craft business, Crafty STEM, Kid's Sewing

Running a Kid’s Sewing Club (or are you crazy?)

*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 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.

craft business, Kid's Sewing

Now offering private sewing lessons near Marietta Square

Parents reached out on Facebook asking about sewing lessons for their ‘tween daughters this summer.

Ask and ye shall receive!

A local biz graciously agreed to let me use their classroom/meeting space for private lessons – as long as no event was scheduled. Works for me!

Private lessons are $35.00/session & up.   You’ll bring your own sewing machine and bring your own fabric for each project we make. Want to bring a friend? You and a friend can share a session for $25.00 per person plus supplies.

Want to try your hand at sewing before you invest in a machine?  An introductory class is $55.00 and includes all materials necessary to make a simple pillow or pillowcase, plus use of a machine and sewing tools for that session.

Sessions last approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Instruction and projects are specifically tailored to YOUR needs.

Classes are for kids of ALL ages from 7-77+.



craft business, Kid's Sewing

DIY Applique Letters

Well, it seemed like a great idea to have the kids make monogram pillows for next our club project…

A win-win activity to incorporate some technology standards, make a project selected by the kids and meet one of my goals of clearing the clutter in the club storage area by:

(a) Reducing the donated fabric stash by strip piecing the back of the pillow (cutting strips with my Accuquilt GO!).

(b) Incorporating  a technology component by having students create their own applique initials using Word and print them out already reversed. (My fave font for applique projects is Marker Felt – printed in outline at a size of 275 pts)

Club meets tomorrow, so I was being proactive by running through my lesson plan ahead of time using resources at school (not my personal MacBook Pro).

Hit a slight snag with creating the applique templates.

The school district limited the font choices in Wor23-mad-smiley-free-cliparts-that-you-can-download-to-you-computer-and-b6pbfs-clipartd and I don’t have administrative rights to install additional fonts.  


So what’s Plan B for a creative teacher with a zero budget for clubs?

Find a source of freebie printable alphabet letters!

(1) Lower case in a cutesy font (already reversed for fusible applique)

(2) Block letters already sized  (need to be reversed)

(3) Italic style (need to be reversed)

To reverse the letters, you can turn the printout over and trace the shape directly on the paper-backed fusible web.  Darken the original printout  with a fine point Sharpie marker to make it easier to see the reversed letter through the paper layers. A lightbox or a sunny window will help speed the tracing process.

Top Tip:  If you don’t have access to technology, you can borrow a set of punch-out letters from a teacher friend.  All you have to do is turn the letter over before tracing.  And yes, it pays to pick up a cutesy font pack in 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″ sizes when you find a set – even in an ugly color – in the markdown bin at the teacher supply store!

craft business, Crafty STEM, Kid's Sewing, Quilting

Kid’s Classes Now Available


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You asked! Classes are scheduled for the month of July, 2016. 

Location:  All classes will be held @ Stitch N Quilt in Mableton.


July 7th , 10-11:30 a.m. Crafty STEM/Electric Bracelet.  Learn about e-textiles/soft circuits as you make your very own LED bracelet.  You choose the color of bamboo felt, stitch your circuit and bling to your heart’s content. Class Fee:  $15.00, includes all supplies.  Hand sewing.

July 7th, 1:00-3:00 p.m. T-Shirt Pillows.  Become a part of the upcycling crowd as you turn one of your t-shirts into a pillow.  Note: this is not a class for absolute beginners. You need to be able to sew a straight seam without sewing your fingers together. Class Fee:  $15.00.  Kit Fee: $10.00 (optional, but provides your choice of fabrics and a 14″x14″pillow form.) Machine sewing.

July 13th – 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Snap Bags. Make & Take.  Come as you are and make your very own version of one of these clever snap bags which incorporates  metal tape measure pieces to make the bag “snap” shut. For kids and adults.  Class Fee: $10.00, includes tape measure parts. Machine sewing.

July 19th  & July 21st – 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Kids Quilt. Come view the samples on display in the shop and choose to make either a Windmill or a Simply Blocks quilt top. If you buy your fabrics at SNQ, the staff will precut all your fabrics so that you can start stitching right away. Class Fee:  $35.00  Optional Kit & Pattern Fee: TBD.  Machine sewing.



craft business, Kid's Sewing, sewing machine repair, Vintage machines

Replacing Retractable Sewing Machine Spool Pins

Janome JW5622 from Wal-Mart

My sewing club kids worked the sewing machines over this past school year!

One of the machines, a JW 5622 from Wal-Mart, wound up with broken and bent spool spins. (Well, they are made of plastic, so what else do you expect when a dozen 9 & 10 year olds use the machines over the course of 28 weeks?)  I decided to replace the the plastic pins with metal ones.

Normally, this would mean taking the machine to the repair shop and shelling out $90 for a basic service and less than 2 minutes of time to swap out the spool pins. Not this time. Mechanical machines I can do. I rehabbed a Singer 99K and maintain my Featherweight. Both run perfectly. Parts were available online, so I decided to DIY.

But first, I needed 2 things:  a service manual* and 2 metal retractable spool pins. (* This one was free from Janome and is a basic service manual for several variations of this model available through online retailers and big box stores. is a reliable resource for purchased sewing machine service manuals. Most are about $10 and include the parts list.)

Surprisingly, there was no mention in the service manual on how to replace the spool pins. That turned out to be the easy part. Getting the cover off the machine was another matter entirely. The service manual was a huge help with dismantling and reassembling the machine.

Machine apart with new metal spool pins installed.

Here’s the machine taken apart with the spool pins replaced. (See the red felt?) Loosen the tiny screw between the spool pins just enough to release the tension on the wire, slide in the new spool pins in place and tighten so that the spool pin catches the wire on the indention near the bottom of the spool pin.  FYI – the end with 3 lines is the top of the spool pin. Test the spool pin (move it up & down just like you would normally) and adjust the tension on the wire as necessary. That’s it. Now, reassemble the the machine!

Helpful hints:

  • Enlarge the machine diagram from the service manual on the copier and tape the screws to the page as you remove them.
  • Use a magnetic tip screwdriver.
  • Have a pair of tweezers handy to hold screws in tight places.
  • If the machine disassembly diagram instructs you to loosen the set screw, that’s what they mean!  Do not remove the screw completely. There is a reason for this!
  • On this model, there is electrical wiring that needs to be tucked BEHIND the spool pins and the tab to the left of the spool pins (the white box thingie) before you re-attach the rear cover.

This repair cost me $12.00 for parts and took about an hour to complete. Most of the time was spent figuring out how to disassemble/reassemble the sewing machine.  The sewing machine cost $149.00 when I purchased it and it was worth it to me to attempt the repair myself. Worst case scenario – I would take the machine to the repair shop in pieces and pay the money to have them fix my screw-up.  By DIY, I saved $75 plus gas and the 90 minute round trip to the sewing machine repair shop.

craft business, Kid's Sewing

Sewing Scout Badges – a primer

Sewing patches on sleeve

Scout Troop 27 meets at the elementary school where I work. We’re a Title I school in a high poverty area. The admin team wants our kids to have access to the same extracurricular experiences as their peers in wealthier areas do. Several of our boys and their families expressed an interest in scouting. Today, five teachers share leadership duties in tandem with BSA reps to lead 67 boys in Troop 27.  All I can say is our administrators are masters at getting things funded via grants and donations.

The lead teacher was able to get many of the uniform shirts donated and asked me to sew on the patches. She offered to pay, but I refused. After sewing nearly 216 badges on shirts over the past month, I consider myself well versed in sewing on patches. If anyone other than a member of Troop 27 asks me to sew on a patch, it’s now a flat fee of $3 per patch.

I thought I would share some hints I garnered from my experience sewing on patches.

Time required per shirt to attach 3-4 patches:  about 15 minutes because determining exact placement of World Council patch takes extra time.

Machine: Almost any sewing machine will work, including flatbed machines. Needle down, auto scissors and wide throat space features will make the job easier. (My 8900 was the best machine followed by the Elna Carina and 3160 QDC.) All patches can be sewn flat without the need for a freearm. I found youth XS/S to be the most challenging sizes to work with because those shirts are T-I-N-Y. I did have to break out the smallest freearm machine I had for the XS shirt to sew troop numbers on the sleeve.

Foot:  Open toe or clear foot, if you have one.

Clear foot makes it easier to see where you are going!

Thread: Use invisible polyester thread as the top thread. Match polyester or cotton covered polyester thread to the scout shirt in the bobbin.  Invisible poly thread is available from Sulky and Superior Threads. Use it on a vertical spool pin for best results.

Yes, you can match your thread to each individual patch, but clear thread is the way to go especially if you are sewing on many patches.

Needle: Size 14, preferably a topstitch needle.

Patch placement: Refer to the BSA uniform inspection sheet for placement guidelines. Or ask the scout leader. FYI – the World Council patch is centered above the pocket halfway between the top of the pocket and the shoulder seam. The middle of the fleur-de-lis aligns on the vertical center (right edge of ruler). The “tie”  or “belt” around the middle of the fleur-de-lis is at the exact midway point between the top of the pocket and the shoulder seam. The measurement will likely be 3.25″ to 3.5″ for most youth L/XL and adult S/M shirts. I found the  6-1/2″x 12-1/2″ ruler I use in quilting to be quite helpful with correctly placing this patch.

Aligning World Council patch

Temporarily hold patches in place with washable purple or clear glue stick – the kind you probably already have at home. I like purple because I can make sure I have covered the entire patch with glue stick. You can also pin thinner patches in place, but the thicker ones are almost impossible to pin in place. DO NOT hot glue the patches in place. It makes it extremely difficult to sew through the patch once the hot glue hardens.

A purple glue stick was my BFF for this project!

Special tip for Troop numbers: Zig zag the numbers patches together FIRST, then attach them as a single unit to the sleeve. I also recommend stitching them together with thread to match the patch – at least in the bobbin.