I need clothing alteration skills.
May 15, 2008 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Where can I learn the necessary skills to do clothing alterations professionally? I am a fairly skilled sewer and I'm smart enough to figure out how to do basic stuff (changing hems, replacing zippers, etc.); all I need is someone or something to show me how to do the more complicated alterations. I think I could enjoy that line of work. However, try as I might, I can't seem to find a resource to teach me these things (and I already checked the local university and technical college).
posted by nataliedanger to Work & Money (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I like the Real Fit for Real People books. They might be a good start. You could practice on your friends and yourself and study the techniques.

You might want to look into sewing lessons in your city. I used to take lessons with a talented seamstress that taught all levels of sewing. She owned an alteration shop and we took lessons there. The more lessons you take with a talented person, the more you will learn about fit and alterations.

You also might want to look into classes at PatternReview. They frequently have classes that cover alterations.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:19 AM on May 15, 2008

I realize now that the Real Fit for Real People books may not be the best choice for you since you would like to alter RTW. They still would be a valuable recource because they go over many alteration techniques.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:22 AM on May 15, 2008

Does your community center have continuing education classes? If there's a sewing or tailoring class, I don't necessarily recommend taking it, as it's likely to be fairly basic, but get the name of the instructor and contact them. They might be interested in giving you more advanced private lessons.
posted by boomchicka at 6:42 AM on May 15, 2008

My mother can make almost anything on a sewing machine with professional results (She made my sister's prom dresses in high school, for example; she graduated from this program, albeit in the 1950's. There are similar programs elsewhere, but you don't state your location so I do not know if one is close to you. Contacting the faculty at a school that teaches fashion design/textiles might be helpful.
posted by TedW at 7:38 AM on May 15, 2008

I would suggest an old-fashioned apprenticeship at a dry cleaner or tailor nearby which does alterations. If you have the basics down, you should have marketable skills.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2008

I was also going to suggest an apprenticeship. It seems far more likely to me that you'd learn this trade far better at the feet of a master than in a college course. YOu would need to negotiate as to whether you'd pay tuition (it's probably wise to be willing) or trade work for instruction (cleanup, grunt work, clerking, assisting) and how long the term of instruction would be. It would make sense to strike a written agreement as to what the skilled person would provide and in return for what from you.

Where to look? Start by checking listings for alterations in your area and see if you can gravitate toward the high end. Places I can think of that do a lot of alterations:

-bridal shops
-tuxedo shops
-high-end department stores and designer shops
-museums with a living history or theatre component
-professional or community theatre costume shops

(these last 2 being more likely to concentrate on period costume, but since costume work usually employs a greater range of skills than contemporary alteration on machine-made garments, you might learn a lot more).

Good luck!
posted by Miko at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2008

I'm seconding the apprenticeship idea, but I'd go for something more personal (one-on-one with an established seamstress). For instance, in my community there are a handful of women who advertise their alteration services in the newspaper. A couple of them are quite elderly and I'll bet they would love an opportunity to teach their skills to someone younger. Check your own newspaper and call some seamstresses to see if they'd be willing to be your mentor/teacher. I'm sure they would charge less than a college class, and you'd learn a lot more.
posted by amyms at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2008

You don't say where you live, but The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco is awesome.
posted by radioamy at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2008

When I was 17 I did a Clothing Production Cert 3 (well most of one - don't ask) and it was awesome! They never taught me any 'alteration' stuff as such but they really went into all the facets of clothing construction - which funnily enough, lends itself really well to alterations.

I LIVE for clothing reconstructions. A sewing machine fell out of the sky last year and it's been my favorite form of artistic expression since! (If you want to pick my brains or any help with something in the meantime let me know.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 9:59 AM on May 15, 2008

I would suggest checking at your local sewing store for classes. The Jo-ann's near me has sewing classes up to the advanced level. The staff there as well might have some suggestions for you.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 5:59 PM on May 15, 2008

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