So where are our experts?

I want to be able to sew beautiful things. I really do. I go to shops like Wallis and John Lewis just to look at the finishing on the clothes there. They are so well made, and I want the things I make to be like that. I have numerous books on professional sewing techniques and couture sewing techniques like  this one





and books by Claire Shaeffer and Roberta Carr. However, I need guidance. I am a visual learner, and though the books give you an idea, I need to see someone do something, for it to really stick in my head. When Craftsy offered the Couture Dress class with Susan Khalje, I did not even blink. I purchased it straight away. I have learned a great deal from that class, and I continue to learn from it every time I watch it.

Which got me thinking. 

Why don’t we have established sewing teachers like they have in the States? Oh don’t get me wrong, I am sure we have experts as well, but why do we not know of them? Anyone who is new to sewing and blogging, will undoubtedly read about Susan Khalje, Claire Shaeffer, Kenneth King and Sandra Betzina within 1 day of reading blogs. I am still to read about someone based in the UK who is spoken of with the same reverence reserved for the above mentioned experts. I know ages ago we had Ann Ladsbury, and that, is because of the numerous books she authored. What about the experts of today?

Not long ago, Karen posted about her experience, taking sewing lessons from Beth. Now that is the kind of tuition I am looking for. One of those experiences you really want to have. I don’t mind shelling out a few of the Queen’s faces to get good quality guidance from a sewing expert. But where are they?


I wonder if the lack of visible sewing experts is due to the fact that we do not have as many craft TV channels as they do in the US. There is not enough promotion of sewing as a craft in the UK in my opinion.  Then again, maybe I have not done enough research. Which goes back to my earlier point. In the US, anyone interested in sewing and sewing blogs does NOT have to look hard to identify the experts. In the UK, I HAVE to look hard, and I still have not found one.

Taking sewing classes from my local college is all well and good, but I don’t want that. I have never been on one, and I don’t want to take one because from what I have read, you have to sew what the instructor wants you to, depending on the season. I want to sew my own thing when I want, and all I want, is guidance. So back to my question, where are our UK experts? Has anyone taken a course with  a sewing expert they would recommend? If yes, could you let me know which one?

Have a nice weekend everyone.


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23 Comments

  1. June 17, 2012 / 1:07 am

    Ooh, interesting question! I live in Canada, and all the sewing stores around here are old-fashioned quilt shops. I'm envious of the urban sewing scene that seems to be blossoming in the UK! Definitely no couture experts here… or at least, not ones that speak to the home-sewing crowd!
    I'm looking forward to other people's posts – i'd love to find out about some new gurus to learn from!

  2. June 17, 2012 / 5:33 am

    Alison Smith, author of The Sewing Book, runs a sewing school in Ashby de la Zouch- the Alison Victoria Schoolf of Sewing. I went there last year ( from Luxembourg) for a week and squeezed in 3 different courses. I learnt a lot.
    My reason for going was similar to your needs plus I had also picked up many bad habits over years of lazy sewing. She also offers one to one tuition.

  3. June 17, 2012 / 7:55 am

    I know what you mean Dibs. I was really stuck a few weeks ago with a dress I was making and would have liked to have paid someone for an hour or so to help me out and guide me as to the right direction. I know some of the sewing shops in London offer courses so I asked if I could book a private lesson but it seemed to be too complicated. The courses that these shops offer are very basic and the content very prescriptive. I understand the Morley College courses are good (and they are cheap) but I haven't tried them as yet.

  4. June 17, 2012 / 8:47 am

    I've heard good things about Alison Smith too. But you raise an interesting point and I'm interested to see if there are other local recommendations.

  5. June 17, 2012 / 9:16 am

    I have one Dibs! Where I work at Clothkits in Chichester we have Maria Pulley, I've just done her professional finishing course which is fantastic. Plus you can pay for half hour (£20) sessions with one of us to give you guidance if your stuck with anything.
    But the celebrity element of sewing isn't so prominent in the UK. I think it has to do with the volume of people in the US and the lack of craft and sewing TV in the UK.
    Hope that helps! x

  6. June 17, 2012 / 11:24 am

    English Couture, up Leicester way has classes. Sadly, they often seem to be during the working week, which is no good for me. I'm sure one of the issues here is that the 'craft' industry in the States is massive and decades ahead of what we have in the UK. (I'm not saying that people having been sewing expertly here for decades, just that there's been less 'industry' behind it, addressing a home sewing market.) Plus, you know, the States just is huge so can support couture sewing teachers – just think of the turnover of students they can draw on from that size population, compared to the population of the UK and the people interested in what some would still consider a niche activity.

  7. June 17, 2012 / 4:21 pm

    I've been thinking the same thing. most courses seem to be be London or the south – what about those of us up here in the North? Oh and classes during the week – just how am I supposed to get to them. I need classes in the school holidays or at weekends.

  8. June 17, 2012 / 7:03 pm

    it seems that most sewing experts here are somewhat under cover
    if you know what I mean.
    I would try asking around your local area this can usually root up someone, or asking somebody who does alterations, often they can provide tuition too.
    recently a vintage shop opened in a town near me and it was until I went in I was told they run sewing classes which were free of charge some of which you could bring your own project too.
    As for college courses, I'm for these I studied fashion and clothing for two years and loved every minute of it,true you don't always get to make what you want but it does push you and it certainly made me a better sewer.

  9. Anonymous
    June 17, 2012 / 9:46 pm

    I like Janet Moville of Modern Approach Sewing in Preston. She runs weekly classes and lots of course. she used to write in Sewing World and then Sew Hip. I made my Bosom Buddy with her. She is really good.

  10. Anonymous
    June 17, 2012 / 10:04 pm

    I was going to recommend Janet Moville, too. She is really great.

    Amanda Peters

  11. June 18, 2012 / 4:28 pm

    hahahahaha. I like your comment about couture experts not talking to the home sewing crowd. That could be another factor.

  12. June 18, 2012 / 4:30 pm

    I have just taken a look at her website. Interesting stuff. Ashby de la Zouch sounds very sophisticated lol. She sure knows her stuff. I have her book, and I use it when I get stuck on some projects.

  13. June 18, 2012 / 4:32 pm

    Morley college sounds good. I totally understand you about the sewing shops in london. There are just so many aprons and A-line skirts you can make.

  14. June 18, 2012 / 4:35 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation Stevie, I will look her up. You and Karen make valid points about the population in the US. They have a market there so they can get TV shows. Here in the UK, its all about cooking shows.

  15. June 18, 2012 / 4:36 pm

    I looked at their courses, and I am tempted by a few. I am especially drawn to the bra making course. You are so true in that we do not have the population to support the industry.

  16. June 18, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    Exactly. The few that are offered during the weekends are made more expensive because they know people will take them as they are more convenient.

  17. June 18, 2012 / 4:39 pm

    That is a valid point. Looking at Morley College courses, I think they have tailored their courses to suit various needs. That is the only affordable college I have seen do that. London College of fashion is so expensive, I get a headache just looking at their website.

  18. June 18, 2012 / 4:40 pm

    The Bossom Buddy course looks like much fun.

  19. June 18, 2012 / 4:44 pm

    I LOVE YOU!!!
    This is exactly the kind of structure I have been looking for, and its on the weekends as well. How come many people don't know about this?

  20. June 21, 2012 / 3:50 am

    Dibs, please don't envy the US sewists. For a country as large as this one, one has to travel very far at much expense to find those teachers. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and not only do we have no experts, but we have no fabric stores. What you see on some blogs as Joann's or Hancock have very little worth sewing on. Joann bought out Cloth World, where one could at least find silks and fine cottons. Alas, going to LA or NYC isn't going to happen in my life any time soon.

    I had to go to mail order sources, and there are only 1/2 dozen of them. So, I have England envy of fabric stores! There is nothing like touching the fabric to know its potential. I do try to find fabric stores everywhere I travel. And, looks like your fellow bloggers have pointed out some good teachers for you. Yay!

  21. June 21, 2012 / 9:56 pm

    Hi Dibs! I really rate Colleen at fashionsewingblog.tv, it's a great channel and she has tutorials as well as sew-alongs. Although aimed at beginner/intermediate she still has some wonderful tips to finish garments professionally. P.S. LURVE that Simplicity dress you did recently, looks totally fab on you, and the Vogue number with the material from Walthamstow market is just dreamy.
    I think myself and the Catford ladies might have to storm down there soon!

    RK x

  22. July 2, 2012 / 9:20 am

    I know what you mean about the lack of well known sewing experts in the UK. There is Gill Arnold in Birmingham who is very good and very knowledgeable. http://www.gillarnold.co.uk/

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