For four years now I’ve been teaching groups of women (and some men) here in Wellesley to use their sewing machines. My class takes place at a sewing school down the street from my house. It’s an upstairs room in a two-story building and we all come in panting from lugging our heavy machines up there.
During the daytime the sewing school is filled with children. My own children take classes there. The walls are covered in projects – doll clothes, pillows shaped like lips and soccer balls, water bottle holders, and pajama pants. Shelves hold bolts of fabric in bright prints designed with tween girls in mind.
The kids classes are hugely successful and very often kids go home asking for a sewing machine for their birthday or Christmas. Once they get one, though, it’s often a different story at home. Sewing machines are finicky. They love to come unthreaded and when they do, the kid turns to their mom for help.
Women my age (I’ll be 40 in August) often don’t know how to sew. They might have sewn in 8th grade Home Economic class, or maybe their aunt showed them when they were six, but it’s been a long time – too long to be able to help their child rethread the machine.
Those moms are my students. Once a month I hold an evening class from 7:00-9:30 at the sewing school. They bring their daughter’s machine and I teach them to use it. Often these moms have their own creative goals in mind as well. They want to make curtains or cushions or clothes and they want to sew with their children.
I’ve come to love this class dearly. An hour and 45 minutes in, when everyone has mastered threading and bobbin winding and is quietly working on their first project, I always give a little cheer. “You’re sewing! Yay! Everyone is sewing!” They’re thrilled and I’m thrilled.
For me a sewing machine is such a powerful creative tool. Once you can use a sewing machine, even in the most basic way, you can quickly seam together fabric and that is a most amazing thing. From there, you can go anywhere.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to explain visually how a sewing machine works. It’s a bit mysterious for new users, and hard to imagine how the stitches are formed. I found a video that I wanted to share with you because for me it’s accomplishes this goal perfectly. Made by Design Squad Nation, this video is truly excellent. Take a look:
Isn’t that terrific! Thank you Design Squad Nation!
I’m going to incorporate this animation into my lesson next month. If you’re in the Boston area and would like to learn to use your sewing machine, join me at Sew Easy in Wellesley on Monday night, April 6.
If you already know how to use a sewing machine and you’d like to begin teaching this class in your local area, I’ve put together an ebook of my curriculum materials. My friend, Jodi, used it recently to teach her first class (at her kitchen table) and it was a big success.
Jodi teaching Get to Know Your Sewing Machine class.
Teaching is so satisfying and it’s a great way to supplement your sewing business income. I also learn so much when I teach new sewists. Seeing exactly what’s confusing to them and hearing about what they want to make gives me ideas for new blog posts and new products. It’s truly a win win situation.
Grab the ebook and get started.
Someone asked me a week ago if I could do this. I wavered, but once a month could work. Thanks!
You totally can! It’s really a fun class to teach.
McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo) says
So cool that you’re doing this! Forgot that you’re in Wellesley. My sister went to college there. Lovely town. —Meg
It is such a nice town and we live within walking distance of the college. Best babysitters in the entire world!
McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo) says
Hi, me again. Your students might like to take a look at the new Pinterest board I’m pinning now. It’s a collection of beginner-friendly patterns that are perfect for new sewers who’ve made a tote bag and now want to try clothing. FYI. —Meg
Oh, wow, thanks Meg!
Abby, this is exciting to read! I’m a retired Home Ec teacher from the South Shore, and I only know of one other shop (in Wellesley) where sewing classes are held. There definitely is an audience out there looking for some first-hand teacher guidance on the journey. Awesome.
Yay! I hope you give it a go. I’ve found that pretty much anywhere there is a demand for this class, which is excellent!
I bought your ebook about a year ago (maybe more?) and have been teaching this class up here in midcoast Maine. It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m now at the point where I’ll be teaching more frequently, possibly at more than one location, and am developing next level classes. I had been thinking about teaching for quite a while, but just could not get started. Your book spells out everything a potential teacher needs to establish that first class, and teaching it repeatedly increased my confidence enormously. Consider this a testimonial!; I could not have done this without your book! Thanks Abby!
I remember when you bought it, Holly, but I had no idea that you had really been building up a teaching business like this! I’m so thrilled. Having worked with you in the class I taught at Gather Here a few years ago I know you would be an amazing sewing teacher! Congratulations.
Oh my, I love that animation! So clear & concise. I think I’ll have to buy your Ebook – could the information and suggestions be appropriated to another country (Australia) easily, or does it not matter? I was considering doing a learn-to-sew feature on my site, as in just the last month I’ve had so many people ask me for lessons! Its a sewing explosion!
I think most of the concepts would transfer just fine to other places, with the caveat that my advice on pricing the class might be a bit off. Then again, here in the US you’d still have to price the class differently in different regions. I think the ebook would still serve you well in Australia.
I bought your ebook last year which is very thorough and I would recommend to others. I am now in the middle of opening my very own sewing room to teach from on a regular basis in Durham UK. I will be teaching a range of basic sewing classes and its all because of your ebook which has led to this, so I just wanted to say a big thank you.
Oh wow, Sharon! That’s so wonderful to hear. Thank you for letting me know 🙂
What a great video! It really does show clearly what happens inside the machine. I’m going to share it with my readers, too!
I’d love to teach a sewing class, but unfortunately I have yet to find any sort of place where I could do it. I suppose that I could just do it anywhere, not just a sewing school, and have the students bring their own machines. It hadn’t ever occurred to me to do it that way! I’ll bet that learning with you is a great experience! 🙂 Lisa
p.s. totally unrelated, but I purchased your newsletter ebook and it is such a great help!
Thanks! Yes, finding space can be a challenge. Our local recreation center has classrooms that you can rent out for under $30. If I couldn’t teach at the sewing school I would do it there instead.
Kathy Howard says
Oh, I just had to share that little video. It was so well done!
Thank you for sharing the video! I’ve been sewing for 40+ years and never knew how it all worked. Enlightening (but your blog & newsletter always are).
Thank you, Sharon. Somehow when you see the diagram in motion it all makes sense. I love that video!
For those of you that teach out of a community room type space. Is it difficult to set up the rest of the equipment (ironing stations, cutting stations). What do you do if someone’s machine doesn’t work? Are there spares? I was looking into a space that I thought came with machines but now they say the machines need to be rented $10 a machine. That would really bring the price up for those wanting to take a simple class.
I teach at a sewing center and they have extra machines which is a good thing. Every now and then someone brings a machine that is not in good working order and they end up having to use one of the machines we provide. I think it would be worth your while to purchase a few extra sewing machines to have on hand for students who need one. Or, if you’re having an assistant help you, have them bring in their machine as an extra. If your class is going to have more than six students I highly recommend having an assistant.
Those that are responsible for collecting their own payments. Any suggestions on paypal/ mailing in checks vs other ways to collect payments before class starts.
I think I would have people mail you a check unless you want to set up a class listing on your online shop and have people purchase it there. You want to make your cancellation policy clear.
I’m so excited I found you! My husband and I are moving to a new area…I haven’t worked in a couple years and would really like to earn some extra money AND I love to sew! Where we are moving has a big clubhouse free to use for the residents…I think I may buy a few used machines off craigslist for backups and go for it! I’ve been struggling with curriculum, etc and am so excited you have put it all together for me! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
Well, I’m off to purchase your ebook. Thanks again!
That sounds terrific! I think this is an ideal setting for teaching sewing. Good luck, Kathy!