A couple of weeks ago–okay, it was January 15–I was searching the Threads magazine website for a clever technique of Kenneth King’s that I’d used for cutting ravelly fabric when I stopped dead in my tracks. I read the announcement, probably just minutes old, of the release of his new DVD set, Smart Tailoring.
Forget ravelly fabric! Five-plus hours of instruction by Kenneth King on the topic that most haunts my sewing dreams? I had to learn more right away.
I must have watched the 36-second video of him in that dapper bow tie describing his “old school” and “new school” approaches to tailoring half a dozen times. The thought that I could produce more consistently well constructed jackets and coats under his tutelage sent my heart soaring.
I had recently looked into taking a tailoring course at the local college of art and design, but the $3600 price tag was a little hard to swallow. So when Taunton’s advertising copy compared this set to a professional course, taught by someone with a long record of caring about quality, seeking to understand the “why” behind the “how” of construction techniques, and explaining processes clearly to ambitious amateurs like me, my decision was made.
So the morning of January 15 I ordered Smart Tailoring. The afternoon of January 17 I came home from errands to find the set in the day’s mail. After dinner I started watching Disc 1.
Over the next several days I watched the 331 minutes of Smart Tailoring with rapt attention. I understood almost everything Kenneth explained and demonstrated, which was very encouraging.
Even more encouraging was something I could not have predicted. While watching Kenneth hand-basting or manipulating the fabric, I was absentmindedly rubbing my fingers and right thumb together as if I were plying that needle or handling that wool along with him! If that wasn’t a sign that I should get cracking on a tailoring project, I don’t know what is.
In my optimistic mood I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to make one jacket trying Kenneth King’s “old school” tailoring techniques and another jacket trying his “new school” techniques?
It certainly would, I answered.
So what pattern would I use for the “old school” jacket?
Since Kenneth demos sleeve vents and a back vent, that suggested McCall 4065, from 1941, the “Misses’ Mannish Jacket.” I’ve sewn four jackets from this pattern, and they fit and are very comfortable.
For the “new school” jacket, I have a number of contenders that have the required notched collar. I love them all but have been intimidated by the prospect of the usual suspects:
- fitting and altering the pattern
- choosing the right interfacings
- …have I left anything out?
Because, although I have taken classes and private lessons, laid in a supply of excellent tailoring books and DVDs (once a librarian always a librarian), and diligently worked on my own with occasional very good results…
I remain a tailoring scaredy cat. True.
I continue to look longingly at my jacket and coat patterns and think I just don’t know enough yet to turn them into real, living garments on my own. A well made, well fitting jacket or coat is no fluke–it takes skill, and a lot of judgment calls that the books never say enough about for my taste.
I know, I have myself to blame, too. Even though I sewed three of the “mannish jackets” in one big project, (two of them plaids, all of them with different pocket types), and the jacket on this home page, which appeared in the Reader’s Closet feature in the July-August 2012 Threads magazine I didn’t go on to practice my budding skills regularly. I was too exhausted.
However, the flames of my jacket- and coat-making desires seem to be inextinguishable. They may smoulder for a while, but the embers flare up again when I see an announcement of a class (Tailoring With Savile Row Tailors, anyone?) or–a DVD set by a really good teacher like Kenneth King. When I find my hands holding and pinning an imaginary jacket front along with a video, it’s time to give tailoring–and myself–another chance.
And this time, I promise myself, it will be different. I have a different goal this time.
This time, my goal is not to produce jackets–or, what I really mean is, not only jackets.
My ultimate goal is to make tailoring Not A Big Deal.
Oh, tailoring will continue to require time, attention, and effort. But I want the way I look at making a jacket to be the way I look at making Thanksgiving dinner, which I happen do pretty well. (Thank you, cooking school.) Homemade stock, homemade bread for the stuffing, homemade gravy, homemade pie crust and pie, homemade ice cream, a turkey roasted to perfection, vegetable sides…all of which turned out fine last time, according to my guests.
I simply planned and executed. A good Thanksgiving dinner was well within my capabilities. It took effort, but it wasn’t a struggle.
It was not a big deal.
A couple of days after I received Smart Tailoring, I wandered over to Kenneth King’s website. I knew he occasionally taught a class or two in the Midwest, my part of the country. Indianapolis, was it?
I stopped dead in my tracks–again–when I saw that Kenneth will be visiting Cleveland this summer to teach his tailoring techniques in a two-day class. Janie’s Sewing Corner, where the class will take place, is just a 15-minute drive from in-laws with an open invitation to stay.
You can guess what I did. July 25 and 26 will find me in a sewing classroom in Cleveland, Ohio, with either a heap of jackets or a heap of tailoring questions for Kenneth King. Preferably both.
And that will be a big deal.