The Skirt Skills eCourse
Learning new skills is good. Learning new sewing skills is even better. I recently completed Skirt Skills, an e-course taught by Brooks Ann Camper, where not only did I learn new sewing skills, but I also met some great people doing it. I found out about this class from Instagram posts, where I began to anxiously wait for the next installment so I could see how the skirts were progressing. The feeling of accomplishment and respect for the process was palpable, and I wanted to know what I was missing. From there I checked out the Skirt Skills website and I felt like this class was created just for me! I was indeed ready to take my sewing to the next level, but most importantly I was super tired of making garments that didn’t quite fit me. While I love Indy patterns and have mad respect for those that create them, I usually have to make significant modifications for them to fit me. I have gotten pretty good at that over the years, but the process still seems a little backward. I have a sound basis of garment construction but have yet to master the fitting process. I don’t know why that is, but I suspect it has more to do with the time and effort needed to measure myself accurately, and the drama that ensues when I label my body with a number. After reading more about this Skirt Skills class, it seemed like this might fill this gap in my sewing education.
Skirt Skills is taught on-line through a high-quality website and video platform. For five weeks I tuned in daily (M-F) as Brooks Ann covered everything from design sketching to the creation of our custom skirt. There is so much content in this class, and I’m still amazed at how much we covered in those few short weeks! Skirt Skills is not a quick fix, however; meaning that this isn’t the class to take if you want to quickly make a skirt. Nope, this class is for the sewist who wants to dig in and learn how to make a custom garment from the beginning to the end. Brooks Ann’s approach to teaching and the fact that she is making three different skirts in class make you feel like she is sewing right along with you. In addition to the daily videos, this class is full of other useful information that you can always reference later. A former student called Skirt Skills an amazing interactive sewing book, and I couldn’t agree more! The best part is that Brooks Ann has invested in a platform to hold these videos so that we will have access to them for a very long time. I’ve already gone back to review certain techniques- and not just when I’m making a skirt either- and I have come to rely heavily on these.
Brooks Ann also provides another essential component to this class, and that is a sense of community. Even though I was working through the lessons on my own time, I had a great Facebook group that was only for our class. This addition makes this e-course feel like a class and having the other students to network with and work through the lessons made the learning environment that much richer. Brooks Ann is very responsive too, often responding immediately, and always takes the time to provide you with a sensible solution or insight.
I have provided a weekly synopsis of the class here to give you a better idea of what it looked like for me. I ended up making a denim pencil skirt, unlined, with a side zipper. After watching all of the videos and options, I felt this would be a doable first step and a skirt I would wear. And guess what, I do wear it all the time and love it!
The class starts right off with the creation of a skirt block. The first step in this process was utilizing an inventive tool for sketching. By transferring a photo of yourself onto paper, with Brooks Ann’s easy and ingenious approach, you can see how different skirt styles will look on your body. I still can’t believe I didn’t know about this technique years ago- it would have saved a lot of wasted time making the wrong items for my body. From there we moved right into measuring and once again Brooks Ann has a painless way of making that happen. I was dreading this part of the class. Measuring, and ultimately labeling my body with a number, has always stirred up some drama for me. Too big there, too small there, the feelings all come rushing back. Brooks Ann’s approach, however, was nothing like that. Here we measured our bodies, with unique tools from the hardware store I’m still surprised I own, scientifically and in logical sections. She provided us with direction and a record sheet, and we got it done. No drama, and thankfully no tears. All of these measurements were then combined to make the skirt block. This was a huge week and I learned first hand that it is helpful to have someone else measure you. My first skirt block, that I made from taking my own measurements, was not so accurate. Thankfully I got it right on the second try.
This week was all about the muslin mockup. After all the data input last week, this was an excellent way to balance out that knowledge and start to build on our sewing skills. All those crazy measurements from week one got incorporated, and now they all made sense. With our muslin ready, we transferred the skirt block to fabric and began putting it together. I quickly got pushed out of my comfort zone and into a vulnerable place when Brooks Ann suggested we do a lot of hand sewing on this mock up. I was super resistant to this idea; however, now I not only love hand sewing but have mad respect for its inclusion in finely crafted garments. I have put together a cute little kit for hand sewing, and it proudly sits on my cutting table ready for action. It turns out that I am not so good at hand sewing and still need a lot of practice. The difference now is that I understand why it is important and I want to improve- that was huge for me! With the muslin mock-up constructed, we were able to start the fitting process.
This week found us learning all about flat patterning. We took all of the previous week’s mock-up fitting changes and transferred them back onto the skirt block. From here we were able to begin making some real paper patterns. The videos this week were especially helpful as we could see what Brooks Ann had done with her three skirt choices. Until now, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how different style choices got transferred to the paper pattern. This week not only taught me how to make a paper pattern but also how to look critically at existing patterns and make necessary changes to fit my body.
In this week we started constructing our skirt! Using the flat patterns we made in week 3, we were able to cut out our fabric and start assembling. We covered basted fitting and from there moved on to permanent seams and seam finishes. We also covered zipper types and how to insert them. I watch these videos over and over now- they are such a great resource and are worth the class admission alone!
Our final week and we are putting the finishing touches on our skirts. We covered lining, making and applying bias binding, adding a waistline, and hem techniques. This week really brought it all together for me. Not only did I draft and make a beautiful custom skirt that fit, but I learned so many great techniques in the finishing process. The videos from this week were also fabulous, and again I find myself going back to them now whenever I am applying a method to a garment that I haven’t done in a while.
Another former student described Brooks Ann as the tallest, coolest, most refreshing drink of sewing education that she had ever tasted. I think that sums up Brooks Ann and her Skirt Skills e-course perfectly.