I used to decorate at least 20 years ago. I took the Wilton course 1 & 2 maybe 30 years or more ago. I want to get back into decorating so I bought the Wilton course 1 and the books for course 1 and 2. I can't attend the class due to timing issues and was wondering what the best way to get back into decorating and what I can do to practice. I've just recently made two cakes and had icing disaster . . . way to soft. Any help is greatly appreciated.
You can make cakes for practice or buy a styrofoam cake and practice on that. There's lots of great tutorials here too, and videos you can watch on youtube.
Probably the best thing to do first is to get an icing recipe that works for you, because you'll get more out of practicing that way. I have trouble with heat and humidity where I live, and Indydebi's buttercream is really the best for me http://cakecentral.com/cake_recipe-6992-Indydebis-Crisco-Based-Buttercream-Icing.html
For just practice I like to use the pre made wilton decorators icing. It comes in a tub at walmart and is really easy to work with. When I started I found it very forgiving. You can practice piping your borders on a board or on parchment and then scrape it off and put it back in the tub for later. For vertical surfaces try piping on the side of your pans. over and over and over. I agree that finding a base icing recipe you like is a very important step.
JanH has this list of links. Hopefully she chimes in.
Wilton has dvd's which can help a lot.
i would purchase cake dummies.
practice covering them in icing and fondant. then you can practice on piping.