craft business

Digital Learning for Quilters and Sewists

Note:  I am an experienced online learner, having earned both of my advanced library degrees via distance learning.  I have also designed and delivered professional learning via online platforms.  As much as digital formats have opened up new opportunities for everyone, it is my experience that there are just some things that are better learned F2F to gain a working knowledge of the subject before delving into online learning.  This allows the student to have success in expanding that knowledge via digital learning. Sewing is one of those skills. 

The internet has been a real game changer when it comes to how we learn new things.  Not that long ago, you took an in-person class at a fabric shop or learned from mom/grandma.  These face-to-face lessons were often supplemented by a sewing book borrowed from the public library.

Those options still exist today; however, the quilter and sewist have many more choices. You can take a class at a guild meeting, weekend sewing retreat or on a cruise. You can learn on your own schedule via Craftsy or a DVD that you borrowed from the library. You can buy any number of digital books/magazines (some of these are even available through your local public library).  The quilting and sewing communities are known for their resource sharing and willingness to help one another out of any stitchy quandary.

Thanks to the sewist in Australia who took the time to make and upload the YouTube video demonstrating  how she alters men’s dress shirts.  Garment sewing is not my strong suit and I had to alter four (4) men’s dress shirts this week.  All done and they look professional!

That said, when I took a weekend quilting class at the Campbell Folk School, I was amazed by the number of younger sewists who were there to learn the basics because Craftsy, YouTube and videos from the library weren’t helping them learn how to sew. This confirmed what I had experienced with the kids I teach. (They’ll watch a video, but want someone right there when it gets to the hands-on part.) Sewing is like reading. You need someone to show you the basics and then you practice, practice and practice independently (sometimes with your teacher) to improve your skills.  You search out a “coach” when you need additional help.

I love having the convenience of on-demand learning in my home and I rarely take a F2F class anymore strictly to learn a technique. I will take an in-person class for socializing (or to experience something like the Campbell Folk School) or to learn from a particular instructor. But then again, I was already familiar with sewing basics thanks to my mom and middle school home economics.

Here are my suggestions for newbie sewists, both big and little:

  1. Take any and all machine classes that come with the purchase of your sewing machine. Most dealers offer a one-on-one introductory class. Sign up for it.
  2. Invest in a series of lessons that teach the basics – how to read a pattern and instruction sheet;  seam allowances and seam finishes; zipper installation; how to make buttonholes; how to do a basic hem; make a casing; basic quilting by machine.
  3. Try a simple project in each of these 4 categories – garment (simple skirt/t-shirt), quilting (charm square quilt), home dec (pillow cover) and accessories (zipper pouch/tote bag).
  4. Once you have a handle on the basics, you’ll find YouTube and sewing blogs to be great resources to advance your sewing skills – especially if you can’t afford in-person and online classes.  Your public library card is the best value in your wallet when it comes to access to sewing and maker learning resources. Some libraries even loan sewing machines or have them in the “maker space” that is so popular in libraries right now.
  5. If you gravitate toward a particular type of sewing – say garment sewing – try to find a group in your area to meet-up with on a regular basis.  The American Sewing Guild and Modern Quilt Guild are two national organizations with local chapters scattered across the United States.  Local fabric stores, quilt shops, yarn shops and even the big box fabric and craft stores sometimes serve as meeting spots for local creative fiber groups. Ask around.

Each person has a unique learning style.  Some will be able to learn what they need from YouTube without ever setting foot in a sewing class. However, most will fare much better with a basic understanding of sewing techniques learned from someone in person before they sign up for that Craftsy class.




craft business

Stitching Stallions Color Preference Survey

Next week (5/4) is our final club meeting for this school year. We will make journal covers. To make this possible, Mrs. Kent and Ms. Harp will need to do some prep work in advance so your project is “needle ready” when you arrive for club.

Please take the following three (3) question survey before you leave today:

If you do not complete the survey, Mrs. Kent will choose colors for you.

craft business

Wait – what? I signed up. Why was my class canceled?

Classes can be cancelled for any number of reasons – bad weather, double booking, shop emergency, instructor illness…but the main reason classes wind up being cancelled is because they don’t make – or meet the minimum enrollment.

Many quilt shops view classes as a marketing tool – not as a money making tool. It is designed to get customers in the door so they will buy something.  Class fees charged can vary widely.  Independent instructors, like me, are paid based on class enrollment.  The more students who take the class, the more money I make.  The local market has a lot to do with class fees charged.

For me, a minimum enrollment of 3 paid students is required to hold a class.  I have been burned more than once when we had a class meet the required minimum, but a sibling pair didn’t show up (nor had they paid).  The one kid who showed up basically got a 2-1/2 hour private sewing lesson for $15.00 (which I would ordinarily charge about $55.00).  Of course, I am not going to disappoint the kid who made it there on time and is eager to learn how to sew!  I merely chalked it up to a learning experience and the shop now requires prepayment to reserve spots in the the class.  If you miss, you forfeit the fee.

My sweet spot is 5-6 students who have some experience or bring grandma with them.  As much as I love to teach, it takes about 1 hour of prep time for a 2 hour kid’s class with a project I’ve taught previously.  Double that for a new project.  I want to at least make back my gas and expense money when I teach a class.  It’s not possible with a single student unless they are willing to pay private lesson rates.

My goal is to get to the equivalent of ASP special program rates per hour at the quilt shop.  Rates in my area currently range from $8-$13/hour (plus supply fees). I am able to do this teaching out of my home studio and parents pay the rate without any qualms. We renegotiated the rates for Kid’s Club at the quilt shop, so rates will be at the lower end of the ASP rates, but it’s still significantly higher for me.

There are some shops that can charge $250 to $350 for a series of sewing classes. Not in my area.  $25 per class, including supplies for kids, is about the max the local shoppers will pay. Adult classes frequently charge higher rates and are actually easier to teach!



craft business

The Importance of Self-Care

What do you do to recharge when you’re running on fumes?  Your patience has worn to the point where if you have to “redirect” one more student, you’re going to scream. You don’t even want to step in your sewing room. Your normally pristine home looks well lived in. You literally want to hide from everyone.

Overwhelmed. Depleted. Empty.

When I get to this point, I generally need to take a day off – get in the car and road trip to a body of water.


That can’t happen right now. So, a mani-pedi and Starbucks chai tea latte were a good start once I got home this evening from a rather long day at school.

Here’s hoping an early bedtime and an hour spent reading for pleasure will refill enough to get me through tomorrow. That’s all I need. One day at a time.

Spring Break is coming!



craft business

Made it to the halfway point in my class

The good news is, I’m halfway through my Reading Endorsement certification class.

The bad news is I’ve had to turn down several opportunities for quilt retreats, weekend get-a-ways, therapy dog visits and quilts for hire.

Sometimes you have to let go (albeit temporarily) of some things in your life to make way for others. It’s going to be June 1st in less than 90 days. Might as well have the reading endorsement to add to my teaching certificate. I had a secondary goal of losing a few pounds. That’s been a LOT harder, but hopefully still doable now that I have my healthy eating back on track.

Opening up my home studio up to private sewing lessons for kids has been very rewarding.  For next school year, I may look at adding Sunday afternoon and Thursday after school sewing classes to the roster.  We’ll see what kind of feedback I get.

craft business

Reinventing the LQS to remain competitive

Atlanta is blessed with an abundance of quilt and fabric shops.  Even online retailers like and call the ATL home.  The sewing/quilting landscape has certainly changed over the past 15 years we’ve lived here.

I’ve seen several shops open, close or reinvent themselves. Two of my favorites closed within the past two years. It is a little strange to run into former shop owners now turned customers at my LQS, but that’s the nature of business.  As a customer, it can sometimes be mildly annoying when a shop known for a certain type of fabric and vibe, decides to shift its focus.

Lately, the two shops in the greater metro area that are known to carry “modern” fabric have taken very different paths to reinvent themselves to remain competitive.  One shop still carries a well curated selection of “modern” fabrics, but has also added yarn and other needle crafts to the mix. The other shop has shifted to a more traditional focus and carries a lot more Moda products now. It has scaled back the amount of retail square footage and stopped being a Bernina dealer.  I totally understand the store size and machine dealership changes, but moving to a more traditional focus means this shop is no longer a destination quilt shop for me. I’ll still pop in if I’m in the area or for Shop Hop, but after today’s visit, there’s no need for me to make a special trip as the fabric lines carried no longer meet my needs.

Fortunately, a yarn shop about 45 minutes north decided to add a fabric store across the parking lot from the yarn shop. It carries modern fabric, plus dressmaker fabrics and a great selection of Liberty prints. The shop owner also has classroom space that can be had for $6.00 a day to sit and sew. If I need a sewing mini-retreat day to get away from it all, here’s an option. Inexpensive and I’m not likely to run into anyone I know. There’s also another really cute shop about 90 minutes away near the Alabama state line. When you play hooky, it’s just nice to be anonymous sometimes.

The takeaway is that you need to support your LQS and sewing machine dealers if you want them to stay open.