As I alluded in my last post some four months ago, I’ve started teaching sewing classes at a new fabric and sewing studio in Baltimore, Domesticity. I’d been interested in teaching group classes since July 2016. So, when Domesticity opened up and a mutual friend of the shop owner connected us, it was serendipity. Also, when I sew or put on makeup, I like to pretend I’m on my YouTube channel or my own TV show anyway 😃. Now, it would be the same but with a live audience 🤷🏾♀️.
What I didn’t expect was how hard teaching can be, that there were things I would learn about myself and how much I would LOVE it. Want to read about it? Get a cup because there’s a short novel below.
Hard? Wutt? Yeah. It’s hard. Teaching takes preparation. Any technique I told people to do I wanted to have an example of it, be able to explain the benefits of it, talk about why it works how it does and a clear way on how to do it. That’s not all just in my head. I had to research and make sure I was using the correct terms and perhaps correct any bad habits I had picked up.
I didn’t want people to pay me to watch them read directions and follow along. I wanted people to feel freed from basic instructions, learn techniques and order of construction. Often I’ve thought of in person sewing classes as unnecessary. I’ve said for years if you can read you can sew or cook. Just follow the directions! I had to learn that not everyone learns the same way. Duh. I changed my mindset. But, if someone were coming to to a class and paying money to be there, I wanted to be able to show them things that weren’t in the instructions.
The indie designers to give A LOT of detail in their patterns. For how I sew it’s just too too much. But, for a beginner sewer though, they are learning from these. Yet, the lesson here is that even with 30 pages of instructions there are still things to teach. Sewing is vast and there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are alternate finishes of necklines, seams, hems. Ways to topstitch. What your sewing feet are for. What is the difference between needles. How do you pick which needle size, etc. etc. I had more than one student tell me that our classes taught them to love their sewing machine. Or, they’d never used any of the other feet their machine came with.
I love seeing how excited people get when they complete a garment! Yes, I goad people into smiling when I take a photo. But, for real… they are happy and it makes me all kinds of warm inside.
I’ve had to put aside personal biases about some indie patterns. Beginner sewers see a lot of independent designers on social media and that’s what they want to sew. But, imho *just* sewing indie designers is limiting. So, I make sure to include patterns from the Big 4 so that students are comfortable going between the two and don’t feel limited to just sewing indie. There are some designs I don’t teach because they are too basic for the money or aren’t something I would ever personally wear. I felt it only right to teach designs I could personally vouch for and work in to my wardrobe. After all, I was going to be sewing samples for myself and the shop. Why work on something I think is trash or dumb?
I’ve had to make my samples show worthy and not just good enough. I mean, I love to sew. But, I’ve definitely learned what I am willing to let go of. But, when everyone is going to be staring intently at my work, I want to make sure it holds up. Those pajama pants? Plaids match every which way. Seams are beautifully finished. They came out so nice I can’t get them off of Jordan to actually use in class. He wears them ALL the time. And, I teach finishes for when you don’t have a serger. Guess what I rediscovered? Many of those finishes are WAY nicer. I am back in love with French seams, flat fell seams and a blind hem finish.
I use a lot of different tools and notions. Ok, for real. The start up costs for sewing are not small. It’s not like knitting where you need a set of needles and a ball of yarn. I brought in rulers, marking pens, hams, seam rolls, rotary cutters, nips, zipper templates, twill tape… you name it, I have it and I brought it. Yes, it can be overwhelming to a student. But, it also lets them see how I get the results I do. Near the end I had a bit of a personal mutiny and stopped bringing so many tools. My living room looked like a mudroom and I couldn’t find items in my sewing room. And, you know what? A few students said “This is a job for a ham” when they were opening up seams or pressing in darts. They understand what the tools are for and that’s fantastic.
I’m way more obsessed with fit than I realized. Prior to teaching I’d have told you people spend too much time obsessing about fit. But, as I developed the coursework, I realized I worked fit into every class. I didn’t want people to walk away from sewing because they didn’t like how clothes looked on them.
I suggested people sew muslins. I taught FBAs, swayback adjustments, broad back fixes and ways to make an armhole more comfortable. Yet, my constant refrain was, “I’m not a fit expert. But,….” It helps to have an arsenal of fit books to refer to.
Assign homework. There wasn’t a class I taught that didn’t require you to sew some at home. And, I think that’s really necessary so that people realize they can sew on their own. It also reinforces whatever you taught the week before.
Teaching doesn’t feel like work! Yes, I mean, I still have deadlines of prep work I need to do and late nights/ early mornings getting it done. But, when I’m with students in the classroom time just flies. It doesn’t feel like work to talk about sewing and teaching sewing. I do have a part time day job in my field. And, I don’t know that I could or would want to teach sewing full time. But, when I’m there it feels like hanging out with friends. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to teach. But, I’m enjoying every bit of it right now. It’s fun to help create a community of sewists in Baltimore. I feel like I’m really *doing* something.