Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sewing Courses in the UK

Since I've just started sewing, I've been wanting to take a sewing course.  At first I didn't find anything in the UK but as I searched more...I uncovered several amazing courses and great resources if you are in the UK or fancy coming on a sewing holiday:

  • In Birmingham, there is the Gill Arnold Dressmaking School where you can take courses in pretty much anything from stretch knits to corsets.  As with other schools, the courses are usually over one or two days (handy if you are here on holiday).
  • The English Couture Company also offers dressmaking courses and they cover all sorts of couture finishing.
  • Probably my favorite dress school I found is the Alison Victoria Ltd School of Sewing and Fabulous Fabric.  Fabulous Fabric is the name of the attached fabric store.  What's great about the Alison Victoria School is that they offer 3 and 4 day courses on constructing a winter coat, an evening gown or your own choice.  You just take the projects you want to do and they are there to build the 3 or 4 days around that project.  Brilliant!  Plus, they are one of the only schools in the UK (they are in Leicestershire) to offer CITY and GUILD qualifications in Fashion, Lingerie, Tailoring or Corsetry at level 2.
Up in my neck of the woods (Scotland) there are two very exciting Summer events:
  • HATWALK is a registered charity that promotes the art of millinery in all its diverse and spectacular forms. The main focus of HATWALK is a biannual theatrical performance, which showcases the work of professional milliners. A core element of this show is the display of work created by students who have taken part in a HATWALK workshop. These workshops take place during the year and culminate in the students, and their work, being part of the HATWALK event. Each year the show raises money for a chosen charity and has since its conception donated over £13,000. HATWALK also runs an annual Summer School, usually in Edinburgh, with classes for all levels and abilities covering a range of subjects such as theatrical millinery, fantasy headpieces and couture. 

  • Also coming to Scotland from 9-13 August is Knit Camp 2010.  I love the name..hehehe.  Knit Camp is everything you would imagine a knitting camp to be.  Loads of vendors, a full week of knitting classes and the beautiful town of Stirling--one of the most important historical cities in Scotland (complete with castle and old town centre).  Plus, one of the courses is on vintage knitting.  While I don't yet know how to knit, I am hoping Knit Camp will show me the way!
While the sewing courses above are great, they are also a bit more expensive and further afield for me.  So,  I'm really excited that I found a weekly (2 days a week) drop-in sewing course nearby in St. Andrews.  You bring your own projects and the course instructor just helps you with things you are working on!  It's pay per evening, so you can drop-in and out as much as you want throughout the year.  I am SO's starting up this month and I can't wait to have some dedicated time with someone to work on some stuff.  Plus it's put together by the City Council so it is very cheap (£5 per 2.5 hours).  I'll let you know how it goes!!!


  1. Debi - Can you explain the whole thing about CITY and GUILD certifications? I've seen this before but being from the US, I haven't a clue.

  2. Sure thing. City and Guilds is the UK's leading vocational awarding organisation and they've been around for 130 years. They offer over 500 qualifications in over 28 industry areas. They are especially valued by employers because the qualifications and standards are developed in conjunction with key industry bodies. It also offers career progression with qualifications the equivalent of entry level all the way up to the equivalent of postgraduate (there are 8 levels). They also sometimes offer financial support for people to do qualifications through bursaries.

    Most of the sewing qualifications are under the heading of 'Design and Craft'. Under this there is a sub-heading called 'Fashion' that has specialities including: Fashion wear, sewing machine techniques, bead needle weaving, textile decoration, corsetry, fashion illustration, silk painting, theatre costume, tailoring, pattern cutting and lingerie. So you can get an individual qualification in any of these subjects that will be recognised by employers that you have a recognised set of skills in the area.

    For example, for a level 2 tailoring qualification (the Design and Craft qualifications only go up to level 3), you would take 120 hours of coursework that would "allow learners to reach a saleable standard of work in three items they make".

    There's loads of information on the City and Guilds website including the coursework, certified centres and other qualifications:

    It's amazingly organised and I'm quite impressed that it's a national qualification.

  3. I forgot to mention that City and Guilds is a worldwide qualification. From their website, it says: "With over 8500 centres in 100 countries, City & Guilds is recognised by employers worldwide for providing qualifications that offer proof of the skills they need to get the job done."

    I just found out that there is an international website as well:

  4. Hi Debi - just found your blog and thanks for this post! I knew about the Alison Victoria courses (quite near me) but didn't know about the ones in Birmingham. I'll be doing a Victorian corset workshop in Nottingham next weekend. I'll let you know how it goes if you're interested. I hope you're enjoying Fife - was up in St Andrews for a couple of years as a student and miss the coast so much!


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