Last weekend I headed over to Sydney for the first 2018 Cashmerette retreat. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little apprehensive about this at the start because I just wasn’t sure that it would be good enough to justify the cost. The two day course isn’t exactly cheap but I also wouldn’t call it expensive for what it is. But add in flights to Sydney and accommodation there and it was a real luxury purchase for me, so the stakes were high. I also wasn’t sure how much I would get out of it, given that I feel reasonably confident in my sewing and fitting skills. I justified it because I can’t make March craft camp so I figured it was the slightly more expensive version of that.
I’ll just cut to the chase and say it was absolutely 100% worth it.
There was a meet and greet the night before but because my plane was delayed I missed it. I think most if not all of the other attendees had been and so already knew each other, and there were a few people who were already friends and were attending the course together. But it quickly felt like I’d known everyone for ages. I was going to say that we lucked out with an absolutely stellar group of people but honestly, I think most random groups of sewists are pretty excellent, to be honest.
Jenny started off with a statement about how our bodies aren’t the wrong sizes, if a pattern doesn’t fit you it’s the PATTERN that’s wrong, not you. Given that we were all people of size there was plenty of honest talking about where our lumps and bumps sit, how stomachs expand and boobs droop and larger shapes are different to smaller people’s shapes. Lots of grabbing boobs to demonstrate things! It was really refreshing and relaxing to be in that atmosphere, it felt accepting and safe.
There was a real range of ages, skills and expectations in the group, which was really wonderful. Everyone was welcome to do whatever they wanted independently and Jenny and Carrie went around helping where needed. Periodically Jenny gave specific little talks about fitting and adjustment covering things like picking a size, grading between sizes, FBAs, full bicep adjustments, narrow shoulder adjustments, and a whole bunch of other things that I didn’t write down. 😛
Jenny also showed us a bunch of tips and tricks. Most of them were things I’d already heard about, like this collar turning trick, but hadn’t tried because they seemed too fiddly or complicated. Seeing them demonstrated was really helpful and confidence boosting. I’m self taught, mostly from the internet, and I just hadn’t realised how much of a difference it makes having someone showing you in person. All the things Jenny covered (and more!) are in her online courses, which you also get access to when you pay for the course. I’m definitely going to go back and watch some of them over again.
I had brought the Ames jeans to muslin because I am intimidated by fitting pants. I actually haven’t worn my Ginger jeans I made because I decided I don’t like the fabric, and I haven’t made another pair because I wasn’t happy enough with the crotch fit to justify it. The Ames were so much better straight out of the packet, but it also definitely helped having Jenny and Carrie there. They had so much knowledge of fitting and of that pattern in particular, and were so encouraging. I feel like I would have been much more frustrated and unsure on my own and maybe felt like I was doing things wrong or gotten in a negative body image space. Instead it just all felt like part of the process, no big deal. I had meant to muslin them beforehand to maximise my time at the course but in the end I’m glad I didn’t since Jenny and Carrie were really helpful with picking the right size and version to cut out. I’ve since sewn them up and I’ll try to get photos and do a blog post for them soon.
Once I was done muslining and fitting them, I also muslined the Lenox dress, which I’ve been meaning to make for ages but there are enough pieces to make muslining it and then making it feel tedious. I feel like I would have made the same changes by myself, but it would have taken me much longer to get there. I also learnt a few better or easier ways to make the adjustments that I usually make for every pattern. It turns out Jenny and I are almost exactly the same measurements which I wouldn’t really have picked from just photos. I guess we’re shaped different? Bodies are weird like that.
I definitely learnt a lot at the course but I think what will stick with me is the joy in that room the whole weekend. Jenny and Carrie are just wonderful, funny, smart, warm people. It was a delight to spend the weekend with them. And it was so unbelievably wonderful to see people at the end of the course with a finished (or almost) object tearing up because they’d never had a fitted dress or shirt or anything before. It was pretty magical I have to say.
I’m told there’s still a couple places left in the second Sydney session that was added. Not to sound like a shill, but honestly if you’ve been thinking about it but are on the fence, I would highly recommend it. Like I said, I wasn’t sure going in and now I am so glad that I went. I have a feeling that the memory of that weekend will stick with me for a long time. Thanks Jenny and Carrie!