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Teaching Sewing

NancyJane | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

Hi Everyone!

This networking is all new to me so please bear with me and excuse me if I rattle on too much. I have always enjoyed reading discussions online – the amount of knowledge everyone has and is willing to share is fantastic.  I just never had the nerve to jump on the bandwagon.  I always go to my books if I find myself in a bind.  However I now find myself in a position that I must seek  assistance and am hoping someone can help me.  

I have been sewing all my life from 16 to 67.  As a big girl then and as a big woman now I sew because I love it and to have STYLISH CLOTHES THAT FIT.  Years ago patterns were few and far between and no magazines or books to help. I used to go into store dressing rooms with ready-mades, turn them inside out to see “how did they do that”.  Actually, I still do.  There isn’t anything I have made.  

Now I hear that “sewing is coming back”.  Coming back? For me it never left!  But to my problem. 

I scrapbook with 4-5 girls/ladies once a month – we have a great time and a lot of laughs.  They know I sew and have taken it in their heads that they want me to teach them!  I was in management in the hospitality/resort industry over 30 years and taught many, many people their jobs.  I am methodical and detailed oriented.   Over the years if I needed sewing information I would go, seek and learn.  This now puts me in a different position – they will be coming to me to learn.    I don’t want to waste their time nor make it so difficult or confusing that they get overwhelmed and loose interest.  I have suggested they take some lessons locally but they think “it would be so much more fun to get together (just like scrapbooking) and they just know I can teach them better than anyone else”.  They are all excited.  Am I doomed??

They are all beginners.  A couple of them can sew on a button but if a hem comes out they have to take it somewhere to be fixed.  

Should I even attempt this?  Please, does anyone out there know how I even begin.  Know of any videos/books, etc., that can help me?  Should I take a sewing class myself to see how it is done? 

This is more of a challenge than I have had in a long time??!!


  1. pc3 | | #1

    Hi. I have been sewing for a very long time also. My mom taught me and my 3 sisters to sew and like you as a large women I like to make my own cloths because they fit so much better. The only one I taught to sew is my 23 year old daughter, but watching her and now seeing her enjoying it so much is very rewarding. But I do teach at my local sewing machine dealer, I teach digitizing. When I started teaching I was very scared, as I had never taught before. But I have been teaching for 7 years now, and I love teaching. I enjoy the classes as much as I enjoy sewing and embroidery. I know its not the same, but I'd say go for it. PC3

  2. fabricholic | | #2

    Go ahead and teach them. If they have grand children, you could start with a basic children's dress pattern, with collar, buttoned in back and short sleeves. Help them pick out their sewing essentials and the fabric and notions. Take them through the first few steps, then have them do a little at home, by themselves. You can't teach each, one on one. They can come back the next week with their questions. Take it a few steps at a time. Before you begin, they need to know how to run their own sewing machines. When I taught this woman, she didn't know how to run her machine. Luckily, I had a similar machine, years before. If it had been more than one person, which it was supposed to be, I would have had a mess. You have to push them along. Let them know that they need to keep up, because they may think you have all the time in the world, just for them. Good luck. They will be grateful.Marcy

    Edited 4/10/2007 5:40 pm by fabricholic

    1. User avater
      blondie2sew | | #3

      Hi NancyJane,I totally agree with Marcy, You can teach them...Just start with the basics of a sewing machine...I tell you what I learned from books and other sources but I learned a lot from a gal that I sewed with...She told me to pick out patterns..and we went from there..My suggestion is again like Marcy said start with knowing the machine...then make sure they know the basics of stitching..lined paper without thread is good so they can sew a straight line..I know that is basic and I use this for the kids but some adults may need the practice too...then draw the shapes...let them sew in a circle and then a box so they can pivot turn...have the practice tacking off...I know really small things but might mean the difference when they go to the fabric!!Then say ok we are all going to get a pattern of something with Elastic in it...then you next step buttons...button holes...and so on then zippers!! This is How I sewed with a wonderful lady...she just took me one project at a time...from the fit to the construction...I had already when I came to sew with her was doing like Barbie doll clothes..hey that is a thought too...But I am hoping this helps as well...You are a teacher...you just may not know it...but you have a great skill and I say pass it on and keep passing it on...you can touch a lot of people through sewing!! Just know you can...that is what I have been learning about me in the past year and a half....I do have a lot to give and I can show someone and teach someone!! Your enthusiasm will get you everywhere!!Keep us posted...by the way there is a lot of free patterns out there as well...like at the Home Sewing Association web site and so on!!Just Breath!! You are wonderful and your scrapping girls know it!! Take that and hold on to that.... your confidence will soon be second nature in this endeavor!!

      1. NancyJane | | #5

        You all have given me some terrific ideas!  I am so glad I found this website and know I will have a wonderful time with it - once I learn to navigate it better.  I know my system at work in one side and down the other but get me out here on a website and I am dumb as a post.

        I hope to have an agenda together by the weekend.  I love the idea of a sewing scrapbook. I have several binders at home that I used for a training workshop a few years ago - they have just been gathering dust.  Might see how a sewing scrapbook would work using one of these. 

        We always scrapbook at Pam house - she is the only one of us that has a dining room table big enough to seat all of us with all our scrapbooking materials (seats 12 - can you believe it?).  She has 2 machines bought over the past few years thinking she would start sewing but never did. 

        My mind is working a mile a minute which how I always seem to take on a new project. 

        Thanks again and I will let you know how things are going.


        1. From my Stash.... | | #6

          Hi Nancy Jane:

          You've already received some great ideas in this string - start with basics (the machine), the scrapbook of stitches (and the feet that go with them).

          Before you pick out a project, you may want to look back at some of the more recent issues of Threads that have articles for the beginner sewist, and a copy of Sew Stylish. This may help you identify those things that you take for granted since you've been doing this for so long.

          You've got a lot going for you - you're organized (love the agenda), they already trust you, and most important - you know more than they do so stay confident. Deep breathing at stressful moments will help.

          For a project, it should be something that is meaningful to them but still basic.

          Good luck with it and let us know how it goes,


        2. MaryinColorado | | #7

          It sounds as if You are already having fun!  That is great!  You are giving a gift to them that "keeps on giving".  Everyone will have new skills and great memories of the time and knowledge you share.  Mary

  3. MaryinColorado | | #4

    Hi! If you think you will enjoy this, go for it!  Since the ladies like scrapbooking, why not start with a "sewing scrapbook"?  Each page can have a different technique.  Such as:  utility stitches, buttonholes, zippers, hems, blind hems, straight seams, corner seams, curved seams, bias binding, applique, dropping feed dogs for darning and button sewing if their machines have the capabilities.  Fabric variety too.

    As far as supplies, you could figure out what you need, divide it down to a "cost" for each lady to provide.  You should not have to pay for this yourself.  Do they have machines?  Are you comfortable letting them use yours? 

    A planning session, group shopping trip with prepared list, definitely a timeline so they don't overstay or overtax your patience!  I use a timer in my sewing room so I don't stay in one position too long, maybe a timer would help.  That might be used also for task timing to keep things moving along. 

    Maybe they could be in teams of 2 or 3 so the more knowledgeable ones could help the new sewists as you go along. 

    A group project might be fun, like a project for a bazaar or for charity.

    How about you choose a project, and see how many are interested in that one project and hint that you may do another later in the year.

    Right now your group sounds like a "Democracy", the group dynamics may be different if you are teaching them sewing over a period of time.  It can be whatever you want it to be, IF you want to do this.  I wouldn't commit to teaching them to sew, it is too broad a statement with overwhelming potential. I think I would offer to teach one project and see how it works out and developes. 

    If there is American Sewing Guild or other groups in your area, someone may be willing to come in and teach a group sewing class.

     If You don't, ask them to please understand that you just want to be "one of the girls" so to speak and not take on the role of teaching sewing.  Is sewing your private relaxing time? After your career in management, maybe you just want to play and not take on the role.  Either way, it is okay to make the choice that is best for you. 

    Enjoy and don't overthink or overstress about it.  Since I "retired" I have gotten better at saying "no" or "I'll think about it" firmly when necessary.  Just remmeber to smile.  Mary

  4. Ckbklady | | #8


    That sounds wonderful - you'll enjoy teaching as much as they will enjoy learning, I bet!

    I'm a hotel operations student (midlife career change from being a pastry chef - bad back and too many burns) so I am delighted to offer you some tips from one hospitable gal to another! :)

    I am teaching two neighbors to sew right now, and I am frequently using the book, SEWING 101: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO SEWING (no author stated, Creative Publishing International, 2002, ISBN 1-58923-069-8, $24.95). I like its basic instruction.

    I also am following a sort-of lesson plan I derived. We just work methodically through it, with no plan to cover everything in each numbered item in a single day. We've been at it for eleven Sundays so far, and we're only halfway through lesson 3. Perhaps we should drink less! :)

    I'm happy to share my plan here. See if it helps (and if any folk here can suggest additions modifications I'd welcome them).

    Happy sewing!

    :) Mary


    Sunday Sewing Lessons


    Types, grain, selvedge, pattern repeat, right and wrong sides, raveling quality, knits and wovens, preshrinkage allowance, nap and no nap, directional print and texture, fusibles, other interfacings, how to choose the right fabric for a project, good beginner fabrics. (SWATCH BOOK)

    All-purpose threads, cotton threads, heavy weight denim threads, sail threads, rayon, "tinsel".

    Cutting, pressing, marking and measuring tools - a tour of my sewing cabinet.


    Threading, machine tension, stitch length and width, needle types, presser feet and other machine feet, buttonhole attachments and settings, filling and loading bobbins, stitch patterns, selector dials, throat plate, stitching lines.

    Measuring self (cheerfully)

    Reading pattern envelope & selecting correct fabric, notions etc. Reading pattern markings, cutting pattern pieces to correct size, marking pattern notches, wrong and right sides of fabric for pattern layout.

    (Choose a pattern, fabric & notions for next lesson - I did this as a "field trip" to a fabric store with my friends so I could walk them through it. I left my credit cards at home!)


    Review of threading machine. Have ready: fabric selected, preshrunk, cut and pinned. Sew sample swatch to check stitch length, width and tension. Practice handfeeding, pivot with needle down, backstitching to "seal" seam, seam finishing, following pattern instructions, ripping a seam, pressing as you sew, using a point turner, seam finishes without a serger.


    Topstitching, darts, gathers, elastics, inserting a zipper (all kinds, but especially invisible for its instant gratification), setting in a sleeve, mitered corners (placemats), buttonholes, staystitching curves, quilted pot holder from scraps including making bias strips, pockets patch and slit (if ambitious students - welt).

    5. SERGER

    Demonstrate type of machine (4/2 thread overlock), what machine does, adjustments: double stitch with blade down, specialty feet, differential feed (refer to THE ULTIMATE SERGER ANSWER GUIDE Naomi Baker et al, Radnor, PA, Chilton, 1996, ISBN 0-8019-8645-1, $16.95) to show what can go wrong and how to fix, the invaluable test swatch.

    Choosing needles for project, threading, cleaning, balancing tension and stitch length and width, "running start" wherein one feeds fabric into a running machine, sewing intersections, curved seams, tucking in chains with tapestry needle. Project - make a winter baby hat from polar fleece scraps.


    1. User avater
      blondie2sew | | #10

      This is great of you to take your time and share with us!! Thanks so much of your giving heart!! I know myself this will be of great help!!

      1. SewistKitty | | #11

        I would strongly suggest that you have each of your potential sewing students get their sewing machines professionally cleaned and tuned up before beginning. Also it would be helpful if each student had her own manual which came with the machine. Missing manuals could probably be obtained online. Good luck with your new endeavor.

    2. JanF | | #12

      Phew - a lot going on here for you to handle - but good on you!
      One tip - just check that there are plenty of opportunities for pupils to actually do! too much talk and chalk could be counter productive in the longterm plan. As a guide over here(UK)lessons are usually 1 hour and u can expect to take at least10 - 12 mins out of that to intro, set goals and then round off at end of lessons - but of course that is in a very structured school setting. On a more informal basis u should be able to cover a lot cos u shouldn't have discipline as an issue. You should be able to really enjoy a friendly approach to the subject and yes you will get a lot of pleasure out of teaching. I know I can moan about my job sometimes - but it has also given me a great amount of pleasure too. I hope you continue to love it!

  5. Michianna | | #9

    I think that if you have one little thing they can accomplish in a project each time out it will give encouragement and incentive. 

    For example, you could have everyone make a square stuffed pillow (or a round one).  In just this little project there are so many things to learn!  They would practice laying pattern on grain, matching both layers right sides together according to grain, sewing staight (or curved) seams, clipping corners of a square , grading seams, and clipping seams for ease.  Then they could stuff, and follow by hand-stitching the opening shut.  A lot of basics in a project that can be make while they are there.  And I don't think anyone would be overwhelmed.  If you have a large fabric stash you could move some of those oldies out by donating them to the class for this use.

    This can be a pincushion project, a bean-bag project, a pillow, or a bag (maybe for a wine bottle) if they hem one end.

    Have you started yet?  Do you think you will , if not?  Good luck!! 

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