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On Saturday, February 16th we embarked on another Educators’ Workshop adventure, hosted at the Makerspace at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa. This workshop’s goal was to introduce basic sewing skills, as well as the concepts of textile assembly (always trickier than they look!)

With 14 enthusiastic people in attendance (of varying ages and relationships to the invited Makerspace educators, including both accompanying students and children), everyone came away with at least two functional fabric bags and lots of ideas for how to apply their new sewing skills to their future — with a lot of fun learning along the way.

DSC_0034Some of the attendees had never been in front of a sewing machine before while some had been sewing all their lives. From the beginning of the workshop, an easy rhythm formed between the veterans and the beginners, and everyone progressed at a good pace. Sewing is a practiced skill, and it was good to have such breadth of aptitude to demonstrate that, sometimes, you just have to rip the stitch out and do it again, no matter how experienced the seamstress or seamster.

DSC_0043With Maggie Swarner and Margaret Bradylong leading the way, the group started out by learning how to sew a very simple reusable bag out of an old t-shirt. Maggie and Margie described how they had classroom-tested this project with their students prior to the workshop with each student learning how to complete a step and then teaching the next student in line how to do it in a perpetual learning loop. Everyone dug right into making the t-shirt bag, with varying degrees of straight stitches. We even managed to use the cut-off t-shirt sleeves and turn them into mini drawstring bags.
With everyone’s feet wet, the next project was a drawstring backpack that involved both sewing and grommets. This project proved more challenging, as everyone learned a lot about measuring, cutting fabric with rotary cutters, ironing, basting, and lining up seams.
Maggie and Margie were wonderful at explaining the best practices for measuring fabric, cutting fabric, how to calculate seam allowances and pinning. After successfully whizzing through the t-shirt bag, the group down slowed down with this second project. Both the cuts and assembly had to be much more precise. Nevertheless, the final drawstring backpacks were both fancy and functional, with a number of geometrical patterns and unique flourishes.
The third and most complicated project for the workshop was a messenger bag. Originally a pattern from Instructables, Maggie, Margie, and Maggie’s husband, Robert (with in-depth experience in sewing and upholstery) did a great job of taking a pattern and adjusting it into a more functional, straightforward, and sensible pattern, which we will share in the project guide we’re developing. Robert spent a bit of time elaborating on the finer points of planning out the messenger bag project, explaining what factors to consider and what areas to adjust, as well as including some useful hints on how to tackle such a project. Robert showed the group how to create register notches in the seam allowances of each piece of the pattern, how to ensure that pieces were sewn together in proper alignment, how to properly sew a curve on the sewing machine.
As with past Educator Workshops, the projects were a bit ambitious for the allotted time, but overall, it was a super Saturday spent sewing — with new learnings, renewed confidence around textile assembly, lots of great conversation, and new skills in their freshly sewn bags.
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