so apparently I’m a sewing teacher now

No pictures today, as I don’t have any finished projects of my own to show yet (though I’m close to one!) But I do have a sewing story.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my high school classmates contacted me via Facebook to ask if I’d be interested in giving some sewing lessons to her pre-teen daughter, who she said was very interested in both sewing and fashion and was dying to learn how to make some clothes. We hashed out some details about frequency of lessons, payment, materials, etc, and then I told her I’d be willing to give it a shot. Our first lesson was on Monday, so I thought I’d share how it went.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as her experience goes, though I did know she has a sewing machine. So I decided that for the first project, we’d just do a simple tote bag, because it’s all straight lines and no fitting. I got the directions from one of the free Craftsy mini-classes, and her mom agreed to purchase the fabric ahead of time. So when I got to the girl’s house, she had her three fabrics picked out and all ready to go.

I think I’m going to like this girl. One of the first things she did was ask if she could show me her sketches of things she’s designed. And she definitely already has her own style aesthetic! Lots of fitted waists, lots of belts– “I like belts,” she said when I commented on that– some 50’s elements, some color-blocking…she even had figured out preliminary prices of what to sell them for! I’d better start working on my pattern hacking skills even harder, because I have a feeling I’m going to need them! I also found out that she’s taken a sewing class at Joann’s before, and made some shorts and a few other things. So at least I know she has a little experience with patterns and such.

I’ve given plenty of private lessons before for music. Mostly flute, though I did have a year where I taught saxophone to one kid, back when I was teaching for a very small private school band, and I do have a beginner piano student this year. So I think that did help me to have at least some idea of how to proceed. We got her fabric cut out, I walked her through the instructions and showed her a few tricks on her machine (she especially liked the one where you use the threaded machine needle to pull the bobbin thread up), and we actually got her entire bag completed in the first lesson! I was only supposed to be there for 2 hours, but I offered to stay a little longer since she was pretty close to finishing and I’d already had my first flute lesson cancelled for that day. She was very excited about the finished project, and is already planning to take it on an upcoming family vacation.

I’ll have to figure out the logistics after the baby comes–which I’ll have to do for my music teaching anyway, though I already have a very willing babysitter lined up (aka my mother). But for now, we’re going to be doing 2 hour lessons every other week. She’s already showed me a project she wants to attempt, which is an RTW woven shawl with a hood and pockets–kind of a poncho of sorts. So we may be working on some pattern drafting soon, if we can find some good fabric for that. The next project we’re actually going to do (since her mom wanted something a little more straightforward to shop for) is going to be the Delphine skirt from Tilly’s Love at First Stitch. It’s not a book I have myself, but from everything I’ve read about it, I figured that would be a great reference book for her to start with, so I had her buy that as our “textbook” of sorts. And after seeing her drawings and the fabrics she picked out for her bag (very French-influenced), I think I chose pretty well! So now I have to start learning how to install an invisible zipper without the special foot, since her machine has a zipper foot but not an invisible one. I guess this will be a good way for me to expand my own skills, too!


20 thoughts on “so apparently I’m a sewing teacher now

  1. Wow, it sounds exciting! I hope your lessons go well. About inserting the zipper with a regular zipper foot, it helps if you iron a bit the teeth flat. I inserted several invisible zippers like that before purchasing the invisible zipper foot.

    I have Love at First Stitch and it's a great book for beginners, I'm sure she'll enjoy it a lot.

    Looking forward to more stories about your new student πŸ˜‰


  2. Wow, have so much fun with your student! I've never taught a kid before, but I really think I would like it… kids are so fearless! I've taught some adults, and a tote bag is what I usually have a total beginner do. They feel really accomplished when they make something in an afternoon!


  3. This sounds very exciting, Becky! I think teaching someone else is a great way to learn new skills yourself or straighten out the ones you have. Up until recently I have used my regular zipper foot to install invisible zippers. My advice, plenty of pins to “fold out” the teeth and find the place to sew, set the needle as far right/left as possible (depending on which side you sew) and go slowly to unfold the zipper (which of course is helped by all the pins). Have fun!


  4. Cool! I've been teaching languages for nearly ten years now and sometimes I still have no idea what I'm doing. I think the important thing is just to do something (anything!) to start and then the let movement take you.

    I don't have a special foot for the invisible zipper and it works out just fine. πŸ™‚ Enjoy yourself!


  5. I usually try to iron the teeth a little flatter, even with my invisible zipper foot! It really helps with that last half-inch or so where you just can't get any closer to the pull. And thanks!


  6. Yeah, I think she was really excited to finish a project in our first lesson! I did warn her that it might take us a few lessons to finish other projects, depending on how complicated they are. But hopefully that won't damper her enthusiasm.


  7. Thank you! It's a great outlet for now–now that I know we're having a boy first, and given his dad, I highly doubt that learning to sew will be very high on his priority list. (Though I might make him learn to sew a button anyway, since that's a useful skill for anyone.)


  8. I'll keep that in mind. It's not something I'll probably recommend for awhile–gotta see how the lessons go first, and there is the cost of fabric for each project to factor in for her parents since I don't think she has a stash to pull from. But that is good to know if she asks about it sometime down the road. Thank you!


  9. I'm definitely planning on playing around with it a little myself before the next lesson, though I did partially toy with it yesterday when trying to set in an invisible zipper, since this one is going around the garment instead of vertically. The invisible zipper foot I had just wouldn't get close enough to the pull for it to fully work. Thanks for the tips!


  10. I feel that way with my music lessons sometimes, too. Not so much with technical points when it comes to reading music/finger positions, but sound production can vary greatly depending on the shape of the student's lips with a flute. So that takes some experimentation sometimes. I'm very glad this isn't my first time teaching anything, though! And that's neat that you teach languages. πŸ™‚


  11. Haha, I'm ok with a little extra teaching! We've decided that I'm primarily going to be staying home with the baby instead of returning to my retail job in the spring, so this and the music lessons are going to be pretty much it for my ability to contribute to our finances for awhile. (That, and whatever money I can save us by cooking from scratch and stuff. Just don't call me Becky Home-ecky, because that term drives me crazy! πŸ˜‰


  12. Exactly! Since our first meeting gave me the impression that she's a bit of a fashionista, I think my approach is going to be to let her pick the projects based on what she actually wants to sew, and then help her with figuring out the best way to construct it/fitting/etc. After all, I want her to be happy with the clothes she ends up with from this!


  13. Wow, it sounds like you have the ideal student! What a great opportunity for both of you, and I think she'll love Tilly's book. It's beautiful and very beginner friendly but yields projects that any beginner would actually want to make.


  14. I hope she loves it! I'll admit I was thinking a little more in terms of what would be the best technical reference for her to start with, but I also thought the clothes would appeal more to/fit better on a pre-teen girl than, say, the Colette book or Gertie's book.


  15. Very fun! I've always wanted to teach private sewing lessons, but I can't find anyone who really wants them. Your student is so lucky to have you and it sounds like you two will have so much fun together!

    ~ Brooke


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