Tips for Teaching the Munchkins to Sew
After 5 years of running successful kid’s sewing classes and camps, I’ve developed a Sewing Class Checklist for Teachers to help keep me organized. The checklist includes notes about snacks, first aid kit, sewing supplies and even a reminder about eyeglasses for me. I hope you find value in it.
- Sewing machine(s) with a speed controller. This is especially important for younger students as they only know one speed – and this usually involves mashing the foot pedal all the way to the floor. You can find both mechanical and computerized machines with a speed controller, but this feature will cost a little more. Do not automatically assume the computerized machine on sale for under $100 at the big box store has a speed controller. Verify before you buy!
- Extra sewing machine feet: open toe foot, 1/4″ foot and a walking foot.
- Heavy duty extension cord and power strip. Just. keep. them. handy.
- Classroom sewing basket with community supplies.
- Small scissors for little hands; add a pair of lefty scissors while you’re at it.
- Use GLASS head pins and little clips to hold fabric pieces together for sewing. Be sure to demonstrate proper pinning techniques.
- Keep small baskets of fabric scraps within student reach to keep them busy while waiting for assistance.
- Choose simple projects. Track how long it takes you to make an item and then double it. Triple that number for brand new stitchers. For a 2 hour class, If you can’t make the item in less than 30-45 minutes, select a different project. Make 1-2 samples of finished projects.
- Precut everything unless you plan to incorporate cutting out as part of the class. In this case, have pattern pieces (freezer paper works well) trimmed and ready to go
Running the class
- HAVE FUN and maintain your SENSE OF HUMOR! Remember, you are dealing with kids and anything can/will happen!
- Keep classes 90-120 minutes in length. Incorporate a 10 minute snack time about 1/2 way through class.
- Arrive 30 minutes early. Set up any student machines you’re providing for use during class, set out scrap baskets, snacks and the community sewing basket.
- As students arrive, have them (and grandma or other adult attending class with them) fill out a name tag. Have students set up their machines and encourage them to “warm up” using fabric scraps found in the baskets.
- Start class on-time. Handle introductions, bathroom location, snack availability and other housekeeping matters before diving into the sewing project.
- Show the sample and review first few steps.
- No worries if a student does not have a 1/4″ foot – instruct them to use the outside edge of the presser foot as a guide.
- Monitor progress to keep everyone near the same step of the project.
- Circulate among students, offering praise and assistance.
- Do not be afraid to stop the class to reteach a concept. If you find one student doing something incorrectly, chances are another student is, as well.
- Demonstrate your process for sewing, but remind students that there is no single right way to sew. This is especially helpful if Mom/Grandma does things a little differently than you do.
- Allow time for show & tell. If other customers are in the shop, encourage students to go show the grown-ups what they’ve made.
- Take pictures during class (if you remember), but definitely during show and tell.
- End as close to on-time as possible (15 minutes over is usually ok) and have students help clean-up the classroom before leaving.
- Be sure to give any project hand-outs to grown-ups accompanying students. Most students don’t care, but the grown-ups sure do.
- Give students a fun activity as a takeaway. It can be a sewing graphic to color, cartoon word search or matching game. Include your contact information or business card with it.
- Always thank the students, their adult chaperones and the shop/venue staff.
- Leave the classroom space better than you found it. Turn off irons. Return tools to their proper places. Empty individual trash bins. Donate any snacks the kids didn’t eat to the community snack table.
- Inquire about food allergies in advance. I have a “no-peanut rule” for the snacks I provide, unless I’ve taught the students previously and I’ve determined no nut allergies exist.
- Inquire if students have asthma. If your project requires the use of basting spray or highly scented products, you might need to find an alternative – or do that part of the project outside.
- Try to find out the sewing ability of students BEFORE class. If you have a class full of students who’ve never touched a sewing machine before in their lives, you’ll need a helper or two (unless Mom/Grandma is staying with them).