My Story

Part 7: Community College Block Making Course

The original course I was supposed to do

After all the things I tried, after all my efforts… This wasn’t going to go wrong.

I kept an eye out for Community College classes that offered Block Making courses for patternmaking. I soon found one; in a suburb some distance away so not that convenient.  It meant driving there in peak hour traffic in the evening and then driving home in the dark. Which was stressful for me in Sydney traffic.  Very, very, stressful – and even more so after the second class, when I saw a young woman hit by a car where I was stopped at the traffic lights.  It affected me badly and I dreaded driving to and from my patternmaking class so much that I often felt physically ill.

But I was determined.

I was also not excited.  Relieved perhaps, that I had finally found the answer.

I was also determined to make sure

To make sure… I called the teacher and talked to her.  I told her that I had patternmaking knowledge and that I had tried various times to make blocks.  I told her that I really didn’t want to pay the $300 or so for the ten-week course if I wasn’t going to get a well-fitting block out of it.

She assured me – she promised me – that I would.

So I paid the money, and I attended the classes, and I made a full block set.  Making toiles to check the fit was part of the class tasks, but there just wasn’t the time to make the pants toile, so that idea was dropped a few weeks into the course – when we could see there was no way we were getting there.

The time constraint factor was compounded by the fact that the teacher insisted we do everything with hand stitching.  What this meant was we had to trace the block onto calico with chalk, then mark the stitching line with tufts of thread all around the block, before we had to hand stitch the toile together.  The was no option of machine sewing.  She was extremely adamant on that!  It took a long time as none of us was used to hand-stitching.  Although we should have done at home, most people found left it to class-time and it took up an entire class (or more) to do the sewing.  (If I could have machine stitched it at home it would have been done in half an hour!)

It meant that we were rushed in the last two classes to get it finished and get any changes made if there were any fitting issues.  The teacher had to look at each individual with their toiles on, then mark changes that were needed onto their blocks.

A mistake I couldn’t undo….?

Also… there was a bigger issue at play. I made an unwitting mistake and paid for it.

The instructions for this method were a bit harder to understand and follow than other methods I had used.  Having said that, given all the blocks I had tried to make, I could follow the directions fairly easily.  I would get the portion we were doing finished in a quarter of the time others did.  Then I sat there and waited for the teacher to come and check what I was doing. (She checked everyone’s work at certain points). Given that there were 10 or 12 people in the class, there was always someone with their hand in the air, and those who needed help had to wait for ages.

There were two people at each desk, and the girl next to me (who was waiting a long time for the teacher to come and answer her question) would ask me questions like “What does that mean?” (pointing to part of the instruction).  And I answered her.  I didn’t think anything of it.  In TAFE (and in Australia generally, I think), it is not seen as a bad thing for students to help each other.   I really, really, really, didn’t see what was happening until near the end of the second class when the teacher came and almost pounced on me and said in a very angry tone of voice:  “Are you the teacher?  Or am I? If you know everything, you shouldn’t be in this class.”  (Note: She was Japanese, and as I had lived and worked in Japan for 4.5 years, I had met quite a few Japanese teachers with this mindset.  I just had not realized she was like that until too late!).

After this incident she didn’t seem to want to help me;  if I actually had a question, or needed help, she wouldn’t come and help me until she had helped everybody else. She often ignored my hand in the air.  She made sniping remarks at me every so often. Or make a criticism (like “I stopped lending students my scissors as they kept dropping them on the floor”), then glare at me (I never borrowed her scissors!).  She scowled every time she looked at me.  It was so uncomfortable, I almost didn’t finish the course; especially given my stress at the driving to and from the venue.

When it came to showing her that the toile did not fit (there was no large bust adjustment, none attempted), she made some minor changes to my block and said something like “That’s the best you can hope for.” I said that it pulled at the bust and the armhole was uncomfortable, and she looked right through me.  I wasn’t getting any help there!

The block was much, much better in the shoulder-slope department, but it still was NOT COMFORTABLE.  I thought of writing a complaint to the college since she assured me I would have a block that fit.  But I never did.

There are four images below.  I’ve recreated both the first original block, made directly from the instructions, and also the final block, which was a result of the teacher making alterations/corrections to that blocks, based on our fitting toiles.

This first image shows the original block made (before alterations resulting from the toile fitting).  It has one dart in the waist.

This next image compares that original block with my block, but I’ve made a two-dart block from the Community College block to more easily compare it mine.

The third image shows the two Community College blocks: the original and the one with corrections made.  The original is in green, the corrected one in orange (brownish where they overlap).  The teacher had checked the fitting my dress, and from that fitting had made a couple of corrections to my block. She made markings on the original block, and then made the ‘final’ block according to those corrections in the final class.

This fourth image shows the final Community College block (orange), compared to my block (in white).

The shoulder slope on the BACK is correct, and the front has been fixed to some extent, but NOWHERE NEAR as much as necessary.  And there is always the bust-cup; no adjustment has been made there.

So no, it didn’t fit very well at all.  It was uncomfortable in the shoulder/neck area, and pulled across the bust and down from the armhole towards the next bust.

Yep… soo… onwards to the next setback, an Esmod course.

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