Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everything's Groovy

I haven't shared this with very many people unless you've been reading the Sewing As A Business Forum on Patternreview, but I'm going to start teaching people how to sew. My friend, Stephanie, the one I went to New York and Italy with, and I will be developing a business plan to open a sewing studio. But neither one of us can wait until we have the studio open. We've decided to start teaching at the City Parks and Recreation. Stephanie used to work in the Rec department while going to college and has kept in touch with the people who work there. After getting some advice from our Fashion Design college professor, we went straight to the City and got ourselves signed up to teach three classes in January. The classes will run for four weeks for three hours each session and be open to ages 10 through adult. The classes we will be teaching includes a basic beginner class where we will teach students how to sew a tote bag and an apron. We will be teaching this class on both an afternoon and a Saturday once a week. Then the next month, we will teach an advanced beginner class with some PJ pants and a collarless robe as the projects and another beginning sewing class. Then, after the Saturday class we will hold a two-hour sewing workshop where people can come in and work on their own projects while we hold their hand or help them with fitting.

The goal is to fine tune our teaching techniques and learn what people want to learn how to do. That way when our studio is open, we will be able to target our classes around the needs of our customers. We will also be building a client base and hopefully, a following. Hopefully we can save all the money we earn while teaching for the City to help open up a real studio of our own.

I spent today making a sample of the tote bag we will be teaching. I think this one should be on display at the teen center instead of the senior center, although some of those seniors probably remember the 70's quite fondly. I know I do.

It's just your standard bag cut on the fold and the sides stitched up. Then the corners are stitched across to form a box bottom. The bag measures 13 X 13 X 6 which is a good size for shopping. It wasn't too big to maneuver under the pressure foot either. I finished the side seams with a french seam since I didn't want people to be disappointed with the zigzag finish. Also, it gives the bag more of a quality feel to it.

I had the fabric already in the stash, of course. You can't tell much, but both the red and the yellow fabrics have lurex threads in them and have quite a bit of shine. I wanted to embellish the pockets so that people can see what they can do after they learn the basics. We won't be teaching these embellishment techniques, but if they want us to, we will see about teaching embellishment techniques at a later date.


  1. When do the classes start? I think you are totally wise to start with Parks & Rec to feel out the market. Will you be teaching on Parks & Rec property or in your own space? How will you deal with machines? Your own? rented? does Parks & Rec have machines? customer brings own?
    Can you tell I've thought of approaching my own city's Parks & Rec for teaching?

    BTW, I think you'll do well since you are already a teacher. You're accustomed to lesson planning, dealing with students who can't keep up, etc. You already have the whole teaching thing licked, so I know you'll do well.

    Many best wishes on the endeavor!

  2. What a wonderful idea! I wish you and your partner much success in this venture!

  3. This sounds exciting Sherill!! How wonderful to pass on skills and get other people interested in sewing. I wish you and your partner lots of luck and hope you have a great time teaching.

  4. I've been a reader for a long time. I don't think I've ever left a comment?? not really sure...but I just had to leave one under this post.

    I've been teaching almost 4 years now. I love it! I don't make tons of money but it's very rewarding giving my knowledge to others and watch what they do with it.

    It took me 5 months to do my business plan, find a place to teach and the funding needed to open. A few thing to think about - how you want to set up your business with the IRS. What kind of insurance is needed if you are working with parks and recs (btw - this will save you a lot of money..most of what I make goes to my rent). And don't forget to have everyone sign a release of liability. I've had a couple of people get hurt, one with an iron and another one put the machine needle through her finger.

    I found I got more people attending class when I let them make what they wanted from a suggested list of easy patterns. Some people don't want to make tote bags, aprons or skirts. Everyone has their something special they want to learn to do. They will tell you what they want from you.

    I was much more profitable (I mean by almost double) by letting people pay as they go and make their own schedule. When I did a 4 week class I would start off with a full class at the start and by the last week I was lucky to have one person attending. I couldn't fill the seats because people already paid for them.... Just to let you know what works for me.
    Let me know if I can be of any help for you guys! The best of luck for you. I had the idea 4 years ago when a GF saw me sewing holiday presents and asked me to teach her what I was doing...I needed a job so the light bulb went off over my head. Best thing I've ever done (besides being a parent)

  5. How exciting! It's great to have the chance to "preview" your business plan with the parks and rec gig.

  6. Sherril, this is awesome news!
    So, will you offer custom 1 on 1 classes as well? I really need to a) get ALL my measurements once and for all and b)make a bodice, skirt, and pants sloper. I actually had been meaning to ask you about this but wasn't sure if you were willing to take on a student...

  7. Good luck, Sherril. You will do great with your teaching cred and sewing/fitting abilities. You will do just awesome.

  8. Congratulations, this sounds like so much fun!!

  9. This is exciting news, Sherril! With your experience and talents in education and sewing, you would be a wonderful sewing instructor and already are. I am looking forward when you open your own studio. Keep us posted. Also, I am admiring your groovy-licious bag and I like the way you used the flower power motif. You gave me lots of inspiration to look through my stash and create some flowers.

  10. Hi Sherril,
    Just following up - did you get my email?

  11. This is great! It sounds like you've really thought this through. Your teaching experience will really help--not to mention your killer fitting and sewing skills. I'll be anxious to read how things are going. Good luck!

  12. Good luck, wishing that you were closer.

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  14. Sherril! Great! I wish I could take a class from you. Those students are getting the best. Good luck, and let us know how many people are interested and how it all goes. m:)


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