Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Sewing Academy in St. Paul: AAR

As I mentioned in my last post, in late April I attended a Sewing Academy workshop series, and it changed my life.

Starring your usual cast of characters: Betsy, Ashley, Sarah, Kit, et al

Well, "attended" is putting it mildly. My reenacting group, the Living History Society of Minnesota, put it on. I had a big hand in planning it, but the minute it was suggested that we bring Elizabeth Stewart Clark out here this spring, I was sold and knew that I would do whatever it took to make it happen.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you're not familiar with Elizabeth Stewart Clark and the Sewing Academy, and you're a mid-19th century living historian, you are not trying hard enough. The Sewing Academy is a one-stop shop for everything and anything related to the mid 19th century. Everyone there researches and documents. EVERYONE. And they are nice about it. If you've ever been burned by mavens and bossy betties, go over to the Sewing Academy and see what a real expert looks like. There are people there who have been researching the 19th century for decades, and people who are just starting, and they're all learning together and sharing their knowledge. And Elizabeth Stewart Clark rules over them all benevolently, distributing free patterns and articles and generally being amazing.

I have to say, if you want to bring Liz Clark to your locale for a Sewing Academy series, it could not be easier. She takes care of everything, and is wonderful at coming up with workshops and seminars to fit exactly what you need. The planning process was great. Getting to meet her was magical - she's been my hero for a decade, we've had a casual conversational online acquaintance for a couple years, and she was so sweet and kind and wonderful in person.

These are our excited faces. I think we looked like this 85% of the time.

The workshops themselves were fantastic. We had some workshops on basic skills, like creating bodices and skirts in miniature. We had some advanced workshops like whitework embroidery and bodice draping. There were seminars on deconstructing CDVs to figure out the construction of women's clothing, fabric choices and suggestions, and best-bet wardrobe options. My favorite workshop was on pattern play - we got tiny adorable bodice patterns, and learned how to slash and spread, swing darts, add and remove features, and more. We learned all sorts of ways to make interesting sleeves. It was truly mind-blowing!

Pattern play at tea - pretty much the best Saturday afternoon ever

My favorite seminar was Living Citizen History. There was too much to sum up in a couple sentences, but it was basically a reiteration of all the things I feel strongly about: that living history is a transformative experience based on senses, and that when all the right sensory information (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) comes together, life-changing experiences happen for the public and for participants. Accuracy matters, because it just does, and we owe it to ourselves and others to strive for accuracy and expect it of each other.

If that sounds rather heavy, let me assure you that the weekend was full of a LOT of laughter, and a more-than-small bit of geeking out. And I was once again turned into a meme, with Liz, which may be the pinnacle of my existence on this planet.

Have I mentioned the massive bag of goodies I came home with? The company was excellent, and it was just an amazing time. Everyone went away asking when we can do it again - and I hope the answer is "very very soon"!

(In related news, I need to find an acronym to make "mid 19th century" easier to type out, because it's getting really, really old.)


DoriG said...

Isn't Liz Clark FANTASTIC? I just came home from an Elizabeth Stewart Clark weekend of workshops in Elko, NV. WOW! WHAT A WONDERFULLY EXCITING AND FULLFILLING 2 days! I, too, can't wait until I can go to more and more and more...Liz is so excited and passionate about her topics. SUCH FUN!!!

Elizabeth K. said...

Getting so excited for the SA workshop in October!

Samantha said...

I'm so glad I got to take a couple classes from Liz when I was 16 and just getting started. The Sewing Academy really is fantastic!

Samantha said...

I'm so glad I got to take a couple classes from Liz when I was 16 and just getting started. The Sewing Academy really is fantastic!