Tokyo Sewing Lessons with the Sewing Circle

When she first started the Sewing Circle, Melanie Uematsu held classes in her own kitchen. But at a certain point her husband intervened: the kitchen was getting too crowded, he complained. That’s when Melanie opened a small studio in southern Tokyo’s Oyamadai neighborhood.

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At first, Melanie gave classes to new mothers, allowing them to bring along their newborns. But very soon she found herself confronted with smashed banana pieces on her sewing machines, crying babies and stressed out mothers who could not focus on sewing anymore. But she was not ready to give up on her dream, so she changed her target group: she now teaches parents with older children (from ten years old), small groups, and one-on-one lessons. Everyone is welcome, whether she or he wants to realize a single design idea from scratch or just change a piece of ill-fitting clothing.

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When I visited her studio, Melanie was doing the last fitting with Christina Dörfer, a German bride-to-be who had ordered her wedding dress in Berlin. When the dress arrived she realized that the piece was great. Just not for her. Then she got a little desperate. “That’s when I started looking online for a tailor who speaks English or German in order to make myself clear about how I want the dress to be changed. And I found the Sewing Circle,” she said. The dress now fits perfectly, just in time for her upcoming Hawaiian wedding.

One thing is for sure: Melanie is a design pro. After having studied in London and Berlin, she worked for the Issey Miyake group before designing t-shirts for Uniqlo. It was only after she had her daughter that she bought a number of sewing machines and decided to set up her own business. “I have all kinds of international clients. Teenagers who want to wear the latest fashion trends, women who need an evening gown for a formal reception, even men who want to surprise their wives with something self-made,” she said. “Sometimes I even go fabric shopping with my customers.”

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So even if you are an absolute beginner at the sewing machine, all you need as a customer is a vague idea of the design you want to realize. Melanie will discuss the pattern and fabric with you and take measurements after having taught you the basic skills on the sewing machine.

Private sewing lessons at the Sewing Circle cost ¥4,000 per hour, and group sewing lessons are ¥18,000 for four sessions (two hours each), during which students learn or refresh basic sewing techniques. After you have mastered the basic course, Melanie will guide you through your own projects (ten hours cost ¥17,500).

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Melanie also offers a “pregnancy sewing course” for expecting mothers who want to adjust their garments for their growing belly (¥18,000 for four sessions of two hours each).

The Deets

Address: 3-22-13-202 Oyamadai, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 090-6041-751

Open: Mon–Fri, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and by special appointment