Monday, November 28, 2016

Adding a new hat to the business wardrobe -

I hope all my US readers had a Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry and I apologize for the long silence. This year has been one of transition for me, since I've been able to devote my full attention to my business. Now that a year has passed since I stopped working for Sawyer Brook, I can see real growth in my alterations and custom sewing business, and the volume of work that has been flowing through the studio since the late winter/early spring is really astounding - I've barely been able to keep up with all the necessary tasks to keep the business running smoothly, besides the sewing itself. But along the way I've added another facet: I've started teaching!

It began with a request from the board of my ASDP chapter: would I be willing to present a program about pricing and the methods I use for my alterations and custom garment charges? I was flattered and pleased, and developed a program. The February meeting for the chapter was my 2 hour presentation, and it was well-received - which then lead to the more comprehensive 'Pricing for Sewing Professionals' seminar I taught in October, at the annual ASDP conference. And I'll be featured in March at the Rhode Island Sewing Network with yet another presentation on pricing. Along the way, I also began some private sewing classes with a young woman who wanted to learn some tailoring techniques.

Teaching has been in the back of my mind for a while, and I have wanted to add a sewing school to my business for several years. The thing holding me back was the space to hold the classes, and a plan for what to teach to beginners.

This week marked a new milestone in my business - I held my first lesson in the new section of my studio, the children's classroom. The space is in the family room of my home, adjacent to the room that was remodeled as my studio when I opened the business in 1991. In those early years, the family room was the kids' hangout - as entries in both my boys' yearbooks read, our house was the 'second home' for their gangs of friends - and it was pretty much anything goes in the space. Boys would gather to play video games, build legos, draw and paint and write stories, film Bond movies, and kids would put on magic shows. It's the one room in the house that my husband and I have never fixed up, not even painted, in the 30 years we've lived in this house. It's dark, with wood paneling on the walls and no overhead lighting, a basement room with high windows on the foundation ledge along two sides. And we've allowed it to accumulate the stuff left behind by three children as they became adults and moved out to their own homes. To convert it into a real classroom would take a full remodel effort: new flooring, walls, ceiling lighting - which would have to be preceded by a complete purge, and I haven't been able to spare the time from my sewing work to devote to the concentrated effort of that task. So the sewing school has been in the "someday soon" file for a while now.
It's not really as dark as it appears here - with late afternoon sunlight coming in the windows, it's a bit brighter. It will do for now, but we really need to do some serious work here!

But I let it slip that I was considering teaching children. Gotta love social media - about a year ago someone in our town's community group on Facebook asked about sewing classes, and I couldn't help but respond. Because I didn't yet have a plan - no schedule set up or actual dates for classes, no tuition prices to quote - nothing came of that original interest. But during the summer I was approached by a young mother who takes yoga with me, and we set up a session for her daughter to have private lessons. Initially we talked about starting in the mid-summer, but as life gets in the way we ended up setting a mid-October date for the first of 6 lessons. The first session was delayed several times for various reasons, but finally last Wednesday this precocious 7-year-old spent a happy hour and a half in my newly set-up classroom space. The room isn't completed, but having this student registered gave me the final push I needed to clear a lot of junk and create the space I needed for a table, storage cubes, and displays. Holding the first session in the space pointed out some refinements to the setup that will make it operate better, and made me more determined to get the full renovation completed as soon as we're able.

I'm using the Seams Sew Cool® program for teaching children, developed by my colleague Sandi Knutie (see, which I really like for its simple approach allowing the students to learn at their own pace using small projects easily completed in short sessions, along with safely presenting the equipment and machines in ways that develop good sewing habits and techniques. Because these are private lessons my attention isn't divided between students, and we went farther in the first lesson than I expected - she moved pretty quickly through the practice sewing sheets with an unthreaded machine, got her first project  - a square beanbag/bruise cooler - cut out, pinned, and sewn, ready to turn and stuff at our next lesson. The time flew by for me, and she seemed to really enjoy herself as well, and very proudly showed her work when her mother arrived to take her home.

Now I'm thinking ahead to planning a new session, opening the classroom to 3 or 4 students. And just like that, I really feel like a teacher.


  1. I do remember you mentioning your desire to branch out into teaching sewing lessons quite a while ago. Congrats on diving in Janee--wishing you much success, and all the rewards of passing on time honored skills to a new generation! All the best
    with that!

    1. Thanks, Mirjana! I really am so glad to have started this venture, and passing the skills on is exactly why I wanted to teach -