Sewing 101 for Teens

Since our new makerspace is finally complete, I’ve been hosting teen programs that introduce them to the different tools we have available. Due to the success of a sewing class at one of our other branches, I decided to offer 4 introductory classes just for teens. How did it go?

Well, overall I’d say they were a success. Two of the classes were full and two of them had precisely zero people show up. Ahh, teen programming. The teens who attended were all very enthusiastic and curious, and many of them wanted to learn how to sew so they could improve their costumes for our upcoming Fandom Faire. That made me so happy.

Here’s what we covered in the class–and there was a lot less actual sewing than you’d think!

Because I intend to do more classes where the teens actually sew a project, I wanted them to have the opportunity to get familiar with our machines first. Some teens who attended had previously sewn with a machine, but the majority of them had no idea what this thing actually did, or how it worked. I mean, this diagram from Regretsy is fairly accurate ….

 

Really, the majority of our time in the class was walking through everything you need to do before you sew anything, which is … a lot. And that’s not even counting washing and pressing your fabric, getting a pattern, pinning everything together …

Caveat: I am not a trained seamstress. I am, however, extremely stubborn and I taught myself how to sew so that I could make Jyn Erso’s outfit from Rogue One. LITTLE DID I KNOW that that vest is a BEAST and so are the pants, and pretty much all of it, really. But if you are stubborn and not afraid of crying over your machine, you will do just fine with sewing. And that’s exactly what I tell my teens.

To start out, we went over the actual names for the parts of the sewing machine. All of the teens were enchanted when I showed them the wee storage cubby with extra goodies inside. Bobbins! Needles! Strange screwdrivers! Next, it was time to wind the bobbin.

I gave myself an hour and a half for this and we barely got to sewing a seam because there were a lot of tangled threads and wacky needle issues. That’s exactly what I wanted the teens to see and experience. Sewing isn’t that there is a magical machine that magically goes and makes clothing, yay! (This was what more than one teen expected of the machine). So, it was really good for them to see all the mess and mistakes and irritating snarls that can crop up when you are sewing.

After Winding the Bobbin (which sounds like a quirky square dance move), we moved on to Threading the Machine. Here is my one tip for anyone who wants to teach a sewing class:

Practice on the machine you will be using in class, and don’t just assume that your machine at home is the same. They are probably not. First of all, the ones at the library are way nicer than my personal machine. But a lot of headaches would have been avoided if I had become as familiar with the machines at work as I am with the one at my house.

After we got the machine all threaded and ready to go, they could attempt sewing. This is where the second big challenge appeared: you need to push a pedal to make the machine go. None of my teens were drivers yet, and the concept of *gently* depressing the pedal simply didn’t register with them. I had one boy slam on that pedal like he was trying to win a NASCAR race with a Singer, and then wonder why everything would get jammed up.

Everyone left having learned something, however, and they are all really excited for our next series of sewing goodness. Have you ever done a sewing program? How did it go?

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