Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sewing School

I just got back from the best weekend ever. My friend Jessica and I did an intensive sewing workshop at the Sonora School of Sewing and Apparel Construction.

Sonora is a cute little gold mining town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about 50 miles from Yosemite National Park.

The town has less than 5,000 residents but there's a lot going on. Maybe because they have thousands of people passing through on their way to view Half Dome. The place was jumping even on a rainy January weekend. We ate at a couple of very nice restaurants and grabbed snacks at the haunted cafe (Sonora Joe's)

and the Candy Vault (delicious salted caramels)

And, of course, there is the sewing school. It was founded in 2011 as a non-profit to teach traditional methods of clothing construction and apparel design to at risk youth in Tuolumne County. How cool is that? They also offer courses to the world at large.

It's well worth a visit, even if you don't have time to take a class. It's housed in an old building a few blocks up N. Washington Street from the heart of downtown. The front of the school offers some very nice garment fabrics with an emphasis on natural fibers.

Antique machines to balance the modern assortment in the classroom
The rear of the room is a pretty, well-lighted teaching space stocked with a variety of sewing machines and sergers, including some industrial models.

Scary industrial machines
Our teacher for the weekend was Megan. She has a degree in fashion design and knows her stuff inside and out. And she is the sweetest, most encouraging person in the world.

Megan, the best sewing teacher in the world
There were only three of us in class, each working on different projects and coming in the door with different interests and experience. Megan managed to jump from person to person very gracefully, keeping us all on track.
I guess you could say there were 3.5 students because Peabody accompanied us
My chosen project was to alter the pattern for my everyday pants; Burdastyle 10-2013 #127 - straight pants. I love these pants and have made them at least six times. They're comfortable and practical, but I wondered if I could tweak the pattern for a less droopy rear.

This involved making my first ever by-gosh muslin. I've read about this process but I never would have had the chutzpah to walk through it if I hadn't had Megan doing the pinning and talking me through the alterations.

Tracing those well-loved pants
Jessica wanted to create a pattern from a favorite pair of Ann Klein pants that were almost ready for the scrap heap. Megan helped her trace out the pattern, make and alter the muslin and produce a perfect copy.

Izzy was our delightful fellow student. She was looking for instruction in setting up a machine and basic sewing skills. She caught on so quick she opted to start a miniature Sherlock Holmes trench coat for her son.

Now that's how to ease those raglan sleeves
Just the buttons left to choose
I can't believe it, but she got from Go to a finished coat in two days! She is the most accurate sewist I've ever met; probably that's her secret. Her son is going to be the best dressed almost-three-year-old in Mariposa County.

A beautifully serged seam
Peabody supervising at the sewing machine
Pants and a knit top, all in two days
Here we are with our finished projects
I highly recommend a sewing weekend at the Sonora School of Sewing. I learned so much! Besides actually doing pattern alterations, I got great tips on pinning, hand sewing and even bobbin winding; things that will make my sewing easier and better every day.

Even the drive up is beautiful. It only took us 3 hours from Santa Cruz. It would be even quicker from the Bay Area.

Car snaps, sorry for the blur
You can stop in Oakdale on the way and treat yourself to a top notch picnic and some locally made Gouda cheese (yum)

And as far as my altered pants, I think the rear view is much improved!

They're still comfy enough to crawl around on the floor to cut out a pattern (we tested this with the muslin) but I think they look a lot sleeker.

More sewing geekery on the alterations on here.


  1. Sounds like an amazing time. Did you see a ghost? I would love to go on a sewing weekend, bliss.

  2. What a super fun trip and experience! The venue looks so cozy and lovely - lucky you! and yes, your pants look great!! thks for sharing.

  3. Ahh, so charming and fun! I can't think of a better place to spend a girls' weekend away. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a good teacher and the right equipment. Loved the photos, including a super cute sweatered Peabody. Now I am absolutely going to have to find a way to tag along on your next trip!

  4. Wow! Sonora and Oakdale have changed since I left California! I am envious of your sewing weekend! Your improved pants look,so much better.
    It looks like you had a great time.
    Being the slave to my second Chihuahua, I know that Peabody looks deceivngly sweet......

  5. What an amazing opportunity and beautiful setting.