First up in our Teach a Friend to Sew series is an excerpt from School of Sewing: Learn It, Teach It, Sew Together by Shea Henderson. Shea shows you how to begin, whether you want to learn to sew yourself or you want to teach a group to learn together.

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. Your comment enters you to win.

If you’re preparing to teach, you can find free class outlines to correspond with the School of Sewing chapters in the “Teach it” section on the School of Sewing site. Outlines include a list of class materials, skills taught, class prep suggestions and teaching and troubleshooting tips for each of the twelve projects in the book.

Here at Sew Mama Sew we have merit badges and prizes on the way, detailed tips from Shea tomorrow and ideas for your notions toolkit on Saturday! Here Shea introduces you to the book intro excerpt…



School of Sewing: Learn It, Teach It, Sew Together
allows you to follow in the footsteps of a group of beginners who shared one goal– to learn to use their sewing machines. My book is an engaging, detailed lesson plan designed to guide you along that same journey, whether you are learning alone or as a group. That spirit of community is what we hope to inspire with our Teach a Friend to Sew series here at Sew Mama Sew.

Learn It

Teach Yourself to Sew: Welcome to the wonderful world of sewing! I have included all of the details, tips and tricks that our own School of Sewing students needed most. You’ll also find intermediate skills covered in the form of easy-to-find “Extra Credit” built into each project throughout the book. A few things to keep in mind as you learn:

Buddy Up
This is my biggest piece of advice when it comes to teaching yourself. Find a friend who wants to sew, share your successes or struggles, and answer each other’s questions as you work your way through the book together. Plus, you can share supplies! If you don’t have a specific person teaching you from the book, ask your circle of family and friends.

Perhaps someone could become a mentor of sorts, offer advice via phone and maybe even an in-person session or two. Put out the call in your social media circles and you might be surprised by who comes out of the woodwork to join you.

Add Supplies Gradually:
In our group, we progress through our projects in a way that allows supplies to build up over time. Buying supplies all at once may not fit into you budget. Borrow whenever you can first and decide if you like a brand or model. When you’re ready to buy, you can refer to the specific supplies I’ve recommended throughout the book and for detailed summaries of brands that I believe are worthy of your cash in the School Supplies section of School of Sewing.

The Student Quotes:
I think that you will identify with the students profiled in the book. They have so much to share– insights, tips, proud moments and hilarious moments of tangled threads and seam-ripping sessions. They began right where you are. I wish you could have been with us on the night of our first class and again for our final quilt session at the end of our year. You’d see the amazing growth, knowledge and confidence that comes from regular sewing sessions. Remember, no one learns this stuff overnight. It takes time. Think of the mistakes as learning opportunities. They’re good for you. Promise.

Teach It

Think About Group Size:
This is a big one. You want to help bring people into the world of sewing, but in order to do it well, you need to manage the size of your group. I taught eight. Eight is a lot for a single person to teach outside of a local fabric shop class, especially if they are true beginners. Having my mom as my teacher’s aide was essential given our group size. The more true beginners you have, the smaller your group should be. Sewing one-on-one with a good friend can be extremely rewarding and you can customize the speed of your lessons more easily. Don’t stress if the people in your group do not already know each other; my group was made up of strangers, and I adore the close community we’ve become because of the class.

Find a Location:
This, of course, depends upon the size of your group. A kitchen or basement space could work for a smaller group. If you have a local fabric store, ask if they would be interested in starting up a School of Sewing monthly group! We do not have a fabric store nearby, and we quickly outgrew my kitchen. After looking around, we secured a community clubhouse. Check with local churches, libraries and even community centers. You might be surprised by what they can offer. The main factors to consider are decent lighting and adequate table space for machines and cutting.

Find a Date:
Perhaps the trickiest part of all. Like most of us, my group had extremely busy family schedules. In order to work around jobs, travel, family and other obligations, we found that a free online group scheduling tool made it very fast and easy to find nights that worked best. We used Doodle.com and I highly recommend it!

Gear Up:
I created a “School of Sewing” tub that traveled to class with me each month. I kept extension cords, surge bars, a radio to spin some tunes and a box of basic sewing supplies in case someone forgot something. I also threw in my spool rack so that my class could use a specific color of thread. A thread stash is often the last thing on new sewists’ lists. Paper bags make great individual trash cans, so I always had those in the tub too. A couple students brought irons and ironing boards to class each time, and my mom brought some desk lamps. It really did take a village, but we had our own system and it just trucked along, month after month. Oh, and packing snacks is wise too!

Assign Homework:
(Spoiler alert! We’ll be doing this project soon for the Teach a Friend to Sew series!…)
At first, we did everything together from start to finish. For the first class I cut the pillowcase pieces ahead of time and let the students pick out a “pillowcase kit” when they arrived. We didn’t even touch cutting tools or even talk about them until the second class. This allowed us to focus on talking about the basics and get sewing. Leaving class with a finished project was essential to the success of our group. Gradually, I had students do any cutting and fusing of interfacing prior to class. This allowed us to finish a project in a single three- to four-hour class (with the exception of the quilt).

Award Prizes:
This was always fun for me. I tried to have a fun item to give away each class. A seam ripper was awarded to the first person to need one. A small pack of Clover Wonder Clips was given to the student who asked the most questions. I shopped my stash for duplicates or bought inexpensive but useful notions. When you’re starting from scratch, a simple gifted $3 seam ripper goes a long way.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes:
This is essential for a successful group. At our first class, I emphasized that students should harness their nervousness and turn it into a question-asking, seam-ripper-embracing, no-fear approach to sewing. I said the same thing I used to tell my seventh grade math students: “No one’s going to laugh if you ask a ‘stupid question.’ They’re going to be relieved that you asked. You’ll be the hero.” Learning something new can be nerve-wracking, especially as an adult. Commiserate over the tangled bobbin mess and celebrate the perfectly topstitched curve. You’ll build a supportive and inviting community before you know it.

My Hope for You

Give the Gift of Handmade:
Give a gift of gratitude or appreciation to a teacher or neighbor. Welcome a new life. Celebrate a marriage. Comfort friends who have experienced a loss. Simple or elaborate, making your gift will give you more in return than you can imagine.

Learn Something New:
Learning is always in style, especially when it’s something tangible you can show others! For an added wrinkle-in-the-brain bonus, challenge yourself with the Extra Credit options from my book for each project. These suggest more intermediate techniques to really stretch your newly acquired skills.

Build a Community:
Be it a community of two or five or ten, I wish for you the laughter and camaraderie that we experienced in our “School of Sewing.”

Remember to Share:
Please share your stories with me! Use the hashtag #SchoolofSewing on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The night of our very first class, before the book was even a thought in my mind, I posted a photo on Instagram of my eight friends, gathered to sew in my kitchen. A slew of encouraging comments came in from around the globe, and ever since then.

I have been sharing images here and there from our sessions together. The more we share and tag images of our #SchoolofSewing moments, the more we can learn from and encourage each other– celebrating finished projects and giving a virtual nod of understanding for those seam-ripper moments.

Coming up later this week in our series here at Sew Mama Sew, we’ll be talking tools of the trade…