6 Tips for Teaching Friends to Sew

on September 18 | in Teach a Friend to Sew | by | with 25 Comments

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.

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25 Responses to 6 Tips for Teaching Friends to Sew

  1. Kathy says:

    Tried to get some friends interested in sewing but no luck , I am not giving up.

  2. Chloe M says:

    This information is going to be so great when I try to teach my Mum to sew next year when my son starts kinder! I’m only learning myself but I’m really looking forward to us stumbling our way through together!

  3. Emerald says:

    I teach currently both private lessons and group classes. None of my friends REALLY want to learn to sew (I say that because every time I would offer, they would say yes, but when it came time, they were suddenly “busy”), so I had to find others who did. I can say that this post is so true! Nothing compares to seeing a student feel proud of their accomplishments! It is the best feeling ever! I love everything about sharing my passion for sewing with others. One thing that was very well said was “See how much time it takes you and triple or quadruple it.” Students have lots of questions and want to make sure everything is right. It takes lots of time. Thanks for sharing this series

  4. Bekah says:

    I checked out this book from the library this summer, and it was fantastic! I’ve been wanting to pick up a copy for myself so I can get a little gathering of friends together to teach sewing 🙂 Thank you for hosting this!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I am in a MOMS Club in Cheyenne, Wyo., and I am getting ready to hold monthly “Simple Sewing for your Kids” classes at my house. This is perfect timing for me. Thanks!

  6. What a great idea! I am currently teaching my Aunt and this
    will be a big help.

  7. Cindy Prince says:

    I am teaching one of my “like a daughter”s to sew – I will have to check into this book, might be some useful tips since teaching something new to someone does not exactly come easy for me. Thank you!
    Cindy in Mississippi

  8. Taylor McCarty says:

    I am currently learning to sew! My dad owned a sewing machine servicing business for years and is a pro at whipping up hand made items. I know right, my dad! I just decided to take up the family trade and I hope to be as great as he is!

  9. Nancy Hilderbrand says:

    I need to get back into sewing so I can teach my friend how to sew

  10. Claire Ross says:

    This looks perfect for our Monday afternoon craft class! I get to be the teacher!!

  11. Kathy E. says:

    Sorry, but I just corrected my email address!

  12. Kathy E. says:

    My daughter, who is now 25, is finally interested in learning to sew. After many years watching me make beautiful things, the bug has finally bitten her! Unfortunately, I gave away my old sewing machine just last summer, so I will teach her on my current one. If she likes it, I may buy her a machine for Christmas.

  13. Judy says:

    I just started teaching my daughter and a friend to sew. We are having so much fun with it. Their first project is a potholder and they are both doing a great job. They are now ready to put on the binding so should have a finished project soon and then onto a bigger quilt. We try to get together once a week to sew but keep it flexible as schedules change.

  14. Lee says:

    I am teaching my daughter and a friend to sew!!

  15. Dawn Jones says:

    I am currently learning. I’m trying so hard, but sometimes I want to pull my hair out. Hopefully I will get the hang of it soon. Have a great day.

  16. beth p says:

    Great series! Looking forward to a class with Shea this coming week in Winston Salem, NC!

  17. Sarah says:

    This is such an encouraging series for me right now. I have a group of 10-13 yr. old friends of my daughter who I’m just starting to teach!

  18. Mary J. says:

    I just had some friends ask me about teaching them to sew today, I’d love to win this book to get us started!

  19. Tatiana says:

    I want to teach kids and adults to sew from home (and potentially opening a sewing studio in the future), and this book would be so very helpful! Thank you!

  20. Tricia W says:

    I love this series! I want to host a sewing class for friends. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. Katie says:

    This series couldn’t have come at a better time! One of my co-workers recently expressed an interest in learning to sew and asked me to teach her. I’m so excited to get her started! She wants to make a half circle skirt with an elastic waist. These tips are super helpful. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more!

  22. Kristy says:

    My daughter and her friends all want to learn how to sew and over the summer we’ve spent a lot of money sending them to sewing camps where they worked on a few projects. I’m so excited about this series…hopefully we can save $ and I can teach them to sew myself!

  23. Elissa says:

    Sarah’s Fabrics here in Lawrence, KS has a great sewing community following. Love that shop! You will often find the shop owner there ready to help all sewers of every level!

  24. Margaretanne Reina says:

    My friend bought a new machine a few years ago and never set it up. Just the other day she asked me if I would get her started sewing. Alas that night I got your post about this series. Perfect timing!! Thanks for the tips.

  25. Mel J. says:

    What great advice – I think that when you’ve been doing something for so long you forget what it is like to not know how and teaching can be tricky…. I am, for the most part, self-taught and have been trying to teach my 7-year old, this book would be a great help! Thanks for the chance to win a copy 🙂

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