Author Topic: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?  (Read 11502 times)

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Offline kitnrose

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What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« on: January 13, 2008, 03:11:14 AM »
For various reasons, mostly due to being overwhelmed with the time and energy committment, I'm seriously considering stepping down from my current job.  I'm a full time grad student and finally realized I'd rather slow down, take out a loan, and actually focus on school rather than try and juggle a full load and a demanding job.  To keep my scholarship I do need to keep employed and so I started thinking ... why not teach sewing classes here on campus?  There's a surprising demand, judging by how many people start hinting for lessons once they find out I sew and we've had a some amazingly kind people donate new and gently used machines so it's that much easier for poor students to get started.  Anyway, I'm in the first steps of thinking and would love some advice.  My first thoughts were to start with an Introduction to Sewing class focusing on the uber-basics - things like threading the machine, bobbin winding, starting and stopping seams, and the like.  How long should that class be?  Four 1 1/2 hour classes?  Too much?  Too little?  What's a good class size?  What're some good books that I should read before throwing myself into this?  Other advice, help, or tips?  Am I insane?  If it helps, I've been sewing for over a decade and classify myself as an intermediate sewer so while I'm not quite ready to teach tailoring or formalwear, the intro classes shouldn't be difficult.  I love teaching and I can't be too bad at it since I keep getting asked to do it.  So ... help?

Thanks! :grinning:

Offline Georgene

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Re: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2008, 07:43:29 AM »
I started collecting vintage sewing books a year or so ago, from eBay. I have found many wonderful texts that teach beginning sewing from the early part of the 20th century. While you might not want to take it for an exact syllabus, I think that looking at some of them might get the wheels turning in your head.

"The Singer Sewing Book" by Mary Brooks Picken is a compendium of sewing information from the 1940's that is very appealing.

There is a series of small books from the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences that is much more old fashioned but valid nontheless, with titles like "Cutting and Fitting", "Harmony in Dress", and "Dressmaking, Trimming, and Finishing". They were part of a correspondence course on the domestic arts, and form the backbone of learning for many sewing books that came afterwards.

I have a couple more that I could dig the titles out, but you get the idea. There is an emphasis on learning different types of sttches, understanding the properties of different types of textile, and lessons incorporating cutting and sewing of simple things.

While its obvious that you should teach sewing machine basics, don't forget to include hand stitches. I recommend that you have your students make little test strips of the machine stich types and different hand stitches and keep them in a binder for reference.

I hope that you will forge ahead with your idea - check out some of interesting podcasts out there too.  Have you seen Threadbangers? While its more DIY and about refashioning, it is targeted to your deomographic. It might be fun to videotape some of your lessons and or results, for your own podcast or to send in to Threadbangers.

Just off the top of my head, I would teach Sewing Basics with a tote or pillow case or apron project involved. Kitchen towels, potholders, and teacosies could be a basic item as well. Then get into Sewing with a Pattern, and another one on DIY and Refashioning. You kow how frustrating sewing with a pattern and trying to get a good fit can be, so its good to have some successful results with other things.

Another avenue is to incorporate creative mixed-media sewing into one of your courses. Take a look at "Sew Somerset" in the sewing magazine section of Barnes and Noble or other bookstore. It has some really fun ideas to jump off in a new direction of the crossroads of sewing and art, by collaging cloth, trim, photo transfer, yarn, embroidery fiabers and a whole lot more....It certainly opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things. Many of these ideas can be translated into refashioning a la Belle Armoire.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2008, 08:28:15 AM by Georgene »

Offline SuziQz

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Re: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2008, 08:10:46 AM »
The Home Sewing Association Web Site is still available.  Under Sewing Education on the left, you will find Guidelines as well as Learn to Sew articles that should help you. 

I definitely agree that you should start with a very simple project.


Offline andib

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Re: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2008, 07:50:29 PM »
I am  in the middle of teaching 20 , 11 year old Girl Scouts to sew!  Luckily, the other Mom who is teaching is also currently subbing in a HS home ec. classroom.  She had a really interesting(no brainer) booklet/curriculum.  I will see her this Wed. and I can get the name of it.

Offline kitnrose

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Re: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2008, 05:10:30 AM »
Thank you all!  I've been tightening up course plans and measuring rooms to see how many seamstresses will fit and making up a brochure so, at this point, things are on track to start teaching this summer!  I'm getting excited, especially about making up samples for the classes.  :)

However before the fun stuff, a few less fun parts ... business law, tax law, and all that ickiness.  I've been doing a bit of reading and getting a crash course on all of this but I'd love to hear some been-there-done-that advice.  Don't worry, I won't quote you in a court of law ... I just want some advice before, during, and after working with the state on this.  After all, if their business department is anything like their Dept. of Transportation, they'll have the wrong info on their website, the person at the front desk will give me the wrong answer to my basic question, I'll sit for FOUR HOURS in a dirty room with questionable and increasingly irate people, FINALLY get called, then told I have the wrong documents (the ones the website told me to have and the ones I showed the front desk clerk and had cleared) and told to go home, get the right stuff, and go to the BACK of the line.  I'll only avoid another 4 hour wait (and yes, four hours on a SLOW day) by politely and quietly but firmly refusing to move, insisting on talking with a manager, getting taken back to the police officer (not under threat of arrest, either to scare me or because he was the closest thing to a manager at the time, I'm not sure), and only getting out of another long wait and mess because high school theater taught me nothing if not how to cry on command and, fortunately, the older male police officer went soft at the sight of tears.  After that they'll still find multiple ways to mess up and cause me a good month of frustration before I get my driver's license.

Not that I'm still bitter or anything.  A number of my recently married friends say that if I think that's bad, I should try getting my name changed.  I'm still legally my maiden name for that very reason. 

Moving on, since I've had a rather bad experience with my local government, I'd like to know as much as possible about how being self-employed works before dealing with them since, apparently, I'm responsible for paying for any wrong information they give me.  So I'd like to avoid going wrong at all from the start.  Any advice?
« Last Edit: March 12, 2008, 05:17:56 AM by kitnrose »

Offline Liana

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Re: What's involved in teaching sewing classes?
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2008, 06:03:57 AM »
Sounds like you're almost ready to start!  Pretty exciting! :)   I think a lot depends on what state you live in.  They all have their little quirks and some are completely different.  I think a good place to start might be your Small Business Administration office.  They have lots of help and there used to be (and may still be) special programs for women starting a business. 

A few things to think about if you're doing this solely on your own rather than through another entity (like your school or a local adult education organization) are IRS issues.  If you're making money, you'll need to pay quarterly estimated tax payments since you won't have an employer withholding taxes from wages.  Same with Social Security and Medicare.  It's not hard, you just need to do it.  Since you're married, if you're filing jointly, there may be a way for your DH to do a higher withholding that would cover any taxes you'll owe.  Of course if you're NOT making a profit, never mind.  But of course, we know you're going to do well!  This is the kind of thing the SBA ought to be able to help you with.

You may need some kind of state business license, but it all depends on what kind of laws your state or city has.  Cosmetologists need a license.  Manicurists need one in my state, but not everywhere.  Again, the SBA may be able to help you.  There may be an office on your campus that could help you. 

Not much help from me, really, but I'm watching your progress with all good wishes.  :)


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