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All sewn up: Apparel instructor takes fashion-forward approach

April 3, 2017

Talk about a stitch in time. Jan Bones has been teaching clothing design for nearly 40 years.

An instructor teaching Apparel Design courses at Red River College, Bones began her teaching career in 1978 at the University of Manitoba.

In 2008, after courses at the U of M were discontinued, Bones seamlessly transitioned to RRC, albeit with the help of a human ecology lab at the university for the first two years. Now, the Apparel Design courses are housed in the Heritage Room at RRC’s Princess Street Campus.

Bones says teaching students about pattern design and garment construction is still spools of fun, even four decades in.

“For me, it’s the giving of information and watching people take that information in a way they can fit it into their choice of design work,” Bones says. “It’s watching the lightbulbs go on in class.”

“I enjoy the students immensely. I enjoy the classroom setting, I enjoy their questions, and watching them shine, watching them learn something new and shine.”

“Everybody has a creative spirt. They might be a fabulous bread maker or great mechanic or a great house painter — everyone has something in them that is creative. I have the joy of helping students figure out if designing patterns is their creative spirit.”

Bones’ courses run from 6­–9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from September into May. On Tuesday nights, Bones’ first-year students explore pattern design and textiles. On Wednesdays, second-year students delve into fashion illustration, ladies’ design details, and designing jackets and coats. A handful of Saturday workshops are also part of the curriculum.

“We do lot of hands-on — teaching students how to draft patterns, how to take body measurements and draft shirts, tops and sleeves,” Bones says.

“They start in September with really basic, fundamental skills and by the end they say, ‘Wow, look at what we can do.’”

Bones says her classroom is always diverse, with people coming to the program for different reasons.

“It’s a broad cross section of people, from people who have just graduated high school up to students who are 80 years old,” she says.

“There are people who work in nothing related to clothing and this is just their hobby. There are people who want to become an entrepreneur in the clothing world, and they want more information. Sometimes there are people who work in the garment industry already who want to see what other things they might learn.”

In addition to RRC and the U of M, Bones has traveled the continent teaching her craft, participating in seminars, workshops and retreats throughout North America. Bones said the travel component of her teaching career started as a happy accident.

In the fall of 1993, Bones attended a creative arts festival in Calgary, where she ran into her former teacher, who introduced her to the organizer of the festival. By the spring of 1994, Bones was teaching at a similar event in Toronto.

That Calgary creative arts festival also sparked the creation of Bones’ company, Lingerie Secrets.

“She (the organizer of the festival) said, ‘Come and teach some classes. Bring some patterns and people will want to work with them.’ I said, ‘I don’t have any patterns.’ She said, ‘Well, what’s the latest thing you’ve been doing?’” Bones recalls.

“I had just finished two years with a group of students and they were wanting more information and more courses. I asked them, ‘What would you like to learn?’ and they said they’d like to learn how to make a camisole or maybe panties, something totally different than skirts, blouses and jackets. So, I played around with a bunch of drafting information and I had the students do some classes with me in my home studio. I came up with my camisole pattern and my first panty pattern and that’s what I took to Toronto in the spring of ’94.”

Bones said meeting other clothing designers in Canada and the U.S. has been an enjoyable experience.

“I have some really close friends from all over the place that I’ve met through this little traveling circuit. It’s been wonderful. As unintended as it was, it has given me a lovely life,” she says.

See which Apparel Design courses are currently available.

— Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)