Monday, April 25, 2016

Increasing my Skills with Sarah Veblen

This is my story of how I came to work with Sarah Veblen and all the things she has to offer and I think it's one great story.
Wendy Grossman, Myself, Sarah Veblen

It's always a good time to skill up!
Increasing my skills in sewing is an ongoing process and one that is constantly evolving!

I have been sewing for many years! For the past 25 years I have been sewing on a regular basis and have had many opportunities to continue my education. I strive to continue to better my skills on a regular basis. Of course, much of becoming a better at anything we do just involves lots and lots of good practice!

One of the problems that I have been experiencing over the past several years is that many of the expos, local classes, retreats and such just don't offer enough beyond the basics or can be very project oriented. I found that I have had to look harder to find more challenging learning opportunities where I feel like I am getting a good return on investment. This has led me to really digging deep and finding teachers/mentors that can provide these more advanced skills. 

I must say that I completely understand why, from a business sense, that there are many more beginner and intermediate classes and workshops available. This group comprises the biggest population of home sewers and therefore generates the most revenue. This is also why there are so few advanced things available and why they cost you more. Pure economics. 

I had taken some lecture/demo classes with Sarah before at The Original Sewing and Quilt expo's when they come to Chicago. They were very good but they were only the very teeny tiny tip of the iceberg. When I looked into her more, at that time the majority of her longer workshops were being held in her home studio and I was nervous to spend that much money on a relative unknown to me entity. 

Fast forward a couple years and one day (while perusing the blogoshpere) I happened to see that Susan Khalje was going to be in Chicago for a one day small hands-on class lecture/demo informal gathering with Rhonda Buss at Soutache. I signed up immediately! I was seeking to find a group of like minded sewing individuals in the Chicago area and chances were good that I could make some connections here and I was so right about that! While at this one day class, I met Wendy Grossman. we started chatting and by the end of the day she mentioned that Sarah Veblen was going to be coming to Chicago for a Jacket Workshop. This was great news! Especially since on further investigation, I learned that I did not have to be working on a specific jacket. This was a class for me to learn advanced techniques and to apply them to what I wanted to work on. 

This first Sarah Veblen Jacket workshop was such an eye opener to me! We were having discussions about things not just being lectured to. AND we were in a wonderful small group settings where we learning not just from Sarah but from each other and from our shared experiences. It was an amazing experience. When I reflect upon this I think it may just have been because I was ready to have this experience, yearning for it and actively seeking it out.
I gained much more than just the techniques that I learned in that workshop. I have gained some very wonderful and meaningful relationships as well. 

I have found that Sarah's teaching style suits me perfectly! It matches up with my learning style quite nicely and I am able to get the most out of it. One of things that I most cherish when working with Sarah is that she offers the entire package. Sewing and construction techniques, fitting as well as design and style. She takes the time to get these things done properly but offers up time saving techniques, aka shortcuts when appropriate.The fitting process she uses is methodical and i believe, easy to understand. I have found the more that I apply her fitting techniques and processes the easier they become and the better I am now able to fit myself! Of course having her fitting book on hand helps as well!
Super lucky for me that Sarah Veblen has developed a Chicago following and comes several times a year to offer local workshops. One of my favorites is the 'You choose your focus' workshop. You can work on anything you want!! Fitting muslins, specific techniques, design process, a works in progress, a specialty garment, etc, etc. The thing that's fun about these is that you start of the workshop with a group discussion as to what everyone is working on or wants to work on. This way if someone else is doing something you are interested in then you have the opportunity to gather around and learn that as well. If there is something you are not interested in you just keep plugging away on your own stuff.  

I believe that one of the biggest barriers to learning can be a trust issue. Trust in yourself, trust in your skills and trust in the person teaching you. To overcome these you have to be willing to work with a mentor/teacher/educator/professional whom you make a good connection. Once you have that connection you can push yourself beyond your current boundaries and grow! It is an empowering feeling and one that sends your creativity soaring. It's not always easy and there is hard work involved but the rewards are wonderful. 

I have developed a great mentor relationship with Sarah that has taken my skills farther and faster than I could have imagined. What exactly does this mentorship mean to me? I am sure that it means different things to different people, in fact I know it does! 

To me, this mentor relationship means that I can feel confident in knowing that I have someone that I can work with when needed. I keep a notebook specifically for my mentorship and in this case it is my Super Sarah Notebook!  I jot down questions and thoughts about ideas that I want to discuss and when I have a bunch of those built up I schedule a skype session with Sarah. I average a 45 minute skype session about every 6 weeks or so depending on what I have going on. This also helps keeps me on track with projects. 
In a typical skype session I usually have a muslin or 2 in progress that I may have a question about in fitting. I usually have a fabric that I want to discuss and how I want to use it in a project and just run past underlining and interfacing techniques.Sometimes I have a construction question or specific sewing technique that I want to ask about. I also always prepare for these skype sessions by having all my materials at hand, having good lighting, and for specific questions I usually have done some homework first on different ideas. 

Working with Sarah Veblen is easy! She has made herself available across several outlets. If you are not ready for a one on one approach or are just interested a bit more about what she has to offer from what I've said here you can find plenty of opportunities to expose yourself to her teaching style.

Classes offererd through Sarah offers quite a collection of online classes.Some are full video and some are a combination of video and PDF and some are just PDF. All of them are accompanied by chat room (classroom)  access. I have the pattern work, All About buttons and buttonholes and 10 clever techniques video classes. I think my current favorite of these is the Pattern work class. I have watched it multiple times and each time I pick up something new! I have also taken the Understanding Wool Fabrics, Understanding Knits, More Knits and Sewing Facings and Developing facings patterns classes. I have not been disappointed in any!

Master Classes offered through Taunton Online Workshops. These online workshops are also offered as DVD's through the Taunton store. These classes are excellent! I prefer the DVD's but just because i'm not a big fan of how Taunton runs their online workshops. The material is exactly the same form the online workshop versus the DVD's.There are both a bodice and skirt set. Each one include creating a master pattern for either a bodice or skirt and then the second class/DVD is creating different styles from that master bodice or skirt pattern.

Sarah also has a wonderful fitting book, The complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting. This is hands down my most used fitting resource in my sewing library. (and I have quite a few!!) Sarah often makes time for personal fitting sessions when she comes to Chicago. These are very well worth the time and money. According to my very good friend Wendy Grossman, Sarah is a fitting Goddess! and she really is. Having a well fitting garment is worth gold!

As I mentioned above she is available for Skype/facetime sessions for one on one learning opportunities. I really like these. I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first at how effective they could be probably because it was something new for me. I have plenty of experience with work and using skype for meetings. Usually this is more computer based learning and discussions not so much a face to face environment.This type of learning is great for me. I love to be able to ask my questions and have excellent discussions with a very knowledgeable person.

My favorite are the in person workshops! There is a regular schedule of these workshops on her website Sarah Veblen Clothing Originals under the Teaching Tab. If you have the opportunity to attend one of her classes or workshops I would highly recommend it.

I will be attending her Design 1 course next month and am very excited about the class. A full blog post review will be forthcoming.

Clearly we are lucky to be living in a time that offers us so many many ways to learn!
So if you are looking to 'skill up' you really have nothing to hold you back
One on one sessions
Online classes
YouTube videos

Who is your favorite sewing professional to learn from?

Happy Sewing!
Princess Victoria taking a walk with Grandpa! I can't believe this tiny peanut is 22 months old!


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Steph. I feel so fortunate to have Sarah as my mentor as well. She unlocked the door for me and got me out of an endlessly frustrating loop of trying different fit methods, making muslins and getting nowhere. Since then, she's not only guided me in developing my sewing skills, but she restores my confidence when it fails me (which is very often) and is teaching me to trust my instincts.

    1. Wendy, It is amazing how she has the ability to restore confidence and instill empowerment. The biggest problem I have, if you can call it a problem!, is best summed up by this quote from Socrates: The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know… Which happily keeps me coming back for more!!


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