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Feb 26, 2014

FIT Class #5: The Challenge of Unlearning Old Habits



Practice Makes Perfect.  Or does it?

 As Michael's former voice teacher, the late Cornelius Reid, used to say, "practice makes permanent."  What that means is, be careful what you do (and how you do it), because whatever you practice will become your habit.

This applies to sewing too.  It's great to practice, but only provided you have good technique.  Practicing lousy technique is just going to cement that technique in your head (and hands).

In last night's menswear sewing class, we worked on collar stands and collars, using a number of methods whose value was immediately obvious to me.  The challenge now is to unlearn what I've been doing for nearly five years.

In class we call this the band.  I'd read that it's a band only when there's no collar; otherwise it's a stand. Clearly there's no consensus about this.

I exaggerate.  There's nothing wrong with my method of attaching collar and collar stand, which I learned from the Margaret Islander video, Shirts, Etc., and which I explain in great detail here.  But I can see that the method taught in my menswear sewing class is probably more precise.  I won't go through the whole process here, but it involves the more traditional way of fitting the attached collar bands (with the collar wedged in between) onto the neck edge.  (Also stitching up (the width of the seam allowance) the side that's going to fit on the outside of the neck edge.

Speaking of collar bands, something I've found potentially confusing -- not to me so much as (I imagine) to others, is the use of the terms right side and wrong side.  In class, we use it to mean not only the side of the fabric you don't want facing out, but also the inside of a finished cuff or the underside of a collar.  I asked about this last night and Professor B. replied that he could see why it might be confusing but he had never heard them referred to in any other way.  In home sewing, I have always seen the part of the cuff that's facing inward called the inside cuff and the part of the collar that's facing down, the under collar (same with inside collar stand).   Am I wrong about this?

We also talked about buttons.  We learned that you can tell a real mother of pearl button by holding it next to your skin. It should feel cool.

We've been starting our weekly classes by copying instructions for whatever we're learning that day off the blackboard, along with accompanying diagrams.  This takes time, but it does help to cement the ideas in your head.   We review them together, and Professor B. demonstrates to us, step-by-step, how to perform them, usually adding some extra pointers along the way.  (Like pinning starting at either end of a seam, then pinning your center, and then sub-dividing each side to evenly distribute ease.  Or ironing in the direction you stitch.)



My big takeaway from last night's class was marking the corner that will become the collar point with chalk (or pencil) BEFORE you stitch your two collar sides (right sides together) -- i.e, marking the seam allowance on both edges with a focus on the point where they intersect). That point is very important and it's very helpful to have those traced lines when you're stitching (also, narrow the stitch length).  Another helpful hint: as you turn the corner, stitch one angled stitch and then turn the corner all the way.  That one stitch helps to create space for the trimmed seam allowance when you turn your collar right side out.

Anyway, here's my collar -- not perfect as you can see; I'm not sewing at my best at 8:30 at night, especially when I'm feeling rushed.  The two I make for homework (along with attached collar stand) will look better I'm sure. 



The edge isn't quite straight.


I didn't push out the seam well before ironing.

Will I change my method of attaching collar and collar stand to my shirts from the one I've been using up until now?  I probably will.  I've already incorporated the cuff technique (very similar to the collar band technique, actually) and it has helped me to create a cleaner-looking cuff.

Readers, that's all for now.  (Maybe after the class is over I can offer a "New & Improved" shirt sew-along!)

Next week: sleeve plackets.

Have a great day, everybody!

35 comments:

  1. Wow! ...wish I could take that class!

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  2. Sounds like the class was totally worthwhile after your initial doubts!

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  3. I would definitely be interested in a "new-and-improved" shirt sew-along! :)

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  4. I love learning from your class!

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  5. Thanks for the tips! I love making shirts. Looking forward to plackets, they are what give me the most challenge.
    The method that works for me: decrease my stitch less than a half inch from the corner, turn at an angle to corner, take 3 tiny stitches across the point, turn again, stitch a half inch again, then increase back to normal stitch length. I trim my seams closer at the corners. This always gives me a beautiful point to my collars.

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    1. That's essentially what we're doing. It seems to help!

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  6. Love reading your FIT class updates, I want to meet Professor B someday! I think a new and improved shirt sew along would be great. :)

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  7. I am super fascinated by your class posts. Keep 'em coming please!!

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  8. p.s. I'm fascinated that the instructor has you using pins in class as I thought (based off of Janet Pray's Craftsy class) that industry does not use pins.

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  9. Admittedly I don't sew shirts, but I've always used the term undercollar and inside of cuff. But, honestly, right and wrong are simpler in some ways. It's always the non public side. It's amazing what a good class can do for your sewing! I might even do a shirt sew along, but sew a shirt for Seth which I've never done. I very selfishly mostly sew for myself.

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  10. Sigh... still jealous because I don't have any hope of taking that class. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a sew-along though!

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  11. You have to remember that english is generally not the primary language spoken by stitchers in a factory so terminology needs to be very simple. Fancy words don't always serve their purpose.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your class experience. I am learning many things.

    Also, you have really nice handwriting. =)

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  13. I've heard 'perfect practice makes perfect'. I really look forward to your class recaps.

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  14. I would love a a new and improved shirt sew along!!

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  15. My Scuba instructor always said "PERFECT practice makes perfect" and it stuck with me. You're so right about habit - better to start out with good ones!

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  16. I'll do the sew a long with you!!! YaY!!!! Brings back old tailoring class memories!

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  17. Yes, I imagine an up-dated shirt sew-along would be VERY popular. It is especially interesting to see side-by-side comparisons of techniques with a discussion of the advantages of each. Clearly there is almost always more than one way to skin a . . . ok, I won't go there, I'm a cat lover.

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  18. Yes, very true indeed, practice makes perfect! Someday i'm going to make a qipao with perfect standing collar... still practicing though..

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  19. Thanks for keeping us updated. Very curious to see how you integrate these updated techniques in your future makes.

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  20. Please do a "new and improved shirt sew along".
    I have sewed a men's shirt for myself using a carftsy course, but I will benefit so much from another sew along of yours.

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  21. Yes, yes! New and improved shirt sew-along please! I love these posts.

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  22. When I was in college I had to take a calculus class. i didn't mind because I had taken calculus in high school and had excelled in it. But I was steadily pulling down B's when I wanted A's. finally I realized that I was trying to relearn what I already knew. I started working problems the way I knew and started getting A's. the professor asked me (and some others) to come to the board and work the same problem. I used my method and got the correct answer. He asked why I worked the problem that way. I said because it's the way I knew and I always come out with the right answer when I use my method.

    My point in sharing this with you is unless you plan on teaching this taught method or having a career in Fashion Education, why do you need to reinvent the wheel? If you already know how to do a procedure, and it works in your hands, don't doubt your abilities. Your professor was probably school taught and never home sewed.

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    1. Some like to investigate new methods. It's inaccurate to portray that as doubt in one's abilities or reinvention of the wheel.

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    2. I've taken the class and I know the teacher. He learned to sew as a child. His babysitter taught him. One day, when I think he was around nine, his older sister came home frustrated about her home economics project. He told her he could finish it, put the dress under the machine and completed it. This is described in an article on the web. I would link to it, but Peter is (wisely and tactfully) creating some distance while a student in the class.

      Many students enter FIT with significant sewing experience. Sometimes they have to learn new skills or relearn old methods. Peter's teacher is an FIT alum and doubtless learned plenty when he started. Even from class to class skills are taught differently, reflecting the teacher's experience. That's why it's important to take good notes.

      In the past, I've urged Peter to take this class at FIT because I knew he'd get so much out of it. I'm delighted he's enjoying it.

      I always recognized he was good but if he had entered the class and done everything perfectly from the start I would have to kill myself. :-)

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  23. I've always heard/used inside cuff and undercollar, and I find that a lot less confusing that right- and wrong-side, since those are also used for sides of the fabric. I don't think doubling up on terminology is ever a very good idea.

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  24. Where I teach, we use under and upper collar to distinguish one from the other. And I'd love an updated shirt sew-along, if you'd be willing to share some of the tips you've learned.

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  25. Sounds like the class is worth every penny.

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  26. Looooove reading about your sewing class experience! And, yes, yes, yes, please a "new and improved" shirt sew-along. I love making shirts myself and have tried various shirt and cuff attaching techniques over the years. Always keen to learn more and see how others are doing it.

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  27. I love the downloads on your class. Keep em coming!

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  28. Enjoying reading your posts on the class; I wish I could take it!

    I would love to do an updated shirt sew-a-long when you are done with the class and have time to put it together.

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  29. I am curious to know how your instructor advised to turn the collar point. Was there a special tool or technique?

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    1. Just to flip it keeping both seam allowances between your fingers. Also to use a point presser (gently) and then to press it making sure the seam rolls slightly under (so it's not exposed from the right side).

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