjama Trousers.
It is one of the courses run by The Ministry of Craft, who bill themselves as a ‘friendly and sociable’ place to learn a new skill. They are held at Fred Aldous on Lever Street, in Manchester city centre and it is a fantastic space, less craft shop than design hub, stationers and haberdashers and it has been in the city since 1886 so it’s a bit of an institution.
Still, as I headed over on a Sunday morning, it did cross my mind that I should maybe be wearing pyjama pants in bed with the papers and a cup of tea than actually making them.
As I arrived my fellow trouser makers were already grabbing a coffee and getting to know each other.
All had been on a course before and had immediately booked in for others culminating in this one - it seemed they’d been even less confident of their skills than me, starting off with more simple projects like sewing a make-up bag. Had I set the bar too high I thought, as I nervously ate a chocolate brought in as a treat by a fellow seamstress.
I’d chosen a material with the sort of pattern I wouldn’t have to match up, such as stripes or zig zags - we also had to supply our own thread (but let’s face it we were in craft central should we forget anything) and so we began. Course tutor Alison Leese gave us the lowdown on how we should position our patterns and then we started cutting.
Actually, memories of how I used to do things on an old Singer came back to me. I recalled how we used to thread the needle, for example, but what I didn’t expect was how much more advanced the modern sewing machine is. I am not saying it was easy-peasy but making something like, say a buttonhole using the programme on a state of the art Janome machine did simplify the task.
We even had to overlock our seams (using a brilliant little gizmo) giving even my amateurish efforts a smart professional finish.
And yes... after four hours I came away with a pair of pyjama trousers. They’re slightly big but Alison says cotton shrinks in the wash and I had made them myself. Was I pleased? You bet! The sense of fulfilment, not to mention the encouragement from my fellow students and tutor was brilliant.
I may not be sending my efforts down the catwalk (ever) but I am keen to make something else. The fun fur jacket looks amazing but maybe that’s stretching my limited abilities just a bit too far...
If you fancy honing your creative skills with the Ministry of Craft, check them out at www.ministryofcraft.co.uk
Course highlights for January...
Folksy make-up bag
Simple reversible tote bag
Overlocking for beginners
Master zips and buttonholes
Step up your sewing machine skills
Sew a tailored and lined skirt
Sew your own tunic dress or top