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Teaching Sewing to the Small Fry (and the Big Fry, too!)

Today, I met with Robin, the owner of Cottontail Quilt Shop (the new quilt shop that is about to open in downtown Kennesaw), to discuss the possibility of teaching kid sewing classes at her shop.  Although still in the build-out phase, she’s obviously put a lot of thought into the design of the shop and the merchandise she will carry.  I also like the fact that the shop is in a 125 year old house, complete with built ins, high ceilings and wonky floors.  The imperfections merely add to the charm of the house.  The classroom area is huge with loads of natural light. And for anyone else interested in teaching – she’s still looking for instructors to teach daytime adult sewing classes.

Okay, so how to get started?

I’m assuming you already actually know how to sew.  You don’t need to be an expert to teach, but should be comfortable enough with the process to guide others.  In the beginning, teach something with which you’re already familiar.  That’s why I am teaching beginning sewing and easy to intermediate project based classes.  Yes, I know how to put in a zipper, do bound buttonholes and finish seams on my serger, but as a quilter I don’t do that on a frequent basis.  I’d have to “practice” before teaching that portion of the class.

There’s a lot of information available out there on the web to assist you in deciding which curriculum to use, but I didn’t find as much information on where to  teach and discussions on what to charge.  I highly recommend the book, The Busine$$ of Teaching Sewing  by Palmer/Pletch.  It offers lots of valuable advice on the nuts and bolts of getting started teaching sewing – not just starting a new business.  I purchased a copy for my own personal library.

Curriculum (or what to teach)

  • You can use a prepackaged sewing curriculum like Kids Can Sew or Winky Cherry.
  • You can use a textbook like The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids by C&T Publishing.*
  • You can create your own using many of the wonderful tutorials and videos available on the web for inspiration.  If you teach in a shop, be prepared to use patterns/books sold in the shop as the basis for your projects – even if the general idea (e.g. potholders or aprons) is gleaned from the web.  Even though you might be an independent contractor, your job is still to help promote the shop’s products as much as possible.  Remember, the shop owner makes money when she sells something.

Where to Teach

  • Your home
  • Your subdivision’s clubhouse
  • After school programs at a nearby elementary school
  • Local community center
  • Local fabric/quilt shop
  • Local sewing machine retailer

Pricing

  • Scout the competition — your prices need to be in line with them.
  • Determine your rate for private instruction because you will be asked 🙂
  • Partnering with a shop means you will split the class fee with the shop, so price accordingly
Competitive Analysis:
  • Kid sewing classes in my area range from $30-$40 per session.  Sessions average 75-90 minutes in length.
  • My local competition includes two sewing machine dealers and a Joann’s.  Neither sewing machine dealer offers ongoing sewing instruction for children.  Joann’s offers teen sewing classes, but not kid sewing classes.
  • A quilt shop about 45 minutes away offers kid’s sewing camp during school breaks.
  • The closest sewing class for the age group I’m trying to reach (8-12) is in downtown Atlanta.
One takeaway that I will share from the Palmer/Pletsch book is that they highly recommend that you DO NOT rent space on a permanent basis because it eats into your overhead.
Here’s my plan:
  • I will teach private lessons out of my home studio.  Even if I teach in a shop, I do not feel this is a conflict of interest as most of my private students are likely to be co-workers and their kids or others I already know.  Of course, I will tell them about classes at the shop and I won’t poach any private clients from sewing classes.  Professional courtesy.
  • I am developing my own project based curriculum and will use “Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids” as a supplemental text. [Need to find a similar teen and adult beginning sewing text as well.]
  • I will partner with a local quilt shop or sewing machine dealer to offer classes one day a week around my work schedule.  Students must supply their own machines and basic sewing supplies. Project supplies will depend on the class being taught.  Might be easier for me or the shop owner to provide kits and charge a kit fee rather than them buying their own materials.  Of course, they will be encouraged to buy their supplies from the local shop owner.
  • Maximum number of students is 4 (will consider 5 for sibling groups with some sewing experience).
  • My class fee will be in line with the competition.
  • If I get want to get into the “Miss Teresa’s Sewing School” side of things where I supply the machines, etc. and the parents supply the project materials, I can offer lessons through a local after-school program, or quite possibly rent my subdivision clubhouse.  Running a sewing school from home isn’t something I’d rather do at this time.
* After personally reviewing the “beginner kid sewing” books that were available, I felt this particular title best met my criteria for a supplemental textbook suitable for kids ages 8-12.  It is written in a kid-friendly format and explains vocabulary and sewing techniques quite well.  There are some cute projects, but you will need to look to other patterns, books and the web for instructions on tote bags, ipod covers and the like.  I think this book would work great as a homeschool text as well.