Friday, September 9, 2016

Online Sewing Classes: Yea or Nay? Considering Cynthia Guffey's Women's Shirt Class

Through coincidence, serendipity or magical Internet cookie goblins or whatever, I received an email advertising Cynthia Guffey's online women's shirt making class within days of my Epic RTW Blouse Alteration Fail.

Cynthia Guffey's Women's Shirt Class, more info here
I'm intrigued!  I was literally just telling my husband that I wish I could find a teacher with a class like this only minutes before I opened my email and saw this.  If you go to the class description on the Martha Pullen website here you can view the course outline and watch a brief video about it as well. 

I know these online classes are all the rage now, but I've never taken one before.  I did purchase a Craftsy online class once about quilting with rulers on a domestic sewing machine, but I only watched the first lesson and never had time to actually go and attempt to DO what I watched the instructor do in the video.  Not the end of the world; I saved the link and I plan to go back to it when I have time and have a project at the quilting stage (right now I'm piecing and appliqueing several different things but nothing is ready to quilt). 

But that ruler class was priced similarly to a paperback quilting book, maybe $20 or so.  This online shirt making class costs a whopping $279, which seems like a lot of money for a class where you are watching videos online but not getting any individual instructor feedback on your work.  Even if I watched every lesson and reinforced what I was trying to learn by actually making my own shirt along with the lessons (and this is a big if, based on my track record from the ruler quilting class), what if I run into a problem and can't figure out what I'm doing wrong?  If this was a local class with a dozen students and Cynthia was going to be right there with us, walking around the room and giving feedback on what we were doing as we were sewing, I would sign up in a heartbeat.  There are nine "sessions" to the class, and if I took a nine-week class that cost $31 per session, that would feel reasonable.

Original Edition (the one I have)
Have any of you taken online sewing classes, and if so, did you like the format and would you do it again?  I'm imagining that these online classes are a lot like the old VHS tapes we used to be able to buy.  I remember that when I was learning to hand quilt, I read Roxanne McElroy's That Perfect Stitch book but also bought and watched the accompanying VHS tape (now available as a DVD here).  I liked the combination of seeing the video of the rocking hand movements involved in the quilting stitch, with the book as a reference to quickly locate information as I needed it.  But it wasn't until I actually took a class with Dierdre McElroy in person that everything clicked, when she observed me quilting and told me that my thimble was too big.  Since it was a Roxanne thimble and she had them for sale at the quilt show, she exchanged my thimble for the correct size on the spot and it was smooth sailing from then on out.  I think she also gave me some useful feedback about how tightly I was hooping my quilt. 

The updated DVD tutorial video of That Perfect Stitch is about two hours long, and it retails for $38.  The shirt making class has nine sessions, probably at least 30 minutes each, so maybe the class is a total of 4-5 hours worth of videos.  Even if you adjust for the shirt class offering more than twice as much instruction time, it's still outrageously more expensive than the quilting DVD, especially since the Martha Pullen company is not incurring the costs of actually manufacturing and distributing DVDs of the video content, since it's all online.  The course description says that students can "access the courses any time, anywhere, from computer, smart phone or tablet" and that there is "no set class time...  courses structured to fit around your schedule."  All this is true of a DVD, but I would have an actual, physical DVD rather than a link to an online account somewhere.  A DVD I can put with other DVDs in my sewing room and find it again easily 6 years from now.  I am notorious for forgetting my login information and passwords for all of my numerous online accounts, and 6 years from now I would probably remember that I had paid for an online shirt making class that I was supposed to have access to "any time, anywhere," but if I didn't remember the instructor's name, the name of the web site I bought it from, or any other specifics, it would be nearly impossible to locate and access the course again online.  Then there's the possibility that the Martha Pullen company might go out of business or discontinue their online classes, and the content might be removed from the web altogether when I tried to access it again in the future.

Obviously, an in-person nine week class would be ideal, but the sewing stores near me only offer quilting classes or very basic beginner sewing classes, like making a pillowcase or an apron. 

What do you think, folks?  Has anyone taken a class like this, and how did you like it?  Is there a better one out there for me that you would recommend instead of this one?  I have taken in-person pattern alteration classes and I feel confident there.  What I need help with the most is the construction process from start to finish and all of the sewing techniques (like sleeve insertion, collars, cuffs, shirttail hems) that are specific to sewing a garment rather than something I would have encountered in quilting or home dec sewing.  Watching the video description of Cynthia Guffey's class, what is most appealing to me is that she says that there appears to be a lot of hand work involved and she says that she does not teach "shortcuts," but foolproof methods for achieving superior results the first time.  That's the way I want to learn to sew.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

12 comments:

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I wouldn't pay that much but that is me. I am not into clothes making. Even quilting classes which I am into I don't pay that much. I have purchased I don't know how many Craftsy classes and I have some I have not watched yet, others part way through and don't no if I will finish and only a few that I have completed. The old DVD's and tapes I have I never completed either - I have come to accept the fact that I am not a class person LOL

Anonymous said...

You made that fantastic caroling dress, so I have every confidence that you can make a fitted blouse for yourself!!! Didn't you write that you did not care for the blouse pattern and did not try it on before sewing it up? I suggest that you pick a new pattern and start fresh and without trying to finish 11 PM the night before you want to wear it. Good luck, you can make this! Diane in TX

Sandy Keane said...

$279 for an online class is ridiculous in my opinion. I dont think I'd pay that much for an in person class much less online. Have you checked the Craftsy sewing classes? I'm not sure if blouse making is there but they do have such a wide variety and you can always get it on sale for $19.95 at some point. I basically learned how to quilt with Craftsy and Jenny Doan tutorials. Have you checked YouTube as well? There are SO many options out there, many are free, so I could never justify that amount of money, You could probably get a custom made shirt for near that price. Good luck! If I see something, I'll let you know. I'm always looking for tutorials to learn new things.

Anonymous said...

David Page Coffin has a book and dvd for men's shirts, and a lot of women use it - just add darts. Some of those amazing fit patterns might also be good.
Margot

SJSM said...

David Page Coffin is noted for his detailed construction of shirts and pants. On the Threads Magazine site there are books and DVDs that are sold. I've purchased his shirt and his pants/trousers books. I like them as they have good pictures that show the details. Craftsy also has a class with him on shirts. I have not watched that one, all craftsy classes have an agreement that the instructor would be available for questions. The classes I've taken have a record of all questions asked and the responses, some people upload pictures of their problem and that is good to see what issues people are having. There is a blouse class or two. Again, I haven't watched those. PatternReview,com also have classes. I haven't taken any of these classes but I have taken classes in person with most of these instructors and they are all more than good , Sarah Veblen I have taken multiple classes with her and one with Jennifer Stern. I be taken classes where Kenneth King's techniques were taught and given some changes by Lynda Maynard. (She says improves on Kenneth's bust techniques and I agree.).

On Craftsy classes, not all of the classes are equal. Some of the instructors are very rigid or not clear or ramble. I read the review before I buy and watch the clips. Craftsy does have a money back guarantee and I've used it once. Most instructors are good and some are excellent. The camera work generally is excellent.

One fitting class on Craftsy taught me a whole new way on fitting, Joi Mahon has a method that is very straight forward. Her teaching style is clear and very informative. I loved it. Also Sarah Veben has a book out on fit that have found to be extremely helpful. I love fit techniques and feel the more ways you know to solve a problem the better your skill set is when you are analyzing different solutions with a design or fabric.

As always, I could on and on but will leave you with theses opinions.

Jenny Lyon said...

Ridiculous. Someone's a little full of himself I think.

Shar said...

One thing you might look in to is Nancy Zieman's system of altering clothing. You can find it on her website and she has free videos there that show the basics. I bought the book (you can also buy the DVD) and am making a jacket but am not finished yet. The system seems sound and works for all types of clothing. It's called Pattern Fitting with Confidence. I think the book was under $30. You do have experience in making more difficult pieces.

Amanda Ennis said...

I have purchased quite a few classes on Craftsy. Some move a little slow for me, however, I've enjoyed them. For me, they're the next best thing to being in a classroom. You can post pics and ask questions and the instructor answers.

As some have mentioned, I wouldn't pay that much for an online class either.

Craftsy does have one called The Classic Tailored Shirt that would perhaps fit the bill for you.

I don't garment sew, but what I've seen you sew, has been gorgeous.

colleen said...

You are always so interesting. I think you need to look at/for someone in your area who is a seamstress (? bridal, alterations, custom clothing) and check a few out and see if you can work out an arrangement to learn in person from a local expert.
My mother was a self taught sewist who was both careful and brave. My cousin a young girl a LARGE young girl was kindly given some wonderful gray wool to make a simple shift type dress. My cousin hated the gray to her it was GRAY dull and GRAY. My mother really felt for her and together they shopped for a simple but elegant pattern (think little black dress in LARGE size) and the truly the best part to put a smile on that cousins face a pale lavender lining (her sister said you can't have that for the lining, my mother said why not Everytime she wears her dress she will feel pretty and happy....really frump to lovely.
But this girl was busty my mother tried her best to figure out how to "fit" her bust without making a tent
I lady up the street was a professional seamstress my mother finally asked her for help (my mother had no $$ to pay her and knew she was sewing to make $$) the neighbor lady was happy to help my mother (as she knew my mother was honestly stuck while trying to help my cousin)
She showed my mother how to take a pleat in the fabric under the pattern to add extra fabric and smooth the rest so no pleats of fabric at the edges
Such an easy simple why to add to the piece without going up several sizes and making an ugly tent.
I can say my cousin liked her shift dress but always hated the gray color and most likely never wears gray clothes

I just think in person working with someone who deals with real people's shapes. All our bodies are different even though we may wear the same size garments

For me now I am old and happy and I buy from the rack and it's good enough, there was a time good enough was not good enough it's past now

Although I love nice expensive good looking and comfortable shoes.......I buy ALL my shoes second hand cheaply I tell people if they ask but for the most part I think they must say hmm she always wears the best shoes but her clothes are for target/Walmart
Colleen

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks everyone for all of the great recommendations for classes, DVDs, patterns, and other resources! I will check them all out as soon as I get a chance.

greg @ grey dogwood studio said...

I agree with the other comments regarding Craftsy. You could take several classes there, and they'd cost less, especially if you buy them during a promotional period. It seems like they're always on "sale." (Now maybe I should confess that I've watched a few Craftsy classes mainly as entertainment. I did make one of the quilts, but I made it BEFORE taking the class LOL. I have another class that I purchased but I keep forgetting to watch it!)

Carol Gregg said...


When choosing sewing classes, I rank Cynthia Guffey's among the very best. I've taken several hour long, or half day classes from her during the yearly sewing expo's held in Kansas City. Her methods are impeccable, and leave you with a valuable skill set you won't get anywhere else. She used to teach a course just on pressing, which every sewist needs to have in their arsenal. Yes, I don't spend my dollars on unknown entities and this year as a birthday gift I should like to take Ms. Guffey's shirtmaking course. I think the tuition is worth the investment in myself.

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