Sewing and fashion courses in London
Find classes to learn the art of sewing, stitching, knitting, craft and more
It’s fun, economical and satisfying – take control of your wardrobe with London’s best sewing and craft classes. Photography Louise Haywood-Schiefer. Reviews by Katie Dailey, Danielle Goldstein, Abigail Lelliot, Tessa Griffith and Zena Alkayat.
Time Out tested fashion and sewing courses
Morning Mighty Stitch£20, Laura Lees Studios, 53 Vicars Rd, NW5 4NN
Learning embroidery from Laura Lees is a bit like being taught the piano by Chopin. Her entire career has been spent stitching her trademark anarchic emblems over textiles – including on her own eponymous fashion line, custom denim jackets for Katie Grand at The Face, and racy accessories for erotic boutique Coco de Mer. But being in the presence of a sewing-machine master couldn’t feel less intimidating. The studio where Laura held our class was a bright, welcoming jumble of bags of fabric, racks of threads, trays of pastries and even a toddler clambering under worktables.
We started by choosing fabrics to stitch on to a garment of our choice. Laura encouraged us to draw and cut shapes with which to appliqué, demonstrated how to thread the needles and wind the bobbins, and then we were off, straight on to the machines, sewing our own names and practising different stitches. Even the total beginners were rattling away on a machine within minutes, and Laura was relaxed about our many tangled threads, machine jams and complete balls-ups (at one point, I managed to sew the back of my dress to the front, which Laura helped me sort with an unconvincing ‘Oh, I do that all the time!’).
This isn’t a class for the prissy – Laura believes you learn by doing rather than listening, and darts between work stations to supervise and encourage (‘That’s gorgeous!’ she exclaimed when I showed her my dreadful work). The whole experience was riotously enjoyable, so much so that learning a new skill extremely quickly was almost a bonus. But learn you do: I left feeling so confident with a machine I’m considering buying one.
The Morning Mighty Stitch is a drop-in class which includes coffee and pastries. Children welcome. (www.themightystitch.blogspot.co.uk).
£35 (£60 for two), 70-72 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 4HS
My ‘reconstruction’ class (intended to demonstrate how to turn an old T-shirt into a new, stretchy miniskirt) took place above the textile recycling charity Traid’s Kilburn store, in a cute little workshop I would never have known was there. Stacks of fabric lined the shelves, and five sewing machine stations were fixed to the walls in plain view – so I quickly abandoned all hopes of hiding at the back of the class.
There were only three people in my session, which meant we got a lot of attention from our teacher Sara. She let us choose a secondhand T-shirt, and then talked us through the conversion process. After introducing us to the basics of sewing-machine skills, she demonstrated how to lop off sleeves and labels to make a skirt-like shape, and then stitch it all back together. From threading the bobbin on the machine to measuring myself and cutting my soon-to-be skirt, I didn’t once feel lost – which is good, considering I arrived a total beginner. The session costs a flat fee of £35, there are no costs for material (you’re encouraged to bring your own T-shirts), and all funds go towards Traid’s projects to stop injustices in the textile industry.
The advertised two hours weren’t enough to complete our skirts – we ran over by a good 40 minutes and didn’t get round to adding hidden pockets. But we did manage to each make a simple miniskirt with an elasticated waistband. Considering none of us could even use a sewing machine at the start of the lesson, we all left quite pleased with ourselves.
Traid hosts a varied programme of classes (from laptop bag-making to ‘reworking your wardrobe’ sessions) for all levels. (8733 2591/ firstname.lastname@example.org).
Silversmithing: Make a Ring£97.50, The Papered Parlour, 7 Prescott Place, SW4 6BS
Clapham’s Papered Parlour is found down a quiet street, and buzzes with creative activity. The spacious workshop has been lovingly renovated by owners Claire and Louise using found and vintage objects, giving the space a homely vibe without it feeling contrived. On my visit, the adjoining open studio housed a collection of arty folk, beavering away on their own projects, and looking very much at home.
My course was run by the very knowledgeable Lara Mathers, who got into silversmithing after doing a course at City Lit. First she let me decide which ring I fancied, and took my finger measurement. Lara then took me through the various stages of making the ring, from annealing (heating and softening) the silver, to shaping and then soldering. I decided to add texture to my ring by using a small hammer to create indents, and I oxidised it using sulphuric acid to turn the silver black. I then polished it up to give a slightly worn, vintage look to the metal.
The course demonstrates many of the basic processes and tools needed to make anything in silver– which can be transferred to other types of jewellery. This is a really enjoyable class: the team were friendly and informative, with pots of tea and biscuits to keep everyone going. The classes take nine people with two tutors, and all the tools and equipment you need (soldering irons, silver etc) are included.
The class is five hours long, and the cost includes all materials and refreshments. The Papered Parlour has a full timetable of classes on its website. (7627 8703/ www.thepaperedparlour.co.uk).
‘Provisional Driving’: learn to sew and use a sewing machine£30, Fabrications, 7 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
Barley Massey runs Fabrications, a haberdashery and craft shop on Broadway Market which has recently been overhauled to make room for sewing classes. Beneath her retail space is now a workshop with box-fresh new machines and cutting tables.
We started off with bits of fabric to practise our machine skills, with the gently encouraging Barley supervising. After a few minutes working our way through different zig-zags and running stitches, we chose some fabric with which to make a skirt. I went with a vintage tie material in Easyjet orange, and Barley showed me how to first hem it, to prevent fraying, and then cut my cloth to a pattern.
To my surprise, even the laborious process of measuring and cutting pieces was brilliant fun – there is something very satisfying about seeing a piece of clothing evolve by your own hand. The next steps involved gradually straight-stitching my hemmed pieces together in a skirt-like shape. The odd mishap notwithstanding (one of my panels was upside down, and my zig-zags looked like a drunkard’s footprints), my skirt came together beautifully over the course of the morning.
Amazingly, by lunchtime I was not only newly confident in my cutting and machining skills, but I had a little tulip-style skirt to take home, all of my own design and making, as well as a deeper understanding of just how much work goes into even the simplest garment. I have a new respect for the straight seams on a £5 top from the high street, which makes cheap clothes seem an increasingly guilty pleasure.
The class lasts three hours, and the price includes fabric for a skirt. Fabrications runs a programme of creative craft classes for all levels. (7275 8043/ www.fabrications1.co.uk).
Make a fascinator at a ‘Recipe Book’ class£50, Atelier Millinery, Kingly Court, off Carnaby St, W1B 5PW
My course started out with tea and a browse of eight ‘recipes’: essentially templates for different fascinator styles. I opted for a less-than-subtle floral ‘Tina’, named after a staffer. Director Georgina gave us a brief introduction to millinery, then let us loose in the shop to buy our materials. As well as new trimmings, there are wonderful vintage bits and bobs to choose, and the class fee also allows 20 per cent off everything. My chosen pieces – two large vintage flowers, ribbon and some pale grey veiling – came in at a reasonable £20.
After selecting our wares we got down to the business of ruching veils and curling plumes under Georgina’s watchful eye. She’s a fantastic teacher, allowing creative urges to run wild but somehow nudging all of the creations into wearable pieces. In my group there were two young ladies making architectural fascinators for Ascot, a solicitor stitching together red ostrich feathers with black veiling, and a glamorous mother-of-the- groom making headgear to matchher wedding outfit. We all loved the class, and left mad about hatting.
The beginner’s course lasts three hours, and requires very basic sewing skills. Check the website for upcoming course dates. (7734 3848/ www.atelier-millinery.com).