I went into Spool of Thread on a weekday evening before the class to pick out my fabric and met Henry, one half of the couple that owns the shop. Lili, who taught the class I took, is the other half. Spool of Thread carries a range of colours and retro inspired patterns, making it hard for me to decide which fabrics to choose for the double-sided totebag I’d be attempting to make in class. Henry told me that they put a lot of work into curating a collection of fabrics that you won’t necessarily find elsewhere in Vancouver. They’ll be adding more soon, including some Liberty prints. I was impressed with the large, open space, sales goods in the front and sewing machines, ironing boards and a big worktable in the back. This was intentional, as Lili and Henry wanted to make the workspace a central part of their store, where those who rent the machines can interact with the owners, customers and each other.
This welcoming ethos fits in really well with the rest of the businesses that inhabit the tiny, unprepossessing strip mall near Fraser and 15th, including Ruby Dog’s, Collage Collage and the fantastic Les Faux Bourgeois. It’s a corner of East Van that I wish I could pull a little closer to my own neighbourhood.
But, back to my adventures in sewing. The introductory class had only five members, which allowed for a lot of one on one with our instructor, Lili. We spent the first part of the class learning how to use the sewing machines and doing some test runs on scrap fabric. I noticed the speed control had a turtle at one end and a rabbit at the other. I had my suspicions about which animal I’d most resemble. We also shared our reasons for taking the class and, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t alone in having had a Home Ec. teacher scare me away from sewing.
Lili walked us through each step, thoroughly explaining everything as we went along and checking our progress at various stages. Two students, who’d never touched a sewing machine before, raced through the pattern, while the rest of us…took a bit longer. We were definitely divided into turtles and rabbits. Still, it was wonderful seeing the bag come together. My lines were (basically) straight and the finished product is actually kind of nice. It helped that Lili had developed a straightforward, forgiving pattern that hides many of the sewn edges. The sewing that shows is done late in the process, when you’ve had time to improve.
At the end of the class, I picked up a stamp card (at a post-class discount) for using the sewing lounge. I’m going to go back and make a few more tote bags before attempting anything else, which will have the added benefit of making me more prepared for Christmas that I’ve ever been before.
Spool of Thread regularly offers Sewing Machine 101 classes, along with a range of project-centred classes. They also rent on site use of their machines and equipment by the hour. They take music requests while you’re there sewing, too.
By the way, I’m going to update this post with a picture of the finished product – I forgot my camera the day of the class (go me!) and only have a couple of iPhone pictures to show for my day’s sewing.