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 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.

craft business, Quilting

Shopportunity

 

Come Stitch With Me, LLC is expanding its retail offerings!

Soon, you will see specialty sewing items for sale in my Etsy sho20160406_172242p.

Only those items that I absolutely, positively use and love will be offered for sale (and very few of said items are available at the big box stores!).

Calling all stitchers! It’s time to get those Christmas wish lists started!

Competitive prices, speedy shipping and you’ll be helping a child R.E.A.D. with Boomer!

 

 

 

craft business, Quotes

Bloom where you’re planted

There are many interpretations of the popular saying, but this one is my fave:

bloom

Trust me, if you’ve done everything you can to “bloom” at work – with the job itself or certain people at the job – it’s not you…it’s the environment. Do yourself a favor and quit trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. Move on. 

Last night, Boomer and I attended the Summer Reading Celebration Kick-Off Party at the public library. One of my librarian colleagues hadn’t seen me for a few months and remarked how happy I looked. Same with a  R.E.A.D. family from our former library in West Cobb who stopped by to see us. What really made my heart happy was a pair of students from my former school who came up, gave me a hug and told me how much “many people at my former school really missed me”.  Believe me sweetie, there are many things I miss about my former school, but the new one has proven to be a much better fit.

I changed my environment and now I’M BLOOMING.

 

craft business, Quilting

Should You Consider Buying Wholesale?

For me, the answer has quickly become a resounding, “YES” for 3 reasons:

  • My go-to Hancock Fabrics store near me is about to close.
  • Joann’s is consistently out of stock on bolts of SF101 when I need it for projects and online orders have meant Wonder-Under arriving at my doorstep instead of SF101. This is especially aggravating when it means approximately 1-1/2 hours of time wasted plus the gas to get to the store and back or time spent trying to educate the customer service rep on the difference between Shape Flex and Wonder Under.
  • When I reviewed my biz financials and saw the total I spent last year on supplies for t-shirt quilts, sewing camps/classes, and stitching club at school, I KNEW I could meet the annual minimums required by several wholesale sewing vendors.

Most wholesalers are geared toward retailers. However, if you look, you will find a handful of companies that cater to cottage businesses. EE Schenk and Checker Distributors are two that I suggest you try if you need a company that supplies a little bit of everything.  Should I decide to start vending sewing notions in my Etsy shop, it will be an easy transition for me as I already have a wholesale supplier set up.

Buying wholesale means you save on a per yard basis on the fabric you buy, but you are required to buy an entire bolt. That could be 10-15 yards of fabric, depending on the manufacturer.  That’s enough for  at least 2-3 quilts.

Will I buy wholesale for everything? Of course not!  My approach to fabric & notions purchasing will mimic how I spend the library budget at my day job. I often visit the local bookstore to preview unfamiliar titles before I commit to buying them with library money. I’ll likely by a yard or two of fabric from my LQS to see if it’s worth springing for the entire bolt.  Or I need a FQ of a particular college sports team to use in a baby quilt. Or I need a single spool of a particular color/brand of thread I don’t have on hand.  I’ll still support my LQS, but wholesale purchasing will allow me to be more profitable in terms of $$ spent on supplies and in time spent sourcing frequently used materials in my business.