Over the weekend I taught my very first live and local sewing class. The students were fun and talented, the classroom at G-Street Fabrics in Falls Church, VA was fantastic, and the whole day exceded my expectations. I can’t wait for another!
My idea to teach a local class started brewing in the weeks following Alt Summit when, through some introspection, I realized that I really really love to teach and didn’t have many opportunities. All of my nursing experience was in Diabetes Education, which was teaching group and individual classes. But since Eliot was born and stopped working as a nurse, I really had missed that teaching environment. I called G-Street and proposed the idea of teaching a class how to make my Big Bow Dress and they agreed to let me rent a classroom for the event. Then I set to work planning the details.
I wanted the class to feel more like an event than a basic class, so I gathered some goods from a couple willing local shops to stuff into a swag bag for each student. Everybody loves swag, right?
I contacted Michele Hatty Fritz of Meant To Be Calligraphy to create the hand-lettered phrase for the front of the totes. She is an incredibly talented calligrapher offering all sorts of hand-lettering services and even teaches local calligraphy classes here in Northern Virginia (you may see me in one soon…) She did a simply breathtaking job on the lettering, and after I screen printed it onto the totes, each one looked like Michele had taken her pen directly to it.
I asked Michele to letter the phrase “Create with Confidence,” which is my new motto. The more years I spend living, crafting, sewing, cooking, creating…, the more I realize how much attitude affects the outcome and my enjoyment of the experience. When I approach a project with a purposeful excitement, it usually turns out great–if different than expected. I wanted to share with my students that they have the ability to create wonderful things, they just have to go for it!
My good friend Melanie Ouellette Karlins from Grey Moggie Press in DC donated sets of her hilarious and current letterpress gift tags. Phrases like “a token of how much I want you to like me” and “you tweeted a link to this so I figured it would be a good gift” set her gift tags apart from the usual “to: from:” variety. Melanie has such a fun take on life, and all of her cards reflect that. (This one and this one are my current favorites.) Melanie also teaches letterpress workshops at Pyramid Atlantic, where I letterpress print.
These darling wooden spools and kraft paper heart stickers came from Natalie Stern of the party boutique Katarina’s Paperie. I love Natalie’s wide selection of affordable party and craft supplies, and she even offers a bunch of free printables. When I went to meet Natalie, I realized she lives just blocks from me! It was so fun to meet and connect with her. Along with offering goodies for the class, Natalie is also offering all of my readers 15% off of any purchase at Katarina’s Paperie with the code: JOY13. So, get on that!
Since we’re all dreaming of spring here in DC (it snowed on Monday…) I thought some fabric from local artist and fabric designer Laura Gunn‘s line COSMOS would be a great fit. Laura actually paints all of her designs, so the florals have an organic, vibrant, natural feel that doesn’t come through in digital design. I also love the colors her collections include. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of her newest line, EDGES. I’m lucky to be friends with Laura, and I am consistently amazed by her talent.
Everyone was pretty excited about their gifts, and all ready to get shopping and sewing. I discussed a little about fabric types and choices for this project, then we went shopping on the G-Street floor. When everyone had found something they loved, we gathered back in the classroom to assemble the patterns, and cut. I loved seeing what fabric everyone had in mind for their dresses. I had never thought to use a big floral, thinking it might overtake the design, but Susan‘s bright print might have been my favorite choice!
After cutting, we then had sewing, ironing, sewing, ironing, sewing and some more ironing. This dress (and indeed all woven clothing) is pretty iron-intensive. Luckily, the classroom was well-equipped, and everyone had everything they needed. Katie came early and helped me set up, and we were both so impressed with the facility.
I had everyone bring their own machines, since I wanted them to be able to take home any machine-specific instructions or tips that they got, and I think that ended up being a good idea. There’s a bond between a girl and her sewing machine…amiright?
The night before the event, I realized I probably wouldn’t be sewing myself, so I whipped up three Big Bow Dresses, all to varying stages of completion, so I would have examples of the techniques and steps I was teaching. They ended up being great visual aids, and I’m going to hang on to them in case I teach this same class in the future!
I knew I wouldn’t have a second to take photos, so I asked fantastic local photographer Danelle Empey of MP Photography to come spend an hour shooting. I love the overview of the class through her lens, as well as the little details she spotted (you know, those great captures that only professional photographers seem to get?!) It is thrilling to have such great record of this fun event. Danelle did our family photos two years ago, when I was bursting at the seams with Eliot, and she’ll be taking them again this year. I can’t wait!
After a couple hours of class, we were all ready to eat. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I really love food. I really love food. I wanted to provide a delicious lunch without too much mess or fuss. My usual course of questioning when brainstorming these sorts of things is “Well, what would I want to eat?” and that’s what I bought! To-die-for sandwiches on crusty bread from Le Pain Quitodien, mini bags of Terra Chips, plump, purple grapes, and a chocolate bunny. Because a meal isn’t a meal without chocolate.
Oh, and there were Sprinkles cupcakes for dessert, of course.
The students were all wonderful. Everyone had a great time chatting as we sewed. I loved getting some great questions about techniques, being able to share new ideas, and all learning from each other. I also loved the squeals of delight every time the dress looked more and more “…like a dress!!”
I was told that starting and finishing a dress would be a challenge with a full class, so I was interested to see how far we would get through the dress. I had eight students and four hours of sewing (the two before lunch were for shopping and cutting). With everyone’s attention, cooperation, and mutual support, every student finished her dress except for hemming (even sweet Natasha, who made it late, caught all the way up)! Everyone learned new skills, including manual and automatic button holes, creating pleats, grading and clipping curves, understitching, lining without hand stitching, and inserting invisible zippers. I was so proud!
The time flew, and as I stumbled back to my car after a full-day of teaching I was completely drained…and completely, blissfully happy. Meeting and connecting with people in real life was refreshing for my virtual-reality-soaked soul. Plans for another class are in the works.
Thank you to the Sew a Bow local support: