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What happens in The Makehouse

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When I first spoke to Jenny Ambrose from The Makehouse in Victoria. BC, I was so excited. I love crafting and dressmaking but never dare participate in either. I did a beginner’s dressmaking course once and held the whole class back and ended up with a pencil skirt that was longer on one side than the other (of course it was meant to be that way), but talking to Jenny made it a possibility again. Her approach is that it’s possible whatever the level and I mean come on, who doesn’t want to be able to make their own made to measure lingerie!

Here Jenny chats about what happens in The Makehouse (and no it doesn’t stay in The Makehouse), the chance to drop in and sew, her favourite dressmaking patterns and my favourite, the fashion upcycling class. If you need motivation to get back into sewing and dressmaking or are looking for a sewing buddy in a sewing lounge environment, then The Makehouse is for you!

So what happens in The Makehouse?

We offer workshops to teach you how to make all kinds of things including clothing, lingerie, homeware, kidswear and accessories. We supply the machines, equipment and materials for most of the projects, so you really just need to bring yourself! We are very beginner-friendly and will always have workshops for beginners each month and workshops that you can move on to when you are ready to experiment further!

And the history behind this little gem?

I spent over 5 years running my own small eco-fashion/ lingerie label in the UK, which evolved into a love for teaching when I started to offer workshops for ladies to learn how to make their own underwear. I was soon invited to teach at The Makery – a pioneering business offering creative workshops in the beautiful city of Bath in Somerset. I wound up making a very difficult decision to move back to Canada after spending 13 years in the UK. The most complete I felt in my professional life was during my time working with Kate and Nigel at the Makery. I vowed that when I got settled in Canada I would have a go at creating my own sewing studio and teach again. I never thought I would be doing it after just a year back in Canada, but I’m so excited that it’s all happening now! It seems that Victoria is ready for The Makehouse!

Are there other Makehouses in Canada?

There are other places that are offering sewing classes like Spool of Thread in Vancouver and I’ve heard of a cool place in Montreal. Though I don’t think either offers knicker workshops!

My sewing skills are little to none, will I feel out of place?

Not at all, we will always have workshops for total beginners. A big part of The Makehouse is to introduce sewing to people who have no experience, or those who haven’t touched a sewing machine for years!

I want to sew a specific project, can you help?

During the dressmaking classes, students will be working on a project of their choice, with guidance based on sewing levels. I’m also looking at running a Makehouse membership or punchcard idea for drop in sewing. I’m still working out logistics but should be ready to swing from October! I would like people to really enjoy the social aspect of working on their own projects with the company of others.

What classes can I expect to see over the next few months?

Beginner Sewing, Dressmaking, Knickers, Swimwear, Kidswear, Upcycling Fashion and we’re even talking to someone about offering a shoe making workshop down the line. Oh and Doggy Fashion! I know it’s wrong!

Fashion upcycling, I like it, what happens at this workshop?

Many of us have clothes sitting in our wardrobes that we never wear but can’t bring ourselves to give away as we love certain elements about them. Maybe you love the fabric, the colour but hate the sleeves, the shape or the hemline. During this workshop we look at each garment and discuss the options and figure out what the possibilities are for each piece. This could mean cutting off the sleeves and adding new ones, taking up the hems, simple alternations or more daring and creative changes that will breathe new life into an old garment. This workshop is designed for people with some sewing ability as there won’t be time to go through machine basics and threading so we recommend coming to one basic sewing workshop first. There will be a mixture of machine sewing and hand-sewing for each project.

Do you think the days of making your own clothes are behind us? What can we do to remedy this?

Not at all! I think that a lot of people have the desire to make their own clothes, but the task of learning and doing it often seems too daunting so people tend to put it off, and hide their sewing machines in a cupboard! I think that The Makehouse can be a part of the inspiration to get people doing things again. If you combine the social aspect as sewing is so often solitary, it helps to get people’s imagination and enthusiasm going as they feel like they are a part of something rather than working at home alone, trouble-shooting with a sometimes tempermental machine!

Do you have a favourite go-to pattern?

My tastes are always evolving so I get favourites for a period of a few months but that can change when I find something else new that I like!

A favourite era for fashion?

Definitely the 1950’s! I don’t know what it is about that era, but I just love the aesthetics! Although I wouldn’t want to have to eat the food from the 50’s every day!

If you could sit and sew with anyone, who would it be?

Dead – Would have to be Jacques Fath, one of the most influencial post-war designers from France famous for his plunging necklines and hourglass figures. He got to dress the likes of Rita Hayworth and I would love to have spent time as his sewing wench while he was alive! But alas!

Alive – Vivienne Westwood – to learn from but also for the incredible conversation and endless stories! She is such an icon and has evolved each and every year coming up with something new. That woman is AMAZING!

And because we just love used! What’s been your best ever used find?

I got a beautiful Elna sewing machine in a second hand store for $18.50 recently. The attachments were still in the bag – unused! It’s been an amazing machine and the same model is over $300 + in stores! It’s incredible what you can find in the second hand market place! No need to buy new for most things you might need!

Update from Jenny:

The Makehouse recently moved into it’s new home at 833 1/2 Fort Street [currently Maureen Patricia’s bridal and evening wear studio]. We are so excited as we will be in such a beautiful studio with loads of extra elbow room! It also means we can take more students in each workshop and offer group bookings and parties!

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One Response to “What happens in The Makehouse”

Maria K

Sooooo excited to see this happen, I know I’ll be popping in to check it out!


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