*Yes, I am crazy! That’s a prerequisite for working with kids!*
One of the highlights of my day job is my weekly maker club. Some schools refer to it as Genius Hour or Learning Clubs. Our clubs meet most Fridays and last about an hour. I host 3 different groups of kids during the school year.
Stitchy Stallion stats:
Leaders: 2 adults, sometimes 3
Grades: Limited to 4th & 5th only
Members: Max of 12 students per club cycle – 1 adult : 4 students works well.
Machines: Six total – a mix of newer mechanical Janome, Singer and Brother machines. As with technology, a 1:1 ratio would be ideal, but we make it work by buddying up with 2 students per machine.
Funding: School/PTA is unable to provide funding for clubs (No surprise here as I work in a really high poverty area – 98% free & reduced lunch). My club started with a sewing machine and supplies provided by a Donorschoose.org campaign. Everything else has been donated by local businesses, friends, coworkers, or paid for by me.
Projects: Plan for two projects during each 6-8 week club cycle. A small project (potholder or felt stuffie) + 1 larger project (pillowcase, applique pillow) worked well. I always keep fabric scraps out for them to practice machine stitching. If one of the group leaders must be out, we have a craft activity as backup (Clover pom pom makers and pom pom critters were a HUGE hit). Hand embroidery is an activity that will be added to next year’s activity line-up. For alternate activities that are free: have students measure/sort fabric & inventory club supplies, watch a video clip (how thread/fabric is made by Cotton + Steel are GREAT videos), design fabric (by hand or using school software), search Pinterest or other preselected sites for projects that interest them. Of course, if your school will allow you to charge a small supply fee, you can do even more projects.
Club Schedule: Sign in, snack (every other time), quick overview and get to work. Stop 10 minutes early to clean up.
Supply Storage: My club meets in the library. I have a locked cabinet and a set of shelves in the storage room for my club supplies. Sad to say, but stuff has a habit of disappearing at my school. Scissors, pom pom makers and machines are all locked up in the cabinet or my office. If I did not have a space to store sewing machines, we would be limited to mostly hand sewing projects. When the day comes that I run this as an after school club, I will invest in a folding flat cart to transport machines and supplies. (I plan to have 4 of the same kind of sewing machine – computerized with a speed controller). I will also have more time for set-up and take-down (which I do not have now).
What makes it work for us: Pre-cut all projects ahead of time. Designate two helpers who can come 10 minutes early to help set out sewing machines and tools prior to club. I’ve also found snack-time to be a good way to give me an extra 10 minutes if I need it. Select projects based on student input and the supplies you already have on hand. My sewing friends have been exceedingly generous with de-stashing their unwanted fabric and sewing supplies in my direction.
What’s in it for me? Right now, I am able to use my maker club as an idea incubator/testing ground for potential projects to offer in Saturday Kid’s Club at the quilt shop or summer sewing camps. I also get to view sewing through a newbie’s eyes on a regular basis. Those of us who’ve been sewing for a long time tend to forget what it’s like to be in their shoes.
How can I use this experience to grow my crafty biz? While visiting my niece in Boston, I wandered into a crafty maker space called Gather Here. I LOVED the concept. This gave me the idea to offer a mobile craft/stitch lab that catered to after-school and homeschool groups. The existing day job makes it a bit of a challenge at the moment, but one day I can see myself offering after-school clubs at local elementary schools or in RV parks as we toodle around the USA.
Helpful resource for those considering starting a club:
Running a Sewing Club from the Utah State University Extension Service (4-H)
Also check out my Pinterest pages for kid’s sewing projects (here and here) and be sure to review the wealth of information on my Virtual Sewing Classroom website.