SHIRT HAPPENS 2: IN WHICH PROFESSOR BLACKMAN BEGINS MENSWEAR 142 WITH SILENCE

[In the fall, Jonathan Vatner, Hue staff writer,  took an introductory menswear sewing class. He has been blogging about his experiences on Hue, Too.]

I arrived at the classroom at 6:25, five minutes before class was scheduled to begin. A dozen students were already sitting at machines. Professor Blackman was patiently staring at a man of about 60. After a moment, he nodded and looked solicitously toward the yarmulke-clad kid behind him.

Professor Blackman

The esteemed Professor Mark-Evan Blackman

“Your name, please?” Professor Blackman asked.

The young man said his name: Eitan.* Once he got the pronunciation right, Professor Blackman stared at him for a disconcertingly long time.

“I’m Carol,” said the next student, a bubbly African-American woman in her fifties.

Professor Blackman held up two fingers. He was still on Eitan.

At the point I understood that he was memorizing our names.

“I hate when teachers say, ‘Hey, you,’ from across the room,” he explained later.

When he was finished learning and reciting all our names, he said, “In this class, you will be learning how to sew a men’s dress shirt,” he said. “You’re going to practice like crazy, so that when you wear your shirt, it’s not obvious that you sewed it yourself. I’m assuming that no one here has any sewing skills. If you have skills, that’s great.”

After that, we traced all the patterns for the shirt components and learned how to thread a sewing machine. I grasped that this would be unlike all of my classes in college and grad school. No chance were we going to sit around and theorize about minutiae and marginalia. We were on our feet, peering at Professor Blackman at his machine, then hightailing it back to our workspaces to figure it out for ourselves.

*Names changed to protect the journalist from bodily harm.

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