• Ethical Edition

Sustainability Sunday #52

A weekend workshop draping on the stand with sustainable fabrics.

This time last week I was on the train headed out of London, though luscious countryside to a sunny little studio on the River Medway in Chatham, Kent to learn how to drape on the stand.

The workshop was run by Laura Alice Dressmaking in partnership with Offset Warehouse who are the base of my own sewing inspiration with the consciously sourced fabrics. Offset Warehouse, as I mentioned in my recent post on the top sustainable fabric retailers, is a social enterprise run by Charlie Ross who after gaining a Masters in Menswear then struggled to combine her desire to use ethical fabrics with creating on-trend designs. After seeing first-hand the environmental disasters and unacceptable treatment of fashion industry workers she set about sourcing beautiful, artisanal, and fairly-sourced fabrics and sewing accessories and brought them together under one roof. Since Offset Warehouse’e conception, Charlie has kept her well-trained designer’s eye on current and future trends, proving that eco doesn’t have to mean old-fashioned and enables budding seamstresses with a passion for eco like me, to make trendy garments sustainably.

Laura Alice Dressmaking classes are run, obviously, by Laura Alice who after completing a degree in Fashion Atelier and applying her strong technical knowledge of fashion design, pattern cutting, garment construction, and illustration in the industry now makes bespoke garments and runs some amazing sewing workshops from beginners zip insertion to pro-sewers classes for making whole garments.

The draping workshop began with a quick introduction to some of the basics – selvedge, grainlines and pattern-cutting (ideal for totally non-technical makers like me) and a demonstration from Laura, using Calico to mark out a corset on the stand which is used as a base for your draped garment. We also learned how to use wadding to pad out a garment when using the traditional non-adjustable stands.

Once the base bodice was made and pinned directly onto our stands, it was time to design a garment. A draped garment is one made from a single piece of cloth rather than one that is fitted by cutting shaped pieces of cloth. Fabrics that have a natural weight and flow to them like silks, crepes and cottons are ideal for this. If you can’t quite picture what I’m (probably not doing a very good job of) explaining here then here’s some examples:

I chose to go for something a little like the shirts on the right-hand side but with more pleats for a fuller drape from shoulder to waist. Naturally, once the fabrics came out I couldn’t decide which ones I liked best and ended up choosing Offset Warehouse’s pale pink Fairtrade Chambray AND an upcycled turquoise cotton/polyester mix from Laura’s donated waste supply.

The others in the class also used a rescued (from landfill) red cotton and sateen Shirting, a handwoven midnight blue Ikat by Offset Warehouse and a recycled lightweight navy cotton blend also from Laura’s donated waste supplies.

After garment design and fabric selection we had a quick lunch stop in the Sun Pier House Tea Room upstairs from Laura’s studio, chunky cheese and chutney sandwiches with a river front view were just what we needed!

I digress, although lunch was delicious and it was really great to have a chance to chat and get to know the others in the group. As someone who didn’t start life in the fashion industry but trying to creep in through a side-door, it was great for me to hear first-hand experience from designers, pattern-cutters, buyers and the like! Post-lunch, (after tea is served, duh) we move onto creating our garments.

To begin the drape, you start by taking a square of fabric large enough to cover your garment size once folded several times, then begin by pinning at the neck (leaving seam allowance) and pleating the fabric across. This is fairly intuitive as the fabric will almost decide for itself where it wants to drape. My pink chambray feels gorgeous and works like a dream for this.

Each piece is pinned in place to mark where each pleat or drape will fall, you then sew a few stitches through your fabric and calico bodice at various points down each pleat so that when you remove the pins you can see where to stitch. Once we had our stitches in place we finished up the workshop with a show-and-tell of our garments, which we would be able to take home to finish with waistbands, sleeves and collars as we see fit.

Considering we were all beginners, I felt like we’d done rather well…

All in all a successful day’s work and I’ll be sure to follow up shortly with my finished garment for you to see my newly learned skills.

Laura has some more classes coming up in the next few weeks so if you’re interested in attending one yourself you can see her series of workshops here. If you want to find out more about my fave sustainable fabric retailer Offset Warehouse too, you can get in touch with me, shop online via their website, or you can visit Offset Warehouse at various textile shows, networking events, sewing evenings and workshops which they run regularly to get like-minded people like you and I together!

You can also keep up with both Offset Warehouse and Laura Alice on social:







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