Heather and I are still bartering: massages for sewing lessons. I am the best paid sewing teacher in the world, no doubt about it.
I taught college and university students for 40 years, and health care front-line supervisors for about five years. This is hands down the best teaching experience I have had. It's not because after all that time I perfected my skills, either. It's because the student wants to learn. Heather takes ideas and runs with them. She sees things in the studio unrelated to the lessons of the day and goes home and figures out how to do them on her own.
Heather wanted to combine the characteristics of two different baby slings, and together we figured it out. The cool retro fabric of the sling is from a recycled curtain. We finished this in one session.
The patchwork bag was completely her own creation. There are quilts in various stages scattered around the studio and Heather has quilters in her lineage. But we have not done any piecing or quilting together. You can imagine how excited I was to see this!
Next she pieced the quilt top on her own (still no quilting lessons). She brought the top to the studio and we discussed batting and I described the binding process and offered to show her how to do it. No need, she went home and finished it by herself. Here's what she said about it on Facebook:
"MY FIRST QUILT IS FINISHED! Henceforth, it shall be known as THE finest quilt in all the land."
Raven's tote bag was made from upholstery fabric with a rubbery lining specifically because it would not need to be lined. I was going for speed with that first project for Raven. So Heather figured all of that out on her own too.
My second-favorite teaching experience is totally different yet exactly the same. The setting: a nursing home in a fairly tough neighborhood in Baltimore, Md. in the early 1980's. Back in the day, nursing assistants did not have to have any training or certification. It was a job that a hard working woman with no educational background could do. The best of them got promoted to being a shift supervisor, and it was my job to teach them the basics of supervision and management. I was a 30-something woman with a graduate degree and no actual experience of management or supervision. Gloria was a 50-something tank of a woman with 30 years of experience in nursing homes. I arrived for Day 2 of our course and as I stepped out of my car there was Gloria steamrolling her way down the parking lot towards me with a gleam in her eye. I was terrified of her. When she said "I want to talk to you about what you said last week" I almost peed my panties. I figured she had seen right through me and my total lack of experience.
But no. She wanted me to know that she tried a technique I recommended (praise employees in public, offer criticism in private) and was astonished at how well it was working. She had experienced the "light bulb" moment and was seeing her role towards her employees in a new way. She was transformed as a supervisor. This is one of my favorite memories out of my entire lifetime. And again, it wasn't my skill or remarkable knowledge, because I had neither. It really wasn't about me at all. I had basic information that she needed, and she knew she needed it. Anybody could have given it to her.
Believe me, although I taught some excellent college and university students in 40 years, none of them could hold a candle to Gloria as a student. Or to Heather.
|Finished skirt modeled over her clothes|
She made a skirt with elastic in the waist, very cute. I love her choice of fabrics.
|also makes a funny hat|
And she made more bears.
A lot more bears. They were destined for a children's craft fair.
Heather was very wise and knew from the beginning that Raven would need her own sewing machine. Raven made these bears on her Singer 99 hand crank, a straight stitch machine. At home Heather treadles a Singer 237, a cast iron beast of a zig-zagger. In my studio she sews on a 237 hand crank.
The 237 always surprises me when I pick it up because although it is styled like the other machines named "Fashion Mate", it weighs much, much more. The others have significant amounts of plastic, are lighter, and should be considered disposable (they may be working well now, but don't hold your breath). The 237 is one of the all-metal treasures. It is one of the few all-metal zig-zaggers that can be easily converted to people-power, takes easily available needles and bobbins, and the one that around here is most often spotted in the wild.
I've paid $10 to $20 for my 237's. This price/value relationship definitively proves that either
a) all of us vintage machine collectors are brilliant economic strategists who will be able to retire to a private island once the world wakes up to the relative value of one of these to, say, a modern Bernina, or
b) there IS no relationship between price and value.
photos by Cheryl Warren and Heather James, used with permission.