Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learning New and Old

As a teacher at Costume College you might think I don't need to take classes offered by other instructors. I've been attending "CoCo" since 2000, and the thing I like most is getting my class offerings list in the spring (around April) and choosing which classes to take.

My first teaching experience at Costume College was in 2004 when my friend lana/Lily and I put together the Modern Sewing Techniques class. It was Friday morning at 9am. And we packed the house! (Or rather we stuffed 60 people into a small classroom.) My! how so many wanted to learn about the basic, easy-to-learn skills that would accelerate their historical clothing from "that's nice" to "Wow!"

I love teaching at conferences and workshops like Costume College. Giving back and sharing my passion of sewing and my time-honed methods with others is such a joy. I truly love it.

So if I am included in the awe-inducing list of those who share their knowledge at Costume College, what classes then do I choose for my own learning experience?

You might think that it's best to pick classes where you know little about the subject so you can increase your knowledge base. And I do - I am SUPER excited to take Beginning Hand Embroidery this year. I've done very little and most of that when I was younger than 10. I want to have the skills to add this wonderful decoration to many of my costumes and accessories. This would be a new topic for me.

And draping an 18th C. Francaise gown. It is an entirely new article of clothing I have not made but want to learn about. Again, learning a new method. (For more info go here to the 18th C New England Life site.)

But you know what? I also look for classes that will build on those talents I'm already advanced in. Like pressing. Or detailed hand sewing work. Or choosing fabrics. Or matching stripes. My God-given talent is the construction. So why would I want to take more classes on sewing?

Because I love learning - from my students and from other teachers! Everyone knows some thing, some tip or trick, or best fabric source that will enhance another's portfolio. I dwell on receiving new information from my costuming peers. Sometimes that means taking a class or two AGAIN. (I've taken the Regency Overview class from Martha Davis 3 times at CoCo! And I never tire of it.)

It is good to review topics and skills you know - and from a variety of teachers. I wouldn't hesitate, if given the opportunity, to sit in on a corset making class - even when I'm writing an eBook on the topic as you read this. A new instructor may have just the bit of a sewing secret I've yet to uncover that will propel me further in my own techniques.

So I encourage you to search out books, websites, instructors, lectures and workshops to increase your own knowledge of historical sewing. And better yet, on a topic you already are proficient in. One cannot be a master of all. But you can master one area (of costuming).

If you are terrific at embroidery - increase your knowledge and skill of the art. If you drape your own patterns - learn ways to improve the fit of new garments. Focus on the ONE aspect of historical clothing in which you excel. Being a "jack of all trades" will only get your outfits so far. Emphasize that one area you are superb in and the costume will be made of *awesome*.

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