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I Wanted to Make a Skirt and Sew I Did

February 19, 2011

Before I moved into my new flat, I spent almost two weeks flat-hopping from Shoreditch to Limehouse to London Fields. It was while I was staying with the lovely Susanne* in London Fields, a quaint little suburb that I had never even heard of, that I stumbled across a shop called Our Patterned Hand. Tacked to their window was a sign advertising sewing classes. I’ve always wanted to be able to sew myself a dress or a bag or something, but alas, my experience ends with hand sewing back buttons that have gone rogue. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Their classes include a ‘Learn to Use a Sewing Machine and Sew Your 1st Project’ (where you make either a cushion cover, a shopper or a gathered skirt) and a ‘Learn to Copy Your Favourite Garment’ class. As class sizes are small and spots tend to disappear fairly quickly, I booked myself into the next available beginner’s class right there and then.

Three weeks passed and the day of the class finally arrived. I’d made sure to have an early night beforehand, so that I would pose less of a hazard to myself and the outcome of the skirt I’d be making, but I was nervous nonetheless. The class was meant to start at 9am, but as one of the students was still M.I.A. and this was a beginner’s class, we waited until she arrived at 9:30am to begin the lesson. Definitely not Swiss that one.

Beneath the store in a little studio the four of us took our places around our sewing machines. We learned to prepare the bobbin, thread the sewing machine, adjust the tension and sew some basic stitches; terms and phrases that had not existed in my world an hour earlier. After a few rounds of practice stitches and only minor hiccups (I swear my machine was toying with me), we moved onto examining the skirt pattern and working out measurements.

We had been advised ahead of time what types of fabric to pick and how much of it to bring in (based on the length of skirt we wanted to create). The other ladies pulled out their beautiful colourful fabrics in nice, friendly medium-weight cotton for everyone else to have a look at and admire. Then there was me. I had rather ambitiously (or perhaps merely stubbornly) decided to use a lovely thin white eyelet fabric that was somewhat transparent and thus required lining. Like I needed the extra challenge. This meant that while everyone else was rapidly stitching away on their machines, I – the only utter and complete novice in class – was meanwhile rabidly swearing under my breath as the slippery lining fabric I had chosen slipped and bunched and otherwise defied me.

After a short tea break (cookies included) which gave us a chance to share a few laughs and exchange stories, we resumed our positions. We oohed and aahed periodically as one by one we reached tube-with-waistband status. Everyone was zipping around from work bench to ironing board (ironing regularly helps keep the fabric smooth and thus makes it easier to sew) and back to sewing machine. I was nervously racing to catch up after one too many… let’s call them ‘learning opportunities’. On the bright side, I definitely learned much more than I would have if I had decided on a fabric that didn’t need lining. The teacher was angelically patient and encouraging, telling me that I was doing a great job, that to be handling both lining and a skirt as well as I was on my very first sewing experience was impressive, that I clearly had a knack for this, etc… not sure if I agree, but it did make me feel more confident.

I was the last to finish, but given the added element to my skirt, I guess that’s unsurprising. An hour after we had been due to finish (or half an hour, given that we started half an hour late), I was the very proud owner of my very first sewing project. After thanking the teacher profusely for her help and her unwavering patience, I marched out onto the street where the Broadway Market was still in full force. The sun was shining, the air was full of the delicious smells of the market, I had a brand new skirt and a head full of plans to sew a thousand other things. Today was a good day.




Telephonic Numerals 020 7812 9912

Electronic Mail

Location 49 Broadway Market, London Fields (E8 4PH)

Grace them with your presence 10am – 6pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays) and 10am – 5pm (Sundays). Closed on Mondays.

Can’t be bothered walking? I’ve marked the tube and overground stations on the map above. Buses will get you much closer. Bus 394 drives down Sheep Lane (which runs parallel to Broadway Market) before turning onto Westgate Street (past the top of Broadway Market). Alternatively, buses 26 and 48 drive up Mare Street (get off just before Westgate Street).

Your pockets will be £40 lighter for their introductory project classes.

And? I highly recommend the beginner’s class. The worst part are the pre-first-stitch jitters, but once you get going you’ll be just fine! More advanced classes are also available. Give them a call, pop into their shop or shoot them an email if you’d like more info. Do it!




* If you’re looking for accommodation in London, I highly recommend staying at Susanne’s. She has two rooms available in her flat which is well-located just off Broadway Market in London Fields. She actually rent out her entire flat sometimes, and if you ask nicely, she just might do it for you. There’s a laundry machine, wi-fi, a kitchen, a small outdoor/garden area, a cosy living room; it’s almost like a home-away-from-home. Susanne is a friendly, helpful, easygoing host to boot. A word of warning: if you are allergic to cats, make sure to pack your antihistamines as there is a kitty-in-residence. Here’s her airbnb advert if you’re interested.

2 Comments leave one →
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