Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Confession

If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I've been teaching two young women how to sew. We started almost exactly a year ago (our first lesson was on Mother's Day), met every Sunday through the Christmas holidays, and now meet once or twice a month. I'm really enjoying it and they are doing quite well.

But I have definitely learned something about my limitations - I am way too quick to jump in and show or explain how to do something. Thus, I am not doing a particularly good job at teaching them how to figure things out for themselves... :(

How about you? Have you ever taught sewing? If so, do you enjoy it? Any tips or secrets for doing a good job? Any particular aspects that you find challenging?

Photo credit: Nathan Russell


Beth Conky said...

I'm teaching my daughter in law how to sew. My worst problem is forgetting to show all the steps. Like using pins and marking things. Stuff I don't always have to do for myself anymore because I've sewn for so long. But I love it. I love seeing how excited and proud she is of herself. I just talked my son into going halfs with me and bought her a new sewing machine for Mothers Day.

Anonymous said...

I used to teach sewing at the boys and girls club in the summer. I don't particularly like kids, and I'm honest about it, so my main problem was kids that didn't really want to be there and/or were rude.

As far as teaching goes, I found that giving them something relatively easy with something of a hard twist (skirts with waistbands, zippers and darts and a tunic with darts and sleeves)generally gave them the beginning tools to be able to read a pattern, do basic garment construction and it was something I made so much I didn't have to sit and jump in on them, I could verbally explain it with my eyes closed. I could also use hemming as a explanation for casing (for example), and over the 6 weeks they got an outfit and the tools to continue sewing on their own.

Mostly, it's just a matter of demystifying the whole process and giving them skills for a new language as well as making them comfortable with the machines and tools that are used, since most people don't see these everyday in their life anymore. I also sometimes did have to adjust the patterns and fabric to someone that caught on quickly, or didn't (boys are also a lot different then girls, most young boys do not grasp sewing as easily as girls do and they also have to be taught different then girls).

In the end you really have to know the ins and outs of sewing yourself, even if it's just the pattern that's being worked on, and be able to explain it, and be patient when they mess up and allow them the chance to make the mistakes and fix them on their own. If they have something they can't do, or want you to fix it, you have to let them ask you and try to get it fixed in a way you're not taking over, but that they're learning from the mistake and just learning that bit of expertise from you. (One of the girls I taught had a hard time with getting her waistband to fit on the marks and have enough for the edges. This is something I myself have issues with, and I told her that and then explained how I pinned it with the one side out farther like RTW and pinned the rest and ignored the matching marks. She tried it and didn't work for her, and I pinned JUST ENOUGH to explain how I did it (one end out for the eye part of a hook and eye, few pins to keep it in the middle and I pinned the other side) then handed it back and said "That's how I do the ends, then I have to get the middle to lay smooth, which is where you get to learn to fuss with it"). I also don't lie and say everything I have ever made came out right, because it hasn't, and no matter how long I do sew I will ALWAYS have errors and things not be right or have to scrap it totally, and do have garments that I made that are well constructed and look perfect, garments that look fine but like crap on me, garments that look perfect on the outside and wonky in the inside and garments that suck and I show these the first day just so they know it happens to all of us. I also teach on a cotton or cotton/poly blend because of the ease of working with the fabric, and I tell them why and give them a brief lesson in sewing all fabrics, because there's days *I* don't want to work with slinky stuff due to the fuss.

Long winded I know, yet again. In the end, start simple and you'll feel less likely to jump in. I also have been known to make me clothes while I teach, so they don't feel like I'm wandering around nitpicking, and after the actual teaching part, when they're sewing, I'm available, but not taking it over. That way if they need it they can come to me, and I'm not right there either making them feel like they can't get it or are failing at it. Some people (like me) will do better doing it all on their own and asking questions, and some people like being hand held, and it's a juggling act to teach them to a style suited to them.

gwensews said...

I have taught sewing to adults, but not children. I loved it and hope to do it again in the future. I like to give students not only the "hows" but he "whys" of doing something specific. For instance--I may say "use taut sewing on this seam to prevent puckering", then explain and show that the seam needs more thread and tension to control the puckering.

As for challenges, one is helping them remain enthusastic when there are failures so they don't give it up. Another is letting them move forward in their skills without going beyond them too soon.

marysews said...

I use a three-step teaching method, although it does depend on what aspect of sewing is being taught at the moment:
1. Show and talk through it
2. Talk the student through it
3. Watch the student, giving answers and guidance - I agree that it's hard to not just jump in with the answers or even doing it.

Zep said...

I love teaching. It fills me up like no other job has. I can't wait to get to work and I don't want to leave.

A few things I've learned about teaching people - we're all on different levels as far as knowledge (how we learn), perfection and speed. I try to understand the level of the student and not try to take them places they aren't ready to go. Some people I can teach more than others depending on their common sense. If someone's a perfectionists I try to tell them to let me teach them technique and then they can work on making it perfect. I really do try to keep people moving on their speed. I don't want them spending an hour installing a pocket. This is one thing I do push them on if they're real slow.

I found terminology is the hardest for people to learn. Once they know what the words mean sewing is more fun for them.

As far as teaching children vs. adults. Adults will sit and wait for you to come to them when they need help. The kids will line up in front of you and proclaim they're next. Some kids don't like being in class but are there because the parents are making them attend. My weekly summer camps do make me tired at the end of the day. But kids have something to teach us - they really hold the meaning of life with no worries. As much as they make me tired I love being with them.

I don't make a "ton" of money teaching sewing but sometimes rewards don't come in financial means. I am blessed to be able to give my knowledge to others and watch what they do with it.

Anonymous said...

I have taught beginning sewing in a machine store for several years. I always teach from the pattern instructions so students will be able to pick up another pattern and use it with some confidence. I may provide some alternative methods, or mention what I might do differently, but my goal is always to help the student to gain knowledge to take home and use on the next project. Another always is that the student always decides what is an acceptable result for her. I will help them understand possible options, but it is always the student's decision if this is good enough to leave as it is. I do often do the ripping for a student if they decide to rip and redo, I want them to remember the fun parts when they are considering the next project.


Unknown said...

I teach basic things with a watch and learn kind of method, or a you do it while I do it method. Sometimes I stand and place hands... I guess I am an okay teacher. I do things so much by memory sometimes and then teach because I like it. And I have this firm belief that EVERYONE, man, woman and child, should know how to sew on a button, a patch, and fix some baby holes. Even if it's not pretty.
And I like what everyone has to say about this one... I know I'll never really stop teaching these skills...

Faye Lewis said...

I've only had a few sessions with a friend who wants to learn to sew. But I'm a jumper inner too!

Summerset said...

As a teacher, there are several things that hold true no matter what you're teaching.

Start with simple skills/information and proceed to complex.

Not all students learn the same way. Some are visual learners, some only learn by doing.

Provide visible, reachable goals.

Know your subject material and equipment thoroughly.

I'm sure I'll think of a few more. I've been out of the classroom for almost a year!

Becky said...

I tried to teach my best friend how to sew once-- she did make a tote bag for herself, which she uses rather frequently, but decided sewing wasn't really her thing. Fair enough-- she tried to teach me to crochet, and that didn't stick either. So now we just hang out and do our respective crafts of choice together. ;)