This article is sponsored by Janome sewing machines
Sewing courses and sewing classes are not just for beginners looking to learn to sew. Yes, there are beginner's sewing lessons out there, but there are also a lot of sewing lessons aimed at helping experienced sewers expand their skills. How many of you sew from a pattern and would like to learn to draft your own sewing patterns? Can you do dressmaking but would like to learn how to sew soft furnishings? Well now is the perfect time to learn to sew. The credit crunch has led to an increase in people wanting to learn to sew and a corresponding increase in the number of courses available.
Recent data from the Craft & Hobby Association shows that over 4 million people are engaged in sewing items for their home, and just under 4 million are into dressmaking. The interest in sewing in steadily increasing and businesses are responding by offering a wide selection of sewing courses all around the country.
The question is where do you start?
There are 3 important things you need to ask yoursefl when looking for a suitable sewing course:
What do you want to learn?
How do you want to learn?
How much can you afford to spend?
What to learn
Firstly you need to figure out what exactly do you want to learn? Think about what you already know, and what new skills you would like to add to that knowledge. Are you a beginner looking to learn basic sewing skills? Do you want to learn how to sew your own clothes, bags or home accessories? Do you want to learn how to draft patterns? Learn how to quilt or embroider?
Thinking about your reason for wanting to learn to sew can help to narrow this down. If you are looking to save money then learning how to repair, alter or make your own clothes will surely save you money in the future. Equally you could learn to sew home accessories and soft furnishing rather than having to buy them ready made. There are many dressmaking lessons available, along with the ‘refashioning your clothes' or 'Make Do and Mend' workshops. Learning to jazz up your existing wardrobe saves spending money on new clothing. See our recent article on customising your clothes for some ideas. Soft furnishing classes are also available at most venues, cushions in particular are ideal for beginners.
Are you looking for a new hobby, a chance to learn a new skill, maybe to meet up in a social situation with other people that have the same interest? Then maybe learning to quilt or embroider could be the thing for you. As well as attending classes you could join the local Guild group and regularily meet up with others to share your hobby with. Or perhaps if you have basic sewing skills but are looking for social sewing then a sewing group might be more your thing. These are often a lot cheaper than sewing classes but you can still learn a lot from other members.
Do you already sew but want to expand your skills? You could learn how to use a new type of machine (overlocker or embroidery machine for example) to help you try some different techniques. You could learn pattern cutting so you can make your own patterns, or alter commercial dressmaking patterns. You could learn something niche in your preferred area of sewing. For instance if you like dressmaking why not go on a corset making course? Or learn how to make lingerie? Popular subjects for study include dressmaking, curtains, cushions, blind making, bag making and quilting.
How to learn
Once you have chosen what you want to learn you then need to decide how you want to learn. Options include being taught on a one to one basis, attending a local class, distance learning, going on a sewing holiday or even a sewing cruise. One of the most common options is to find a local class, these are often run either in your local sewing centre or fabric store, at a dedicated sewing school (if you are lucky enough to have one in your area), local colleges or universities or in the local community centre.
You can find details of these courses either on this site (use the search bar above), in your local paper, on the notice board of the library or community centre, on the Janome website or by asking around. We also have a database of sewing classes on site here which you can search by location, date, course provider and keyword.
Many dressmakers and designers responding to the demand for sewing lessons have started to offer one to one tuition. There are even those that will come out to your house and teach you on your own machine. You can expect to pay more for that than attending a class with several others but at least the teaching is purely aimed at you and based upon your needs.
There are quite a few craft venues popping up around the country that offer a range of sewing related courses along with other craft subjects, several of them offer hire of sewing machines plus the opportunity to buy sewing supplies to you can continue working on your projects. You can view many of the courses offered by our customers on our workshops page.
Alternatively you can have a sewing holiday. There are several places offering residential courses so you can spend a few days away from work and concentrating purely on sewing. There are even sewing cruises available now - you can tour the Caribbean whilst being taught to sew by sewing experts!
Many colleges offer sewing, textiles, embroidery and quilting courses, some are available through distance learning too. Why not contact your local college/university and see what they offer?
If you just want to dabble then why not attend a sewing show or exhibition where there will be plenty of opportunities to attend workshops and demonstrations. Details of some of the larger shows can be found at the What's On section of our site or at www.ichf.co.uk or www.twistedthread.com plus there are many local sewing or craft shows that should be advertised in your local paper.
The other thing to be considered is when to learn, and fortunately many venues offer weekend or evening classes, some offer lunchtime classes too. So even if you work full time there should be something to suit your needs. The alternative is a distance learning course, City & Guilds courses for instance can be taught through distance learning. See the City and Guilds website for more information - http://www.cityandguilds.com/uk-home.html. Craftsy also have a good range of online sewing courses.
Finally onto budget, obviously how much money you want to spend affects which of the above options are available to you. If your budget is only £100 per year you won't be learning to sew whilst you cruise around the Caribbean I'm afraid! But don't worry, there is something for every budget.
Starting at the top end of the budget if you have hundreds or even thousands to set aside for sewing courses then all options are available to you, it then just comes down to what you want to learn, how and what is available in your area. So why not have a look on our workshops database to see what you can find.
City & Guilds courses can cost anything from £300 to over £1,000. Sewing weekends where you can learn a skill in a 2-3 day course cost around the £200-£600 mark depending on venue. Day schools can range from £25-£150 approximately and courses spread over several weeks can vary greatly in price from under £100 to several hundred depending on the course provider and subject matter covered.
For those on a tight budget why not look out for drop in days or taster session which can be free or as cheap as £5. Follow your local providers on social media to find out when they will be happening. Adult education sewing classes also tend to be more suited to a smaller budget.
Alternatively many sewing groups are happy to share skills with new members and often only charge a nominal membership of a pound or two a session, some are even free. Remember that if you are claiming certain benefits you can get funding towards courses, ask your job centre or the course provider for information.
There are many websites that offer free projects and tutorials to help yet you started. A couple I would recommend are http://www.startsewing.co.uk/ for great tutorials and guides, www.freeneedle.com for free patterns and tutorials sourced from all over the net and http://sewing.about.com/od/beginner1/bb/sewing101.htm which has advice on all things sewing related. Plus of course we have many sewing projects and sewing tutorials freely available on this site. We also have a series of projects designed specifically for beginners - So Sew Simple.
There are numerous video tutorials to be found on YouTube plus many sewing magazines or businesses offer free tutorials and guides on their websites. Seams So Easy have some useful videos for beginners here and the Thrifty Stitcher (sewing advisor to The Great British Sewing Bee) has some useful videos here. Try asking around your friends, you may have a friend who could teach you to sew or look on some of the skill swap sites online. Whatever your budget, even if it is nonexistent, there is still a way to learn to sew. Have fun learning and do come and join us on Facebook to tell us what you have been making.
Take a look at our workshop database to find classes near you.
Written by Fiona Pullen