Perhaps you’ve walked past Decorative Cloth on Warwick Street in Leamington Spa? It’s a lovely shop, full of enticing fabrics, little packets of cloth and ribbons to whet your fancy, and all very strokeable and covetable. They aren’t cheap, but their goods are good quality, and I particularly like it that they have handwritten tags on all their cloth stating what it’s made of.
Image of Decorative Cloth interior from the Knitting Shed
So when I saw that they had a poster advertising classes in their window I was immediately keen. There is a fair range on offer, covering all sorts of crafts and skill levels. I fancied something that would be challenging and that took place in the evenings, so I signed up for a seven-session pattern drafting course. I haven’t finished it at the time of writing, but I thought I’d do a mid-way review of how it’s going.
Front and back patterns, plus my trusty set square!
The course is taught by a tutor from St Martin’s college, and – as you might expect – he *really* knows his stuff! He can do things with a set square and a pencil that I couldn’t do with a week of practising, and while everyone in the class is currently convinced that they couldn’t repeat any of what we’ve learned without him there, he has amazing faith in our abilities to design and make anything we like. We started by taking each other’s measurements – many, many measurements. Foaud checked them all for us, and then over the next five sessions we used them to draft a ‘block’ of our bodies. Eventually this will be a cardboard pattern which can be used as the basis for any other design – hence the limitless possibilities once you’ve learned the basics.
I won’t deny that the whole process has been hard work and has required a lot of concentration. From plotting out the shape using a step by step guide, we then proceeded to check every measurement and adjust it all. Then we had a series of brilliantly acrobatic stages to move darts, and add or take out ease (the difference between your body size and the wearability of a garment). This is where most of us stopped trying to write down how to do it – but I am convinced that with reference to a guide I could do it again, which I never could have before doing the course. Finally, we traced our blocks onto some calico, added a seam allowance, and rather nervously sewed it together. I’m pleased to report that they all fitted pretty well – but for the last few sessions we will be making the final set of adjustments which will be transferred back to the paper pattern.
So would I recommend this course? Absolutely! It was a small group which was really nice, and both our teacher, and Bernadette, the shop owner, have been amazing. Bernadette even lays on tea and cakes in the lounge half way through the evening, and keeps the shop open for us to buy any necessary supplies. I have learned an absolute ton of stuff, and even if I still feel a bit daunted about making a block for anyone else, I do now have a much better understanding of paper patterns and how to adjust them. I’m also hoping to make something from my block – and we may even be petitioning Bernadette to run a follow-up course.
A list of the other courses available at Decorative Cloth is available here