Is a Hands-on Sewing Class Worth It?

Take a Sewing Class!!!

It is so much more than you ever expected.

Even Sewing Teachers take classes.  At my recent class, looked in an adjoining classroom and spied a familiar red head that turned out to be Sandra Betzina, buried in pattern puzzles and having the time of her life.  As she puts it so succinctly, “You never know enough.”


Recently, The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals held their 2015 Conference, The Fine Art of Sewing and Design, in Minneapolis.  Although I’m not a professional sewist, I jumped at the chance to take a sewing class, especially as the conference was so convenient.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking classes, thinking I know everything!   😎                   And, don’t have the time!  And, it’s too expensive!  And, can take an online class!  And, can follow books/DVDs.  And, and, and…

This time I had the time, an online class was not available, and I freed up the money. Funny how that can work out.

Also, a 1997 vintage Linton Tweed is desperate to become a wearable jacket on my back.

Therefore, I chose That Chanel Jacket by Claire Shaeffer, a two day, hands-on class.

Claire Shaeffer

Claire modeling a ‘Real’ Chanel Cardigan from her collection

I have picked up bits and pieces of Claire’s Chanel classes when conducting Stitches, Fiber Fashion Fun group tours (out of business since 2001 and way before Facebook and even Internet; Google turns up nada.), but never enough to feel competent.

Yes, I have her book(s) and DVDs, but it’s just not the same as that in-person class where you can ask questions, SEE a technique that just can’t be photographed, and learn from classmates.

Claire taught one of her first Chanel classes for Stitches in 1997 and then conducted a London tour that took us to Carlisle and Linton Tweeds.  Here we purchased our authentic Chanel style fabric.  Today you can shop online  but there is nothing like being in the actual shop just down the street from the Cathedral.

This is my 1997 vintage Linton Tweed.   Hope there is enough yardage.  Label says 150 cm x 140 cm so should be able to scrape by.

Paid £30; that’s about $45 today.  Eighteen years ago that would have been $19.60.

Linton Tweed circa 1997

Linton Tweed circa 1997


Because of the class,  I now have samples, notes and photos to guide me thru my Chanel Jacket.

However, have learned–re-learned–a whole lot more.  The specific jacket techniques are important, but ‘the devil is in the details’:

  • soap for glue
  • thread hand needle with end of thread that comes off the spool
  • cotton basting thread
  • pressing dauber

Knew of the above but actually seeing and using, seals them in my sewing repertoire.



Pins and Needles

Am stuck in a rut and use same old, same old; probably because it’s available.

Like the Self-Threading Needle.  Should have these but it’s more fun to tear the sewing room apart looking for the needle threader.  Here’s what I learned in hands-on class I never would have picked up elsewhere as it was a bit of a ‘throw-away’ comment.

Use it to pull a short thread end to the inside when thread is too short to insert in a regular needle eye.  See the notch in top of needle (above); lay thread over notch and pull down on one end (while holding other end) into needle eye.  Slick!

Pins:  lots of different kinds and we made a cheat sheet.  Even after the review, I prefer long, fine, glass head pins; glass doesn’t melt under the iron.

Recommended Straight Pins

Recommended Straight Pins





Hand Stitches

Again, am in a rut and use the slip stitch for anything with a fold; if it doesn’t have a fold, I figure out a way to make one.

Claire, demoing a hand stitch

Claire, demoing a hand stitch

You best know the catch-stitch, the basting stitch and the diagonal stitch.  Oh, yes, the ladder, the fell, the tailoring stitch.  A refresher was definitely in order.



Pressing Demo

Pressing Demo

A pressing tip I had heard before but forgotten–use a sliver of soap to ‘glue’ down seam allowances.  Thanx for the reminder.  We all cleaned out the soaps from our hotel rooms!





This is a classmate’s sleeve hem sample with fringe and piping.  She didn’t have enough fabric for bias so cut it on the crosswise and now has a physical reminder of a lovely finish.

Sleeve hem sample

All of my class samples and notes are packed away in a plastic school supply case.  I stock up on them when school supplies go on sale in August.



Inspiration from Claire’s Chanel Collection

For inspiration, here are some photos from Claire’s collection.  These are the Real Deal and only at hands-on classes will you have the opportunity to get up close and personal.



Buttonhole in lining

Buttonhole in lining

Fabric Closeup

Fabric Closeup

Chanel Jacket. Hand made fabric

Chanel Jacket. Hand made fabric


The jacket above is made from strips of ombre satin, hence the ‘shading’ from light to dark.  The closeup is overexposed to show the fringed and cartridge pleated strips held in place with teeny, tiny sequins.


Happy Stitching!

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6 Responses to Is a Hands-on Sewing Class Worth It?

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  3. You are so lucky! I love the fabric for your jacket.

  4. Thank you for such an interesting post Carol – I have made this jacket with CS’s instruction and read her book line by line. But this adds a lot of “colour”. And I absolutely love your Linton. So subtle and nice.

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