My name is Wendy, and I make my living as an attorney, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I’ve yet to complete an entire garment in the couture manner. I’m working on a French jacket, and I do incorporate some couture techniques in my sewing, so Couture Counsellor isn’t really a stretch.
Unlike most women of my generation, I didn’t take home ec in school. My elective was orchestra. I learned to cook from my mother, but the only sewing my mother did was to turn up a hem or replace a button, and always under protest.
The summer I turned 13, I talked my parents into a six-week class at the Singer Sewing Center. I’ve always been about practical solutions to problems and I was convinced that sewing lessons would solve an issue I had with fit. My body had developed pear-shaped contours. I was of average weight with a really small waist and what I then considered terribly big hips and tush. I had no idea there were boys who found that attractive, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, ready-to-wear pants that fit over my hips stood out a mile from my waist, so I just had to learn to sew, right?
I struggled in the class and fell behind (I’m still the world’s slowest sewist), but the teacher took pity on me and gave me extra time to finish my dress. That was the only sewing class I took for more than 40 years. After the class, a friend of my parents loaned me a sewing machine and I proceeded to take in the waist of pants patterns, without any instruction or any thought to whether there might be a right way and wrong way to make pattern adjustments. My 16th birthday present from my parents was a Singer Touch ‘n Sew machine with all the bells and whistles (drop-in bobbin! cams that can make decorative stitches!). I loved that machine, which made several cross-country moves, sewed togas for my entire sorority house, altered a gown from my mother for me to wear to a formal, made a bridesmaid’s dress for my sister, waited for me to get through law school, sewed parts of my work wardrobe once I started practicing law (including some suits that would make a tailor cringe) and endured years in a closet after that, only to be taken out for brief bursts of creative ambition.
During my last brief foray into sewing, I recognized that my skills left a great deal to be desired. I put my machine back in the closet for what I was sure was the last time and turned my creative energy to writing.
During a particularly difficult period of my life, when I became a family caregiver for the second time, I started thinking about sewing again. My body had become a much larger pear and I was dressing in shapeless black knits. I knew I would need to find a way to deal with a whole new set of fit issues and I’d need classes to elevate my skills. This was before the Internet became the rich resource for sewing education that it is now. Tailoring classes were non-existent anywhere close to where I lived and the only sewing classes I could find nearby were for beginners. After some false starts, I found ways to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of sewing, improve my skills (a process that is continuing), and, most astonishingly, achieve a fit that is flattering. I’m even learning patternmaking and doing some designing for myself.
Along the way, I became active in the American Sewing Guild, started a neighborhood group of ASG called Sew Chicago, became active in the Haute Couture Club of Chicago and made fabulous new friends who are also passionate about creating beautiful clothes.
When I started Sew Chicago, I worried that I didn’t know enough to teach anyone else. But I figured that with enough research, preparation and practice, I could master techniques well enough to teach them. That turned out to be true and I discovered I enjoy sharing my knowledge with other sewists. That’s when I got the bug to combine two passions—sharing what I’ve learned about sewing and design and writing—in a blog.
So, here we are. I hope you enjoy reading this blog and that you will let me know what you think.