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Fashion Stores

The Make Den

Posted by Laura Adams / Posted on January 12, 2013

the make den torontoThe Make Den Sewing Studio recently relocated from within 69 Vintage Collective to a new location at 1244 Bloor Street West, providing a bright and crafty addition to Bloordale's streetscape. With its robin's egg blue walls and ruffled party dress in the window, I couldn't resist popping in one dark winter evening to learn more about what this sewing and design school has to offer.

the make den torontoFounded in 2010, The Make Den offers sewing and design classes, workshops, and camps for all levels: from absolute beginners (like yours truly), to intermediate students looking to sharpen their skills, to aspiring designers applying to competitive fashion programs at institutions like Ryerson University, Parsons in New York City, and Central Saint Martins in London.

the make den torontoThe Make Den's owner, Irene Stickney, has a passion for teaching students of all levels that is infectious and heartfelt. For those pursuing sewing as a hobby--about 75% of her students--The Make Den provides an outlet to explore their creative side, which is often not fulfilled in their day jobs. Irene loves helping these students create new things, have fun, and acquire a life-long skill.

the make den torontoFor the 25% of her students pursuing a career in fashion design, Irene aims to offer top-notch instruction on technical skills and a supportive community. "Toronto has amazing designers and they need more resources. I want to be able to support designers. I want to be able to say I've made a difference for designers." The Make Den provides these students with classes, camps, studio space, endless encouragement, and even photo shoots (by Irene) to build their portfolio. Talking about her advanced students and their creations, Irene beams with pride. "Don't forget me when you're famous!" she jokes with them.

the make den torontoWell, I'm definitely not part of the aspiring designer crowd, so I opt to try an introductory class. The studio itself is bright, uncluttered, and full of DIY touches that inspire. I can't help but think (quite ambitiously), "I could totally make that!" when I see a coat-rack made of salvaged barn wood, or chalkboard signs hung with twine. The Make Den strikes the fine balance between professional studio and personal whimsy.

the make den torontoThe instructors are "the best in their field," says Irene, but also very friendly and patient as they start from ground zero, teaching us about fabric, thread, and equipment. Within minutes, I feel comfortable enough to ask silly beginner questions (including, I kid you not, "how much is a yard of fabric?"), and within a half hour students and the instructor are chatting about local brunch joints. With the small class size, the instruction is tailored to the students' abilities and interests (pun fully intended). Later in the evening, the more experienced students arrive to work on their impressive custom-designed garments. The whole experience feels like being invited to a crafty, welcoming, and yes, all-female party--although Irene points out that more men have been taking classes.

the make den torontoNow, the details. The Make Den offers a range of introductory, intermediate and advanced classes, including classes for specific types of garments, quilting, and screenprinting. Classes are generally 2 hours per week for 4 weeks ($160+HST), or 2-3 hours per week for 8 weeks ($250 or $310+HST), and run at a variety of times on weekdays and weekends. The Make Den also offers workshops for special projects and techniques like hat making, and summer camps for adults, juniors, and aspiring designers. Free open studio time is available for current and former students, as well as hourly studio rental, custom sewing, and private lessons and parties.

the make den torontoWhat's in the future for The Make Den? While offering new workshops and camps (a Valentine's day workshop on making boxer shorts, anyone?), it will continue to be actively involved with PACTFashion, offering positive opportunities to Toronto's at-risk youth. Looking at the big picture, The Make Den will keep trying to do its part to build Toronto's international fashion and design reputation. Irene admits, "that's a bit of a lofty goal--I know we've only been around for three years--but that's what makes me happy."

Photos by Brian Chambers



Josca / January 12, 2013 at 09:01 am
I took a class with Irene last year and it was fabulous. Great instruction from start to finish.
Phil Phallus / January 12, 2013 at 10:50 am
"Sew like a pro" and they're not even using industrial sewing machines?! LOL.

If you really want to learn from a pro, I would suggest looking into George Brown's continuing ed classes in the Fashion Dept.
MrsPotato / January 12, 2013 at 11:35 am

How professional? with your plastic casing machine?

i have to say i noticed the sewing machines too .. *snicker snicker*
SewJealous / January 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm
What's with all the snark? It seems like a cool idea that people can really enjoy. An unexpected little niche sideline. Who cares about professional machines if the instructor and students are enjoying it. Typical Toronto shit-all-over-a-good-idea attitude. OMG you're so much better than them with your professionalism and all!
Baby Jesus replying to a comment from SewJealous / January 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm
SewJealous, so if you, yourself, "shit-all-over" those who "shit-all-over-a-good-idea," what does that make you? LOL

You're not much different from those you criticize. BURN.

honestly / January 12, 2013 at 01:52 pm
The instructors are nice but not all of them are as experienced as you'd like them to be and you could really tell skill level especially with the introductory class I took. She would spend too much time with students individually instead of teaching the entire class. Maybe I'm just picky on how I learn new skills.... The other frustrating thing was that I was charged the HST twice and they admitted their mistake but then didn't reimburse me....all in all, try them out if you are a beginner, don't read blogTO reviews, or if it's conveniently located close to your house....
Jason / January 12, 2013 at 02:44 pm
First, why would *students* need *professional* sewing machines? Just askin', blogto geniuses.

Second, you do realize that the wonk who writes the headlines on blogto is probably different than the wonk who drafted the biz plan for the The Make Den? Again, just askin', you guys are the geniuses, after all.
SewJealous / January 12, 2013 at 02:46 pm
Baby Jesus, you got me! You are a genius of immense proportions. Only a true Torontonion could mistake coming to someone's defense as shitting on them. The way you turned it around on me and declared it a BURN? Classic. Are you related to the Ford's? I thought I recognized that logic ;) Good on you for contributing to society.
Cum Chow / January 12, 2013 at 02:54 pm
Sounds like Jason & SewJealous are the same person. I bet you s/he either works for or is the owner of this place.
Joey replying to a comment from SewJealous / January 12, 2013 at 05:29 pm
You were being a hypocrite and you got called out on it. Get over it. You are actually very poor at "recognizing logic". Instead of admitting there was an error in your argument, you decided to wrtie a second comment loaded with scarcasm and ad hominem, as if it could make your original comment true. Sorry, but that's not the way logic works.
quanta / January 12, 2013 at 05:43 pm
I would think it makes sense for a sewing studio targeting hobbyists to provide machines that will be similar to what their students will most likely have at home.
Marie / January 12, 2013 at 07:46 pm
I'm not affiliated with any of the above posters (I'm new to this page, I swear!), and I don't have a dog in this fight. That being said, I'm with quanta. Why would a total beginner need a fancy machine? I don't sew--I'd like to--and I'd imagine that if I was going to practice at home, I'd first do so with something not industrial strength (and cheap) before I found out if I liked it or was any good at it.

Regardless, the *Snicker snicker,* MrsPotato, was mean-girl inspired and in poor taste. This place is offering a service and seems relatively nice. Have they wronged you? Are you simply incapable of being kind? Couldn't you just have said, "I wish they used industrial strength/metal-encased sewing machines?" Why the derision? It's just plain rude and incredibly immature. It's this kind of attitude that keeps beginners AWAY from taking classes or joining these types of crafting communities (I"m looking at you, RomniWools...)
Someone who knows something about sewing / January 12, 2013 at 07:57 pm
Jerome machines won't last long with full time use.
The machine is made completely of plastic parts, minus the bobbin casing.

That's why an industrial machine would be far more practical in a setting such as this.

The fact that you're even taking the TIME to response to MrsPotato is ridiculous.

As a side note, fabric they're selling can be purchased online for literally 7.99/yard. I would LOVE to know what they're selling it for retail here. (anyone know?)
RB / January 12, 2013 at 08:06 pm
I wish they'd hold classes on the weekend. Getting there for 6pm on a weekend is impossible for me. :(
Marie / January 13, 2013 at 12:27 am
Thanks for letting me know. Perhaps they're waiting to see what demand is like before they purchase anything bigger or better?

In any case, who are we to tell them how to run their business? Ostensibly, the Make Den is offering a lovely service. Why are we harping on them and being mean and angry for some of the nitty-gritty details?

My responding to MrsPotato is hardly ridiculous. We chastise others when they don't stand up to bullies--here's a golden opportunity to do so. There's far too much rampant negativism and bullying on the internet. Why not stick up for others when you can?
TD / January 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm
The best "camera" is the one you have.

Where's the fun in learning if there's no way up?

Gemini / January 13, 2013 at 01:47 pm
I took a class at the Make Den in the summer. I was astounded by the quality of work that was being produced at the studio! Irene is an incredible teacher - her attention to detail and her patience make for a remarkable combination when teaching beginners such as myself. My project was not quite finished in the time allotted but Irene continued to give me one-on-one guidance until I was able to complete what we had set out to create. I'll be back there soon to learn how to make neckties and bow ties!
Elle Em / January 14, 2013 at 01:00 pm
I've taken a class here and Irene is amazing. Supportive, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I'm part of the 75% that's hobbist as opposed to looking to go professional, and I was very happy with what I was able to produce with her guidance. I was able to finish my garment in extra Friday night open sewing nights, too! Great environment, lots of friendly and fun women to chat with, too.

After taking a class at The Workroom, The Sewing Studio and Sew Be It, I'm definitely a fan of the Make Den.
Skye / January 14, 2013 at 02:00 pm
I would be totally down for this. I haven't sewn anything since making worst enemies with the sewing machines in Grade 8 Family Studies, and it would be nice to know how to actually MAKE clothes.
JW416 / January 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm
I'm taking a screen printing class right now and I am having a blast. Great people, great studio.
Lisa / January 22, 2013 at 03:03 pm
My thinking is if you have a small business that you are starting up (I am assuming on a budget like most small business), do you want to buy 20 machines that cost $3000 each or 20 machines that cost $200? Especially considering you are going to let inexperienced members of the public use these machines and potentially mess up or damage them? Which would you rather repair/replace? It seems only logical to have Janomes in this environment.

Plus many of these courses are for introduction and hobby sewing mainly. Having taken a class here I would say these were great machines to relate to my own sewing machine, at home and I certainly don't have an $3000 Bernina .

I loved the studio and the staff here was fantastic! I highly recommend them to any! And they have groupons for half off intro classes if you are interested!
Daphne / January 25, 2013 at 02:06 am
Way to go Irene! I wanna have a sleep over under that oddly familiar work table....heeehee
femme_lala / February 1, 2013 at 08:44 pm
I took a beginner class here recently and had an absolutely wonderful experience. Irene (the owner and my instructor) is more than a knowledgeable seamstress. She is patient, passionate and has a very pleasant demeanour. She made her students feel welcome and assisted them at their own level in their pursuits. Our class ran from 6-8, and more often than not several of us were there until 10-11pm working away. Never did we feel pressured to leave or that we were overstaying our welcome. The Make Den is more than a business. Irene has built a community that makes students feel welcome and wanting to return. I look forward to many more classes at the Make Den. (My only request - please add more lighting inside the studio!)
Wishing you continued success Irene, you deserve it!
Rebecca / February 4, 2013 at 10:11 am
I have taken 3 different classes at The Make Den and each one has become more challenging. I have had wonderful instructors Irene and Kat, bith have been very patient and accomodating with my projects.

I have only the highest praise for Irene and her team.

I can't wait to begin my next class!
Amna / June 20, 2014 at 03:29 pm
Wow I can't believe some of the comments! I have taken one course at the Make Den and have signed up for one more. I really like the instructors and yes, the sewing machines too. Maybe some people are jealous that they don't have a lovely, successful small business like the Make Den.

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