At a table lined with sewing machines and a mix of fabric scraps, students carefully piece together pinned garments, chatting over the hum of dancing needles, then look to the instructor as she shows them how to attach sleeve to bodice. The scene may conjure nostalgia for an old-school home economics lesson, but this is far from a retro high school class guiding girls in domestic savvy.
Knitwear designer and Irish ex-pat Sinead Clarke leads the The Green Seam, a sewing school and studio within Irish Design House, where you can sit down for one-on-one or small-group classes to learn the skills and techniques of sewing. Patterns, textiles and stitching are second nature to Clarke who, along with partner Benny Corrigan, runs the Queen East shop known for its showcase of Ireland's rich knits and high-quality fashion, decor and homewares. Her school within the shop is becoming the go-to for making your own garments in a creative, social outlet.
Don't call it a comeback. Sewing has been around for thousands of years, but it faded into the background for a generation hooked on mass-produced styles. It's made an emphatic resurgence in the last few years as awareness of ethical issues combined with the popularity of DIY culture has inspired renewed interest in making and customizing clothes rather than just shopping for them.
"Trends come and go and at the moment I feel that upcycling, repurposing and altering your own clothing is very popular," Clarke says. "To do these things, you need to know basic sewing skills..
There's also the practical side of sewing. Who wants to spend $20 to have a button re-attached? And Clarke believes there's a growing number of socially conscious people who no longer see the value of purchasing an overpriced T-shirt when they can make it themselves.
"People are becoming more aware of where things come from in the world, whether it's our food or our shoes or our clothing," she says. "There are so many big brands that mass produce items and may not all be ethical so to understand the process of garment making is more on people's minds, then we can appreciate the trade."
Whether it's a quick hem or lengthy couture hand sewing, you can learn all the skills necessary to sew and make your own clothing and textiles. Students learn cut-and-sew techniques in class, such as making patterns, choosing fabrics and stiching garments to life.
Never put needle to thread before? The Green Seam has designed a 10-hour beginners workshop — for those with little or even no experience — that offers a broad introduction to sewing and becoming comfortable making garments.
"You will learn how to thread and use your sewing machine, learn how to do button holes, seams and hems," she says. "Then we design something simple and create a paper pattern for it. We cut this out of fabric and use the skills learned to sew this item together. I will also show you how to hem your jeans, fix a hole in a shirt and other simple alterations that you can put into practice at home."
The school offers one-on-one teaching so that you can learn at your own pace and have lots of fun doing so, Clarke says, adding that some students opt for T-shirts, while others have made wool mittens.
Classes can be booked from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. In May, The Green Seam will also be offering Saturday drop-in times for those who are looking for a studio and machines to design, create patterns and sew.
Since sewing can be a bit of a lone-wolf sport, The Green Seam is the perfect spot to hunker down inside a creative atmosphere with the opportunity to bounce ideas off of fellow sewers and designers.
Click here to book the Saturday Sewing Class for Beginners.