Mini Sewing Retreat

Mini Sewing Retreat

Hi hello! I am back from a mini getaway/sewing weekend in Lexington, Virginia.  I had so much fun! So nice to get away since it seems like it’s been forever since we’ve been able to travel.

Continuing on my quest to learn pattern drafting, I took a 3 day bodice block/sloper class at Make it Sew in historic Lexington, VA. For those readers who are not sewists, a sloper is like  “second skin”. It is a template based off your own measurements. The sloper can be used to create your own patterns or to check commercial patterns to see if it will fit properly before you even start sewing. It is a very useful thing to create.

The Viking and I love to explore places off the beaten path, so during our road trip we stopped at Goshen Pass. This is about 20 minutes north of Lexington and overlooks the Maury River.

The road isn’t for those who are scared of narrow and windy roads. It goes up and around and all around the mountain, but trust me it’s worth seeing! Just hearing the sound of the river makes me happy.  Tell me that this isn’t cool?!

Swinging Bridge

The city of Lexington is small and is completely walkable. We spent Friday morning exploring nearby college campuses of Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. I enjoyed blending in with the students, hehe. Both campuses have free admission to their museums.

If you’re interested in Civil War History, General Robert E. Lee crypt is in the chapel on the W&L campus and you can view the last letter he wrote before he died. Stonewall Jackson is also buried nearby.

Washington & Lee University Chapel

And of course VMI is just an impressive sight on its own. It looks like a castle and luckily we had beautiful blue skies that day for great photos. I love my home state. ❤️

Back to sewing. The Make it Sew shop was so cute!! The windows were filled with unique outfits and it was so refreshing to touch and feel high quality woven fabrics. There were a lot of colorful wovens with unique prints and knits, Japanese fabrics, and even vintage buttons. I discovered some new pattern companies I had never heard of before too, like Fancy Tiger Crafts, Thread Theory, and Folkwear.

Of course some came home.

The class was taught by another Pattern Review member “newmass” aka Caroline whom I had never met in real life. It was so awesome to meet another sewist, especially a PROFESSIONAL one with lots of credentials, experience and an amazing sense of style. Everything I know is due to videos and books so having her guidance was worth it within itself.

On the first day of class we took measurements. The class was just for a bodice but we measured everything. Some things I’ve never bothered to measure before- like my hand circumference. But this will be useful in making a long sleeve shirt… gotta make sure your hand fits! Having a measurement buddy was also really useful in that it’s so hard to take accurate measurements of yourself. We then started drafting the bodice based off our measurements.

Looks legit.

Day 2 started off with some yummy donuts as we got to work on finishing the drafting. Using that first draft, we sewed our first muslin. I got to use a vintage Singer sewing machine. I’ve always heard about these and how great they are. Such a smooth sew for being so decades old…I am a fan! Plus it just looks cool.

Moment of truth: Fitting. Caroline personally fitted us one by one. My sloper was a bit off, mainly in the shoulder area.  But this is the norm and I was surprised that my fitting changes were minimal, meaning my math was decent, lol. I watched as Caroline changed the angle of another student’s dart, making the sloper much more flattering. And another student had a round back adjustment fitting. It was so eye opening to learn and see different body shapes and sizes and how tweaking small things here and there make a big difference. And of course seeing everyone’s faces light up when the sloper fit was really uplifting.

Adding seam allowances

On Day 3 we applied the muslin changes to our bodice block- back onto the paper- then cut and sewed muslin #2. Believe it or not my muslin needed ZERO changes!! I was shocked! The afternoon was spent learning about dart manipulation and adding and removing fullness. I got to thumb through the famous Pattern Magic Japanese books and Caroline showed us different ways we could create patterns using our custom sloper. It was all incredibly informative and made my mind run wild with creative possibilities.

I’ve never gone to anything like this before but I imagine this is what summer camp feels like! The workshop included lunch and it wasn’t a brown bag kind either- it was actual homemade food served family style. There were only 5 of us in the class, plus Caroline and the store owner Accacia. Since it was a small group we got to know each other around the table. I really enjoyed the casual setting and talking with experienced sewists over some homemade tomato bisque.

Sidenote: I don’t have a lot of photos of the class since I was so engrossed in the experience. Also, not everyone wants to be photographed in a “second skin”. Can you blame them?! Lol

During one of the breaks I showed Caroline my current draping project. (The long awaited Kermes dress) She said I did a good job! Hearing a professional confirm what I’ve been doing is correct made me very happy. It means I can trust in my own learning methods and gave me more sewing confidence.

Overall it was a fantastic weekend. My kind of vacation- a little exploring, some history, restaurants (read: a break from cooking), learning and sewing! If you are ever in the Lexington, Virginia area I highly recommend stopping into Make it Sew to shop or to take a class. This was my first visit and first sewing workshop experience. I’m sure this won’t be my last.

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