Sunday, 25 March 2012

A week of learning


The reason for my absence hasn't actually been that I've still been ruing all that I didn't know when making the 'What I Wish I'd Known' skirt, but that I've spent the week on a pattern cutting course at the London College of Fashion. Despite having been drafting my own clothing patterns for a few years now, my techniques were a mixture of what I'd gleaned from various books and my own instincts as to how things should be done, so I'd always felt that my methods may be far from technical and wanted to do something to remedy this.

It's very odd going back to learn something in a formal setting after so many years away. When I was at university as a teenager, there were several mature students on my degree course (I studied Sociology, just in case you're interested). I always wondered at how eager they were: their keen punctuality; their earnest questions; and their rampant note-taking during lectures. What curious creatures they seemed. When I spoke to my father mid-week and told him about the course, I was struck with the realisation that I now was this archetypal mature student that I had felt vaguely bemused by so many years earlier. Having left my children behind at 7.20am each day and stolen away, missing out on school runs and the flurry of activity and homework that takes place every day, my endeavours to understand pattern cutting were actually costing and affecting my whole family and it's amazing how much more you appreciate the opportunity to learn something formally when the you realise how fleeting and precious the times in your life to do that will be.


And the pattern cutting? It's even more technical than I'd ever imagined, but the building bricks are now at least in my possession. On the last day, our lovely teacher said as we left the workroom: use it or lose it, girls! There's a lot of truth in her statement, for at the moment what I've learnt feels like it's precariously rolling around in my brain like stray marbles, ready to fall away down the marble run if I move my head excessively or turn my attention to other things. However, I have a large roll of drafting paper, 6 metres of calico in my drawer and a wardrobe waiting to welcome new garments...I plan to use 'it' until the techniques are more firmly welded to my brain.


These were the random thoughts that occurred to me during my week-long commute of people-watching (these thoughts are possibly an insight as to why I studied sociology at university - the wish to analyse and observe people as a population never really leaves):

  • In the context of public transport, chivalry is dead. While rows and rows of be-suited business men sat comfortably in their seats on the train, most days I sat on the floor of the carriage reading through my notes. I spoke of my surprise over this to my husband one evening and he argued that we (i.e. women) had done this: that this is the culture that feminism has created. He said that when he was commuting, having a seat when a woman didn't was something that always made him feel uncomfortable, but he never offered it up to her for fear of being publicly humiliated by a torrent of abuse over why he thought a woman would be in need of a seat more than him. I could see his point entirely (and yes, I can see the point of the raging feminist too), but for one who rather likes a little Jane Austen in her life, I found it depressing.
  • On the underground, there is a marked difference in the size of those who stand on the escalator on the right-hand side and those who walk up it on the left. The choice to walk up the stairs or to be carried up them is emblematic of an attitude to fitness in general.
  • Modern technology means that no-one will notice your laughter. Once I'd finished reading through the course notes, I passed the commute (which amounted to about four and a half hours each day) by listening to podcasts downloaded from Radio 4's Desert Island Discs archive. A few of the people interviewed were very funny and one day I found myself laughing aloud uncontrollably on the tube as Richard Madeley described a choking incident that had nearly killed him...without the prop of a book to justify this laughter and with my earphones largely hidden by the scarf I realised with horror that I would look utterly insane to my fellow passengers. However, it then dawned on me that nearly every fellow passenger was also locked away in their own private be-ear-phoned world and was most unlikely to have actually heard.
  • People seem generally happier. Ten years ago when I'd lived in London I remember people looking rather stony-faced on the tube. Perhaps it was the sudden burst of Spring weather, but people looked more cheerful than I remember as they rushed around the underground.

My next post, I think, will be a rather link-filled one - I have so many good things to share with you. The photos throughout this post are some of the ones that I came across in my lunchtime forays into the fabric shops near the college. The upper photo shows bolts of silk, while the latter two are Liberty print fabrics which I thought would make wonderful summer tops (unfortunately, the shop which sold them had marked them up so highly that I left them behind).

Florence x

28 comments:

  1. What a fabulous week! Wow! I'd love to do a course like this...
    Love your observations - I too am a great observer of people. Totally fascinating isn't it?!
    I laughed at the picture of you laughing on the tube, and it is true, things have changed. I think we expect that a manic laugher is probably hooked up to something, even if we hear them.
    Interesting to see you thought that the walkers on the stairs were interested in fitness - I still see them predominately in a rush!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's funny - I'd read an article recently about how the difference between being fit and unfit often came down to a willingness to seize the opportunity for activity whenever it presented itself and that if people were able to make a simple mindshift of choosing to use the stairs rather than take the lift then it would actually have a huge impact on general health and obesity levels in the country...so with this in mind, I'd focused on it as a mental attitude rather than people in a rush!

      Delete
  2. Well done for doing the course. Many years ago, I did a one year course at London College of Fashion which translated into Women's Light Clothing Manufacture. It was fascinating, hard work and extremely enjoyable. I think I could do with an update now, though. It's wonderful to be able to make your own patterns or adjust ready-made one.
    Also love the fabrics you have used in your blog today.
    Re: tube - it's true. No one looks at anyone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How fantastic - I'm now envying your year of learning...a week was very short indeed!

      Delete
  3. What a fabulous course to do! Your right chivalry is no longer, so sad.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "On the underground, there is a marked difference in the size of those who stand on the escalator on the right-hand side and those who walk up it on the left" This made me laugh out loud but I'm at home so noone thinks I'm insane. I think you're probably right. On the chivalry aspect - I have no issue with men sitting in seats available but they MUST get up for older people and heavily pregnant women or else I stare hate daggers at them. Unfortunately - it's not just men that don't give up their seats to these people in need Often see women sitting oblivious too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh the pregnancy thing is completely infuriating. I was unlucky enough to still be using the underground at 28 weeks pregnant and it was quite amazing how talented people can become in quickly diverting their gaze to avoid seat abandonment.

      So pleased you were safely at home and spared the embarrassment. x

      Delete
  5. I think people behave differently on the underground and it is a bit 'everyman for himself'. Understandably really, when even to get your foot in the door is an achievement. I've found when I use buses that I receive lots of polite behaviour. I am frequently directed onto the bus first and so on. If people, bump into me, they apologise. I am on the receiving end of so much politeness that I have really noticed it. I am older than you but not yet in my dotage, so I don't think it is that.

    I do not expect seats offered up to me, but they ought to be for pregnant women (I think they are scared though in fear of getting in wrong!).

    Your pattern cutting course sounds scary, I could not do that! Good luck with putting what you have learnt into practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you're right, buses do seem much more civil places!

      Delete
    2. I'd say the only thing to do is seize your opportunity and ask for a seat if you need it. I'm always reading or knitting, not scanning the carriage for someone who may or may not want a seat.

      When I was pregnant, being offered a seat was more annoyance than anything else because I didn't want to sit down, showed no interest in seats, yet people kept bothering me with offers at every tube stop like I was an invalid.

      As for seats being offered up to women in general - I do hope you are at least half kidding about this. Talk about have your cake and eat it too! Personally I'd rather have the vote and some equality in the workplace. What you see as chivalry is to me just another example of how women used to have to rely on men for everything. To me, romance is about equality. Chivalry is about being kind to everyone. But each to their own.

      Delete
  6. This is exciting news, Florence! Looking forward to seeing some patterns. (But oh, you mean none of them will feature that fantastic bird print?) I'm with Joanne on the transport chivalry - I'd never expect a man to stand for my sake but I am often appalled by how many people pretend not to notice elderly passengers in need of a seat. But it's not actually completely dead: a few weeks ago a trendy young man gave me his seat on the Tube; Boyfriend and I were totally bemused and I'm still trying to work out whether it's my white hairs or my belly getting out of control. Also, I quite often get offers of help carrying my cello up and down stairs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The fantastic bird print is on my wishlist for a later date!

      Oh no! That's the worry, isn't it - that in giving up a seat it could be open to misinterpretation and the woman left questioning her waist circumference. I can imagine a man would like to help you with your cello! There's something totally foxy about cellos.

      Delete
  7. Oh, this takes me back to when I was in London ten years ago too. I miss it but I wouldn't want to be living that life with the four kids that I now have! I would love to do a pattern cutting course - pattern drafting still seems so mysterious to me, but I'm sure it's all quite logical once you get started. I just made something with Liberty lawn for the first time last week - it is SO worth it :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. thank you for the post. I am taking a course in digital fabric printing and I am so nervous! though I know this will be a lot of fun too. Also love your insights into people on the tube...cant wait to see the results of your course!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's often down to the teacher, isn't it - I hope you've had someone lovely!

      Delete
  9. What a wonderful week! I'm a little jealous as I read about your week of learning. I miss learning mew things! I would love to go to a quilting class but fear I would stick out like a sore thumb, not knowing all that much about quilting yet. Good luck on the new patterns!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, you absolutely should. The course at LCF was aimed at people potentially wishing to go into the industry, so was a little different in that certain things HAD to be covered and done in a very, particular way, but a general quilting course for pleasure would be very embracing of someone new to it and a good teacher will be delighted to introduce you to something they feel passionate about - there's no lovelier thing than teaching someone to do something like quilting as essentially you are imparting a gift that they can use forever and which may become an integral part of their own family's backdrop. I don't think there's the slightest chance of you sticking out like a sore thumb - do give it a try!

      Delete
  10. Wow your course sounds really interesting. Looking forward to seeing your fabric pictures, your comments about mature students and observing people made me laugh - I studied sociology too and was always amazed by the keenness of mature students and I still "study people"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where did you study? I have to say I found my degree course disappointing and enjoyed Sociology a'level far more...

      Delete
  11. where did the lovely bird fabric come from?! Love it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't remember the name of the shop, but it's a Liberty print from one of the many fabric shops along the Goldhawk Road in London.

      Delete
  12. Wow I'm very envious, I have always wanted to do a dressmaking course, having never ever sewn any clothes I feel the need to do a course. However finances are limited at the moment and I'm also expecting my 4th baby, I already have a 1, 4 and 5 year olds so maybe in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's hard - your life sounds busy (in a good way)! Definitely time for enjoying dressmaking later on.

      Delete
  13. Oh I've been wanting to do a course like this for so long, but family responsibilities have always come first...one day!
    Looking forward to reading your next post.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love taking courses and miss doing so full-time and I am only 5 years out. Back then I was so ready to be done.

    With regards to large people not taking the opportunity for movement, I believe it's a chicken-and-egg scenario. Once you bust your metabolism, you feel quite tired. Think of overweight babies and toddlers. They are certainly not lazy, not quite old enough for video games, and yet they move less than their peers.

    The percentage of overweight children is growing and yet when I was much younger, we still watched a lot of tv and played a lot of video games, so I don't think it's fair to blame lack of activity all the time.

    On the other hand, when I'm very tired it's almost like inertia. If I can get myself going, I can keep going, and sometimes I'll even feel a little less tired. So I usually try to take every opportunity to move and maybe that's what's kept me relatively thin despite a damaged thyroid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently the more you exercise, the more you eat. Exercise alone is not as effective a way of maintaining a healthy weight as just restricting what you eat. I'm currently on a diet and it is astonishing the amount of calories in cheap/takeaway/fast food. Anyone eating that on a regular basis would have to exercise an incredible amount - going up the stairs just doesn't make that much of a difference, though as you say, it could be a sign of more. Lifestyles in general have certainly changed - just look at the number of cars each family owns now. I remember when one seemed the norm. And my grandparents had just a motorbike for many years!

      Delete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x