April Jackson has long thought the tailoring world lacked structured training. Now she’s leveraging the power of the web to address it
Photo: Jackson Sewing Academy founder, April Jackson
THERE AREN’T MANY places you can learn the art of tailoring, says April Jackson, but it’s a skill worth learning if you enjoy sewing and want to make a career of it. And Jackson should know— she’s been doing it for more than 30 years, both as an entrepreneur and employee.
“There’s a high demand for master alteration specialists, but tailoring is not a registered trade with formal guidelines,” she explains, “and most college programs have a fashion design focus.”
Jackson grew up in Wallaceburg and knew the basics of sewing when, at the age of 20, she approached a local tailor about working with him to learn the trade. As it turned out, he was getting ready to retire, so they struck a deal: for nine months he would teach her everything he knew, and then she would buy his business. “I got a loan from my grandfather and I paid if off within a year,” she recalls.
With a move to Strathroy, she worked for national alterations chain Stitch It, where she was one of the highest producing sewers in Canada. “I had more skills and I was fast,” Jackson says.
“My goal is to be a pioneer in the field of sewing training” —April Jackson
Even back then, she thought there should be an in-house system to teach all the sewers how to do quick, professional, high-quality alterations, and over the years that idea of comprehensive training stayed with her.
Eventually, Jackson opened her own alterations shop in north London and began offering one-on-one lessons a few years ago. “I had businesses contacting me—menswear stores, bridal shops, upholsterers—to see if I had trained people that they could hire.”
Seeing the industry demand for skilled labour, she decided that by leveraging technology, she could train more students online than she could in individual lessons, so she closed her shop in January and is now focused on passing along her knowledge and her experience through Jackson Sewing Academy, an online teaching platform.
Jackson has developed curriculum, created videos and modularized her course offerings to ensure they are accessible to anyone who wants to learn. Starting with a $50 lesson in core techniques for altering and repairing clothes, the modules increase in complexity and cost to a comprehensive $1,250 master alterations specialist program that teaches the techniques and skills required for a career in the garment alterations trade.
To help promote the courses, Jackson has designed a 14-day free sample course she hopes will entice people to want to learn more, and has also posted YouTube how-to videos that have attracted attention from countries around the globe. Several inquiries have come from Spanish-speaking countries, so she is working on developing Spanish videos, and there was also a thank-you from a gentleman in Scotland who told Jackson, “I have a new hobby now.”
Jackson’s primary focus, though, is on B2B sales. She is in discussions with Alan Baird, the founder and owner of Stitch It, and plans to target bridal shops, clothing chains and possibly educational institutions.
She is also developing a philanthropic program for “stitching it forward,” she says. “I’d like to make it available to women’s shelters, for example, maybe mothers who want to learn skills to make a living and stay home with their kids.”
After keeping the notion of tailoring and alteration training on the back burner for more than 25 years, Jackson is elated to finally see it coming to fruition. With an investment of $80,000 to get it up and running, her vision is something more than just a business launch. “My goal is to be a pioneer in the field of sewing training,” she says. “I’m building a legacy.” Kym Wolfe