Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

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Day 4 of Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew} is all about being the mentor your sewing student needs.

First, let’s get this out of the way…just because you may not have the skill to show your student what to do, doesn’t mean you cannot be a good mentor. This goes for any skill or knowledge set! So, let’s talk about how to get started and how to mentor and how to find mentors with more expertise than you have.

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

What is a mentor? Webster defines a mentor as a trusted counselor, coach or guide.

What is a facilitator? One that helps to bring about an outcome (as in learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.

Being a good mentor for sewing or any project your student is undertaking means being a mentor and a facilitator. You are a trusted guide but also someone who is aiding in an outcome…in this case learning to sew.

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student NeedsWho can be a sewing mentor?

  • You– I’ll give more specifics on how we as parents can mentor successfully, but this is a viable and successful option using the resources available to you.
  • family members– grandmother or an aunt. Someone in the family who sews a lot and is good at it. R13 spent a week with her grandmother when she was 8 and a gift for using the sewing machine was discovered!
  • older women within the community– who aren’t family members, but love to sew and would love to share their expertise with someone eager to learn. We have one such lovely woman in our lives who continues to be a mentor to R13. At times she has been more hands on, but now is a regular source of encouragement for R and keeps her busy with supplies and ideas. It’s wise to be careful of adults you aren’t familiar with, but don’t discount safe encounters with acquaintances who can teach what they know.
  • Craftsy– I love Craftsy! They have video courses for all skill levels of sewing students for a very reasonable cost. Often their classes are on sale. I’ve never paid full price for a class. The best part is being able to watch at your own pace, ask the instructor questions, and always owning the class. You can watch as many times as you’d like and it never expires.
  • Blog Tutorials– there are a LOT of sewing blogs out there and many bloggers provide lovely, easy to follow tutorials. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing specific ideas on projects and resources for beginners and I’ll have some blogs on the list. R13 learns new skills all the time from tutorials.
  • You Tube– if your student is having trouble with a stitch type or has other questions, chances are you can find an explanation on You Tube. What did we do without it all those years growing up? It’s easy to help your student safely search topics on You Tube and things get less complicated when you can watch someone else show you what to do. And guess what…this gets you off the hook!
  • Local Classes– We have a sewing cooperative in town that offers lessons and we have used them in the past, but I left it behind after a year because it costs too much both in time and resources. The time factor is huge. Between transportation and class time, you’ll have more time to sew if you stay home! Besides, once you start charging a premium price, I’m going to be much more critical of what happens during class. We had to let this one go.
  • Sewing Camp– I put together sewing camp for R13 so she could sew with her friends and all the girls could take advantage of all of the adults present. We have one mom who is an expert and two more who have a working knowledge and experience at the sewing machine. We search out appropriate projects with the girls’ help and we gather one afternoon a month for about 6 hours.

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

What can I do as a sewing mentor if I don’t really sew?

  • Do some learning of your own– read up on the topic especially the sewing machine manual. Watch some tutorials on using a sewing machine and making straight stitches. Try it out yourself. Remember, this isn’t about you becoming an expert (although that is an option if you’ve always wanted to learn!) but it’s about being able to steer your student in the right direction if he runs into trouble. It’s also a safe thing to do since your kids will be using the sewing machine. Ultimately, your student needs to drive the learning. You are the one keeping them on track.
  • Make yourself available– for consultation, questions, refocusing, offering encouragement, and reminding your student of his goals.
  • Help your student to set goals– this keeps the process moving in a forward direction and gives kids accountability. You’ll be encouraging them to reach these goals and reminding them what the goals are when things slow down. You can also adjust goals as time goes on.
  • Collaborate with your student– bring them to the table not only to set goals, but to evaluate them and to see where they are headed next. Remember to respect the student’s preferences (this is probably his big idea) while putting together the pieces of his instruction and guidance. Just like I had to adjust when I realized R13 was all about creating…while I was more about the created thing. How we approach the project is different and it’s important to help your student recognize and capitalize on her approach- not so much yours!
  • Check in on the availability and stock of supplies- You might ask, “Do you need anything from me for ___ project you are working on?” Listen to the answer and decide how proceed. Not only do you need to be sure your student has all the supplies for getting started, you want to make sure he can reach and get the supplies on his own. This is an age appropriate item, but whatever is safe to have ready have available without asking.
  • Provide space– if you have to put away every scrap and take it all out over again every time your student wants to spend time on sewing, you will lose momentum. Just think of how you are with your own hobbies. If you have a moment and it’s all packed away, what are the odds you are pulling it out? Slim to none. I know from experience. Make sure you have a good workspace that encourages creativity!

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

Customizing your sewing/mentoring experience:

As your student gains skill and confidence, the way you mentor will change. You’ll find yourself switching from more process oriented mentoring to growth oriented mentoring. You want to keep your student looking for new challenges to extend growth and learning.

Keep a project journal– this is one I picked up from Project Based Homeschooling. Have your student keep a journal (the student journal has been a standby long before I discovered PBH) and keep one yourself- keeping one myself is new to me other than notes in my planner. It can be a simple spiral notebook, a bound journal, and I even use Evernote where I can easily jot a note after taking a picture of what my students are working on (this goes for any project not just sewing).

R13 keeps a couple journals. One is for her patterns and ideas. Another is for her growing sewing business. She writes down things she’s sold and the price, how much something cost to make vs her profit, etc.

Keep challenging your student- use the notes you’ve made in your project journal to remind students of their goals and to ask questions about what is next and what else can you try? You want your student to stay on the leading edge and to keep pressing the envelope so she can go deeper and get more skills. Once your student gets better at sewing, my guess is you’ll find them pressing the edge themselves but you can be at the ready with reminders and questions.

Encourage your student to grow through community- sewing camp is a way to tap into community, but if you want your student to grow find a way for her to share her ideas with others. R13 has been reaching out to the community for a long time.

When she was 8 she offered mouse puppets and cookie bean bags along with the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at a mom event. She sold out and had orders to fill by the end.

At 10 she offered colored pencil rolls and needle books at a local craft fair. Once again, she sold out.

Now she takes orders for items and if friends find something on Pinterest they think she can make, they ask and we work it out. In the last six months she’s made a car seat organizer, table runners, and crocheted owl mini purses. The owl purses are her biggest seller and she gets more orders every time she makes a delivery! She also made the flowers pictured below for an upcoming wedding.

Last month she was asked to leave a stack of business cards with our hair salon and was asked to bring things to sell. So tomorrow she’s prepared with about a half dozen items, most of her own design to leave in their boutique.

Perhaps your student will not ever make it to this point, but it’s worth knowing it’s out there and what the possibilities are. For R13 she knew early on sewing is her thing. It’s really the only things she’s tried that she’s wanted to do for more than one session. So, we started pouring in and this is the result. A girl with a mission.

Aside from business opportunities, R13 is the seamstress of choice for our VBS puppet show. Every theme calls for new costuming for the puppets and she cannot wait to see what she can come up with for the characters each year. Right now our school room is the staging area for her costuming ideas.

Blog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student NeedsBlog She Wrote: Being the Mentor Your Sewing Student Needs

Being a mentor means providing the time, the space, the materials as well as the banter and idea sharing that come from being available when your student is working.

Keeping costs down means doing as much as we can at home to pour into this interest. Besides the price in time and resources, being creative about finding expertise allows us to dabble without a lot of commitment and we can customize the experience. It’s probably the homeschooler in me, but I like being able to chart our own course our own way and pulling experts in as we need them.

I hope I’ve shared some ideas today that will help you in mentoring your own kids in sewing even if you have little to no experience yourself. If you have more questions or ideas, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Please join the iHomeschool Network on a Hopscotch June 10-14, 2013 for some great topics from other homeschool bloggers!

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