A skill and craft that has seemingly been left to the veterans and the experts, dressmaking is one of those hobbies that require a special kind of passion. Dedication to perfecting the craft, for one, plays a big part in it – after all, the ability to construct and put together a piece of garment, is at the root of every fashion brand out there. It’s safe to say then, that many an aspiring fashion designer would dream of creating, personalising and wearing their own clothes. And if you’re in or around the Petaling Jaya Area, you’ve got at least one interesting option open… starting with Ng Ching-Ching who heads dressmaking workshops at Hobby N Coffee at Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
Having grown up with a mother she calls her “dressmaking guru,” Ching-Ching tells us she picked up the craft of sewing and creating her own garments in what seems to be a natural way. “When I was in my teens, she’d ask me to flip through her Japanese patternmaking books and pick a dress so she could make it for me,” Ching-Ching says. It was then, during her school years, that she first began to learn how to use a sewing machine and made her first bag – a feat she was incredibly proud of.
Today, Ching-Ching not only designs and sews pleather bags for her own brand called L.A.R.K, but she also teaches dressmaking classes on the side. Here, we talk to Ching-Ching about her venture into dressmaking workshops, and her (very positive) outlook on the craft:
How and where did you learn dressmaking?
My mother is my dressmaking guru – she’s my sewing Google! She learnt dressmaking on her own through reading books and by sewing almost all the garments in her wardrobe. I did the same thing too and I had the benefit of being able to consult with my mom, and before I knew it, my wardrobe was taken over by my self-made garments.
What made you want to teach dressmaking?
To me, there’s a lot of satisfaction in making a garment yourself that you can proudly wear out. Imagine this: taking a piece of flat fabric and turning it into a 3D wearable piece that fits all around your body. It’s your creation, and it sure is exciting to create! I also want people to have a healthy body image by loving their own unique bodies by learning how to make clothes that fit them well.
What kind of misconceptions do people often have about the craft?
Some people think that it’s extremely difficult – something only a “real tailor” or a fashion designer can do. It’s always very exciting to see the joy in their faces when they’ve completed the garment and they wear it out for everyone else to see. They’d exclaim, “I can’t believe I made this!” On the other hand, there are also those who think that dressmaking is extremely easy and are shocked at the amount of time it takes to sew their first well-made garment. It’s easy to take for granted the amount of time that goes into all the prep work – from planning to basting, to fitting and modifications – before the actual sewing begins.
Is dressmaking an art or a science? Do you need to master a technique or be particularly creative, or is it all about following a set of rules?
To me it’s a bit of both. Measurements are highly important (i.e. you don’t want to make a skirt that makes you suffocate before you reach the buffet table), and so are techniques (your accurately-measured skirt won’t look good if your sewing is all over the place and messy). Learning the rules are important because you can then know which rules you can break to be creative. It’s just like baking cupcakes; the science is in the measurements of the basic ingredients and the temperature and time they’re baked in, but the creative part comes in experimenting with the flavours and presentation. Mmm, cupcakes.
What are the biggest challenges in teaching dressmaking?
Finding a balance between finishing a project as quick as possible without compromising on the quality of the garment. For most home sewists, many of us do not have the luxury of endless time where we can spend days and weeks sewing leisurely for just one garment. At the same time, shortcut techniques that are popular on online DIY blogs often do not result in a garment that is well made or lasting. I want my students to make clothes that look good enough to be sold on racks, and have the ability to sew for themselves reasonably quick so that they can have both time and satisfaction.
Ching-Ching’s dressmaking classes held at Hobby N Coffee are usually on a project basis, with different levels of expertise. Head to her Facebook page Sew Much Awesome, for more information on how to get started in the craft.
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