Looking Back on my First Year as a Apprentice

‘The Years creep slowly by Lorena’…. here are some lyrics we all can connect with. Recently, it seems that time flies and only when we stop to look back do we see just how much has happened.

It’s been a whole year since I packed up my car, hugged my family goodbye, and left for Missouri to apprentice with Ensembles of the Past! One year since I signed the contract that would keep me there for 3 years. What a flutter of excitement, mingled with fear filled my heart as I stepped into this new journey!
I’d love to tell you about all the amazing things I have learned. While I won’t be able to share everything, I will share some highlights. I grew in a lot of ways these past 12 months….

One of my favorite things about my job has been the great conversations and the many laughs I’ve shared with my teacher, Sara. From telling punny jokes, to working through everyday struggles of life, she has become one of my best friends!

I love watching our creations come together. From a mere sketch and a pile of fabric, to a beautiful finished garment, it never ceases to fulfill me! To see the power of what a well made outfit can have for someone’s self confidence is truly amazing!!!

A great part of hands-on learning is that it immediately increases your skill level. Often I go straight from work back to my own sewing projects. What a thrill to be working on a difficult sewing piece and suddenly realize that you actually know what to do to get through it!

‘hand sewing on a pin-tucked petticoat’

Sometimes I don’t realize how much I have learned till I think back to a previous project, and go, “Wow, I was clueless then.”
Hem-stitching is a good example. Before I started my apprenticeship my hem-stitch was much too visible. I was grabbing too much fabric with each stitch instead of a single thread. I’ve learned lots of other stitching methods too, like overcasting and perfecting my hand running-stitch! Things like working with darts and shaping panels to get the right fit have been very useful for my own projects! With this new knowledge I finally felt ready to dive into intimidating projects of my own like my first corset, custom made to me! I feel that a proper fit is so important to dressmaking, and spending extra time just getting that fit is well worth it!

stitching the binding onto a corset

Working with different types of fabrics has been very fun too, and since the first time I stroked silk fabric, I have been in love. I’ve seen how different fabrics behave, and how any fiber can be woven to any weight and how different fabrics were historically worn or not worn for certain style dresses. I’ve also gotten to see how many beautiful prints existed in the past and it never ceases to amaze me!

“All dressed up in different eras for the Ensembles of the Past Candlelight Tea”

Another aspect that I hadn’t really grasped before my apprenticeship was why people charged so much for a custom garment. In a way I understood, but still I couldn’t quite justify it. Working alongside my teacher and making these dresses, spending hours upon hours assembling them, I realized a worker is worthy of his/her wage. Basically it all made sense, and I found a deeper understanding and appreciation for those who do custom work of any kind and became aware of how absolutely misunderstood the realm of clothing is in our day and age. Fast fashion has left us in a pitiful state of knowledge, and I am grateful I now fully realize this. I have hope for the future that others, like me, will see the worth of well made clothes and if nothing else reuse and repurpose more of their own.

My teacher working on booklet formatting

Watching these creations come to life, as I have said, is so amazing! I loved the Velvet Civil War gown we made, the Fashion show dress, and a 1840’s pregnancy Wrapper! Again we have made lots of lovely projects and these are merely a few!

The lovely fashion show dress!

I had a lot of ideas coming into this apprenticeship: images and notions of what it might be. Really they weren’t wrong. It has been exciting and incredible! Of course no matter how wonderful a job and how much you love your work, it is still work, and some days are long and hard. Sometimes you have to seam rip a mistake, and sometimes it’s frustrating. I think our social media followers sometimes imagine all we do is run through meadows in historical dresses. While we do plenty of this we also work plenty too. This didn’t really come as a surprise or a shock, more of something you expect. Of course good conversation, some vintage music, and fresh brewed tea make the hardest of workdays pass pleasantly. Something I really enjoy about this whole experience is the hands-on learning, and the gift of being taught. I have self-taught myself a lot of skills throughout my life, so it is quite amazing not to have to self teach myself all the things I’m learning here. I also enjoy that there isn’t much bookwork. It’s different from a regular college. I thrive under the encouragement and support of those around me, and feel like I have grown in so many ways! I look forward to the next 2 years. It will be amazing to learn more, and as others join our team to teach them some simple things I’ve already learned.

Hemming a 1860’s day dress

Excuse me while I get a little personal here. I have to say that I haven’t just picked up on physical sewing skills; I feel like my faith has also grown. Not only just because I was on my own far away from home, which certainly helped teach me to lean on the Lord, but also the fellowship. My teacher and I start off our week with a short prayer meeting. This simple practice deepens our work, and reminds us who is really in control in the middle of deadlines and stress. I’ve learned communication is important, beginning with communication with God. Speaking to the Lord and bringing our problems before Him is one of our greatest privileges. It is also so important to be open and honest with each other. The simple act of communication makes any relationship much smoother. I can’t stress it enough.

Sitting down for a Friday meeting to recap the week

So here, in a few paragraphs, are some of the highlights of my past apprenticeship year! As I’ve said there is so much more, but at least this shows you all some of the amazing things I’ve learned.
I look forward to whatever lies ahead, knowing it will surely be an adventure to remember!!!

If you want to know more about Sara and Ensembles of the Past you can find her on:
Website: https://ensemblesofthepast.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EnsemblesOfThePast
Instagram: https://instagram.com/ensembles_of_the_past?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

You can find more of my content on:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuS-Jp1n3Q_6shtZiG2vRnA
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/girl_of_a_different_era/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100071334553969

Have a awesome day, and thanks for joining me!

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