Improvers Sewing Course with Angel Pitcher-Dowdell

September 28th – 30th
At Stiwdio 3, Cardigan
Three full days tuition, materials and lunch £480

This workshop is an ‘improver course’ for any of you who like to sew but may not have the confidence to take on difficult projects. For example unusual seams, darts and zips, openings and plackets. We ask you to bring along a sewing project to complete in the afternoons so that you have Angela helping with any technical problems you might face.

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Course Description

Designer Angela Pitcher Dowdell has created this course by special request.

In October 2017 Angela taught her first course with Make it in Wales to create a beautiful coat using Cambrian Mountains Wool. The wonderful dressmakers who attended the course specifically requested to work with Angela again and this course has been designed to tackle some of the sewing problems which you as competent seamstresses may face.

Angela wants her students to be fearless! When she teaches it is not about stating “this is how it’s done”. She prefers to communicate the ‘hows and whys’ so when you are on your own at home, you might not know how to do something but you can be confident you can work it out.

What you will be learning:

During this course you will complete many different processes. You will create your own reference library of samples with instructions, using a variety of different fabrics which will be supplied by us. In the future you can use this to help you choose the best method to do something. Or to help you to interpret (or change) the instructions on a commercial pattern. You will collate your samples and instructions into a binder, so that you will take away a valuable reference document for your future sewing projects.

Your mornings will be spent learning and trying out different techniques. In the afternoons you will concentrate on your own sewing project which we would like you to bring along with you.

Angela would like you to choose something significantly trickier than you might try at home on your own. Disguised as ‘leisurely afternoons spent sewing’, Angela will still be packing in a lot of tuition. You will each learn from the projects of your fellow students. Please don’t worry about having your work held up for show in front of people – it won’t be like that! Together with Angela you will look at different parts of the project (before you start them) and discuss how they might be approached. When you have completed that step you can decide if you want to share it with your fellow stitchers!

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What do you need to bring?

If you have your own machine please bring that along with you, along with scissors, tape measure, pins etc. We have ample equipment if you are not able to bring your own.
We will provide you with some fabrics to work with for your technical samples, plus zips and a folder to put together your own technical file to take home after the course.

The finer detail

Day 1 morning: Seams – Construction, neatening, getting rid of bulk

Are most of your seams stitched, possibly overlocked and then pressed open? Yes? There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a method that suits many scenarios. However, there is a wonderful variety available. You may even be aware of them but have you ever stitched any? After this course you will find yourself using these seams when creating your own garments.

You will cover plain seams, methods of neatening, French seams, run and fell seams, stitching curves, getting rid of bulk.

Day 2 morning: Darts and zips

Do find yourself using the same method because you know how to do it or do you struggle every time?

You will learn about the key points to look out for when stitching darts and how to get a professional finish. Then it will be on to zips! You will put in 4 zips using different methods – get your zipper foot ready to put in these zips…Centred zip, Fly front zip, Exposed zip, Concealed zip. After this day you will never be troubled whilst putting in a zip again!

Day 3 – Hems

Every garment has one and not noticing it is the mark of a successful garment!You will learn how to level a hem; decide how to choose the depth of the hem; how to get rid of fullness; whether to hand or machine stitch; how to finish the raw edges and produce samples of both visibly and invisibly stitched hems.

Your own project for the afternoons

In the afternoons you will concentrate on your own sewing project. Your ‘possibly too tricky for home’ project will depend on your sewing journey to date. It might be making a straightforward garment using a commercial paper pattern or it might be something more complicated such as a tailored jacket.

It won’t be possible to comprehensively cover all topics but everyone will learn from other people’s projects. Depending on the nature of your garment it may not be possible to finish it within the time of the course.

It could be possible to adapt a pattern to create a new design and to test it with a toile but it is unlikely you will finish a tailored jacket. For that I would suggest you arrive with a toile (a mock-up of the garment made from cheaper cotton fabric) to be fitted and then work on the areas you are unsure about eg how to construct a tailored collar.

Please email if you have any specific queries about a project you are thinking about. Before the course starts, Angela would like to know the details of your project so she can prepare.

Here are some of the individual projects from the 2018 course…

Perfect fitted trouser pattern – Trousers are regarded as the trickiest garment to fit and they will be if the hip and waist measurements alone are used to choose the pattern size. We redrafted from the size 16 indicated to the 10/12 required. The new pattern was checked with a toile and the pattern tweaked. Another toile was made this time including design alterations made to the pockets and waistband. The morning tuition covering fly zip and hemming fed directly into the finished garment construction. Since the course two more pairs of trousers have been made using the same pattern with styling alterations.

Silk dress – chosen because of the challenge of working with silk and applying boning. This dress was created
using the bodice pattern for a long slinky evening dress. Angela guided our stitcher through the process of adapting the pattern to create and fit a toile and constructing a boned bodice. The morning sessions on invisible zips and hems meant confident decisions were made on which processes to use and how to complete them when working without instructions from a commercial pattern.

Silk dress with lace overlay – Angela felt this stitcher’s original idea didn’t stretch her enough and so suggested an ambitious design change. The result is a silk dress with a boned bodice worn with a separate lace ‘coat’ with a sparkly front fastening. The plan is to make a simple long sleeve lace top to wear over the same dress trimmed with a wide belt. The same dress with two completely different options for wearing! Angela gave guidance on adapting two commercial patterns to create a completely different new design; fitting and constructing a boned bodice. The morning sessions on invisible zips, seam finishes and hems all contributed to the decisions made during the making of these garments.

Shift dress with lace overlay – another evening dress but this time with a relaxed skimming fit. Our stitcher was guided through how to adapt the pattern to create a lace overlay and to work out how the new style garment should be constructed. Guidance was given on the best way to alter the pattern to suit the figure particularly how to alter the darts and achieve an evenly hanging hem. All pattern alterations were checked with a toile before moving on the proper fabrics. Particular care was taken in working out how to cut the lace to lay at the correct level over the fabric underneath. This stitcher wanted guidance on how to make a new version of a jacket which has been her ‘go to’ for possibly as long as 15 years! Changes have been made to the design and the plan is to make several variations of the jacket using different denim weight fabrics. Learning pattern drafting skills rather than making a finished product was the main aim for this learner.

What is included in the price?

Homemade locally sourced food for lunch and teas and coffees and cake during the day. All of your materials for the technical teaching side of this course are included in your ticket price too. However, you will need to bring fabric, trimmings etc for your afternoon project.

Other details 

We will start each days teaching at 9.30am and aim to finish around 5.00pm so if you are travelling we advise you book accommodation for the Friday night. You will be able to leave on the afternoon of the last day of tuition, or if you wish you could stay another night and leave after breakfast the following morning.

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Any questions before you book? Please call us on 01239 562007 or email