My Journeyman's Journey
Hi, I'm Róisín, of RGC fame.
I wanted to write some blog posts to start sharing my journey with everyone, but my journey into making clothes really began with my sewing apprenticeship with my wife. As such, she kindly offered to write our inaugural blog post about her experience teaching me to sew because when Róisín Glass Clothing was born, I couldn't sew a stitch. My wife, Marie, who holds a diploma in fashion design, taught at St. Clair College, has tailored for some of Canada's top menswear retailers and was undergoing a major career shift into the long days and insanely high standards of costuming for film when I launched RGC in the summer of 2019. We ate, slept and breathed clothing. Oak tag, chalk, pins and scraps of cloth and paper littered our apartment. The hum of the industrial sewing machines permeated our dreams, we sharpened our scissors three times, we broke countless needles, but we made it….and now I make clothes. All on my own!
My Journeyman’s Journey
Have you ever tried to teach an absolute beginner something you've been doing for twenty years….if you're not a teacher?
I have. Last year, while walking down Bloor Street, my wife and I dreamt up Róisín Glass Clothing. Part a product we wanted to wear and part a product Róisín could ethically and cost effectively make themself. One problem. I sew…. Róisín at this time, does not. Not a button, not a tack, not a mend or a darn or a needlepoint even. Nothing.
Teaching someone who has never sewn before to use and respect an industrial sewing machine and a collection of tools acquired over basically a lifetime is both a privilege and a chore.
You have no idea how many things become muscle memory or seem like common sense when you've been sewing since you were 11. How you totally take for granted being able to make sense of how flat shapes will make a beautiful 3D garment. How you just know innately the acceptable margin of error, when you have to take something out and start over or if it will look fine after it's pressed.
Trying to teach someone those things in a matter of weeks while spending 60 hours a week making costumes for Star Trek was the real deal. Róisín definitely tried their best. I would come home after a twelve hour day under a tyrannical boss to their beaming face, proud of the volume of work they had accomplished that day. I would look through it and have to deliver the heartbreaking news that they hadn't matched some panel properly, or half inch seam allowance had eluded them here and there, or they had bunched something up underneath and not done a rigorous enough quality check before moving onto the next thing. I'm not a parent but breaking the news that they had some do-overs made me understand the phrase "this hurts me more than it hurts you"
Don't be sad for them, though, they persevered. I've got high standards, but I'm nice about it! Over time, step by step they mastered the beginner techniques, and things where small mistakes could be hidden, learned from without undoing, like linings and assembling cuffs.
But before they could learn to make a complete jacket, welt pockets had to be overcome. They're a finicky, precise and multi-step process usually learned in second or third year of Fashion Design. So I took the design school approach to teaching them. We used scraps to make samples, a 10x10" square instead of a whole jacket front, with our typical welt pocket placed into it. Step by step, several per day. First with training wheels, notes, in their own code at the very start, then in technical terms, then the steps memorized and recited back to me with all my tiny tricks and tips and things to look out for repeated back to me as they sewed them flawlessly. When Róisín graduated from samples to garments, I took all those samples, a tangible, visible evolution of skill, pinned them together like a flip book and hung them on the thread rack of the Róisín Glass Clothing Studio as a reminder they can do anything.