BEIRUT: A platter of Nutella crepes sat invitingly in Sabrina Cesari’s sprawling Hamra apartment. Coffee was brewing, and a box of tea was ready for the arriving company. Were it not for the sewing machines lined up along the wall of Cesari’s salon, one could be forgiven for thinking she was preparing an intimate gathering of friends. Four tidy sewing stations, however, betrayed the evening’s true project: sewing class.
“I wanted an ambiance where the students could pass three enjoyable hours drinking coffee but at the same time being productive and creating something,” Cesari said.
Her sewing classes, called Pause Couture, are designed to feel more like a girls-night-in than a seminar.
“I want them to learn without having the impression that they’re being instructed,” Cesari said.
For the past two months, Cesari has been holding “pause” three times a week in her new apartment chosen expressly for the classes.
The large front room serves as an atelier, with an elbow-height table for measuring, cutting and pinning fabric. Cesari invested in four Brother sewing machines, which line the back wall on permanent display, for their ease of use and durability.
“I love this atmosphere where the artistic becomes part of the every day,” she said of her live-in lounge-cum-classroom.
Cesari’s students, who tend to be professional women in their 20s or 30s, often come with no sewing experience.
Among those starting from scratch is Rima Chami, Cesari’s friend and now student.
“I had never touched a machine,” admitted Chami, who has made a shirt for her sister and a reusable grocery bag since she started attending weekly classes in November.
“I was surprised so many young people were interested,” Cesari said.
“I thought it [sewing] was becoming something outdated, but for many people, it’s making a comeback. People want to know how to make their own clothes.
“I think people are fed up with wearing the same clothes as everyone else!”
Cesari assigns the first two projects for debutantes. Students first make a small cotton pocket with a button seal to familiarize themselves with the sewing machine. Over the following two classes, they make a T-shirt based on a pattern Cesari created herself.
“I assign the first two projects because I don’t want them to say ‘Oh, I want to do this model,’ and have it be too complicated,” she explained.
After the successful completion of a T-shirt, however, students are free to make whatever they like.
Some choose patterns, or templates, from magazines.
Others, however, select from Cesari’s own designs, which she often wears to the class to inspire her students.
Cesari has extensive experience in patternmaking and designing. After finishing her studies, she worked with her mother designing custom wedding dresses in France.
“It was very technical work,” she said of her time designing nuptial gowns.
Cesari first came to Beirut for a three-month stint with designer Milia M, and when Lala Rose offered her the opportunity to relocate permanently to design lingerie, she eagerly accepted.
She soon found herself splitting time between Lala Rose and Rectangle Jaune, a menswear label.
Cesari has switched gears once again, and is now designing clothes for young girls at Lola et Moi, at the same time planning to expand her class schedule.
“I would love to start teaching classes on patternmaking and sketching so that girls could produce something from the beginning to the end,” she said.
Learning to sew, however, is the keystone step.
“Learning to sew is the base,” Cesari explained.
“To sketch a design and make a pattern, you have to imagine how it would be sewn. ... Yes, we can sketch, but we have to learn to sketch things that are realizable.”
For students, the possibilities are endless. Before class began last week, one eager apprentice unfolded reams of fabric purchased on a recent trip to India. Another showed off a skirt, modeled on one of Cesari’s patterns, that was beginning to take shape.
“I think today I’ll probably make a sweater,” Chami mused.
“It’s amazing,” she continued, “most of the time we come out of class with something new!”
For more information about the class schedule, visit the Pause Couture Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pausecouture.