F & Q
How can I become a tailor?
Finding an apprenticeship in tailoring these days is no easy task. Many tailors simply do not want to train apprentices as it is expensive, time consuming and there is no guarantee that the trainee will remain with the business after the training is completed. From the master’s and business’s standpoint, there maybe very little return on the investment.
Taking a course at a tailoring school isn't sufficient to learn the art of tailoring. A coat maker doesn't learn the trade by making one coat. It’s the continued learning experience that is repeated can eventually be mastered.
That’s why at The Handcraft Tailor Academy, we teach our in-house students alongside a video series to aid them after they’ve graduated from our in-house programmes enabling them to continue their learning experience.
An in-house course is just the start of your training, by following along with the video series you can hone your skills and develop your abilities into a master craftsman so when you seek out that apprenticeship or job, you’ll have a plethora of skills to offer making you a highly desirable candidate.
How long does it take to become a tailor?
It depends what you mean by a tailor. The art of tailoring is broken down into many disciplines. There are coat makers, trouser makers, waistcoat makers, pattern cutters, pocket makers, hand-sewers and pressers.
Coat making usually takes the longest with an apprenticeship of at least five years. Trousers and waistcoats take about two years each. Pattern cutters train for about three years while hand-sewers, pressers and pocket makers train for a year to a year and a half.
These are of course just estimations. It all depends on the learning abilities and ambition of the trainee as well as the willingness of the trainer.
At The HTA, we believe through our programmes you can cut this time in half. Our courses are set up to give you as much information as you can process. If you have the time and dedication you can go from novice to professional in a few months. It will take a combination of both online and in-house courses to progress quickly but once you get that first project done, honing your skills will become much easier.
How much money do tailors make?
It’s difficult to say and can all depend on what level you are working at and what region you are based in.
New York tailors seem to make the most in the western world.
Take a coat maker for example. A coat maker is paid up to £600 on Savile Row and $1200 in New York for the same garment.
Tailors working in factories are paid by the hour while bespoke tailors are paid for what they produce.
What’s the difference between Bespoke and Made to Measure (MTM)?
The simplest answer is bespoke is bench-made and made-to-measure is factory made.
Many would suggest that MTM uses block patterns while bespoke use drafting systems but this isn't always the case. Many bespoke tailors use blocks to maintain 'the house style'.
Making styles don't really separate the two either, as many bespoke tailors who are working in the lower ends of the trade will utilise the making techniques of MTM garments in order to turn a profit.
What book(s) would you recommend?
There are far too few books on modern tailoring. Many of the books available are found on our book store as downloadable PDF's. These are all out of print and copyright so we can share them without breaching any laws.
Many of the modern books are based on factory sewing techniques and so differ greatly from bespoke. Most of the books out there are on pattern cutting rather than garment making.
There's one great book in our book store called 'The Art of Garment Making'. The techniques found in this book are similar to how Rory makes his suits today.
Other books to consider are ‘The Cutting and Making of Ladies Garments’ by F.R. Morris available as well as ‘The Science of Pattern Construction for Garment Makers’ by B.W Poole. Both these books have almost 500 pages and have yet to be added to our book store.
The HTA will be releasing a book of its own in the coming year.
What is the best place to start with becoming a tailor?
If it's an in-house you are thinking of, the best place to start is with The Ultimate Beginner's Course. This course covers all the basic skills and all the techniques needed to make any one of our other online and in-house courses. It is currently only available as an in-house but this is subject to change.
If it’s an online course, we would suggest Pattern Drafting for Bespoke Menswear. This course runs for over a ten week period with three classes per week hosted on Mondays – Fridays. It is taught one on one over live Skype video calls which you can record to enhance your learning experience. Each student is encouraged to mail their patterns off every two weeks for evaluation.
Pattern cutters are the architects of tailoring. You will learn to cut patterns for trousers, waistcoats, coats, overcoats and tailcoats for regular, portly and corpulent figures. You will also receive a complementary digital copy of our book ‘Pattern Drafting for Bespoke Menswear, the Imperial System’.
How many hours per week should I do alongside the video series?
Each period of study should be at least two to three hours in order to progress to the next stage. As you will be following along with the video series you will need time to both watch the episode in its entirety and then watch and repeat. You don't need to do one full episode in each sitting but instead break it down into parts and do each part step by step.
Which garment should I make first?
The first garment Rory ever made himself was a waistcoat. It is by far the easiest but still has a degree of difficulty; namely the buttonholes and bagging out the back.
It’s a fun garment to make can be easily adapted for women’s wear. It can be paired with jeans and worn with t-shirts for those of you who prefer to dress down.
It has just the right ratio of hand-sewing to machine sewing. Once the construction is understood, the pattern can be adapted to many styles. Rory himself has recently starting opting for a five button front with a longer opening just to change things up a bit – but when it comes to styles, the sky’s the limit.
Are their many women tailors?
Just like men used to be dress makers, there are increasingly more women joining the tailoring trade.
They were once restricted to hand sewing only but one just needs to visit Kathryn Sargent in London’s West End to see the rise of women’s tailors for themselves.
It is no coincidence that Rory’s first apprentice was a woman. He firmly believes that the future of men’s tailoring is in the hands of young women.
Women tend to have more finesse than men whereas men tend to rush their work to finish quickly while women move slower and get it right. With men, it is generally (and sadly) the ego that always gets in their way while women are more humble and thoughtful about their work.
Does The HTA offer courses for women’s wear?
We have certainly been lacking in women’s wear. Rory did expand into women’s suits when in New York and is an accomplished pattern cutter and suit maker for the ladies. We do have a coat making series for women 'How to Make a Ladies Jacket' that does include drafting instructions supplied by Rory. We do hope to include a ladies trousers to the series in the coming year.
Do I need an industrial sewing machine to follow the video series?
In short, no. You don't need any fancy equipment to be a tailor.
When Rory first moved to New York, he was making bespoke suits on an old domestic Singer while waiting for his workshop to arrive from overseas. All you really need is time, patience and dedication to succeed.
In all of the video series, Rory intentionally uses a domestic iron so that his followers don't feel pressured into buying expensive equipment while they are still learning.
It can be a lot easier to use industrial machines on heavy fabrics and industrial irons do work quicker than domestic ones, but we would say to focus on developing your skills and invest slowly. A domestic serger is just as good as an industrial one.
What’s the difference between Open Academy One-to-One training and an in-house course?
The in-house courses are on set dates throughout the year while with the Open Academy you can set your start and finish dates.
Both courses offer one-to-one training however, it is more expensive to come outside of the normal in-house course dates.
Usually students who select the Open Academy want to condense the course down into a shorter period which means a longer work day or they wish to cover a range of techniques that they feel they need to develop more than what is offered in a set course.
A simple email to Rory (email@example.com) and you can find out which option is best for you.
Where is the accommodation located and who runs it?
Rory’s home house was developed into a seven bedroom two storey house.
There is a back wing which is closed off from the main building which contains four bedrooms two bathrooms, a kitchen and living room.
Rory’s mother, Mary, manages the accommodation which offers everything one might need for their stay such as bed linens, kitchen utensils and coffee making facilities in each of the rooms. There is also a washing machine and dryer as well as a change of bed linens which are laundered free of charge.
Each room comes with a double bed, lounge chair, TV and walk in dresser.
It is self-catering, so each week Rory or one of his family members will take the students to the grocery store to stock up on supplies (students can also opt for public transportation using a taxi or booking a seat with LocalLink on bus 176)
There is free Wi-Fi and the walk from accommodation to academy is just under three minutes.
Do I need to bring any tools with me?
All the tools you will need for the six week course is provided by the academy. That includes everything from shears, chalk, needles, thimbles etc.
Each student is given what they need to complete their course and there is no need to share tools as there is plenty to go around.
What’s the weather like in Ireland?
Ireland is situated in the North Atlantic near the UK and northern Europe.
If you come from a warmer to hotter climate, it is very cold. If you come from a cold country, it is quite warm.
Ireland is damp so even though the temperature might not get that low, it’s a chilling wind that blows (pun intended. Haha.)
We recommend students bring warm jumpers, coats, hats and boots/rainboots. During the winter/autumn seasons. The average winter temperature is anywhere between 1ºC – 5ºC with the summer/spring being around 10ºC – 23ºC.
The workshop is equipped with a heating system to warm the room hours before the students arrive for class and we add an extra gas heater during the winter/fall that will maintain the climate at a comfortable temperature.
How do I book a place?
If you have decided to join us for an in-house course all you need do is reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or click here. A deposit of €500 will secure your place. If you decide to change the course date we will need three months of advance notice.
How do the online courses work?
The HTA offers video series courses as an online teaching tool. Subscribers pay a monthly fee of between €20 to €25 per month for unlimited access to their chosen course. Trimming packages are available from Dugdale Brothers which contain everything one will need to make their selected garment.
The course offers instruction on the drafting the pattern and there are other free videos on measuring and hand sewing that students will find helpful.
The idea is simple:
Once you subscribe and have access to the videos, the student follows along with Rory and learns each step in the garment making process.
If you have any questions, we have a free forum you can join so you can ask Rory questions and share experiences and resources.
If you are unable to take an in-house course, the online videos are a cost effective alternative.
Will I be granted a certificate on completion of the course?
No matter which course you take either online or in-house you will be granted a certificate. For the online course all we need is photographic evidence that the garment was completed. Typically if a follower posts an image of a completed garment on the forum it is followed up with a certificate.
What if I just want to make clothing for myself?
During the periods when the workshop isn't as busy, Rory does allow students to take short courses in pattern drafting so that they can learn to cut garments for themselves. Having an accurate pattern is going to make the garment making project so much easier in the long run.
Many people who declare they only wish to make clothing for themselves really only lack the confidence they need to make clothing for others. Rory would advise everyone to aim high and have faith that you too can make a living as a tailor.