|I started class at the beginning of March '03 and attend a weekly tailoring/drafting course for 6 hours/week. This school is well established in Hawaii and is known for putting out top local designers. Looking at the classroom, you wouldn't have known it could do so. It's old, the machines are VERY old Singer/New Home models. Remember those brown and black models with the metal grating for foot pedals? Yeah... those. They work fine, but I prefer to bring my sewing home and use my trusty smooth running machine.
Pros: Getting past that, the knowledge of the sensei (Japanese teacher), is incredible. Though she is old-style and tends to DO for you rather than talk you through something so you can learn it yourself, she is a wealth of knowledge. The key to learning something from her is to take the initiative to ASK lots of questions... Hows, Whys, Wheres and What for? Otherwise, she'll go along and do what needs doing and you'll be left wondering why she did it.
The cons: She is basically the only teacher, with an assistant or two who are sometimes around to help. The class consists of anywhere between 7 - 20 people, and there seems to be no real organization as to what time we actually have class. Here's a typical schedule...
8am - people start arriving and get started doing whatever they want. Sometimes we sew something we've been working on from the previous day or week. Get help from the sensei if necessary, if she isn't busy helping someone else.
9:30 or so - we gather together to start learning to draft something new. Usually we start with something in half-scale, drawn into our notebooks. Last week we did Long Kimono Sleeves with flange and square armholes. This portion is conducted as a class. Drafting students will work at one table with the sensei, and all others go on about their sewing.
11:45 - lunch till 1pm or so.
After lunch, we do a draft of the lesson in our own individual measurements using a sloper we created. Sensei checks our work before we leave. I finish up sewing the garment at home, others who are taking the full-time course do so in the next few days.
Throughout the day, sensei seems to be hopping around from one student to the next, helping everyone individually. This means there might be lots of waiting till you have a chance to talk with her. The other teachers are basically like her... they don't really teach... they do.
There's no text book, not many handouts (except for the bodice/sleeve slopers) and you will need to purchase a cardboard dressmakers ruler in half-scale and full scale. I wish it were sturdier.
Now... it sounds disappointing doesn't it. But I'm learning a lot from the one day I attend class. I would recommend it if you want to learn EVERYTHING about sewing. We don't use commercial patterns. We use slopers drafted to our own individual measurements and work from there. If you attend only the sewing portion of the class, sensei will draft the design you want for you... and she is quick. It will fit you (or your client) and all you'll need to do is a bit of fine tuning. This fact and Sensei's knowledge are the gems that keep the school going... you'll learn everything you want. Sensei can teach you anything you want to learn. The key is to ask.