The Teach a Friend to Sew series with Lucky Spool and Sew Mama Sew will guide you to learn to sew or to teach your friends! Our multi-week plan is guided by Shea Hendersons’s School of Sewing: Learn It, Teach It, Sew Together with Lucky Spool Media.

Series Posts:

We have merit badges and prizes coming your way, plus we’ll tell you all about our favorite notions this weekend. You can also win the book! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of School of Sewing: Learn It, Teach It, Sew Together. Let us know if you have plans to teach a friend to sew, or if you’re learning yourself.

Shea introduced us to an overview excerpt from the book, and now she’s back with Six Tips for Teaching Friends to Sew. You can find more from Shea in her book, of course, and at Empty Bobbin Sewing Studio.

6 Tips for Teaching Friends to Sew by Shea Henderson, author School of Sewing: Learn It, Teach It, Sew Together

So, you’ve got a friend-neighbor-sibling-child-co-worker who wants to learn to sew? You love sewing. You’ve got a little extra time to teach them. So what’s holding you back?

I know what you’re thinking:

“But I don’t know how to teach them to sew.”

Here’s the thing. You can totally do this. I’ve taught in a classroom of middle school math students and also sewing classes at a local fabric store. But teaching my neighbors and friends in School of Sewing was a truly unique experience. It’s just different. And by “different,” I mean awesome. Here’s my advice to you:

1. Wear Their Shoes
It should go without saying, but I’m still going to say it: You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine a skill or sport or craft that is foreign to you. Now imagine what it’s like to learn that. As an adult. In front of others. Yikes!

They’ll be excited, yes, but also a wee bit timid. In the week before my group met for the first time, each of my eight friends reached out privately to tell me they were nervous about being the only one who didn’t know something. So the very first thing I did when we met was to point that out, saying, “…So you all just need to stop your fretting, OK?” They all laughed, instantly releasing the nerves and relaxing just enough to dive in.

Now, can we talk about the supplies for sewing and their accompanying grand total price tag? Sheesh. Help your friends prioritize and lend supplies if you are comfortable. Point out that your fabric stash and sewing space wasn’t born overnight. They can join the sewing world AND stay on budget.

2. Host Question Contests
No one wants to ask The Stupid Question. So turn that fear on its head and award a prize for the person who asks the most questions! Select something simple to add to their growing toolbox like nice glass head pins or a travel bottle sample of your favorite spray starch. If you’re teaching one friend instead of a group, award a prize for a number of questions asked. The goal here is to create an environment where being stumped makes them empowered to find an answer.

3. Team Up
If you are a more confident teacher when you have a co-teacher, then by all means, team up! It means more hands and more eyes and more “Oh, I’ve had that happen” advice.

You can also team up another way. Connect with others who are participating in this series and reach out to share your experience and best advice. We have an incredible online sewing community. Use it! (Search for #TeachAFriendToSew and #SchoolOfSewing)

4. Be a Tour Guide
Do your friends know that fabric is designed in collections? Have they ever visited the local quilt shop? Show them around the world of fabric shopping or help them tackle what I affectionately call The Great Wall of Interfacing. Send them your favorite links for shopping and inspiration. Then grab them by the hand and check out a meeting of your nearest Modern Quilt Guild. Seeing a fabric shop through the eyes of a new sewist is a great big pile of fun. Just be careful about helping them shop for a new machine… You may end up wanting one, too!

5. Be Realistic
This one is twofold. You need to be realistic about how much you can finish AND about how much their dedication and available time may differ from yours.

Start with small and achievable projects. Everyone wants to walk out with a “Hey! Look what I made!” item, so don’t start with a complicated project. Time yourself and see how long it takes you. Now triple or quadruple that. See what I mean? Eventually, you can have them do cutting and any interfacing fusing before class, which will save you lots of class time.

Will there be a time when it’s not all sunshine a roses? Absolutely. Machines don’t cooperate. Family schedules mean missing class. Projects remain unfinished (“My friends, let me introduce you to the term ‘UFO’!”). Life happens. Do all of my friends now have dedicated sewing rooms, overflowing stashes of fabric and piles of finished quilts? Of course not. But several of them do or are working on it! (My friend Pam in School of Sewing just finished her third quilt, you guys. Ask me how proud I am of her!)

In life there are seasons for everything. Sometimes you can sew like crazy, and sometimes you have to put it away for a while. And your friends are no different.

Each of my School of Sewing students had an “off” night, where something just wasn’t right. But the great part about sewing multiple times together, over a period of time, is that you’re much more likely to catch and hook someone for good.

6. Always Encourage
They need you to be their biggest cheerleader. Your dream is to inspire them. But, here’s a little secret… Without meaning to, you might actually be intimidating them. They’ll see your best. But they don’t know about your biggest blunder or how your first projects looked more “homemade” than “handmade.” So tell them alllll about it. Show them your first projects if you can. Help them embrace that seam ripper! In fact, that’s an excellent prize. In my group, we awarded a new seam ripper to the first person to need one.
As proud as you are of your most recent finish, I can promise you that it will pale in comparison to how proud you will be of your friend as you watch them complete their first sewing project. High fives and fists pumps are a requirement.

Feeling inspired and ready to teach a friend to sew? Reach out, get together and prepare to earn your first merit badges. The first (super easy and addicting) project is coming up next week!

Images © Lauren Hunt from School of Sewing, used with permission from Lucky Spool Media, LLC.