I want to be the next Thom Browne
November 27, 2006 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Making my own suits and shirts. I'd like to learn to create my own clothing (I'm a guy), particulary suits, shirts and sport coats.

At the very least I'd like to be able to tailor off the rack purchases for myself. I live in NYC and it looks like FIT does not have any adult ed/continuing ed classes for this and I can't find any men's clothing oriented classes elsewhere in the city. Does anyone know where I could learn these skills in NYC?
posted by spicynuts to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The NYC secondary school system ought to have continuing ed course for this sort of thing.
posted by orange swan at 10:51 AM on November 27, 2006


I don't mean to discourage you, but making your own suits is terribly difficult. You might think about asking an FIT or Tisch grad student to teach you (my girlfriend goes to Tisch, but not in costumes, and I've tried to get someone to make me a suit. It's hard).
posted by Bookhouse at 11:40 AM on November 27, 2006


If you don't already know how to sew, work on getting the basics down first. Most of the skills you'd need for making or tailoring men's suits are pretty universal to sewing and fitting garments, so I don't think you'd need a men's specific class (at least not outright). A good intro course should put you well on your way.

Congrats on wanting to sew your own stuff, it really is rewarding once you learn how!
posted by AV at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2006


Oops, one more thing (shoulda previewed...). Well, two actually.

one: There is a bit of expense involved in taking on sewing, especially if you want to make clothes that look like ready-to-wear. A good sewing machine is crucial, and a good serger will probably make your life a lot easier (and in many cases will make the difference between homemade and professional looking clothes). A good, basic sewing machine can be had for around $200 or so; a decent serger will be more in the $400-$500 range.

two: Yes, bookhouse is right. Sewing suits (that you'd want to wear, anyway) is hard. But if you want to learn, don't be discouraged: start with tailoring and simpler sewing projects (t-shirts, dress shirts, pants etc.) and work your way up. It can be done!
posted by AV at 12:01 PM on November 27, 2006


I am not afraid of hard. In fact I hope it's hard as I want the challenge to my skills.

So, AV, you are saying that any basic intro sewing class that has a basis in fashion should be suitable (pardon the pun)?
posted by spicynuts at 12:06 PM on November 27, 2006


Looking here (FIT's continuing education website), I would say Sewing Techniques I and II would be a great start. And if you're in-state, you can't beat that price -- especially for the quality of instruction I'd imagine you'd get at FIT.

Good luck!
posted by AV at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


I previously recommended some books on this subject.
posted by beerbajay at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2006


I've heard good things about the basic sewing classes at Purl, or you could try to find someone to teach you off of craigslist or something.
posted by logic vs love at 12:34 PM on November 27, 2006


Those FIT classes are incredibly cheap, by the way, at least for NY State residents. I've taken classes in small towns that taught less than that (and were obviously not FIT) that cost twice that.

I also suggest you start off with simpler items. However, unless you do buy the serger I'd stay away from T-shirt material and other knits - they don't sew up as well on a regular sewing machine as they do on sergers.

Dress shirts are one of the easier things to make. Even then I'd take a class first, if only to learn how to adjust patterns and how to use a sewing machine. One of the most rewarding things about sewing is being able to adjust patterns to suit you.

If you get into shirtmaking, David Page Coffin's book called "Shirtmaking" is invaluable.
posted by watsondog at 4:44 PM on November 27, 2006


The easiest male garment to make is probably a bathrobe. The typical female garment beginner project is a skirt. If you could have a woman to sew for, the skirt would be an easier first project and if it turns out well also might get you laid.
posted by orange swan at 6:44 PM on November 27, 2006


I also second David Page Coffin's books and instructional videos.

Kenneth King also has a Tailored Jackets book on CD. I have taken online classes with Kenneth King. He is a fabulous instructor.

Definitely take real classes though. I would kill to take FIT classes. You need to be in a classroom setting where you can see what is going on and ask questions.

In the meantime if you want to get started at home and have never sewn before, Kwik Sew patterns are a wonderful resource for beginners. The instructions are so well written that it is possible to learn how to sew at home with these patterns and a good sewing reference book. If you have never sewn before I think it is crucial that you start off easy. Choose some boxer-brief patterns, maybe an apron or pajamas. Then you could maybe move onto a fleece jacket that has a zipper. Cotton woven and fleece is very easy to sew with, as well as a lot of natural fabrics. Avoid the cheap polyesters (even though fleece is cheap polyester) that the chain fabric stores love to stock.

Also, I highly recommend that you get acquainted with the hundreds of fabrics available on the market and how to sew with them. There are good reference books available on the market. I especially like Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy and More Fabric Savvy. If you are interested in fine tailoring then you may only be working with a handful of fabrics. Wools, silks, cottons, linens. There are tons of weaves out there though, and some weaves are more difficult to sew than others. Take gabardine for instance--very tricky. Wool crepe or flannel? Easy.

Of course Kwik Sew and other commercial patterns are no where near fine tailoring and most won't teach you how to make a real dress shirt or a tailored jacket. I have taken a jacket class and there are numerous construction details that I would of never known without taking a class. You aren't going to see instructions for inserting tie interfacing or hair canvas in a typical commercial patterns. A good instructor and classes are a must.

Tailoring requires a lot of hand stitching. Susan Khalje is teaching an online class on couture hand stitches. I am dying to take this class, but online classes take a lot of discipline. They are fabulous, but you must be self-motivated. For me, taking a class around the holidays could be a bad idea.

Good luck! Sorry I went on and on, but I love to talk about sewing.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:20 PM on November 27, 2006


I have recently taken up sewing. Be prepared to be frustrated by a serious lack of male-specific instructions. Home sewing is an extremely female dominated activity, and nearly everything about it reflects that fact.

As am example: Trouser waistbands. They are built differently for men's clothes. I got a highly recommended book on sewing, and it shows about 4 different waistband contstructions, but not one in the men's style!

I picked up an old used book on kid's clothing (I'm gonna be a great-uncle next year). Even in that book, nearly every photo and the vast number of projects are for girl's clothes.

Serger: A "good serger" doesn't have to cost more than $200, if all you need is 3 or 4 thread overlocking. Brother's machine, sold by Amazon for $200, is easy to use. The only reason to go higher is if you want a cover stich (which is desireable).

Kwiksew patterns: I concur with the good opinion. The patterns are also printed on a more normal kind of paper than the infernally delicate tissue the big companies use. The instructions are very well writen.

There are lots of great resources for sewing information on the internet (just in case you want to sew up some information). It's a good time to take this up. (email in profile if you want to discuss)

Beware: in fabric stores in the states, the women working there will assume you are "waiting for your wife" so, speak up! Contrary to the poltically correct view, women are as sexist as men, just no one calls them on it. Well, that was my experience in California, in the 80's, the first time I tried to take up sewing.

In all fairness: Women need more varied wardrobes than men, and women has more curves to deal with. So it makes sense that there is more written on the topic. And I can see that anyone who wants to get creative with sewing will end up wanting to sew for women, as there is far more oppurtunity for doing interesting things.
posted by Goofyy at 12:59 AM on November 28, 2006


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