Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sew Over It

The recent explosion of sewing classes and sewing cafes is an interesting phenomenon. I'm pleased to see a growing trend towards a DIY mentality and the increased desire to learn the skills our grandmothers relied on (if that is what this represents). I thought that maybe I could pick up a sewing-teaching gig at one of these places if I ever lost my job, and I enjoy looking at cute buttons and trims that they often sell as much as the next sewer, but I haven't really kept a close eye on the proliferation of these establishments.

However, I have recently been doing a bit of research because I've been brewing a plan to do a bit of sewing teaching in a different kind of environment and heard about Sew Over It through my enquiries. Based in Clapham, London, it seems to provide the best range of classes that I've seen, including mini-courses of around two hours focussing on specific skills like making button holes or inserting zips. I could see those being really useful for beginner-sewers who want to flesh out their skill-set without having to sign-up to make an entire blouse or skirt making course. They also run a mens' survival sewing class, which is SUCH a great idea. Plus, Sew Over It offers a drop-in option where you can use the space and machinery for £5 an hour and includes free tea and coffee. This is how I spent a chunk of last Sunday.

Normally, I wouldn't usually be interested in forking out to use a sewing space when I'm lucky enough to have that at work and home, but I was heading up to London to see Michelle (pictured above) and we've never really sewn/crafted together before AND she may be moving to that area and was pleased for the opportunity to explore a little more, so it all kind of made sense to go and pay Sew Over It a visit.

It is a nice place. It is very clean and pretty with lots of light. The downstairs area was being used for a class so we stayed upstairs which serves as the cafe, shop and drop-in sewing area. All around were examples of the garments and products that you can learn to make in their classes, or make at home using their pre-prepared kits and packs. IMO, the decor and feel of the place is pretty representative of the dominant aesthetic of current mainstream craft culture (Amy Bulter prints, teapots, cupcakes, you know). Which is fine. It's very feminine, cute and no-doubt inviting to many. But I do fear that this look puts off a some people who don't want to make things that are very girlie in style. And I'd be surprised if many guys turn up for their mens' survival sewing class and feel entirely comfortable sitting there surrounded by so much pink!This gripe isn't specific to Sew Over It: I'm just concerned how much experimentation and freedom to make mistakes you can feel in such a cute and pristine environment. I'm also worried that the message about using these skills to preserve your existing clothes and live more sustainably isn't really being put across when everything on display and for sale is brand new. They do offer a customisation class, but neatly sell 'customisation packs' with new lace embellishments and strings of pearls.

So, did I buy?! Yep. No I don't buy new fabric, but I do indulge in new patterns and notions from time to time. Sew Over It stock a decent selection of the newer Colette Patterns. I bought the Violet blouse pattern for Michelle for Christmas (don't worry about her reading this, she knows!) and the Clover trousers for myself. I've been eyeing this pattern up on the internet for a while, but with shipping from the US to UK, it was pricier than I could justify so I treated myself when I saw it for sale without the postage. And these leopard buttons! They are shell and so awesome that I'm sure they'd make the plainest garment special. I think I'll save them for when a thrifted solid colour cardigan comes my way and needs jazzing up.

So, what about you? Have you spent time in any sewing cafes? What was your overall experience? What did you like about it?

18 comments:

Alex said...

I'm halfway through a two part cape class at Sew Over It at the moment. I'm loving it and Lisa really knows her stuff. I think the girly environment is fab, but the best thing is it forces me to sit down and finish the project I'm working on without getting distracted!

Joanne said...

I agree with your observations on the girly decor of some of these place Zoe, it actually puts me off too as I see it everywhere - even John Lewis and M&S are at it. But Sew Over It does sound very practical in its range of classes. I've been to the Make Lounge in Islington for a hen/craft do which was pretty good although I've not done one of their sewing classes. To be honest my favourite sewing courses are those night-time classes held in big draughty empty colleges. It makes me feel like I'm going back to school!

Bunnykins said...

I want those buttons! They're great!

I like the idea of a class to teach a specific skill. Not just for newbies, but for experienced sewers, too. Many of us oldies get stuck in a rut, using the same tools and techniques we learned way back when. Or, we never mastered a technique, never had anyone to ask for help, and have fudged it for years. I like the look of the bright Sew Over space, so clean and fresh. It's not a bad thing to have some place in this world that's feminine and not cluttered up cloyingly feminine.

Mari Cruz said...

Por aquí (Barcelona) también aumentan estos establecimientos. Hace algunos años asístí a uno en Gracia y me fue de gran ayuda, ahora mi reto es hacer patrones.
Un saludo.

superheidi said...

thank you for mentioning the dominant aesthetic of current mainstream craft culture. :)

Bella said...

Interesting; I'm glad you posted this--it's a phenomenon I knew nothing about, other than in huge shops like JoAnn & Hancock. However, I do know that there's a shop in DC where you can use their machine or bring your own! bitsofthread.com, which must be the same sort of thing. I haven't been by so don't know if they have the cutesy pink aesthetic you mention (an excellent observation--I notice it on some online sewing store sites, too).

Kate at M is for make said...

If you ever want another Colette pattern, I can often hand deliver in Brighton saving you the postage!

Scruffybadger said...

Those buttons!! I shall be fixating on them for the rest of the day!
We've got the makery in bath that offers all sorts of crafting courses including sewing, but just seems a lot to shell out at the moment when in reality I'd be paying for the social side of it. I'm guessing you can also drop in to use the machines too...

Jo Campbell said...

I'm up in the North of Scotland so haven't come across anything like this. I love the idea of it (haven't got a proper dressmaking space at home so have to steal space from other things when I want to sew) but think the decore would put me off too - I'm not girlie or pink - I'd prefer something more like the back room of the local dressmakers.

Law said...

Hey Zoe,

My otriingal sewing teacheras often do workshops in Brighton on refashioning or similar, like making your own knickers or copying your favourite PJ bottoms. http://www.thesewinglounge.co.uk/#/workshops/4554210001

I agree, small workshops and drop in sessions are great and is just the kind of thing I'm interested in

Kathryn said...

The classes at Sew Over It actually look very interesting. I think it's great that these places are on the rise, but most of the sewing classes seem to be aimed at a novice level, there's a real shortage of intermediate or advanced classes where you could learn new skills. Whereas if you're into, for example, painting, you're spoilt for choice in specialised courses.

I did a trouser making class at Oh Sew Brixton which was very good, they do have some interesting intermediate sewing classes.

threadsquare said...

I find it really interesting that the shops here in the US and in the UK seem so similar. This whole homogenization thing of pink & flowery (I do like some Amy Butler & the like, but some, you know?) I think these places are great, and I love that they're popping up all over. But I do agree that variety in style is key, and that often the classes are geared toward basic, A-line skirts, etc. On the other hand, if it's getting people to sew, great! It's gotta be tough stocking fabric, running a shop, etc, so to sell kits & known fabric designers is probably a good biz move for the most part.

Also, those buttons are killer. Meow!

Len said...

I can't say I've ever been to a sewing cafe! There aren't any in my immediate area to my knowledge - but as soon as I find one, I'm sure I'll blog about it ;)

If anyone knows about any sewing cafes near Cardiff, let me know!

Lovely to hear Sew Over It stock Colette patterns!

Nikki said...

A sewing cafe?? That sounds fab! We don't have those in Hertfordshire. My local John Lewis isn't that girly in the fabric and haberdashery section, but I will admit, some of their stores are. I think it could put some people off, but...

Alessa said...

Those leopard buttons are wonderful!

I've visited one sewing café in Berlin (called Stitch'n'Bitch I think *g*) and it looked and felt like the studio of a slightly messy design student. Not much decoration, but lots of different sewing machines, a big cutting table, patterns "for rent" (to use/trace for a fee) and the cheery Dutch woman that owns it helping out here and there. No latte macchiatos either... *g*

Catherine said...

I just wish we had ANY kind of sewing cafe or similar premises up here in the north east, but hey-ho! I do love the look of the Stitch and Make Studios, not quite as cutesy - but really I wouldn't object to cute in the absence of anything else!

Lisa Sew Over It said...

Well it is so lovely to see all these comments. Thank you for writing about us Zoe. I am sorry i wasnt there to meet you on Sunday. It is really interesting to hear your feedback.

Yes, Sew Over It is hands down a girly space (i think the pink staircase says it all!) but that is my style. I thought about a different decor but decided that it would be unfaithful to myself - I am the ultimate girly girl! And it hasnt scared off all the men. We have had a few guys coming along to our sessions. I have a little mailing list of guys who are waiting for our mens shirt-making class in Jan/Feb. Although i have to admit when some men walk in, they do look a little overwhelmed!

Zoe, I think you would LOVE the Sweatshop, a sewing cafe in Paris. It has a urban studio feel - very cool and very different in style to us. And some really interesting classes. Definitely worth a trip.

I am glad you find our selection of classes appealing. It is really important to me to keep things varied and interesting. To all those more experienced sewers, I really want to add more classes for you. It's just that at the moment our beginner classes seeem to sell better. But the plan is to add more advanced classes in the new year when we have more sewers who have built up their skills. So keep an eye on the website. I guess the pool of beginners is bigger than those more experienced.

What is most encouraging to see is that all the comments, blogs and tweets being written about sewing are setting a trend and raising the profile of sewing. that is what I set out to do and I hope that Sew Over It will continue to play its part in encouraging more people to pick up a needle and thread.

Sewing Princess said...

Reading about all these cafés makes me want to fly to london. There are no such places where I live.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...