I took sewing lessons as a kid. They didn’t turn me into a couturier, but I can re-attach buttons and manage hems; I’ve made my own Halloween costumes a few times, and the lessons certainly put me ahead of the curve in my stage crafts and theatrical design classes in college. Understanding a bit about stitches and fabric has given me some insight on buying clothes and how to spot quality. Knowing how to sew, even a little, has made me a more functional adult. On a grander scale, I have a friend who makes elaborate quilts that hang in galleries. The skill runs the gamut from purely practical to art.
Cut & Sew Studios makes sewing more accessible for beginners and advanced sewers. The studio first opened in 2007, and has grown out of two different spaces, finally making a permanent home in Morningside. It shares a space with the fabric store Loom, a second location for the Strip District shop. I can tell you that when I used to work in the Strip District, I often lingered in Loom, just gazing at some of the beautiful fabric they carried.
Catherine Batcho opened Cut & Sew Studios after studying fashion design and working as a designer for companies like Liz Claiborne. Ultimately, it was a love of teaching and sewing (as well as the allure of coming back to her native Pittsburgh) that inspired the creation of Cut & Sew Studios.
The studio serves as an educational organization, teaching classes and offering private instruction, as well as a sort of co-working space, allowing rental of time using the studio’s facilities and machines. There are classes for children and adults, and the classes range from absolute beginner to advanced pattern making, specific skill building to complete project creation. In the summer, Cut & Sew Studios also offers summer camp sessions, blocked off a week at a time, with options for kids from 1st through 12th grade. One week may be Intro to Sewing, while another is Dressing Making for American Girl Dolls, or Quilting. Batcho employs two additional instructors for classes and summer camps. Both studied costume design or production at Carnegie Mellon University and have, between them, worked on many theatrical productions, taught at the college level, and designed for the Beijing Olympics. Private instruction is available for individuals or for groups (parents and children wishing to take class together, for example).
The studio is also available at certain hours (generally when classes are not in session) for individuals to rent space to work on their own projects. Having this sort of co-working option allows people starting out in the hobby to work without making an investment in a sewing machine, or even serious sewers who may have equipment but need access to more advanced equipment like a surger. Cut & Sew Studio strongly recommends making an appointment to use the studio to guarantee availability. The studio provides oversight of the machines and assistance in getting started on the equipment, but people using the studio space should have at least some familiarity with sewing. People working on projects who are looking for guidance with the project itself, but not as much as a full class have the option to sign up for Workshop Wednesdays, which is a sort of class/studio time hybrid, where instructors are available for troubleshooting and advice on personal sewing projects.
Learning to sew might be the gateway to a new hobby (and a new wardrobe) or it might simply be a way to add some bonus life skills. When I asked Catherine what makes sewing such a special art, she observed that her students seem incredibly proud to have made something they can carry around or wear. My experience backs her up; I still have a quilt that I made when I was 11, which I will tell anyone who merely glances nearby that I made it, so the pride in making something useful is a pride that sticks.
By Liz Labacz, writer
Batcho, Catherine (Owner, Cut & Sew Studio). Interview with Liz Labacz, August 23, 2016.