All posts by in2Mode

In sewing, pattern-making and fashion design, so much emphasis is placed on how we do things. How to sew a perfect collar. How to draft a pattern for that dream dress. But we often skip a vital step: what are we sewing or designing? Does it flatter our unique body shape and project confidence? Will that fabulous fabric look as good on us as it does in our stash?

What to wear is just as important as how to make it.

Join fashion insider Dijanna Mulhearn for a 3 hour Personal Styling Workshop for inspiration and tips on how to transform your look.

Our 2016 HSC class has made us extremely proud by achieving outstanding results! Five of our students received a Band 6 result, which means they achieved a mark over 90/100.  These students had their work recognised in the Australian Board of Studies Distinguished Achievers merit list for 2016.

Two of our students have also been selected to exhibit their Major Textiles Projects in the 2017 TEXSTYLE, an annual exhibition that showcases works of excellence in design, innovation and creativity from Textile & Design Major Projects. Our student Joanna Zhao was FIRST IN NSW FOR TEXTILES and showcased her major work at the Shape 2016 exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum.

We’re always amazed by the amount of effort and hard work our HSC students put into their major works and the quality and depth of their projects. It is so rewarding to help students develop their confidence and enhance their skills doing what they love best.

To offer an introduction on the breadth of skills students can gain through our HSC Mentoring Program, we will be running a 5-day workshop during summer school holidays (23, 24 and 26 January).

This course is designed to assist students with the choice and execution of a Major Work for Textile & Design. During the course, they will produce sample drawings and samples of sewing techniques.

The workshop will be adapted to cover as many aspects as possible that relate to the students’ choice of garment. This will include how to manage the HSC requirements for Major Work and achieve high marks, choice and source of fabrics, fashion illustration using body templates, mood boards, garment costing and the importance of fabric testing and sample garments.

No prior knowledge is required and sewing machines / overlockers will be provided.

For more information and course fees, download our Information Pack. Learn more about our Workshops here. Pictured above is our student Meilun’s major work.



Are your sewing scissors sharp? A dull pair of scissors can lead to hand cramps, imprecise cuts and wasted fabric. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have your scissors sharpened by a professional.

We hold regular scissor sharpening days with Craig Wilson, a qualified metal worker who has 24 years’ experience in sharpening scissors, knives and tools to get your scissors back in shape.

Here’s how it works

1. Drop off your scissors, pinking shears, knives and tools at the school before the sharpening day.

2. Attach a tag with your name and phone number on the handle of each piece.

3. Pre-pay for the pieces to be sharpened



4. Craig will assess the piece for you and sharpen it if appropriate.

5. Collect your pieces and any refund due (if a piece is unsuitable for sharpening).

Things to keep in mind

  • Sometimes it’s not worthwhile sharpening scissors. If you’re not sure, bring your scissors along as Craig will let you know. 
  • Scissors with one serrated blade will have the serrated blade cleaned and the straight blade sharpened. If the serrated blade is blunt, nicked or damaged it can be ground away so you get the maximum life out of the scissor.
  • Pinking shears are a little trickier to sharpen, so these will be assessed on the day and taken away for sharpening.

How to choose scissors

  • Make sure the scissors are comfortable in your hand – this is the most important consideration.
  • Buy scissors designed for the job. There are scissors with small sharp points for thread cutting and clipping, duck-billed configurations for applique and scissors with one finely serrated blade for cutting slippery or fine fabrics. Scissors with longer blades and a shaped handle (so the scissor is perpendicular to the table and one edge rests on the table when cutting) are called shears and are used by dressmakers and tailors to cut wools and woven fabrics.
  • Use your scissors to cut only the fabric that they’re designed for. Lycra, microfiber, polyester and some man-made fabrics blunt scissors quickly, so it’s a good idea to have scissors for cutting these fabrics.
  • Scissors (like knives) are inlaid, hardened and toughened to produce cutting surfaces that stay sharper longer and this process accounts for the difference in price. Treatments like Teflon are more faddish and tend to come off quite quickly when used on fabric so they’re not generally advisable for sewing or dressmaking.

Maintaining your scissors

  • Keep scissors in a sheaf if it’s provided.
  • Store scissors separately so the blades do not get damaged or nicked.
  • Avoid humidity as it can cause surface rust.
  • When cutting, be aware of pins as nicks can ruin your scissors. Even if the nick can be ground out, you may lose a large amount of your blade and shorten the life of your scissors.
  • Don’t cut paper with fabric scissors. Your mother was right: paper blunts scissors!
  • Wipe scissors with a soft, damp cloth and allow to dry. A little WD-40 may be used to lubricate your scissors if the blades are stiff.
  • Keep your blades sharp.

Specialty scissors for dressmaking

  1. Paper-cutting scissors
  2. Fabric scissors or shears with one serrated blade for fine, slippery fabrics. These should have a shaped handle so they stay perpendicular to the table and rest on the table when cutting. Buy the longest blade length that you can comfortably hold.
  3. Fabric scissors or shears with two sharpened blades for woven fabrics. These should also have a shaped handle so they stay perpendicular to the table and rest on the table when cutting. Again, longest blade length that you can comfortably hold.
  4. A small pair of pointed scissors for cutting thread, clipping seam allowances and button holes. 

Optional scissors

  1. A straight handled scissor with a large hand grip and a medium pointed blade for draping.
  2. Duck-billed scissors for trimming excess seam allowances on fine hems and decorative finishes.
  3. A separate pair of scissors for man-made fabrics that blunt scissors quickly.
  4. Pinking shears for edging seam allowances.


Please notify me when the next scissor sharpening day will be held


A custom dress form that matches your body shape makes a valuable addition to any home sewers tool kit, especially for sewers who want to precisely alter commercial patterns or venture into pattern-drafting and draping.

From 3 to 7 July 2017, we’ll be running a 5-day workshop designed for home sewers and dressmakers looking to pad a dress form personalised to their measurements and body type.

We will be creating a calico bodice that is fitted to the student so they can pad a dress form to match their exact measurements. We’ll then use a purchased dress form and either a purchased padding kit or wadding to make the dress form conform to the calico bodice. Guidelines for centre back, centre front and waist are then added to assist the fitting, thus producing a dress form similar to those used in couture houses for their clients.

To enroll for this workshop, students must be able to sew a straight and curved seam on a sewing machine. The calico cover is attached using hand stitching, which will be taught during the class.

This workshop is also run as part of our Short Course program as a half-day or evening course during term.

For more information and course fees, download our Information Pack. Learn more about our Workshops here.

Young students who are thinking of a career in fashion – and their parents – often ask us what is the best age to start their HSC Mentoring program. We would usually recommend that they enrol in Year 10, but based on our latest experiences with high school students, we can easily say that anytime from Year 8 is good.


* Many parents of today’s students learnt how to sew at home with their mothers, but this is not so much the case anymore. Most students need to learn the very basics of sewing and machine use with us.

* Sewing and pattern design are crafts that, like most disciplines, require practice and experience to perfect. With an attendance pattern of half to one day a week, students need to allow a few terms to acquire and hone their new skills.

* Our students often want to complete advanced and intricate work for their HSC project and they need to balance the time frame the school places on their work and the complexity of what they want to achieve. Starting early allows students to practice when they have more time available and take some of the pressure off in the last years of school.

* Design degrees don’t often include advanced sewing classes and our training provides an excellent grounding for students who want to progress to design degrees in later life.

Click here for more information on the available modules for our HSC Tutoring Courses. We also invite students and parents to contact our college and organise a complimentary appointment with our Principal Gaylene McCaw to discuss individual requirements.

We are often approached by students with different aspirations and skill levels who find it difficult to decide which fashion design course to enroll in and often ask for advice on how to assess the merit and compare courses, which is what inspired us to write this blog.

A lot of students we see believe that they will be able to design, pattern make and construct a garment at the end of their education, but this is often not the case in the Australian education arena. It depends on the type of training you choose to undertake. The first choice to make is whether a university course or vocational education would be right for you.

Students need to consider how they would like to work at the end of their training.  If they wish to work in a small business, enter the fashion industry at an assistant level or create their own label, then vocational education may be more appropriate as it includes more hands-on training. In the vocational level, you may also receive practical training in business and marketing techniques.

University level courses are pitched at a more management level for larger businesses and may not require you to even create a sample garment yourself, especially in Australia, where the emphasis is on overseas manufacturing. You need to review the curriculum and determine if the subjects you undertake will give you the skills you are seeking. At university, you can expect an emphasis on design, but will generally find that you only do basic units on pattern making and sewing.

We have had students from all major Sydney fashion universities join our short courses wanting to learn basic skills to be work-ready or seeking help with their major works. Some do express disappointment that their courses do not contain these skills. Tip: Do your homework and research well before enrolling in a course, so you know what skills you will graduate with.

We, of course, have to declare our interest at this point. We believe that Australia is not a country with a large number of manufacturing concerns to support graduates with design skills only. The current market employment need, according to government research, is for students with garment specification, pattern making and grading skills, which are all taught at the vocational level. The majority of employers in the Australian design and manufacturing market are small businesses. Small businesses need all-round skills as well as innovation to survive in a global economy that has seen massive changes in the industry in the last 20 years – and hence our choice of curriculum.

Once you have decided between vocational and university education, here is our list of what you should look for in order to compare and evaluate the different educational offerings available:

* Ensure that emphasis is placed on the skills you want to learn to meet your career goals.

* Ensure that the method of delivery of training suits you. Skills that are technical, visual and practical are often easier to learn in a face to face teaching environment, especially if class sizes permit individual attention. Flexibility is also important in a course, or you may find yourself left behind because you missed a lesson or frustrated at the pace when you find new skills are easily acquired.

* You need to consider the cost associated with your choice of course, especially if you find you will need to acquire more skills to enter the Australian market. Degrees can cost double the amount of vocation education and leave debts that take years to repay.

* Class sizes – this is a very important factor if you are going to learn pattern making and construction skills. Some classes have 20 or more students to one teacher. You can expect a lower cost for your course, but with large class sizes, you just cannot expect to receive the same level of attention.

 * Training facilities should be of an industry standard and include workrooms, machinery and computer technology.

* The qualifications of the teachers who teach the course.

* Success of past students.

If you need individual advice on which course would be more suitable for your personal and professional goals, please call us on (02) 9449 1450 or send an email to so we can organise an appointment with our Principal Gaylene McCaw.

This year we had the privilege of having Janelle Fischer visiting our College to give a lecture to our students on Offshore Clothing Manufacturing. Although most of our students are (or are in the process of becoming) small business owners – and therefore design the garments, created the patterns and construct the outfits themselves – manufacturing offshore is definitely something to consider when production reaches larger scales.

Janelle Fischer has an Advanced Diploma of Fashion and has been working in the Australian fashion industry since 1995. Over the last 7 years, she has developed and maintained excellent relationships with international garment factories and shared her knowledge and experience with up-and-coming fashion designers who wish to pursue a similar path.

Prior to 1991, the Australian Clothing & Textile industry was thriving due to a combination of factors, including high tariffs imposed on imported goods, restricted communication and technology, and the country’s geographic location, which was not easily accessible. From the 1990s, we saw a shift towards offshore manufacturing, with the removal of quotas and the progressive reduction of tariffs. The Internet has  played an important role in sharing information and facilitating communication, while international trips to and from Australia also became more achievable. Going offshore turned out to be a more cost-effective alternative and many Australian companies decided to move the manufacturing side of their businesses overseas.

A number of changes were made to adapt to this new scenario. For example, professionals previously employed as manual patternmakers were reskilled as garment technicians or computer patternmakers. While many machinists lost their jobs, new positions also emerged such as importers and manufacturing agents. Australian designers can achieve significant cost savings by manufacturing overseas. On the other hand, there are some drawbacks that need to be considered, including freight and importing costs, fluctuations in the exchange rate, delays, minimum orders and, potentially, a reduction in quality.

There are also ethical considerations that need to be taken into account. As the Australian garment manufacturing industries have moved offshore, there has been a shift in responsibility in regards to monitoring safety issues and working conditions. The latest Australian Fashion Report from Baptist World Aid found that 61% of companies were unaware of where their garments were made, 76% did not know where their fabric was woven, knitted or dyed and 93% were not aware of the origins of the raw fibre. However, there are ethical initiatives and certifications that help companies work with communities around the world, ensuring local producers are paid a fair wage and textiles are tested for harmful substances.

Janelle had some very helpful recommendations for anyone considering offshore manufacturing, from the moment you start searching for overseas partners until the approval of the first order – a very thorough and interesting process as you may imagine. And the work does not stop there. Maintaining a great relationship with your supplier and improving the procedures and products over time is a demanding, yet very rewarding challenge!

If you wish to attend Janelle’s next lecture at in2Mode, please call us on 02 9449 1450 or send an email to and we will keep you posted on dates.


Fit, Fit, Fit. The answer is to obtain a range of pattern options that fit perfectly. Patterns are made from basic garments called blocks. Blocks are fitted to the individual’s measurements and are then altered to make different designs.

For example, a pants block may have pockets added, the waist raised or lowered and the leg width changed to make a wardrobe of pants. Having a basic pant block means you can stay in fashion and ensure a perfect fit into the future without ever buying another commercial pattern.

Basic blocks include skirts, pants and knitwear blocks. Some of our short course students have advanced to making their own shirts and blouses and have the skills to tackle the next stage of pattern making the bodice block.

Fashion illustration is communication between the designer and the design team, which includes pattern makers, sample sewers, fabric and trim buyers, production engineers, marketers and management.

One of the most classic jobs for fashion designers is in the sketching of concepts that have not yet been realised. When developing a new line, they rely on their fashion illustration skills to bring their ideas to life.

Fashion designers learn a stylised drawing that communicates proportion silhouette and internal design details. Having a good sense of color, shape, and image dynamics is also important in fashion illustration, whether working on a sketch pad or using CAD programs. Designers also learn a stylised fashion figure to show design ideas to best advantage. The ability to render and communicate an idea quickly and creatively allows a designer to direct a team that stays true to their vision.

Fashion drawing uses different media but the media we favour are pencil, markers and water colours. Technical skills in drawing and painting are also critical in fashion illustration. It is necessary to be able to capture the spirit of a design along with its precise lines, look, and dimension, and to be able to play with proportion and other aspects of art in order to achieve a desired look.

Luxury markets have weathered the recent economic times well and in Australia are under represented by local designers. We believe that with sustainability and worldwide shortage of resources quality fashion will be the future.

After a student learns basic skills, we teach complex and advanced design and pattern making skills they then have the capability to enter the industry making quality garments with quality materials. These skills can be applied to all types of fashion from sportswear to evening wear.

Our teachers have knowledge and experience of the construction techniques used by the master designers of the past and these skills are passed on to the next generation of fashion professionals. We have also an emphasis on garment finishes which is not reflected in all fashion courses so our students have the knowledge and experience in what is good fit and finish and will be able to apply this knowledge in their professional careers.