I’m a Safety Girl when it comes to Kids Sewing Classes!

I am so excited to share an article I wrote for the Craft Industry Alliance, a trade organization I joined about 2 years ago.

If you’re not familiar with CIA I encourage you to check it out. It’s a wonderful resource for all artists, crafters and crafty business owners.

The article I wrote is entitled:

6 Safety Tips to keep in Mind When Teaching Kids to Sew.

You can check it out on their website here.

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Needless to say, most of the time when we get parents inquiring about our kids sewing classes they immediately inquire about how safe it is for a 7-year-old to be learning how to sew on a sewing machine. I think their mind goes straight to their child sewing over their finger. When is reality while this is possible (sort of) it’s really a bit lower on the safety totem pole. Overall I think for a child to learn how to sew, it’s no more “dangerous” than a soccer game or a craft class, as long as you take some important precautions.

Here are my top six kids sewing studio rules that we go over with each and every sewing class we teach:

1. Ratio of Kids to Sewing Machines

I am a firm believer in not every kid in a sewing class needs their own sewing machine. We teach all of our classes with about a 2 to1 ratio of kids to sewing machines. And when the group of students is first learning how to sew, we’ll start with 2 machines and add machines as the class becomes better at stitching.

First of all, this takes the speed with which a child works down a notch. Kids tend to rush, rushing in sewing leads to messing up and/or getting hurt and we like our students to take their time so they can learn as they go. Yes, there are times when a student might have to wait to sew the next step in their project because there isn’t a free sewing machine. But we love this! This is the perfect opportunity for the student to slow down, watch someone else work on the sewing machine and boom – this is where the learning happens!

Less sewing machines also means the teacher can keep track a bit better of what is happening in the sewing classroom. For the sewing classes we teach, the teacher to student ratio is 8 to 1 and we are VERY firm on this number. With only four sewing machines to keep track of at once, the teacher can easily know exactly what is happening on each sewing machine at all times. The thought of 8 kids on 8 different sewing machines with only one adult is what my nightmares are made of.

2. Speed Control on Sewing Machine

With kids classes, we ONLY teach on sewing machines where you’re able to adjust the speed you can sew on them. Our machines have three speeds: slow, fast & teacher speed. Needless to say everybody starts on slow, they must be granted permission to move to the next speed “fast” and absolutely no one can sew on “teacher speed” except of course the teachers.

I can’t tell you how important this sewing machine feature is in our sewing classes. It gives the teacher piece of mind that no matter how young or inexperienced our students are (typically the youngest we teach is age 6) there’s not a lot of damage that can be done on “turtle” speed.

3. Red Painters Tape on Sewing Machines

Since little fingers DO fit under the presser foot and needles can go through fingers *above* the presser foot we implement one other very important sewing machine rule in all our sewing classes. Each of the machines has red painters tape in the shape of a box around the throat plate and bobbin case. This is the no finger zone when sewing and soon our sewing students don’t even think twice about keeping their fingers far from the area where the needle is going up and down, eliminating the chance of it accidentally going into a small finger.

4. Threading the sewing machine only when machine is OFF

Thankfully most little stitchers have wonderful eyesight. Therefore they don’t need the sewing machine light when they thread the needle. The rule in our sewing studio is that the sewing machine MUST be OFF when threading the needless of the sewing machine. This way there is no possible way for the needle to accidentally sew while they are putting the thread through the needle. Seems like a nit picky thing, but I can tell you how many times kids feet accidentally hit the wrong peddle when sewing. Imagine this – one child is threading their machine, another child hits the machine pedal under the machine being threaded thinking it’s their pedal. It’s not a pretty site and we only had it happen once and then immediately introduced this rule!

5. Handling Scissors

All the standard scissor rules apply in our sewing studio: Walk with the blade in your hand, when handing someone a pair of scissors hand them the handle first, no air cutting, no cutting paper with fabric scissors, etc. But one of the things we have in our studio that works really well is having different levels of fabric scissors. All of our fabric scissors hang on our scissor wall in their respective sections. Based on age & skill level, they only use a certain level of scissor. We’ve got small handled scissors that are sharp and cut beautifully but in the wrong hands, there might be stitches involved. So for these young/beginner students we have small handed scissors that will cut fabric, but are in no way sharp enough to cut flesh. As students show us their cutting abilities improve, the type of scissor they can use will move to the next level.

6. Pins & Pin Cushions

The last safety concern in the sewing studio is the pin cushion.We have TONS of pin cushions around the studio. We always have multiple free standing pin cushions on each of the cutting tables and we have a small pin cushion attached to each of the sewing machines. Our philosophy is that the more pin cushions we have, the less random pins on the tables, floor and in each other. We teach our students form the very beginning that when you are sewing your project and you come to one of your pins, you must stop sewing, take the pin out of your project and put it directly into the sewing machine pin cushion. Again, this may sound a little nit picky, but less chance of stray fingers moving too close to the needle going up and down.

We also teach them from the beginning how to gingerly handle the pin cushion when moving it from place to place. Grab it from the side, never underneath. And if you ever see a stray pin cushion on the floor, immediately stop what you are doing, pick it up and put it back on the table so no one has a chance of stepping on it.

Sewing Boss Interview with Susan Goldie @ Sew Now Fashion Studio, Lafayette, CA

I was so lucky to have the opportunity to sit and chat with Sewing Boss Susan Goldie of Sew Now Fashion Studio in Lafayette CA recently. I immediately felt a strong connection to her and loved chatting with her about her very successful sewing business. This was a business she created when her kids started school full time & they’re now in college and about to graduate from HS, so she has many years of amazing experience under her belt!

I love how fashion focused her studio is. Susan has a background in fashion design and has worked in the industry in the past.  You can really see that reflected in her studio. She definitely has a large tween and teen following. So much so she’s developed a line of patterns called Fashion Kit Patterns for this age group that she sells to her students, as well as sewing studios and fashion students all over the world.

I would absolutely love for you to watch and let me know what you think.

Did you like this interview? We have more Sewing Boss Interviews here!

Sewing Boss Interview with Dilys Tong @ Sew Be It Studio in Toronto, CA

Yay! I just loved chatting with my new friend Dilys in Toronto! She is one of the owners of the Sew Be It Studio in southern Canada and a bundle of wonderful & fashionable energy!

She owns the Sew Be It Studio with her partner Lindsay and I loved talking to her about how the partnership works for them. Dilys likens her business partnership to a marriage and that makes a lot of sense!

She talked about how they both bring very different skill sets to the table. For instance Dilys is the creative force behind the operation and concentrates on more of the “sewing” part of the business. While her partner is more of the business end, working on things like accounting and website design.

I would absolutely love for you to take a listen and let me know what you think.

Did you like this interview? We have more Sewing Boss Interviews here!

What to do When Nobody Shows Up – Crying is NOT an option.

Today I am here to say when you teach classes, host events and organize meet ups, it is going to happen.

There’s going to come a time where NOBODY shows up…

Even when you’ve prepared the bejeezus out of what you’re going to say. Even when you’ve got confirmed sign ups & RSVP’s. Even when people tell you face to face, Oh I’ll be there.

Yes, this really sucks. Yes this feels really crappy in the moment. But there is one thing you’ve got to remember. This has nothing to do with you! 

Last week I had scheduled a virtual coffee date here on Hipstitch Academy. We host them once a month and anyone is able to attend and they are 100% free.  We chat about all things involved with running your own sewing & teaching business and have been doing them for the last year or so. They’re super fun and I have loved getting to know other sewing teachers from all over the world!

This last chat was honestly the first time where nobody showed up!

There were like 6 or 7 people RSVP’ed for the chat, so I looking forward to a lively discussion about Business Mentorship. Let me tell you, I was kind of confused when I was sitting in the Virtual meeting room all by my lonesome for 10 minutes.

I hung out for what I felt was a reasonable amount of time and then I  decided to end the meeting (with myself) and figure out something better to do with my hour.

YES – At first my feelings were a little hurt, but honestly that only lasted about 30 seconds.

I quickly remembered that people are running their own businesses. People are VERY busy and important things come up. This is not at all about me. (What?!?) This is not about what I’m offering and that people don’t want to participate. This has to do with a lot of things that are out of my control!

Then I also remembered that because there is no charge for this event, people are way more likely to skip something when they know they’ve not invested money to be there. Think about how many times a day you consider skipping something because you’re in the middle of something else and don’t feel like stopping what you’re doing. The first question I ask myself in this case is  – Did I spend money to be there. Usually if that’s a yes, I’ll stop what I’m doing and attend that thing. If it’s a free event, I’m way more likely to skip…

Please note: I’m not saying, by any means saying that I’m going to start charging for the Virtual Coffee Chats.  I wanted to bring up this point in case anyone is holding free events in their sewing studio. It’s never really worked well for me (I assume because people are having similar inner dialogue – see above) and I find charging even $5 or $10 for something will ensure more people showing up.

Overall, I think the best thing you can do after you find yourself in this spot is quickly pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on! Try to take what you’ve learned from the experience to make the next event or class better and filled with people.


Sewing as a Daily Spiritual Practice

Disclaimer: I promise to not get all woo woo and/or religious on you! I think people see the word spiritual and think for sure I’m gonna start talking about god, but I promise not do that in this post!  But I do want to talk a little about sewing as a daily practice. 

Back when I interviewed the sewing boss Jennifer Serr, the owner of The Sewing Room Alameda,  she mentioned that phrase “Sewing as a daily spiritual practice” and I’ve seriously thought about it ever since.

We all TEACH sewing, are mostly likely surrounded by sewing in our daily lives all day long,  but does that really mean that we’re finding time in our day to DO sewing?

I know that I often go a couple of days without getting in front of the sewing machine to sew something for myself and that can feel weird.

I started my sewing studio because I immediately fell in love with sewing!  I wanted to do it all day! AND back in those days I was absolutely spending MOST o f my day sewing.

I had a custom bag business that was fairly successful (this was pre-etsy, if you can believe that!). I would get orders from people all over the world where they would choose from one of our bag styles then customize the fabric, lining, pockets, straps, etc. And then once those bags came in, guess who was making them? Yep, yours truly!

After a few years of this, I think was actually pretty worn out from sewing! I did it all day, most days and frankly knew that I’d either have to start outsourcing or head in a different direction. That was when I started teaching sewing!

Anyway – this all being said when I finally got away from sewing all day as my means of income I was able to get back into it and make some things that I wanted to make!

This always took me to a place of joy that seemed to make my day go in a better direction. But like anything that is good for me do daily (like taking vitamins, doing yoga, meditating, taking long walks with my pooch) I can forget how good it makes me feel.

So that being said, I’d like to try to make more of an effort to include some sewing in my day (even if just a few minutes) and see how that goes. 

Here are some tips that I thought might help me make this is a reality and maybe it will help you too: 

  1. Designate a time and place to do your sewing each day.
  2. Make enjoyable – Sewing for other people is not usually fun. This doesn’t count.
  3. Commit!
  4. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day.
  5. Allow other parts of your life to support this new found habit. Maybe start a lunchtime open sew (where you’re not the instructor) where you can sew for fun alongside your students.

Let me know how this goes for you!


Interview with Heather Hutchison Harris @ Handcraft Workshop in Philadelphia, PA

My latest Sewing Boss Interview was with the lovely Heather Hutchison Harris (say that three times fast!) of Handcraft Workshop, an adorable store & sewing studio just outside of Philadelphia, PA.

(Please excuse the fact that you mostly see my dopey face during this entire interview, even when heather is talking!  Ugh – I’m still getting the hang of this video interview thing and I’m honestly not really sure what went wrong here. Despite the glitch – you can still hear all of Heather’s amazing insight into running her business. And maybe if you get sick of looking at me, you can put a post it note over my face 😉

Handcraft Workshop is a traditional fabric store that ALSO has studio space for holding sewing classes. I’m pretty impressed by the people who can make this type of sewing studio business model work! The inventory of fabric and notions you must need to carry in your store is mind boggling to me! The expense of the bolts and bolts of fabric and the machines and the tools and all the little sewing notions you have to sell in there makes my head spin when I think about it.

So Heather and I of course talked about all of these challenges, as well as some of the things she does to ensure she’s not working 14 hour days. This is no small feet when you need to have you’re store open regular business hours, but you also teach most nights and weekends.

In the interview we both expressed how grateful we are we teach sewing and not something like Math!  Can you relate that most of the kids we teach in our sewing classes are there because they want to be and that’s REALLY nice.

Anyway – Let’s get to it!  Here’s the video interview:

Did you like this interview? We have more Sewing Boss Interviews here!

Interview with Jennifer Serr @ The Sewing Room Alameda in Alameda CA

What a blast it was to talk with Jennifer Serr who is the owner of The Sewing Room Alameda in Alameda CA (outside of San Francisco). She’s a mover and shaker teaching people to sew and design fashion for themselves, as well as their dolls!

I found out that she loves vintage fashion (just check her instragram feed) and in her former life designed & drafted garments for the Gap. I also absolutely loved that she works hard to have a daily spiritual sewing practice! Her commitment to her sewing blog helps with this accountability. During the interview, she even committed to finishing up a challenging Chanel jacket she’s been working on for five years.

We commiserated about how people think because you teach children they assume you don’t also teach adults. And also about how (surprise, surprise) the two ways of teaching are VERY similar – HA!

My questions always start with asking about what tactics work the best to market your business.  I don’t know about you but that always the thing I need help with!

She confirmed what most of us know to be true! Word of mouth is usually the number one way word is getting out about your classes.  I guess this is good news because it means when people are talking  with others about what you do and you’re then booking more classes because of it, you must be doing something right!

Jennifer just launched a course called Sewing Camp Power that is being sold over at Pixie Faire.  Sewing Camp Power is a full 8-part video based course with a private Facebook group where Jennifer will personally coach you on your program.

This course will teach you how to start your own sewing camp program in your home town. Jennifer has grown her sewing camp business into a very successful venture over the last 8 years. Jennifer also has a line of sewing patterns being sold at Pixie Faire called Bonjour Teaspoon. 

Let’s get to it! My interview with the beautiful Jennifer Serr.

Did you like this interview? We have more Sewing Boss Interviews here!

Top 11 Guerrilla Marketing Tactics for Promoting your Local Sewing Business

In our latest Hipstitch Academy Virtual Coffee Chat with other sewing business owners and instructors we chatted about the things we do to promote our sewing classes that fall into the non-computer related category.

We had an awesome discussion about all the creative ideas we sewing business owners use to get the word out about our sewing classes that don’t involve search engines, emails and/or social media.

Here are 11 of my favorite sure fire ways to promote your sewing classes that don’t involve social media, search engines, word of mouth, or emails:

  1. Teaching sewing classes that are free and open to the public at places like library in your town.
  2. Local events in your town and street fairs locally.
  3. Distributing biz cards and flyers at local events & networking opportunities where your business is.
  4. Setting up fashion show events for the students at your sewing studio to showcase their projects.
  5. Setting up tables, sewing machines & chairs outside of your studio (on the street, at street fairs, in park, in your backyard, etc.) and just sewing to get people interested in what you do.
  6. Giant banners and signs outside of your studio.
  7. Open houses are your studio to give people free classes and hopefully get them interested in sewing.
  8. Partnering up with similar businesses to create some kind of loyalty card system that works in all your businesses to get discounts and special deals.
  9. Reaching out and distributing flyers in schools locally (if this is allowed).
  10. Sponsoring charity events and giving away gift certificates for fundraisers in your area.
  11. Selling and giving away merchandise at your studio that has your logo on it (t-shirts, tote bags, sewing supplies & tools, etc.)

Like these ideas? Have more to add?
Please don’t hesitate to leave *YOUR* marketing ideas in the comments section below.

You can also check out this one, as well as other Monthly Virtual Coffee Chats here.   

Interview with Laura @ Hartford Stitch in West Hartford CT

Today I had the honor of chatting with sewing business boss Laura Kasowitz to hear all about her adventures running her business Hartford Stitch in West Hartford, CT.

I learned that besides the fact that we both teaching sewing, we have loads in common including both growing up in Upstate NY (like really upstate – north of Albany – upstate) we both love collecting vintage cookbooks & craft/sewing books and our studios are painted the same color!

She chatted with me from her sewing studio on the 2nd floor of an actual house that was turned into small business spaces. From what I could see, it looks pretty adorable!

I loved hearing about how she does things to teach the kids & adult of Connecticut to sew!

Did you like this interview? We have more Sewing Boss Interviews here! http://hipstitch.co/interviews/