I’ve been thinking about how we define ourselves as sewers/seamstresses/seamsters, partly as a personal thing, and partly as a teacher.
I started considering this when I signed up for Sewing Pattern Review. They ask your skill level – beginner, intermediate, advanced, couture.
What on earth should I put? I make garments that many seamtresses would never dream of without batting an eye, and my fabric knowledge is considerable, but when it comes to some modern techniques, I don’t have much experience.
Now that I’m teaching I’m working on a way for students to categorize their skill level for classes.
We start out with Absolute Beginners, but the next class they take is Intermediate, which many of the students find amusing and flattering. They say “surely I’m not an intermediate sewer!”. Sure, they’ve never tackled a pattern or made a garment, but student come out of my Absolute Beginners class knowing how to set a zips, construct a basic garment, sew a number of stitches precisely, and how to choose fabrics (which I firmly believe is an essential cornerstone for sewing). They have the fundamentals.
On the other hand, I’ve taught students in more advanced classes who make their own designs and cobble together patterns to create just the look they want – a very advanced skill – but only know how to use one foot on their machine, only know one kind of hem, and end up being unhappy with a lot of their garments because they picked the wrong fabric for the project. What level are they at?
I’ve come up with a difficulty scale for the classes I’m teaching, something to give students a rough idea as to how challenging they will find a course. Because I like 1-10 scales, my courses are rated on difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10 .
For me, the ratings are a guideline to give students an idea of how hard the course will be. Within many courses, there are options to make it easier or more difficult (for example, I’m teaching a ’30s garden party dress class, and it will be a much harder class if you choose silk chiffon as your fabric, than if you choose a nice stable rayon). I hope that students pick classes that they can tackle without being overwhelmed, but that challenge their skills at one or two key points.
This is my scale:
1: is an absolute beginners course, for someone who has never been on a sewing machine before.
2: you’ve made cushions or something similar, and know how to set zips and make buttonholes.
3: you can follow a simple sewing pattern.
4: you’ve moved up to more complicated patterns with linings.
5: you’re ready to start making adaptions to your patterns to suit your taste and to fit you better.
6: you’ve begun to draft your own simple patterns and making up moderately difficult patterns
7: you’re beginning to play with draping, and trickier fabrics
8: you’re working your way up to difficult fabrics, evening wear, tailoring and tricky fitting issues
9: you’re making your own patterns, and working with couture techniques.
10: is for someone with experience in pattern making, couture sewing, and advanced fitting.
What do you think? Have I missed anything? How does this compare to other skill ratings you have seen? And how do you describe your sewing level? What are you really comfortable doing, what do you need to work on?
As for me, what I need to work on is knits: that’s up next!