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Mar 26, 2014

FIT Class #9 -- OUTED



As much as I've been enjoying my menswear sewing class, I've always thought it strange that I've never been asked about my sewing experience by Professor B.

I often feel self-conscious about this in class, which is geared to elementary sewers, though there are other students who have sewing experience (and other FIT classes) under their belt.  Since it's never been brought up, I assumed it's because Professor B. either didn't care or simply doesn't value home sewing.  Obviously I'm enjoying the class and I'm learning new things, but if truth be told, I could have learned them in much less time.

Yesterday's class was another review of what we've covered earlier.  One thing that was new was how to prepare the shoulder seam of a sleeve before attaching it, flat, to the armscye.  With the right side of the sleeve facing up, we folded the shoulder edge down (i.e., toward the right side of the fabric) 1/4", edgestitched at the fold, and then trimmed away the excess.  That's as far as we got, however.  We spent the rest of the class reviewing sleeve plackets and how to attach the placket to an actual shirt sleeve.

And then we got to talking about ready-to-wear shirt production and, on the front of a men's shirt, simple turnback plackets vs. folded-and-tucked plackets (the kind I usually make, which I learned is called a French placket), vs. an attached placket, created using a separate strip of fabric.  Professor B. talked about commercial shirts and -- in answer to a question I'd asked as well as related queries from others -- what kind of plackets we could expect at different price levels.  Apparently shirts of very expensive fabric often have simple turnback plackets because they show off the fabric better.  But since they require that a wider piece of fabric be cut, they're more expensive to produce even though they're simpler looking.  The attached placket requires the least fabric (since strips can be cut out of smaller pieces elsewhere on the bolt) but the most labor.  These days the cost of labor is cheaper than the cost of fabric, however. 

Then, as we're all standing around the front table, Professor B. asks a few people about the shirts they're wearing, to show how certain fabric layouts save money (or don't) in production.  He turns to me and says, Where'd you buy your shirt?





I was wearing my plaid pleated shirt (above) from last month.  At first I didn't know what to say: I felt put on the spot and I'm sure I blushed.  A second passed but it felt like a minute.  Finally I answered somewhat awkwardly,  I made it.  Without skipping a beat, he then asks, well if you were going to buy a shirt like that, where would you go, and I say, I don't know, Bloomingdales.  And then he moves on to talking more about price points, manufacturing processes, computer-generated layouts -- the whole class was fascinated by all this, much to his surprise since he'd intended to keep reviewing our sleeve placket techniques.

I'm not entirely sure why I felt so uncomfortable in that moment.  Nobody said anything bad to me; actually, two other students had just complemented me on the shirt earlier.  Did I fear some would wonder why I was there, or think I didn't belong?  Everybody has been very nice to me.  Did I fear Professor B. would feel I'd tricked him?  I didn't originally choose this class, I was told to take it if I wanted to take more advanced classes.  I guess I would have liked Professor B. to have asked us all about our sewing experience (if any) from the get-go, so I wouldn't feel like I was harboring a secret.



He now also knows I sewed up the size Small shirt pattern he gave me last week and, when I asked him if he minded if I altered it, he said he'd be happy to help me with any adjustments to make it fit better.  I'd like that, as well as any additional special assignments he could give me to enrich my experience.  My hope is that Professor B. -- who has never seemed less than 100% committed -- wouldn't have a problem with that.

Readers, can you understand why I've felt weird up about all this -- and now relieved?

For next week, we're to cut out the rest of our pattern pieces and necessary interfacing; I guess we'll get to attaching sleeves next week -- that's something we didn't cover earlier since the dickey had no sleeves.

Have a great day, everybody!

51 comments:

  1. Its perfectly normal to feel like that. I find it really hard to explain to people what I do when they don't know and are trying to talk to me about stitching. Its hard not to feel as though you are pulling rank (not that you are), but also I would hate for people to be put off carrying on a discussion when they realise the level of my expertise and experience.

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    1. Exactly: I want to fit in; I DO like being there. But I'm not a newbie either.

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  2. I totally understand. When I took patternmaking classes at FIT I felt weird saying I was a home sewer. Most people in my class were either fashion students or worked in the industry (most were technical designers and a couple samplemakers). My assumption was they would think to themselves, "Why are YOU here?" I had one teacher who asked me repeatedly if I worked in the industry, which I think was a complement to my work, but I was embarrassed to say no, I didn't, I'm just doing this for fun.

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  3. I'm a Professor (retired). I always asked student to give a little of their background, on the first day of class. Prof.B didn't. He's an experienced teacher, so he probably had a reason. You might ask him, privately. Do you know or sense, that any other students have your expertise?

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  4. I totally understand. To move into my current position, I had to take a class on public speaking and presentation; having started out wanting to be famous (since I can't say I really and the artistic drive to be a great actor), I've had a lot of stage and performance experience, as well as a lot of teaching and general speechifying. It was odd to sit there, having to spend, for example, a day prepping for a Four-Minute Speech on a Topic of Your Choice, when I'm used to doing half-an-hour on the fly. But, as you're finding, you do find value in the discipline of it, which can make it worth while. And, if nothing else - when you're done, you'll be officially (as well as actually) qualified for the advanced courses!

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  5. When this class is finished the Prof might ask for ideas from all of you for improvement of the class. That is when you might offer that he could ask about home sewing level of expertise of all students. As you leave the class for the last time you might want to hand him one of your blog cards? And encourage him to visit and post on your blog, Moods Site, Pattern Reviews site. Home sewing has increased dramatically in the last few years, and the modern home machines abilities are mind boggling now ... surely he's aware of that.

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    1. There sometimes is an anonymous evaluation distributed at the end of classes but I don't think that tenured professors like Prof. B. have to do it unless they want to. He did distribute it the year I took the class.

      He reviews the homework every week so he can tell how you're doing. He doesn't need to know your experience. After the first week, he told two people who had professional experience that they could skip the next two classes if they wanted until the rest of the class caught up. If you've been working in the industry, sewing on an industrial every day for 10, 15 years of course you're going to be more advanced. I once took a tailoring class with a classmate who had 20 years' of professional experience. That was depressing. But he did give me advice when I asked for it. He was at FIT because he wanted the degree so he could teach.

      I've taken classes at FIT and Parsons and the teachers have never cared about home sewing. At Parsons, I once asked a teacher her opinion of duct tape forms and she looked at me as if I were from Mars. She's never heard of it, and thought it sounded like a ridiculous waste of time.

      There's a certain amount of snobbery that all professionals have towards amateurs, but also many home sewers think they know more than they actually do.

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    2. FIT and probably Parsons have less-intense classes for people who are interested primarily in home sewing. They are non-credit, shorter, more expensive, and less of a good value. They are often taught by full-time Fashion Design teachers so the instruction is excellent.

      The credit classes, on the other hand, are for people who want to be trained in industry-style sewing methods, even if it's just for the design background.

      Prof. B. is the most home-sewer friendly teacher I've had, in the sense that he will give you a certain amount of help in modifying your pattern if you still will be using the skills the curriculum is supposed to cover. But the teachers there do not pander to home sewers.

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  6. I've taken that class with Prof. B. There were complete beginners and also people who were FIT or Bunka graduates who had sewn professionally for companies, had their own businesses, or were in costume maker's unions. Some of them were in the class only because Menswear Sewing is a prerequisite for Tailoring.

    They were so experienced that in the first or second week Prof. B. gave them the placket to sew -- in other words, the were allowed to skip over at least five weeks of more basic assignments -- so they wouldn't get bored.

    He looks at your work and modifies your homework based on what he thinks you can do at the moment. I had a friend in a tailoring class who works as a pattern maker. She never formally took pattern making and happened to take a pattern making class with Prof. B. Because she had so much experience he pushed her; he wouldn't accept the same level of project from her because he knew she could do so much more than the students who were drafting slopers for the first time.

    If you ask him about modifying your pattern he's likely to agree, but he would want to know the plan to ensure it will work. If you're keeping up with the class and sewing well he'll even draft a custom collar for you, but you have to visit him at FIT before the class or on other days when he's there. Just ask him if you can come by.

    If you want to be humbled and awed, look at the work of the full-time Menswear program students in the 2-year program. It's often impeccable and usually is of their own design. They use that classroom and the one next to it.

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  7. SeamsterEast@aol.comMarch 26, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    I understand. You have no way of knowing when or if you have crossed an ego line in the sand.

    Sounds like Prof B is cool. The really good pause a second, nod their head, and rachet up the level of the conversation, happy not to have to measure their words.

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  8. I would have thought that you would be incredibly pleased! Clearly, Prof B thought your shirt was RTW quality and given that he doesn't seem to think highly of home sewers that seems a great compliment, don't you think?

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    1. Yes, for sure, I felt flattered too!

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    2. I'll bet that's why he doesn't ask students to state their level of experience at the outset. If Peter had said, "I'm a home sewer," that doesn't really convey his passion for quality and professionalism or his skill level. There are also probably a lot of students in that class who start out with a vastly inflated opinion of their abilities. By not asking, he saves those fools from embarrassing themselves -- and the quality of each student's work does speak for itself. Good for you that the prof thought your shirt was RTW, Peter -- but I think it's better than Bloomingdale's for sure.

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  9. It sounds like you were worried that you were Jackie Chan showing up at the local YCMA "Intro to Tae Kwon Do for Fitness."
    This class was never a contest, and you aren't some hidden ringer who could spoil it for everyone else, so I don't think your hidden experience should ever be considered a fearsome secret. I can't believe that these classes have never had other students with your experience, albeit not with your wit and flea-market serendipity.
    I think there is some wisdom to teachers not checking out students blogs, facebooks, etc. It prevents them from neurotically following every personal critique levied at them. If teachers knew every comment students made, it would be hard to maintain a cordial, professional environment.

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    1. I don't really understand this post. As I've pointed out above, I've been in classes, including this one, in which there were at least a couple of people with much more experience than Peter, not that Peter isn't talented. But no matter how good you are as a home sewer, there's a difference between having skill and being a professional who took classes and has had to sew on a constant basis for many years. Or has been trained and then tasked with evaluating the work of others that is to be sold.

      How is that controversial?

      I really enjoy the Great British Sewing Bee. But what's interesting is as terrific as the participants are, there are always challenges that require them to sew things they haven't encountered because they don't sew and design for a living.

      As others have said, the goal is to learn and to build on whatever skills with which we entered the class.

      FWIW, Prof. B., although no softie, is not the hardest grader. There are a few people who will not give you an A unless your work is absolutely perfect. So if always getting an A is your only measure of self-worth you will crushed.

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    2. I guess what I was trying to say above (and saying badly) is that I sense some sort of embarrassment/guilt coming from a fear of wrecking the curve for the inexperienced students (like beating up on weaker opponents) and I think that it is unnecessary- it shouldn't be a problem learning along side of talented and experienced sewers. Unless there is a sleeve cuff death-match, in which case the others don't stand a chance against MPB Peter. I wish the RTW stuff in my closet was as well made as the stuff on his blog...

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  10. Yep agree with Anonymous (March 26, 2014 @ 7:01pm) - leave your pride at the door & take home the lessons you want to adopt into your sewing. Don't be so quick to rank your skills against others - guaranteed you're all there for different reasons.

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  11. I completely understand you almost feel as if you are hiding something. Normally a tutor would ask about experience from the get go, couched in terms of why you were taking the class what you expect from it etc. You can relax now he he.

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  12. Don't you think it's weird that he doesn't know your blog? And that you are rather famous? I think that's why you weren't sure what to say.

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  13. I think he noticed the quality of your shirt and wanted to point it out to the students but felt that would not be polite, however if you told them that was different. I think he was complementing you highly without running the risk of your being thought of as teacher's pet.

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  14. Next time: Whip off your shirt like Superman to reveal yourself, caped and masked as Male Pattern Boldness Peter! I relate to what you're feeling, through all skills. Ringers are always found out.
    Jeannie

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  15. Too bad you couldn't have worn the "home sewing is easy" shirt before he knew you had Mad Skillz, to see if anyone thought it was the Comme d' Real Deal. Quit stressing, Peter!

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  16. Your shirt is amazing and you also have every reason to wonder why he hasn't asked about your sewing experience. I'm taking classes right now at Portland Sewing and the teachers have always asked about our experience. Unfortunately I don't sew like you (yet :) ) and my projects look like I belong at the level I'm at. I can't wait to see what your projects look like and hear about the teachers you have in your more advance classes. Carry on Sewing Warrior!

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  17. There's always that weird pause in that situation. It is a conversation never goes well in my experience. Are they going to point out flaws? Say it looks homemade? At least with your class, there won't be any gushing about how you're SO CREATIVE, and further endless-seeming discussion of how the commenter isn't creative, and never will be, while somehow at the same time inferring you're a freak of nature for being creative/skilled.
    I had the opposite experience from what you described in a class. The teacher kept calling me out, "Leigh you don't need to listen, you do this all the time." "Oh you must have done this 100 times." etc. The weird thing is that I haven't. I read magazines, can memorize technique descriptions, understand stuff in 3D, I have sewn some clothes (grandma taught me) but I have not in fact sewn clothing a lot. That's actually why I was in class. I wanted to get better. That whole thing was really really weird. I kept wondering if she thought I was someone else.

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  18. Any experienced teacher will know that students come with a variety of knowledge/background/experience in the subject being taught. Professor B sounds like an excellent teacher with an open mind. Maybe that''s why he didn't ask for background stories.

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    1. Exactly. He can tell from the work you give him and adjusts the assignment accordingly. What if a student says he's a professional, but actually sews like crap (not every designer can sew)? He has to assess your level from what you show him. To be blunt, if he thought Peter was so advanced he didn't need the initial exercises he would have given him a different project or even told him he could skip a couple of weeks when the basic stuff is covered -- I've seen that happen.

      The nice thing about the teacher is that he does try to foster some friendliness in the class. He asked us what we did for a living, he had us organize a party for the last class, etc. I've had classes in which after 15 weeks I knew the names of maybe four people. Everyone was very cold. Whenever I see classmates from Prof. B.'s class they actually smile at me and we have a chat. We all wanted to improve, but the competition was almost entirely with oneself.

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  19. Wow, you are really hung up on this and I guarantee that none of this has entered your professor's mind. It's just not relevant to what he's doing and is of mild interest to him, if at all. Stop worrying about what's inside other people's heads whether it's other students or the professor. I'm sure he will happily provide you with additional insights and/or enrichment projects. He's already done so, not based on who you are and your experience, but how you've performed in his class. Your performance in his class is really the only relevant factor to him. He doesn't judge anyone by their prior experience; in fact, that would not be fair or professional.

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  20. Wow- this post sure brought out a lively conversation! Peter, I understand your reaction and, after all, these are your feelings regardless of what the perception others seem to believe about the classroom situation. They were not there!

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  21. At the age of 38 after sewing for others for 18 years I went back to school to learn factory technique and earn a full degree in Fashion Design but when I reached the required Tailoring class the teacher recognized my experience and asked me to teach the rest of the semester for her...which I did and never even got a free lunch or coffee for it...be glad your Prof didn't make you take his place! Be proud of your background and cool shirts...you make a statement that others only WISH they could pull off!

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  22. Some people might wonder why you'd take an intro class, but it makes sense to me. When you learn to sew on your own, you don't necessarily get the benefit of someone who's been there and done that telling you the tricks they've learned along the way. There are a few things that never occurred to me that came in a Eureka moment much later than I'd have liked.

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  23. Ohla-la, mountains and molehills. But isn't it nice that it interests people enough to discuss it. As a rank amateur, fortunately I don't have to bother about such dilemmas. On a more technical note, I for one, am going to try folding 1/4" and edge stitching the arm shoulder. I prefer attaching the arm flat anyway. Sounds like it will save trimming and folding under for the felled shoulder seam. Cool.

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    1. I still haven't figured out what the next step is!

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    2. And that's the beauty of taking a class. You don't have to figure it out. Professor B will teach you. FIT is for learning. Your blog
      is for teaching (and entertaining) and I have learned so much from you. Thanks!

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  24. Having taught myself at the college level (not sewing classes, but in the field of education leadership), I always welcomed students with experience as long as they didn't take over the discussion, not allowing other students the opportunity to verbally process. In other words, as long as they didn't act like know it all's, it was fine. So, while you might have felt uncomfortable, I'd take the fact that he shared the pattern and offered assistance as a compliment that he really wanted to enrich your experience even more and recognized that you had some talent beyond the run of the mill.

    That's what good teachers do. When I was a professor, I always said, "The art of teaching is in your heart. You learn the science."

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  25. I have taken a few classes now at FIT and not once has a professor asked the class about their level of experience. I find this strange. Even if the goal is to teach the Industry methods, wouldn't it be more efficient to know in advance what students already know and at what level?

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    1. Better yet, ask them to bring something in they've sewn to be evaluated and let the instructor decide their level.

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    2. I would have to agree with both of these comments. I took a class on something that I was interested in. Everyone pretty much knew each others level of skill. We were all asked to bring in a sample of something we created. The teacher decided at what level each of us were capable of. I don't think there was a level for me, because I had no experience at all. It was fun, learned a lot from others in the class, shared their shortcuts and skills. Teacher was great.
      Don't ever be embarrassed or made to feel uncomfortable about what you can do. You made that shirt, it is amazing and I really don't think you could easily buy one like that.

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  26. I think that professors not asking is more for the inexperienced students benefit. Students who find out they have a lot less experience than others may feel pressured and overwhelmed, or even feel they don't belong in the class. Professor B. knows there will be a mix, but doesn't make a public point of it. He seems willing to give extra advice on the side. Use it to your advantage.

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  27. If it bothers you, it is perfectly acceptable for you to tell him your experience, instead of waiting for him to ask. A quick introduction after class with a small dose of humility and a large dose of excitement for what you will be learning in his class...it seems like that would be acceptable to any professor.

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    1. You're right. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to do that right off the bat -- it seems so obvious in retrospect.

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  28. I can understand why you felt awkward. However, just for the record, I think a shirt like yours would be quite expensive to buy because those pleats take up quite a bit of fabric and making them, perfectly lined up like that, requires time, attention and skill and therefore a serious amount of labour cost.

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  29. Wow what a response to this intriguing post. Remember that you are a stitching guru, and an Internet luminary. (those that can do. And those that can not teach) , sweet memories concerning craving that important teachers approval in a past life. And we all have one do we not? Shirts I try to get by without putting one on, having worn to many in the past, but you have reawakened my interest. Ps take an apple for the teacher and see if they keep you back after class.

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  30. Totally understand. I'm a professional singer and st it at my sister's church choir once (she is in the choir but not a trained musician) and felt like a total poser as people were explaining to me 'how I could learn the melody' (I can sight read music no problem) and then realized I SHOULD have said something but now I couldn't so I was left with people trying to be helpful when I didn't need it and then felt I couldn't point out when they/we were singing wrong notes... it was awkward. I was trying to blend in and be one of the team and I should have outed myself from the start because later my sister innocently outed me and then I looked like an idiot. LOL.

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  31. I completely understand. I've been asked that same question, by designers, about garments I made, and I'm always slightly embarrassed. I guess I panic that they might want to examine my work, and then find it wanting. It's never happened but I still get nervous about it.

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  32. He probably didn't ask because the answers may not have been relevant to him, especially at the beginning of a course. I mean, I've seen people with years of experience who I think sew kind of crappily, and newbies who do a beautiful job. He was most likely coming to his own conclusions by observation as the course moved along.

    But yeah for the student, there are different things going on, and you would have felt better if you'd had the opportunity to say a bit about yourself in the beginning.

    I just went to a course where we all expressed our reasons for attending the course and the instructor incorporated all these things into his teaching. I liked this a lot.

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    1. That is a good approach, trying to accommodate all levels. Taking a class is about learning, not showing what you know or who you are. That teacher is probably a lot more observant than he lets on, about ability levels, and it is kind of an art form in itself, as a teacher, to deal with so many different skill levels.

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  33. Oh yes, I'd actually include you in that second category of "newbies who do a beautiful job!"
    haha! Seriously, 5 years of sewing is very little in terms of time, but you've squeezed a lot of learning into those 5 years!

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  34. Peter - I would like to know how you get your top stitching so close to the edge - I can see it on your cuffs and plackets. What do you use for your guide.

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    1. I use the edge of my presser foot -- and wear "readers" that magnify!

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  35. Professor B. is a really stand-up guy, and wouldn't look down upon someone who had prior experience sewing. So no need for you, or anyone else, to be shy about your ability around him.

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  36. I don't know why you felt that way and don't care. I was bowled over by the fabulousness of the close-up detail of the pleating--if that's what it's called--and of the cuff--if that's what that other thing is called. Dammit, you are good and the next time you get outed in your class you should proudly say "I made it." Because the seams are... perfect. Green with envy here.

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