Classic Blazer workshop with Claire Tyler
I booked to attend the Classic Blazer workshop at Claire Tyler Couture, having come across her website in a random internet search for sewing cruises. I love sewing and I love cruising and wondered whether anyone had put the two together but wasn't expecting anything to come up. To my surprise, Claire had advertised on her website a sewing-related trip to New York, cruising back to the UK with a lovely room set up for sewing. My eyes widened!
I didn't book it (yet!) but had a good browse around the website and was really impressed with the wide range of workshops available. The Classic Blazer caught my eye since I hadn't sewn any outerwear by the time I'd booked, and it seemed a great opportunity to learn. Even having just done a fantastic eight week online course with Linda Maynard for the Sienna Maker Jacket I knew I still had a lot to learn. Lynda’s instructional videos were brilliantly clear and concise, but I knew there was also benefit in constructing a garment with a tutor on hand.
The Classic Blazer Workshop
It was my first workshop with Claire and I was very excited since I had missed the six workshops I’d booked with her at the Knitting & Stitching Show last year because I had Covid.
It was a 3 day workshop and you could pick any jacket or blazer pattern with a notched collar. I picked the Heather Blazer from the Friday Pattern Company, as the fit was meant to be relaxed, as well as the jacket being lined. My course with Lynda Maynard did include guidance on lining the Sienna Jacket, but I decided to keep it simple since that was my first jacket. I was therefore excited to learn new techniques and build on my knowledge with the Heather Blazer.
This post is a review of the workshop itself, the review of the actual pattern will follow soon.
She had a sample of Nina Lee's Richmond Blazer which I really liked and have added to my list of patterns I'd like to sew.
The Heather Blazer was the simplest, had the fewest pieces and was the least fitted, but I felt was still enough of a stretch for me. I made a calico toile in advance of the workshop which still needed some tweaking, and Claire was more than happy to help us with fitting adjustments.
Having Claire on hand with our small group meant there was plenty of time for guidance and asking questions. She put together packs of various tapes and wadding to be used at different stages, and assembled kits containing all the interfacing we needed for our different fabrics, mine needing two different types with Claire also recommending a horse hair canvas for the plastron piece which she helped us draft.
Day One was spent making pattern adjustments and cutting all the fabric and interfacing, although those with the more complicated patterns did not necessarily get time to cut the lining at this stage. At the end of the day, I took my pieces and interfacing back to my accommodation to fuse to save some time the next day.
Day Two was to continue preparing our pattern pieces and applying tape for the roll line and edge of the front pieces. It was then that we got to start some sewing. We started with our pockets with some patterns including welt pockets. Claire did a great tutorial on this for which I took notes for a future project.
Day Three was spent continuing with construction of our blazers. None of us finished our jackets but we got to a stage that there was something to put on that resembled the final garment.
The days were interspersed with demonstrations as they came up, or as we reached the relevant stage e.g. sleeves, collars, applying tape etc. Although our patterns were different, the theory was the same and Claire was sure to point out any differences that were relevant for individual patterns.
There were plenty of hints and tips given along the way. Even with stages I had done several times before, it's always useful to see how someone else recommends doing it to make it easier, give a more consistent result or for better precision.
After the workshop, Claire gave us access to her video course which is incredibly helpful in outlining all the stages with lots of great advice. If you are wishing to tackle your first jacket with an online course, this is well worth it.
The Sewing Room
The Sewing Room is light, spacious, and well equipped with Janome sewing machines and all the tools you'd need. Most of us had brought our own sewing kit for ease of use and familiarity, and you are welcome to bring your own machine if you wish.
There were eight of us at the workshop with plenty of space to move around. There was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, with drinks and snacks available. Claire even took our lunch orders for a local café and collected them for us towards the end of the morning session.
There were three steam generator irons available which I had not used before. I thought these were a great idea since they didn’t require a temperature setting to be changed on different fabrics. As is to be expected, they generate a lot of steam and I had to remember to keep my left hand out of the way to avoid a burn. Since they use steam for the heat and not a hot plate, it can be left face down on the ironing board when rearranging your fabric. I may consider getting one for my new sewing studio once it's ready.
The haberdashery in the room next door is very well stocked for its size with a huge range of items, which can also be bought from her online store.
There are also many patterns available, including those for her workshops.
Claire has a range of sewing books available for reference, and some rare remnants for sale e.g. Linton Tweeds.
The Sewing Room is on a lovely high street in the town of Midhurst, right next to a car park which was convenient with all the bits and pieces I had brought with me. It is set in a beautiful part of England, with Cowdray Castle right behind.
Since it was a 2.5 hr drive away for me, I turned it into a sewing retreat by booking a hotel nearby, The Hamilton Arms. It was reasonably priced for the size of room you get, modern, comfortable and finished to a high standard. The rooms are in a separate block behind the car park of the main pub and it is blissfully quiet being in the middle of the countryside, but very convenient just off the A272 which leads straight into Midhurst a 5 min drive away.
Milk, juice and yoghurts are supplied in the fridge, as well as tea and coffee-making facilities. A basic continental breakfast was provided in a basket in the room, with croissants, cereals, granola bars and jam.
The pub houses a Thai restaurant, and you can order delivery to your room. I did this the first night and was very happy with the meal. The couple who run the pub and accommodation were friendly, and supplied me with an iron and ironing board for my self-imposed interfacing homework. They even had hair straighteners, not that I need them but I have never seen them provided in a hotel room before. I have booked the same place again for my next workshop.
On the second night, I ate at the Indian restaurant Lime & Spice. It is across the road from the Sewing Room and I had a lovely meal there. I can't say I'm a connoisseur of Indian food, but I was perfectly happy with my meal and the service.
On the last night, I ate at Italian restaurant red.h recommended by Claire further up the high street. It has lovely decor (including a bright red grand piano) and again, I had a very good meal.
I have taken 3 courses / workshops in as many months, and this is the way forwards for me as the learning is unparalleled versus trying to go it alone and doing your own research. It accelerates my learning, and since I can't dedicate a lot of time to sewing, this is very valuable to me.
One of the great things about this workshop was that it was like having a very detailed, live sew along that you can take at your own pace, without spending ages trying to figure what the next stage is. There are plenty of hints, tips and demonstrations along the way, and an experienced professional on hand to answer your questions. With Claire putting together packs of interfacing and tapes for us, it took away a lot of guesswork and experimentation as to what would work best on this particular project.
Sewing a coat is a huge stretch for me, and I hope to learn how to handle and sew with wool which I have not done yet. And who knows, maybe one day I'll be writing a review of the sewing cruise :)
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