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EllenMH | Posted in General Sewing Info on


I wasn’t really sure where this message fits in…I’m brand new here, I’m Ellen, from Annapolis MD…brief intro, have been sewing since I was maybe 12, have been married to dh for 26 years, have three children dd 25 (married with a 10 month old dd of her own!), dd 20 and ds 17.5…all just wonderful children!! Dd #1 and her husband live with us so we get to see our granddaughter all the time! It’s lots of fun.

Dd #2 has been teaching herself to sew, learning by doing and her first project was a log cabin quilt she made for her neice. She then made her sister a tote bag for her b’day, then took apart of old dress of her own and made her neice a little jumpsuit! So cute!

Anyway, both daughters would very much like to learn (continue) to sew. I thought I had read somewhere around here that someone had a curriculum…I’d love to get more information. I know I can teach them, but I’m sure you can empathize because I don’t want to treat them like they know nothing, but also really need to find out where their skill levels lie without insulting their intelligence. You’d think I could figure this out, them being my own daughters! But I would love some guidance. They don’t want to make something that has no use afterwards…which reminds me of my home ec class in 8th grade…of course, the class needed to be geared toward those first learning and since my mother had taught me, the boring jumper I made in the class never got worn!!

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

Ellen in Annapolis, MD


  1. kayrosie | | #1

    I guess I don't really have much advice for you but to just get in there and see what they can do. Sounds like your one daughter is good at it already.  There are some really good books out there.  Sewing with Nancy is always good. She has about everything and at every level.  Go for it is all I can say.

    I have been teaching my granddaughter to sew, but she was only 7 when I started I knew what she need to first learn. All about the sewing machine was our first lesson, then to make straight seams (had her working on paper and drawing lines and sewing on them.  This is great for kids but not adults. 

    My suggesstion is ask them what they expect to teach them and go from there. 

    4-H books are really good too. 

  2. SAAM | | #2

    Hi Ellen,

    It's good to hear from someone close by. I live in Baltimore, and grew up in Annapolis.

    I have three daughter who, over the years, have been learning sewing skills (my eldest is almost 25, the youngest is 14). They've mostly learned by doing. Each time we work on a project, I review the various skills they'll be using for the particular garment they'll be making. We started with fairly easy patterns. As the girls have become more confident, they've taken on more complex projects. Of course, they're happy to have mom there to help with the tricky stuff.

    My youngest has been the most active seamstress. Her latest projects have been a couple of newboy -style caps. They came out really well. Of course, I didn't tell her that when she picked out the pattern, I was concerned about whether she was up to doing them. As usual, she surprised me with her determination and with the evolution of her skill level.


  3. mem | | #3

    The new Vogue sewing book is very good . I would get that and then perhaps get some night gown patterns and some cheap fabric and get started. The vogue book is good because it is a good read before the sissors hit the fabric . It will also help them to start with high standards which will mean that they will enjoy the product more.I think the other thing to do is to not stay with really easy things all the time but to have a go with muslin and familiarize themselves with the process and then maybe make it up in a better fabric.

  4. sherryv | | #4


    Check this out:  http://www.sewingprose.com/

    I like how it details all the skills of each level.  I wish I'd have had this growing up!  I'd know so much more today.  Best wishes and happy sewing!


    1. EllenMH | | #5

      Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions!!  I'm going to look into the Vogue book and will check the website after I can make some headway on fixing up my/our sewing room!! 

      I wanted to add to a discussion I saw about sewing tables....I was in Home Depot looking at microwaves when I cam across a table that I'm SO excited about...I think it's about 8' long, maybe 3' wide and folds up in order to store it.  I think I'm going to get two, one to put two of my machines on (I have both my mother and grandmother's Singer featherweights) and one to use as a cutting table!  and they were maybe $50!

      Happy Sewing


      1. AndreaSews | | #6

        Hi Ellen.  I think it's great that your daughters are coming to you for sewing advice!  I've been calling my mom to run ideas by her and have her describe techniques for a few years now.  It has opened up a whole new dimension to our relationship.  As for what kinds of projects to pick, I think it's time to let them tell you what they'll be working on.  You can help guide their choices a little, so if they say they're going to start with a boned corset, you might suggest they try a tank top first--Haha.  I too am a self-starter, but I think it's true that all of us learn best from projects that are personally motivating. Maybe a skirt to go with that great sweater from Christmas, or a totebag to bring to the library... You get the point.  I also suggest that whatever project you guide them through first, have them pick out a new set of fabrics and maybe try view B instead of view A so they can go ahead and _repeat_ the process right away, possibly at a more independent level, to drive the techniques home. 

      2. User avater
        Becky-book | | #7

        Think about getting some kind of leg risers for the table you use for cutting out.  I used the dining room table until my Mom gave me her craft table that is higher than an eating table; so much less back strain when cutting things out now!! I don't have to bend over so much!! I know they sell these things to put under bed legs to give college students more room to store stuff under the bed, they might work!


        1. EllenMH | | #8

          Great idea!! we have some of those for our bed.Thanks!

          1. mygaley | | #9

            Tables can be raised by placing the legs on cinder blocks (the dorm way!) or if you have the kind of tables with bent legs PVC pipe can be cut and the legs placed in it to raise it. I have used both of these ways and they work. Galey

          2. NewRenaissanceWoman | | #16

            A good place to get sewing classes is through the adult education division of the local school district. If you are not familiar with these, call and they can send you a flyer or catalog. Most are free or very inexpensive. Some are ongoing and some are designed to make a special project. You might want to pick out a Christmas project and go with your daughters together. This way you can familiarize yourself with the availability and type of classes. You might even want to check into what is required for you to teach some classes. College degree and teacher certification is usually not required for vocational classes, just a good idea that someone else is not already doing.

          3. ctirish | | #17

            Not needing any type of references or background in sewing is what scares me about some of these adult education classes. I used to take one or two a year and then I realized the people teaching only knew the one item we were making for class. They couldn't answer a basic(what I thought was basic,LoL) question about garment construction or even if you could use a different stabilizer in the project. 

            If you want local classes, go to your local sewing machine dealers, they probably have classes at one of them.  I would look for a dealer that sells the type of machine you have because their classes are geared to people who own their machines.  I was thinking there is a great fabric store near there I think so I did a search on Sewing and Annapolis Maryland. It took me a few minutes to wade through the excess useless sites but then it is great.  WOW, we have maybe 8 sewing machine or fabric stores in all of Connecticut.  It looks like you have that many without leaving town.  I am ready to move to Maryland. I just looked briefly but they have beginner, intermediate, days, evenings, weekends,. They have home dec, garment construction, quilting, everything. 

            If you try a couple classes at different places you will discover where you really want to spend time. There are videos/DVD's you can purchase that go through every step of making a garment.  I like the Cynthia Guffey series, because there isn't any fluff, it is pure close up sewing. You can sew right along with her if you want. I tend to watch when I am too tired to sew and I hope the information will just spool itself to my brain.

            Don't let go of those featherweights, quilters love them because they are compact and sew a great straight stitch.

          4. EllenMH | | #18

            Yes, we have some really good stores around here! A friend of mine has taught heirloom sewing which I'd love to take but apparently the last time, not enough people signed up.I live about an hour from the famed G Street Fabrics in Rockville, but must admit, I find it overwhelming. What bugs me though, although I DO enjoy quilting, so many of the smaller, better shops have cleared out their garment fabrics and only sell quilting fabrics...but then there's still Joann's and Hancock.as far as the classes, I'm being a bit cheap/frugal and trying not to spend more money! I DID get the Vogue book from the library, but have I looked at it yet *wince*Also, I used to live in Connecticut!!Ellen

          5. ctirish | | #19

             I know what you mean about only having quilting store in the area. I keep seeing that happen here too. Where did you live in CT, I live south of Hartford in what used to be a small town called Rocky Hill.  A class here and there can't hurt, I have learned to take the ones where hopefully I will learn something I can use to expand my technique. Where did you live in CT? 

          6. EllenMH | | #21

            I lived in Simsbury for about ten years, from '69 to '78, ok, make that nine years! My math got so much better when I began sewing!! I've been living in MD for about 25 years, moved to DC in '78, got married, moved out here.This August, I stayed at hotel in Rocky Hill while going to the Women of Faith conference in Hartford!

          7. ctirish | | #23

            Ellen, wow, it is  small world.  Simsbury is a nice town, although it has grown immensely. My oldest daughter went to Catholic University in Washington, DC from 89 to 93.  I hope with the new convention center we can get a big sewing or embroidery conference. I was going to sew tonight but I am so tired it isn't going to happen. I need to get a 2 piece outfit completed and a jacket completed before it gets any colder here. 

          8. EllenMH | | #24

            I haven't been through Simsbury for a while, maybe five or six years...my father used to teach at Westminster School. I attended Simbury High but the choral directors at Westminster asked me to sing in the choir there when they first began girl day students since there were so few of them. So when the wife of the husband/wife team retired, my mother, brother, husband and I attended the party. It felt kind of strange going back...we even were able to see the house we used to live in! I don't know that I could go back again, I get way to emotional sometimes...being in Hartford was fun and "weird" at the same time!

          9. ctirish | | #25

            I know what you mean, we only lived in MA a yr and a half and when I go by "my" house, I get pangs...

            On a sewing note, if you are going to sew clothes for your gd I found a site called sewbaby.com.  She sells fabric, patterns, embroidery Cd's and other items geared for children. Have you done any sewing on fleece?  I have a stack of fleece fabric looking at me right now, but it is easy to sew with and very forgiving. The other fabric I picked up somewhere is the tiniest wale corduroy I have ever seen. You can feel the wale more than you can see it. But I haven't put my contacts in yet.

            Well, I better do some sewing or I will more and more behind.


          10. EllenMH | | #26

            LOL! sometimes it DOES help to put those contacts (or glasses) on!

  5. ctirish | | #10

    Martha Pullen has a curriculum for teaching beginner sewing.  She also has classes in all types of sewing. You can attend one just for your machine, to learn everything you can do with it. She has them for specific sergers, one for heirloom sewing,  all sorts of classes.  Her classes run from Thursday to Sunday - I think. But she also has pre-class classes you can take for an additional cost. They are great because sometimes you can take the prerequisite for the class you take later in the week. She has many activities during the evenings when you are there.  Also, her school is reasonably priced and then if you want more you can do the pre-school classes. Many people go back over and over again.

    I would love to go, but not unless she comes north with a weekend. She is located in Louisiana and her website is http://www.marthapullen.com.  This site lists her schools and store and magazine and newsletter. Her school is called the School of Art Fashion.  She teaches all of the mainstream sewing plus she does a lot of the older techniques that are wonderful especially for little ones.

    She does smocking, heirloom sewing, embroidery designs, cutwork designs and she loves vintage clothing. I know one night of the class is a fashion show and one night is a big barbecue at her home. She started the Sew Beautiful Magazine, it is great. She also sells kits for some of the outfits, directions are usually in the magazine. I have her mini collection embroidery designs and her Boy oh Boy Cd of designs, I can't wait to get something make so I can embroider it for my grandson.  Sorry for the length, I could talk about her for hours and I have never taken a class.

    1. EllenMH | | #11

      I was a faithful subscriber to Sew Beautiful for years, especially when my children were smaller. I'd be interested in taking the weekend class and saw that one was offered fairly close by, but the price tag was a bit much at the time...I'll just need to set up a separate sewing section in our budget!

      1. ctirish | | #12

        The price of her classes are not to bad  until you start adding on the 2 or 3 day pre classes. The prices to learn to teach and get a certificate in teaching are very high. Probaby because it would be tax deductible as a business expense.  I would think you could deduct the entire cost right down to tips if you keep careful track of receipts. 

        I have to decide what to do when I grow up? I need to either find a new career or start studying to go back to the career I had about eleven years ago.

        Do you want to teach sewing full time - Can  a person actually do that these days. It would be so many nights.

        oh well, that its for me tonight...

        1. Ralphetta | | #13

          When I was telling a friend that something I was considering buying was deductible, he said, "One must HAVE an income in order to deduct."

          I have sarcastic friends, (but he was right.)

          1. ctirish | | #14

            LOL, He is right...I gather he doesn't realize you are taking the world by storm with your teaching and everyone is going to want to be in your classes.... jane

            I know you want to teach your daughters (you can practice on them)so you start a little business and charge them a minimal amount  $10.00.  After they are experts you could start a little business of teaching sewing at your home. You might even have some help from your daughters depending on their schedules at the time.  

            The bonus of having a little business is you can support your sewing and fabric habit and maybe go to the big Houston quilt and sewing show and the annual ASG conference. There are all sort of events by the big sewing machine manufacturers and embroidery developers you can go to also. I would love to be go to the big shows and events to see what is new and learn how to do it.  Add to that the classes by Martha Pullen and other great designer and sewing teachers and I would be in heaven. 

            Now he is going to say you will never turn a profit if you are not home to teach.....LOL

          2. WandaJ | | #15

            Several years ago, I participated in a Martha Pullen Heirloom Sewing Class. It was a great retreat. A bit costly, however, what would one pay for a vacation miles from home? I learned a lot of heirloom techniques that gave me some of the needed confidence to get back in the swing of sewing after many years of absence.  If one is interested in that type of sewing, I certainly recommend her classes, as some beautiful creations come from what her students have learned and employ when making a garment.

            I have not read her schedules of classes for a few years, but if one is looking to start beginning sewing I don't think this is it. What I would suggest, in the absence of local sewing classes, is to use the Reader's Digest Sewing Book. This among many out there is a great one and the use of language is not complicated.  The previously suggested Vogue Sewing Book is a good one too.

            Make sure that in the beginning the student learns about pattern alterations so they will not end up disappointed with the fit, and have a wadder that may turn them off forever.


    2. MaryinColorado | | #27

      I think she is in Huntsville, Alabama. Mary

  6. squirel | | #20

    I'm so glad you're sharing your experience with your daughter. I wish my mom had done the same. What I would give to be able to have her teach me now !!

    1. EllenMH | | #22

      I was very blessed to have had my mother get me started sewing when I was about 12; what you said about having your mother now really touched my heart! My mother passed away two years ago and I miss her so much...she'd love seeing my daughters learning to sew and would just devour my little grandaughter!! My younger daughter has in the past month, made a little jumpsuit for her neice, a tote bag for her sister and just finished a cute purse for herself. My older daughter has just cut out a dress pattern for her little girl out of an "old" but "in good shape" dress of her sister's and using the same pattern used for the jumpsuit! It's so cool how they're recycling!I NOW have both my mother's and grandmother's sewing machine up for the girls to use!

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