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Apr 5, 2013

What Makes a Good Sewing Instructor?

Readers, did you get good sewing instruction, and if so, from where?

There are many ways to learn to sew, and no one method will work for everybody.  When I bought my first sewing machine, I had never so much as touched a sewing machine before.  I had a vague idea about bobbins, but I certainly didn't know how to install or wind one.  I learned all that from a YouTube video.

I like to be able to figure things out for myself, but at the same time, I do appreciate guidance.  Even though I own dozens of sewing books, I still like to watch someone doing something on video (if it's well done).  So many sewing books have confusing illustrations that make it hard to tell the right side of the fabric from the wrong side, for example, or are too densely written (i.e., not enough pictures).

One of my favorite videos is Margaret Islander's Shirts, etc., part of her industrial shortcuts series.  Unfortunately, at more than $70, it's a big investment.

When I first started sewing, I got a lot of informal guidance via webcam from Brian of Briansews, whom I stumbled across on Pattern Review.  I don't need somebody holding my hand, but it is nice to know that there's somebody to ask if I run into problems (and that there isn't a meter running).

I still refer to my books, and I have a few other helpful videos, too.

Part of the problem with many of my books (and videos, come to think of it) is that they don't address the actual project in front of me.  More often than not, I just follow the instructions that come with the pattern, unless it's the kind of thing I can assemble by heart, like a men's shirt.

I've never taken a sewing class, but I do know many people who love them, and I certainly wouldn't rule it out.  One of the things I like about the Margaret Islander video is that she's completely down to earth, has a great sense of humor, and doesn't put down others' ways of doing things.  I find negativity and snobbishness to be a big turnoff.

I think the best instructor -- regardless of the subject matter -- is one who encourages us to figure things out for ourselves, keeps the stakes low, and is encouraging.  But I've had lot of teachers in my life who didn't believe in this approach.

Friends, a few questions:

1) What do you think makes a good sewing teacher, and have you ever had one who had those qualities?  (Conversely, has a bad instructor ever turned you off?)

2) If you've ever taught someone to sew, did you teach the way you were taught, or the way you wish you'd been taught?

3) Are there aspects of sewing you don't think you could ever learn on your own, and would definitely want to be taught by a professional?

I'd love to hear what you think!

IRON UPDATE:  I have decided to hold off on the gravity feed upgrade for right now.   It seemed like a solution in search of a problem, at least at the present time.


  1. I was taught to sew by my mother and both grandmothers. All three were very talented especially my mother's mother who had gone to what later became FIT and had been a fashion & textile designer so she knew all sorts of special techniques.

  2. I learnt a little from my Mom, but basically educated myself by trial and error. This was the pre-internet era! So no blogs or websites. I bought vintage patterns and weird remnants at thrift stores and just had a go. I made some truly awful things but eventually figured it all out.

  3. I am learning by reading (blogs and books) and doing and watching the odd video. A class (at least here in Brisbane) is a serious monetary investment and inevitably the times of the class would work one week and not the next. I can ruin a lot of fabric and patterns for the price of a class.

    I have no doubt that I'd probably progress faster under the tutelage of a great teacher, but there is no deadline by which I have to become good, so ultimately is doesn't matter, because I'll get there in my own time.

  4. I just finished a shirt with a collar on a stand, made from very fine ivory linen. I wanted help so I used your 'shirt sewalong' and found it very useful. Thanks!

  5. Some home instruction as a child and lots of trial and error as an adult. Mistakes are so useful, really!

  6. Great topic. Encouragment, and structure, which includes the basics, and an emphasis on excellence. No shoddy work. I love good sewing books, and collect them. These are really special to me. Love sewing lists, and sewing blogs. I went to a rummage sale this afternoon, and was delighted in sewing/knitting room. Purchases to open soon. Cathie in Quebec.

  7. I learned early from my mother and grandmother, then practice. High school home ec classes were a nightmare because the teachers were so entrenched in the one right way to do things. Now I do lots of reading about sewing to refresh skills and to learn new things.

  8. My mother taught me the basics beginning about age 5--planning a project, cutting (with assistance) and sewing by hand. I graduated to her 1946 era Singer at age 7--with supervision only! By age 12, with a lot of instruction from a neighbor, I was making many of my own clothes!

    As with many growing up in the 50s and 60s, I wore hand-me-downs. An only child, I had the good fortune to receive clothing from the youngest daughter of the family living behind us--just a hop over the block wall! Gotta love suburbia! *lol*

    The mother of that family the same neighbor who taught me how to drape, make flat patterns, alter RTW and hand-me-down clothing, etc. Her name is Darlene. She was a professional seamstress and helped to support her family for many years by seewing for others (her DH built a studio for her on the back of their home). Initially she taught me how to alter and refashion the hand-me-downs she made for her daughter (I was two years younger and several sizes smaller, so everything would be completely outdated by the time I was close to growing into the garments), eventually moving on to RTW alterations, then draping and flat-pattern drafting. Not to mention sewing techniques! Her garments were as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside--and this was with a straight-stitch industrial machine and buttonholes from a basic Singer (slightly newer than my mother's, but not much!).

    My junior high school sewing teacher was awful. She did not communicate well and did not like the fact that I already knew more than she did (not that I mentioned it, mind, but she figured it out pretty quickly). I received a "C" in the class and my BFF--who still can't sew to this day!--received an "A". Go figure! *rolleyes*

    I did take some classes IRL from Margaret Islander about 20 years or so ago. You are right, Peter. She was a very warm person and a wonderful instructor--very patient. She used to teach at Trade Tech (community college) in Los Angeles and always said it was only luck that she became a pattern maker and instructor rather than a sleeve setter! *lol*

    A lot of what I have learned over the years has been through books and trial and error--I started sewing long before the advent of videos and YouTube! But I did begin with a wonderful foundation!


    1. Love your story! I wish I had kept up with sewing like you did. I can't remember the details of my home ec class, so it couldn't have been too bad, otherwise, I'd probably still remember. :-). I'm glad you reinforced M. Islander. I'd seen some of her stuff advertised and she appeared to be an excellent instructor, but there's so many out there and when you've been out of the loop for over 30 years, you have to not only be careful, but you're learning so much.

      I love the internet, but I think I'm still a bookie. A disadvantage about classes (at least for me) is that you forget it OR have nothing to take home to finish off the project IF you're unable to finish it during the class. :-)

  9. I've always preferred to learn things on my own, and sewing is in no way different. I've never taken a class but just started trying out different things that I liked and looked up tutorials if I didn't know how to do something. This is still how I learn new skills: by reading blogs and books, picking up tricks along the way and applying them to my own projects.

    I've helped a few friends with their own first sewing projects and just showed them what I knew at the time.We usually got together once a week and I helped them through the instructions for a project.

    If there's anything I'd like to take a class for, it would be pattern drafting, since that's a bit more involved (maths!) than just learning new techniques. I can make adjustments, but drafting things from scratch is new territory. But first I'll be taking a shoemaking course, that's something I've wanted to learn for a while now... But it's one of those things that require a lot of specialist stuff and could do with some guidance!

  10. I had home ec in grades 7 and 8, but also learned from my mom and grandmas. I learned a lot more later by trial and error.

    I have taught sewing, and I intend to do it again. I teach skills, how to do it my way, and they can do some other way when not doing for my class. I teach them the logic of sewing, not how to follow outdated pattern instructions. My students have learned that there is lots of practicing (of skills) and thinking in the sewing process.

  11. My first teacher was my mother, but she hated to sew and wasn't particularly interested in teaching me. Mostly I taught myself, but when I got really serious about sewing, in my twenties, my main resource was magazines. My favorites were Creative Needle, Australian Smocking & Embroidery, and Sew Beautiful. All of these have a focus on smocking and heirloom sewing for children, which was the type of garment I was sewing at the time, but I learned a lot about basic construction from them. Sew Beautiful is the tackiest damn magazine ever--the outfits were absolutely over the top, but I used to love it and learned a lot about fine hand sewing from it. My kids are older now and I no longer read it. I hope it's still as much fun as it used to be.

  12. My mother and grandmother sewed, but neither were teacher material. My mother would not let my sister and I sew on her electric Free-Westinghouse so we got to use the treadle with horrible tension. I'm amazed that either of us stuck with it. I truly learned to sew in 4-H by an amazing woman who had the patience of Job with approximately 15 10-18 year olds who were at every stage of learning to sew. She was encouraging of us all and I never saw her lose her cool (except maybe once when a girl decided to lay and cut out her pattern at home. She was very proud of the fact that she had managed to squeeze all the pattern pieces onto one end of the fabric. The problem was she had the straight of grain on the pattern pieces going every which way.) Our leader instilled in me a love of sewing and a feeling of accomplishment that endures 50 years later.

  13. My mom started off teaching me to sew. Since then I've taken classes, watched videos, read books (and blogs) and talked in person with others who sew. All those things are really helpful, but none of it is any good unless it is accompanied by time spent actually using the information to practice techniques and work out the eye/hand coordination involved in applying what has been taught. I have to remind myself every time I start getting distracted by another potential source of information that I should probably be spending my time working on applying what I already have learned.

    I'm working on teaching my oldest son to sew. I definitely try to avoid doing anything with him that would have annoyed me when I was a kid learning to sew. No "no sew" projects or random things out of felt for him, just real clothes using a real machine. It's a slow process since he needs to focus all his attention on being safe with the machine (and iron, and scissors...) so short sessions, stop when his attention lags, and no working on it unless we are both in the mood (because PMS Mommy is a mean, mean teacher).

  14. Peter:
    I tried to attend some classes here in San Francisco. But the teachers were different every week and I was trying my own projects, so it wasn't like I was being taught, as much as guided. It wasn't very good and they closed soon after I started. Otherwise, there aren't really any classes that I could take unless I missed work.

    I used the Margaret Islander DVD's and that has been my only real instruction. On the other hand, I go back to them all the time and learn or relearn something each time. I learned how to operate the machine from the store that sold it to me and they were really good.
    Otherwise, it has been reading on the web, books, and keeping up with your blog.
    I really wish you would figure out of lot of these things and then publish them. Your pictures and explanations are always much better than what you get with the pattern and lots better than some of the books out there (like Coffin's).
    Besides, your writing is great.
    Publish your first book I'll be the first in line to buy it!

  15. 1. Patience.
    2. I am a teacher by profession and teach with patience.
    3. I'd love for someone to show me how to do a collar stand and to continue me on my journey to good fit.

  16. Hi Peter. I LOVE this post! Thanks for writing it. Very detailed and you gave us alot to consider and think about.

    I initially learned how to sew in Home Ec (about 35 years ago-YIKES) and that during the summer, my Mom enrolled me and sis in a Singer sewing class. There was a nearby Singer store that sold machines, fabric, and held classes. Got re-interested in sewing in 2008

    First off, I agree with you on the following:
    1) Internet (overall-not everyone, but most) sites with tutorials aren't detailed enough for the true novice, sometimes hard to tell right and wrong sides (with pictures).

    2) I guess b/c I love to read, I am now finding in recent years that the OLDER books (20 years and up) are VERY DETAILED, most have detailed pics (some have small pics, but the instructions make up for it).

    3) I took 4 classes (two quilt, two sewing) in 2010. Prior to that, my last formal instruction was in junior high over 30 years ago. One of the quilt classes was so horrible (instructor constantly embarrassed me when I didn't get the instructions, class was too large b/c @ the last minute, they combined my class with another due to missed classes after the "Snowmeggedon"). The instructor wasn't able to get to everyone. I was so horrified that I cried for a couple of days (reported it to their Education Director and got a gift certificate. Was also offered the option of retaking. I decided not to b/c it would be the same instructor).

    This lady had ZERO patience--and it was suppose to be a class for beginners (I called several times before paying to confirm).

    Lastly, I'd love a professional in ANY aspect of sewing as long as they

    *Are patient
    * Corrective in a non critical way
    * Make suggestions on how to improve a technique, etc.

    As someone said, GREAT POST!! :-)

  17. I learned from my mom.

    1) I think a good sewing teacher is someone who is a good teacher. It doesn't matter if they teach sewing or something else. Patience is a must, but so are communication skills. What a teacher is basically doing is communicating their knowledge to someone else.

    I teach martial arts and mostly adapt how I teach to how a particular person learns. Some people are really good at mimicking (they watch you once and they can do it on their own). And others have to be given theoretical explanations and/or plenty of repetition. A good teacher will recognize that and deliver what the student needs.

    2) Nope - but I would love to!

    3) Not that I can think of. :)

  18. I learned to sew from my grandmother and 4H. 4H was a great program. I made almost all my clothes in high school using the information I got in 4H and pattern instructions. I never owned a sewing book until I started getting back into sewing a few years ago. I now use books and videos. I like to take classes, but don't find many that are beyond beginning, but less than couture. I got back into sewing because I wanted to teach my daughter who was 10 (now 13). I gave a few classes to some of her friends and her. I think they enjoyed it, but my daughter is more interested in other things at the moment so hasn't gone much past pajamas. I found that enthusiasm and planning make a teacher better.

  19. I made my first garment in summer camp and don't remember much about the instruction except that the counsler sewed in a zipper for me. By the time I took sewing in Home Ec everyone was told to get a pants pattern with an elastic waist and I was the kid who asked if I could have a zipper, since I already was sewing them in by myself.

  20. SeamsterEast@aol.comApril 5, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    I learned how a sewing machine worked the needle up and down in third grade on my mother's Singer making some "camping equipment" from old blue jeans.

    I learned how to sew boat canvas in my 40's (because I bought a boat beat up by Hurricane Bob) by using the broken canvas as patterns. I learned a great deal about boat canvas and sails from the book "Sailmaker's Apprentice".

    I learned to sew a fleece jacket from some pattern. I learned to change what the pattern said by looking at the first shoulder seams (and then tilting them down to match my shoulders 1-1/2 inches lower on the outside). I learned to make a shirt from some pattern (and to change the pattern by looking in the mirror) to fit my body, but far more so from taking apart an old shirt.

    Actually, I also learned a very great deal about sewing clothes from

  21. My mom is really good at sewing but I got so frustrated when she tried to teach me. She is an auditory learner and I am a visual learner. She would sit me at the machine and tell me what to do, but what I needed was for her to do it while I watched what she was doing. I can't learn from hearing, I have to read it or see it in action. When I teach someone, first I ask them how they learn and then go from there.

  22. I learned to sew from Threadbanger videos, other YouTube videos, books, and trial and error. I bought a sewing machine because of projects I saw on Threadbanger, and I thought, 'I can do that.' I have never had a course, or had anyone show me how to use a machine. I also took up embroidery as a hobby because of what I saw on a Threadbanger video.

  23. I started sewing when I was about 13 years old. My Gran on my fathers side was the one who taught me the basics of using a sewing machine. Also my junior high sewing teacher was a bit of help. But my first best teacher was my high school BFF. She showed me how to make pants and hoodies and what not in her parents basement where her mom had a sewing room!
    I went to community college and became a mens wear tailor, thats where I learned most of my tricks and skills. My teachers (we had two per class) were amazing! One of them was womens clothes tailor and she teached me that almost everything can be corrected by simply pressing ;)
    Few years ago I needed a change of scenery and went to work for a young fashion designer. She designs mostly for ladies, so I had to teach myself how to make high fashion gowns and learned some very useful couture sewing skills via internet. She still calls me from time to time and s´asks if I possibly could come back LOL.
    And I've also been a teacher. I am the kind of teacher who tells you how to do it rather then showing it, then observes what and how you are doing it and gives you constant feed back how to aprove yourself. Or at least that how I think I am...I am also very demanding.

  24. home ec, 9th grade...that's the only sewing teacher I've ever had. And I remember very little about her, either positive or negative.

    At this point, I can figure a lot out on my own. However, I'm no expert and would love to study with someone like Kenneth King. It's curious: I'm very visual, but I truly need the tactile feedback. A description on a blog or in a book won't necessarily click with me; I've got to see/feel for myself.

  25. I think that when you are an established sewist, there are always gaps in your knowledge - there always are when you are self taught. It certainly applies to me, after 40 years! One of the fastest ways I have found to combat this is to sew with other people. It's a great way to observe other methods, get quick feedback and input into the project at hand without tying up someone else's time, and it's possible to reciprocate tips and feedback.
    There are tons of yiz in NYC who sew and blog, why not instead of meeting up to raid Mood and eat, you get together and sew? :)

  26. Mrs. Scheopple was my 7th grade sewing teacher. She had a crocheted brooch for each holiday and season. She taught us to actually sew something challenging: a jacket with a collar, raglan sleeves, on seam pockets and a drawstring! All the students were so proud and our classmates impressed! Loved that class so much I can, after 35 years, visualize her.

    The pictures in this post made me so sad that sewing isn't taught in schools anymore.

  27. I learned to sew at age of 6 with my mom. In fact, she just gave the instructions how to use the sewing machine and let me play. In my teens my interest in sewing fade away, while designing became my obcession. I went to fashion school, but there we where more concentrated on drafting patterns as sewing. We did some basic sewing classes, but funny, we were not encoraged to sew, because we were "designers", not "dressmakers".

    I used to sew sometimes when it was needed, but I had a big gap on sewing techniques, which made me concentrate on more simple pieces or home-dec sewing, till about 5 years ago, when I decided to buy a vintage sewing machine. This fact changed my "sewing life" :). I had so much fun to use a simple and unconplicated straight stitch sewing machine! After that, I end up again interested in sewing clothes, now just designing.

    Now I am on a mission to teach kids sewing! In fact I give a 4 days free-cost workshop for kids in our community house, during school vactions. I try to teach the basics of using an electric sewing machine and everyday they complete a little project, designed (and cut) by me. The projects are always usefull things and they end up very proud of themselves. The kids are 10 to 13 years old, come with no experience and at the end of the workshop they yet can sew long lines and a bigger project. I am always surprised how kids learn so fast!

  28. My mum was the daughter of a professional seamstress whose insistence on the One Right Way to sew put mum off the art for life. So I didn't meet a sewing machine till high school. My first encounter was the totally unexciting make your mum a pot holder class. After that, I graduated to the dirndl skirt which even I with no design eye could see was never going to look nice on my body and finally the sleeveless blouse that failed two ways. It failed in marks because of the bloodstains on the seams after the Unfortunate Incident with the Machine Needle and it failed as far as I was concerned because the One Right Pattern that we all had to purchase was totally uncool. I gave up sewing in school ASAP. How I came back to it is a long story, but come back I did, to find that sewing teachers no longer insist on the One right Way, or prescribe patterns. Instead, my wonderful teacher asks what I want to achieve and helps me do it, using the methods that work for me to reach the standard I am happy with. I think this is good teaching!

  29. I started sewing two years ago at the age of 14 my grandma taught me the basics factions of a sewing machine and then i started gaining more information through the web and books. For me a good sewing teacher or any teacher for that matter has to have patient and he/she must have a good knowledge/enthusiasm of his/her subject. In my case i am learning patternmaking and sewing from lady who is super patient and she is willing to explain everything and also give you alternative methods of sewing and it feels great i am always super excited to go to her lessons and i never missed them!

  30. Great post !

    At this point, my ideal teacher would be patient and encouraging, but mostly geared toward excellence. And rational - I'm a technician, not an artist.

    I did classes once, at the very beginning, and my then-teacher was very helpful, she was very sweet and encouraged me to persevere although she didn't teach anything advanced (but I did learn how to use a commercial pattern with her, which is a big step for beginners !)

    I intend to take some "free style" classes next year, not so much to learn things, but to connect with other seamstresses. Still, I would love a real-life class on fit, because I think this is the one thing I'm unable to learn alone, with or without the Internet.

  31. Love this post Peter and some of the comments are just gorgeous.

    I first started sewing with the help of my mother Jenny when I was in my mid teens... While she was a more than adequate home sewist she didn't particular like sewing a great deal, neither did her mother Betty who preferred tending to her many acres of garden. My great grandmother Jane on the other hand was simply amazing and worked as a much sought after seamstress... and would do 'deals' with her children... The bargain was, if Betty wanted a new dress for a Friday night dance (this was in the 30s and 40s)  she had to do all of chores... Meaning my great grandmother got to do what she loved the most AND got all of the housework taken care of, oh and of course Betty got a new dress:)

    My mother wasn't all that patient, so whilst I was taught a  few basics around laying and marking a pattern I didn't learn much else. Although still use those same techniques today. I must say of course that I probably wasn't the best student at the time either:)

    I came back to sewing a few years later on my own accord and haven't looked back.... I have never had any formal lessons as I could never find any that suited my needs at the time. I tend to learn best by mimicking, analyzing and by simply doing. Without proper tutelage it does to a fair bit of trial and error to really twig to some things.... Plenty of lightbulb moments of oh so THAT'S why I have to mark that,  clip this, baste those etc...

    I do have a Modest collection of antique and vintage sewing books which I love love love reading but have never really used so to speak. I have been very keen to learn pattern making but have some very specific ideas and am very vintage centric so haven't found any suitable classes and am now looking into private tutelage if I can afford it. I am also insanely  keen to do a millinery course. Let me at them hats! .

    In teaching others it can be tricky where to begin... SO much to learn. It does help to know what they want out of it too. Do they simply want to make 'a' dress, or actually learn to sew so they can go solo one day. 

    I tend to start teaching with the absolute foundations... the fabric, reading a pattern and instructions, laying, marking etc before anything else. My approach  is, you must learn the rules before you can break them:)

    What I do love about sewing is that the learning is endless, I don't think a project goes by, even a simple one, without having understood something better.

  32. i was taught to sew by my Mom, who learned on a treadle; she took tailoring classes and made all my clothes, including the smocked dresses (have you ever priced one?). wish i could find the photo of me, pony tails sticking out over each ear, no front teeth, beautiful smocked dress...i'm going to call her right now and say thank thank you, Peter, for reminding me.

  33. I learned at a young age by my mother who sewed for people at home. I had 3 older sisters who also sewed. As we grew up we joined my mom in the business. She was always hands on in teaching. She did not use pattern instructions much. She would look at the pictures and knew what she had to do. As I went on and would sew my own garments without her, I would constantly change the way the pattern instructed to do something. I later realized that they showed the way that it was easier to demonstrate on the sketch.

    My daughter and I have been teaching summer sewing camps for several years. We have a very hands on approach. We anticipate problems and warn our students about them before they begin.

    Nothing replaces a class taught in person. I have several tutorials on my website and will be doing more on the basics. For example: A common problem is to get a jumble of threads or broken threads when you remove the item from the machine. If your needle and goose are completely up, these are easily released.

    Visit my site at:

  34. I started "sewing" ever since I could hold a needle with my mom, but I really lucked out because when I was 8 I joined 4-H and met a sewing teacher. I went to Mrs. Crawford's house every week for 9 years to sew. She took in a handful of people, and through the years some would lose interest and stop going, but I couldn't get enough of it. She let us pick any project, then she would help us figure out how to do it. By the end of my time working with her (17 yrs old) it was basically a sewing workshop for me, where she would help me with the complex construction and keep me honest about taking my time on things. I couldn't have had a better teacher. She also taught the Bishop method, which made for quality construction. I still wear the clothes I made with her!

    I teach sewing classes now, and it is the same plan. I let people bring whatever project they want, and then I help them figure out their next steps. I am definitely not as good at explaining things to beginners as she is!

  35. I took a home ec class in the days when girls did and boys didn't - take home ec, that it. Turn that around for almost everything else, sexual innuendo intended.

    Last year I started teaching my grade 4-6 class sewing. They made aprons (don't groan, we bake bread once a week, so those are useful!). This year, the aprons were upcycled jeans, so each one was unique to the student.

    My teaching style is a bit laissez-faire: try it, then I'll tell you what you did wrong. JK. I explain what to do and demonstrate the tricky bits. I introduce new techniques only when they are needed for the self-selected project.

    This age group isn't patient with much observation, so I give them room for trial and error. After a lot of ripping out, I moved to requiring them to show me what they plan to sew before they go to the machine. Still, they plan, mark, and execute with minimal direction. It's a lot of fun, and they're proud of their aprons.

    I've been offering a weekly Upcycle Club which is relatively unstructured. The students have all chosen to make bags/purses of their own design. Now we're initiating a weekly Fashion Sewing Club. Only girls have joined, and we're waiting for our patterns to arrive from Butterick-McCalls-Vogue.

    Am I a good teacher? Yes and no. The students might make faster progress with more structure, but both boys and girls appear to love sewing.

    BUT, teaching ignites my own desire to sew often, sew well. It's time well spent and some of my students will sew on for their lifetimes.

  36. I thought about you Saturday when I dropped my serger off to get repaired and saw the gravity iron they had in stock.... I never would have considered it before but you make a compelling case. Seems like something that would turn up on Craigslist frequently though so maybe you could save some $$ doing it that way?

    re: Sewing instructors.... I was going to do some kind of simple skirt making workshop with interested friends at a local sewing studio but haven't got around to it yet. Thank you for reminding me.

  37. Key qualities in a sewing teacher are clarity, organization, an understanding that students have different learning styles, tact, the ability to encourage, and patience, patience, patience. An understanding of the wider world doesn't hurt.

    I've had a number of bad sewing teachers. The best one I've had is Mark-Evan Blackman, the former head of the FIT Menswear department. He teaches an evening Menswear sewing class in the FIT Continuing Ed program that is open to nondegree students.

    Given the time, money, and the availability of an excellent teacher, I would always prefer to take a class and learn the right way to do things (or at least one right way) instead of stumbling along. Even sewing the correct way is tremendously time-consuming and I prefer to up my odds of success.

  38. I took sewing for one semester in high school, simply because there were no other classes available. We made: a pencil case, a clown costume, a peasant top, and a pencil skirt. Looking back now, I can see that those projects all taught useful sewing skills... but they were all the ugliest things ever! I was so discouraged with it, I gave up sewing for 6 years.

    When I came back to sewing, Google was my friend. I agree that some tutorials are too technical... but some are way too simplistic. I made a point of reading five tutorials for each technique I wanted to learn, so I would have 5 viewpoints. Then try it. Then do it again. I have always been a self-directed learner, so this worked out for me.

    I have fond memories of my mother sewing when I was little (my favorite thing she ever sewed was a unicorn costume for halloween). Everything she made was always perfect... or so I thought. Now she keeps telling me that she could never have sewn the things I can sew. Quite an ego stroke, IMHO.

    I have tried teaching two people how to sew: a friend my own age and my six-year-old son. My son lost interest and my friend is... well, let's just say I am not very good at teaching sewing.

  39. Hi,
    Well let's see. I started sewing when I was 7 years old. My mother taught me. She was very patient then and continued to be a patient teacher through the years. I loved her style of teaching, basicly it was this is how you do it, now you do it Gabby, she would sit side by side with me. When she noticed I was getting frustrated she would gently tell me...go out and play for awhile then come back to it. It worked everytime. Today I teach sewing classes where I live and in other communities near to my home. I love teaching and never turn anyone away that wants to learn. I know a lot about sewing, knitting, crocheting etc and have many more things I want to learn. My method of teaching is, patients, love and encouragement. Lots of it! I would for sure take classes from other teachers, and encourage my students to do so as well.

    I have a theory, anything can be learned, it is simply a matter of the willingness to learn, the desire and taking the time.

    As for me and my love of sewing, I will be retiring my day job soon to persue what I love.....Teaching Sewing to anyone that wants to learn. I hope my experience as a sewing teacher takes me to many parts of the world, to help the less fortunate learn to sustain themselves using a very basic skill, sewing.

    My son recently moved to Brooklyn, I will be staying with him from time to time, so that I may get in some of the sewing classes that NYC offers.

    Out her in So Cali, there isn't many classes offered unless you want to go to FIDM etc. I will be in NYC June 28 to July 8. Do you have questions about sewing? can't find anyone to sit side by side and theach is my email I would love to hear from you......ever so sincerely.....Gabrielle AKA Gabby P.S. Great job on the Blog.....

  40. A late addition to a provocative blog. I taught sewing for the first time last year and enjoyed it very much--it pushed me to review gaps in my own skills and help students accomplish a range of projects. College students are originals, and community adults were also admitted. The comments above are helpful and I will use them next year. I think learning to sew is a hands-on thing for most people, assisted with information from time to time, and with access to other ways of getting particular results.

    I taught myself to sew with a little help from one of my aunts. I was motivated by the pleasure of using my hands and getting better fit than otherwise possible (DDD bosom). Occasional classes--remember stretch and sew?--have helped me but I couldn't afford the serious ones. Since I have lived in mostly rural areas and worked full time where elegant clothes are not necessary, I have enjoyed giving pleasure to others with well made and occasionally elegant gifts. My home is enhanced as well as my budget, too, and I've learned to handle lots of different kinds of fabrics and projects. My library of sewing books is my first resource, but YouTube is sometimes helpful too.


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