Category Archives: Fashion industry

Talk on 20thC Fashion History at MIY Workshop

Are you interested in fashion history?

My colleague Suzanne Rowland will be teaching a 10 week course on 20th Century Fashion History at Worthing Museum starting in September.  If you can’t get to the course or would like to find out a bit more, Suzanne is doing a talk at MIY Workshop on Monday 15th July from 7pm-8.30pm, where you will also be to look and handle samples of clothing, accessories and old magazines from  Suzanne’s own collection

Suzanne is a very knowledgeable and experienced teacher, not to mention highly skilled costume maker!  She regularly gives talks about fashion history at local museums, teaches Costume Design in Hastings and is a regular contributor of projects to Making magazine.

Tickets will be £5 per person and numbers are limited to just 15.  When they’re gone, they’re gone!  To book your place contact Wendy at MIY Workshop on post[at] or ring 01273 693451 or 775951.

Fashion History poster A4-1

Great British Sewing Bee – series number 2!!

Just as the first cruelly short series of the Great British Sewing Bee comes to an end tomorrow night, news that the production company responsible are looking for contestants for series number 2.

I haven’t read or heard a bad thing about this series, I even heard Patrick Grant talking to Richard Bacon about it on 5 Live today and was delighted to hear the programme had even made Bacon feel the urge to give sewing a go!!

Here’s the link for applications:

the main requirements are that you have no sewing qualifications and don’t earn a living from your sewing, thankfully that rules me out!

Good luck to everyone who applies!!

Enjoy the final tomorrow, tense viewing guaranteed…

City & Guilds Pattern Cutting Courses at MIY Workshop

Now available for booking (scroll down for full details):

C&G Fashion 7160 (02) Level 2 Award

Pattern Cutting for Skirts & Trousers

c&g pattern cutting


Anyone who has used dressmaking patterns and is interested in designing their own clothes.  You will get the most out of the course if you can do the following:

  • use a sewing machine
  • read a dressmaking pattern
  •  basic arithmetic with or without a calculator.



Your final assessment will be based on a folio of your work, there is no written exam.  The course will cover the following:

  • drafting a basic skirt and trouser block
  • making a toile (sample garment) for the 2 blocks
  • making fit adjustments to toiles
  • looking at the historical, cultural and contemporary design of skirts and trousers
  • producing your own design for a skirt or trousers
  • making a pattern for your own design
  • making a toile for your own design.


  • adjust patterns to get a better fit
  • use research to produce your own designs
  • use templates to draw up your own design ideas
  • understand the basics of pattern cutting and basic style adaptations
  • take accurate body measurements
  • understand how to choose the best fabric for your designs
  • plan the making of a garment and understand the costs involved.


If you’re interested in pursuing a career within the fashion industry or setting up your own business, a City & Guilds course is a nationally recognised qualification focussed on the practical skills needed in that industry.   This qualification is endorsed by Creative Skillset (the Sector Skills Council for creative industries)

Following a structured, nationally recognised course will demonstrate your interest and commitment to potential employers.


35 hours of teaching with a choice of daytime OR weekend:

10 Tuesdays 10am – 1.30pm:

Feb 5th, 12th, 26th / March 12th, 19th, 26th / April 16th, 23rd, 30th / May 7th

6 Saturdays 10am – 4pm:

Feb 2nd & 16th / March 2nd / April 20th / May 4th & 11th


£300 course fee


£35 C&G registration fee.

When are clothes too expensive?

One of the things that gives me a lot of satisfaction about my classes, is the moment when students start to realise how much skill and work goes into making clothes and doing alterations.

It’s probably only since the 1970′s and 80′s that we’ve lost touch with the many skills of making.  Most people in the UK educated before then probably learnt how to sew at school (at least the girls did!).  OK, so I’m not suggesting we go back to the days of girls doing domestic science and boys doing woodwork, but to regain that knowledge and that appreciation of workmanship would do us good.

Earlier this year while watching the most recent of Mary Portas’ many and varied activities; the Channel 4 series “Mary’s Bottom Line” (where she attempted to revive garment and textile manufacturing in the suburbs of Manchester through the production of knickers) it felt like she’d been inside my head and made a TV series about the things that regularly set me off on a rant!  The Mary Portas project needed to sell their knickers for £10 per pair in order to cover their costs and make a bit of a profit.  Compare this to Primark where they sell for probably around £2?

Since the opening of China’s textile markets, the real terms price we pay for clothing in the last couple of decades has dropped, whereas the price of many other things has risen.  Without getting too bogged down in the detail, part of the reason for this is the removal of textile and clothing quotas by the WTO (World Trade Organisation), to enable a truly open and transparent market.  An admirable action in itself, however, while markets adjust one effect has been the flooding of our market with cheap imports and the inability of domestic markets to compete.  The consequence being; a loss of jobs, businesses and crucially – skills.  Once skills have been lost it can take decades to get them back again.  I’m not an advocate of protectionism, but I do believe in the power of educating consumers.

Now maybe the tide is turning.  Cotton prices started to rise at the end of 2010, reaching new highs driven by climatic conditions and rising demand in places like China and India, in fact India issued an export ban earlier this year.  In China there is a rapidly expanding middle class and workers are beginning to demand more rights, higher pay and better working conditions (and rightly so).  But all this means that the big high street retailers over here will have to start paying higher wholesale prices to their overseas partners.  The people in charge at said high street retailers won’t be absorbing this increase, they’ll be passing it on to us.  The days of cheap disposable fashion are coming to an end, maybe not in the next 5 or maybe even 10 years, but I believe beyond then it will become unsustainable.

So, when you’re browsing the rails of an independent retailer and you see a frock for £120 and your first reaction is; “what a rip-off I could make it myself for less than that”.  Stop and really think for a second, perhaps you could make a single dress for yourself, but……to be paid for within the price of each item of clothing for sale in a shop are the following:

  • fabric (which in turn includes raw materials, weaving or knitting, printing, dyeing, amongst many other processes)
  • thread
  • components such as zips and buttons
  • the cost of researching and developing an original design
  • pattern cutting and pattern grading
  • skilled workers to sew the garment together
  • distribution
  • overheads for retail premises
  • marketing and selling.

It’s a lot to cover isn’t it?

If you’re interested enough to find out more, you’ll find a lot of information on these websites: