I'm teaching a Get To Know Your Sewing Machine class next Thursday, October 11, from 9:30-noon at Sew Easy in Wellesley, MA (if you live in the Boston area and would like to register you can do so on the Sew Easy website). Sew Easy is a locally owned sewing center for kids, and I teach their only adult class. I've been teaching this class at Sew Easy regularly for a year now and it's fantastic. I also teach the same class in private sessions in people's homes, mostly for moms with young children who cannot make a daytime class.
If you know how to sew you can teach this class, too!
After teaching several dozen people to use their sewing machines, here's what I've learned: although every sewing machine is a bit different, they are all fundamentally the same. It takes a little bit of experience to become familiar with the variations and I've had a few stressful moments when I've been unsure whether we would be able to get a particular machine up and running (I will admit to sweating profusely and having a furrowed brow at those times), but the manuals are terrific and it is a very rare instance that a machine is actually broken and cannot run during the class.
I ask people to come to class with their machines, machine accessories, the power cord (that's an important one!) and foot pedal, and the manual (another key!). During class I teach how a sewing machine works, how to wind and insert the bobbin, how to thread the machine, how to change the presser foot and insert a new needle, how to control the stitch length and width, and what the most useful stitches are. We talk about basic maintenance and essential sewing supplies. Finally we sew a drawstring bag while talking about how to shop for fabric, how to measure, mark, press and pin, and basic troubleshooting.
When you run a handmade business it's important to seek out multiple income streams. Teaching this class is a terrific way to do that. You can use skills you already have and make a nice income. For a private, 1-hour lesson I charge $60. It's hard to make $60/hour sewing toys! The groups lessons are a maximum of 8 students and Sew Easy charges $55 plus a $10 materials fee. I get half of each tuition so if the class is fully enrolled I made $260 for 2.5 hours, or $104/hour. See what I'm saying! This is a good gig. And it's fun!
When I look at my finances for the year, teaching is one of the most lucrative things I do. It's also one of the most satisfying. People come into class with a sewing machine that's been sitting in their closet for decades and they walk out fully confident and ready to get a start on their own projects. Giving them this skill opens up a new creative avenue for them. What could be better?
And this kind of teaching is really flexible. I'm a stay-at-home mom with three little kids. I can't go back to teaching middle school full-time, but I can do this kind of teaching because I can teach on the weekends when my spouse is at home with the kids, or on weekday mornings when my kids are in school.
Learning to use a sewing machine is a skill people are willing to pay for. They want to make things themselves, to customize their wardrobe or make clothing for their children, they want to save money by sewing curtains and pillows themselves, but they don't know how to use their sewing machine.
Sewing machines are just complex enough that signing up for a one-day workshop taught by an expert is worth it to most people.
So what do you think? If you sew, would you consider adding teaching this workshop to your repertoire?
Over this past year I've developed detailed curriculum materials (I used to be a teacher. I love making lesson plans!) that include:
- a class outline showing every skill that needs to be taught and the order in which you should teach each component of the machine's use
- common questions and difficulties that come up in these classes and how to resolve them
- suggested reading for you as an instructor to familiarize yourself with the variations among sewing machines
- the pattern for the project we make during class
- a handout of suggested resources for students who want to learn more
- marketing materials to get the word out and attract students and ways to follow up with students after the class is over
Would these materials be of interest to you? I'm thinking of making them available as a little ebook. Basically, I'd give you everything you'd need to get started teaching this class. Is anything in particular holding you back from offering this service in your community? What would you like to see included in the ebook? And most importantly, would this be useful to you?
I’m at your blog to share a link that I thought would interest you, but the eBook is a great idea! I’ve thought about teaching but sewing and knitting but have yet to follow through.
Here’s a designer of knitted toys talking about her process:
I think it’s a great idea! Go for it!
I think it’s a great idea. I would like to teach knitting and crochet but I have yet to find an LYS that I a. click with and b. have openings.
How do you advertise that you’re willing to go teach people in their homes?
That is tricky, isn't it! I am unwilling to put up a flyer, even in the local ice cream shop, because any weirdo could call and as a woman by myself I just don't feel comfortable with that situation. I've networked through the social organizations I'm already a member of, including the listserve of the local mom's organization and my synagogue and PTO. Word of mouth is terrific for this kind of advertising. But I know there are more clients out there that would hire me, and I'd like to take on more one-on-one teaching, it's just connecting with them that's difficult. I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on how to do this safely and effectively!
Thank you, Susan. I love your bears so so much. I just want to give one a hug. You do lovely work!
Thank you, Hilary. I saw a link to this post, but I hadn't clicked through and read it so thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. It was fascinating!
Lindsey R says
Most definitely! I have just started teaching at a local co-op and it is/was a bit nerve wracking coming up with my lesson plan b/c I am not a formal ‘teacher’. I know I have the skills to share, but it would be amazing to have a resource for outlining how to deliver the info.
Awesome. Thanks for the feedback. If you think of anything in particular that you'd like included feel free to email me or leave another comment here!
I would also be very interested in an ebook. As someone with no formal teaching experience but a love of sewing and talking to people I would be interested in seeing if this is something I could take further.
Okay, awesome! I'm so glad to hear that!
French Knots says
I was nodding to myself while reading your post as I do exactly the same class, it is so satisfying to get people up and running with their machines and they leave smiling. I’ve taught two classes so far this week.
I teach in my own studio at the bottom of the garden and I use a local art cafe too. They advertise the classes and I teach in their premises during the evening and we split the money.
I also teach patchwork, quilting, knitting, crochet – while not a formally qualified teacher I base my lesson plans on teaching skills via a specific project so all my customers have something lovely to take home – I love it!
It is so fun, right?! I'm really glad you're enjoying teaching. My hope is to make it easier and smoother for people who'd like to begin teaching a class like this.
yes! yes! yes!!
Okay, that means so much coming from you, Meg. I'm feeling motivated to get this ebook under production.
An excellent idea. I feel that it is a skill that is starting to disappear and we cannot afford to lose it. an ebook would be great. And I love how you have gone back to the beginning with this class, focusing on using the tool, which is essential before you can even get to the sewing.
Yes! I am a full time crafter and a stay at home mom and have brainstormed on this concept many times. The challenge is getting the curriculum right (I’m also a former school music teacher). I have taught a few private lessons but over a 4 week course. This would be much more appealing. Please, make this available! 🙂
I would most definitely be interested in an ebook of this teaching variety, as I am at that stage with sewing that I feel capable of teaching beginners basic projects and would love to try doing it a bit more professionally (the money would be a perk really!).
Love your designs and love reading you blog. Thank you!
It sounds like this would be a great next step for you. I think having an ebook containing all the instructional materials you'll need might be just thing to get you up and running teaching this type is class! Yay!
Hi Sarah,As a former teacher, and with some teaching of sewing experience under your belt, it sounds like this would be a terrific option for you!
Yes! I love providing the foundation skills for creative exploration. It's super exciting!
Oh my gosh, what a compliment! Thanks so much 🙂
I just want to say Kudos. To you for teaching such a basic and useful skill and to the people who want to learn it. Like preserving food, sewing is a basic tool I learned from my mother. I love to see the resurgence of interest in these activities since they have been such a useful, creative and fulfilling part of my own life.
Yes! Even though I am a teacher, one thing we teachers know is “don’t reinvent the wheel!” I would love to know more about how you teach your classes! I have taught all of my kindergarten students to sew and am running a workshop for the kids in our after school program in November. I am feeling fairly confident with kids, but my friend has just opened up a “Creative cottage” where she offers classes and retreats and she is looking for a sewing instructor and I was thinking of applying. So this is perfect timing! 🙂
Hi Andrea,That's amazing that you've taught your kindergarteners to sew!! I have so much admiration for you! Adding this adult class would be terrific, I think!
What about the local library? Mine offers a lot of classes in different things. It might be worth seeing if they have openings. It would still be a group, but it’s worth looking into.
Advertising to teach a group class at your local library is a great idea, Nicky. Our recreation center also offers classes.
I appreciate your blog! I am taken aback at your honesty and willingness to share your business experiences. It is refreshing. Multiple streams of income is important for just about anyone in today’s economy. You are so right.
I am a former science teacher. I cannot get teaching out of my system, either! I have taught many how to knit, and a few how to sew, gratis. One stream of income, however, does add to the “egg and butter” money. I teach drawing and painting privately. I eliminate “studio” fees by limiting students to Church members–although in all honesty that, is how it fell into my lap a number of years ago. It wasn’t planned that way. I also have better communication with the parents–although I have taught adults as well. I expanded with a home school group, but I am not certain if I will continue with that type of venue.
Thanks, again! You work very hard at your craft!
Thanks, Gail. Networking through your social organizations, like church, is really great for this kind of business because it can help you to pre screen the clientele and you begin with a pre-existing relationship. I'm getting to work on this ebook soon!! Thank you for your support of my idea.
Well, I did it! I signed up to teach a beginners sewing class at the end of October! (any chance the ebook will be ready before then?) 🙂
Good for you!! That's terrific! I'm teaching the class again tomorrow and hoping to take a bunch of pictures. I have a pattern nearly ready to release, and then the ebook will be my priority. If it's not ready in time for you to use before your class, it will be shortly there after and I'd love to hear what you think you need leading up to it!
I think that would be super-useful! I feel like most people around where I live (W. Michigan) have at least some institutional memory about how to sew, but even just for having a set way of going about teaching my friends to sew, I’d be interested in an ebook.
Actually, that's a really helpful point. Teaching friends is also really satisfying, but it can be hard to know where to begin with a beginner friend. This ebook could be really helpful along those lines as well!!
An ebook would be great. I have people ask me to teach them to sew frequently. I’m never quite sure what to charge or how much to teach in a basics class. I’d like to second, third/fourth, etc. the thanks ppl have put up here for sharing your knowhow and business acumen.
You're very welcome! And I'm pleased to tell you that the eBook is now here: http://whileshenaps.typepad.com/whileshenaps/ebooks.html
Thank you so much!
I have been sewing my entire life and have recently moved to a small town. I am thinking of offering sewing classes for kids and adults at the recreation centre as no one is doing that yet here (and after asking the few people I know, everyone seems very interested)
I have checked out your book “getting to know your sewing machine a teacher’s guide” and am very interested in purchasing it. I am wondering if you have put together any other books or online publications about teaching other classes (beginner sewing for kids or adults) My problem is I’m not a trained teacher although in my other career I do a lot of training and teaching (but that is different!) I’m searching for info to help set up a curriculum. I have looked at many websites but your info so far seems the most down to earth and adult. (so many courses are only for kids and therefore very young for an adult class)
Thanks so much for your help and your ideas!
Jayelle (in Canada)
My ebook includes quite a bit of detailed information about how to organize a curriculum to teach this class (ie. the order to teach skills in, when to do direct instruction and when to have students practice at their own machines, etc.). I’ve bought several books on how sewing machines work and read them cover to cover. That was very helpful preparation. I also think if you teach a few one-on-one classes in people’s homes you get a good feel for the types of questions that come up, and the pace. I hope that helps! My ebook seems perfect for you!
Sue McCarron says
Is this eBook done? If so, how can I purchase it?? Sue McCarron
Abby Glassenberg says
Yes, it’s done! Here’s the link: http://abbyglassenber.wpengine.com/ebooks.html
Margie Hughes says
Your url for the eBook manual for teaching a sewing class is “404”. Is it now unavailable? How might I go about getting the eBook? I am very interested in teaching young/old to use their sewing machines.
I’m sorry about that! It’s available right here: http://abbyglassenber.wpengine.com/shop/get-to-know-your-sewing-machine-a-teachers-guide-ebook
angela kroeger says
I would definitely be interested in seeing your lesson plans. I also teach sewing classes (to neighbors and friends) but i’ve never had an official sewing machine lesson. It would probably be very helpful!
So a local art center invested in a fiber arts curriculum and is looking for teachers. They have tables and 8 new sewing machines. They just charge $25 for the space 3hr blocks. I’m thinking to do a simple tote class but trying to figure out how many cutting stations and irons to have on hand for an 8 max? Although they have more space of people bring their own machines.
Suggestions for room setup and price to charge for a 2 hr workshop.
Sounds like a terrific opportunity, Ava. Pricing is really dependent on where you live and what comparable classes near you cost. I think two cutting stations and two ironing areas should be sufficient, but you’ll have to run the class once in order to find out.