craft business, Kid's Sewing

Tips for Teaching the Munchkins to Sew

classroom set up
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.

Other considerations

  • 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).
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.