For the last few weeks, I've been working on a secret project: I've been creating my first online sewing course! It's a free course for absolute beginners which teaches you how to use a sewing machine. There are three projects: some simple sewing exercises, a set of napkins, and a tote bag! The course is finally finished and it went up on the website on the weekend. I'm so, so happy with it - and I hope that it will prove useful for many budding sewists in the months and years to come!
I've enjoyed putting this course together so much that I'm planning to do more courses in the future! The next one is going to be an introduction to dressmaking: it will teach the basics of using a sewing pattern by making a pair of pyjama bottoms. I've already started to work on it and it should be up on the website in early April!
And, if these courses prove popular, there will be more after that. I'm pretty excited about it all!
How this came about is a bit of an interesting story... I did not set out to create an online course. Instead, it all started one sunny afternoon in December when I was sitting in my sewing studio and the thought popped into my head, 'This would be such a nice space to teach some one-on-one sewing classes.' I immediately dismissed the thought: I've got enough on my plate as it is! However, it kept gnawing away at me: I used to do a lot of teaching in my former job and I really missed it. Wouldn't it be nice to teach the occasional class? I gave into temptation over Christmas and started designing a series of classes, which I planned to just pop on the website, hoping it would maybe result in the occasional booking.
While I was designing the classes, I thought it might be nice to design a series of kits for use in the classes which I could sell on the website. These would be available to both my in-class students and the general public. However, I quickly ran into a roadblock. All the kits except one were dressmaking kits, with a sewing pattern and a choice of different fabrics. The one exception was a tote bag kit, which was connected with my first 'Level 1: Learn to Sew' class. I don't sell a pattern for making a tote bag, so non-students buying this kit wouldn't have any instructions for making the bag. So, I decided to look online for a video which I could recommend. However, the video I ended up picking assumed that viewers already knew how to use a sewing machine. Since the tote bag kit was aimed at beginners, I thought it might be helpful to put together a separate page on my website which featured the tote bag video along with a video or two which showed how to use a sewing machine.
And this is where the madness started.
I should preface what happened next by saying that (a) I used to do a lot of teaching in my previous job (including a lot of technical teaching), and (b) the part I loved the most about teaching was planning the teaching. I loved planning teaching so much that I could have probably even classed it as a hobby. I used to even take books on teaching practice on holiday! (I can remember a wonderful plane ride to Canada one year when I excitedly read through Understanding by Design and Collaborative Learning Techniques - both of which I thoroughly recommend!)
So, when I found myself in January putting together a page of advice on sewing for absolute beginners, I was totally in my element. It was so much fun! And the page kept growing and growing. At first, it was just the tote bag video and two videos showing how to use a sewing machine. However, one of the videos also included instructions for making a napkin - and that seemed like a great project to start with. So, I added a napkin to the kit. And then I realised there were important topics not covered in the videos - and so I found more videos and blog posts to recommend that covered these topics. It then occurred to me that it might be nice to provide written instructions for doing the napkins and tote bag (who likes to be constantly pausing and rewinding videos?) - and maybe I should also provide some sewing exercises to start with? And so the page grew and grew (eventually being split into four separate pages). I just couldn't help myself!
Well, by mid-February, I had to acknowledge that what I'd created was actually a course - and that I'd had so much fun doing it that I should maybe do the same for the other in-person courses I'd planned (and, by then, I'd actually ditched the idea of doing in-person classes, as I realised I wouldn't have enough time!).
So, that's how this all came about! I hope the course will prove useful to budding sewists. There's so much free content available on the internet now which shows you how to sew. So, the temptation is to just binge-watch YouTube videos, rather than pay to take a course. However, while it's fabulous to have so much information available at your fingertips, I can imagine that it must also be somewhat frustrating, as, when you're just getting started, you don't know what you should be learning (and so you may miss crucial pieces of information), and whether the videos you're watching and blog posts you're reading are providing good-quality information. So, I hope that my course - which makes use of the best of what's available online - will prove useful and serve to highlight some of excellent sewing content creators who are active today (there are a lot of them!). :-)
Right now, I'm planning to do the introduction to dressmaking course, and then I'll see how things have gone with these first two courses before I decide whether I'll continue making more. If I do, as the courses get more advanced, I'll probably start producing my own videos: while there's a huge amount of content on YouTube aimed at beginners, things start to get a little sparse once you move into more advanced techniques.
I'm definitely hoping that they'll prove popular, as I'd love to make more! If you know anyone who would like to learn how to sew, please do let them know about the course! You can see the course here.
The kits for this course - there are five to choose from. The kits also provide access to a private beginners' Facebook group, where I'm on hand to provide extra advice and answer any questions!
Now, I realise that most of the subscribers to this blog will probably already be experienced sewers. So, this first course likely won't be of much interest to you. However, if you're still pretty new to sewing, there may be some parts of the course that you might want to have a look at, including:
- how and why to adjust the tension on your sewing machine
- which size of sewing machine needle and stitch length you should use for different fabrics
- how to choose matching thread colours (there's a few principles that you should know!) [this piece of advice is located in 'thread' section of the materials list]
- how to use a sewing gauge to measure and press hems
- how to use a seam ripper
- what is fabric grain and why it is important
- how to stitch straighter by using masking tape or washi tape as a sewing guide on your needle plate
- how to know where to pivot on a corner
- how to mitre corners (useful for making napkins, tablecloths, etc.)
Some of the step-by-step photos from the course