Classes, kits and how it all comes together!

I have recently shared with some sewing friends about the challenges and work that goes into putting kits together for classes, and some encouraged me to write a post about just that.  Since I’ve been gone so much recently and haven’t had the time to sew much of anything, I thought I’d share the process here.  However, I’m going to start at the beginning of the design process.

The fun part is coming up with an idea for a project or garment.  I really enjoy that and have way more ideas than will ever make it to a class or pattern.  LOL!  I like garments that are “different” – not just the traditional yoke dress with a twist, so thinking through the drafting and sewing of the pattern is the next challenge – which I also enjoy.  After coming up with the first pattern draft, I sew it together to make sure that the process that I came up with will work.  Most of these first drafts are wearable drafts, but need some refinement.  Hahaha!!!  I wish I could say that the first one works out perfectly, but that’s not usually the case.  Often it takes another garment (or 2,3,4) before I have everything right.

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I am so thankful to have a wonderful friend that is a professionally trained pattern drafter/grader.  She has been an invaluable resource when I need to try the final garment on a “real” professional fitting mannequin.  We try it on the mannequin and she can see if there’s anything else that needs tweaking.

Upon completing the garment and getting the fit/proportions just right for one size, the pattern is drafted in additional sizes.  This is a slow process for me and makes me wonder why I don’t just use a traditional yoke pattern, which would be so much easier!

With the grading completed, the writing of instructions is needed.  Oh, what a tedious process that is!  This is NOT a part that I enjoy, but is necessary.  I start with the basic instructions, then will make yet another garment, taking pictures of the process along the way, and will attempt to refine the instructions.  I slave over getting the written instructions just right, trying to describe each step of the process in a way that is easy to understand and inserting pictures where I feel they are needed.  I HATE using Microsoft Word for this as every time I change some of the instructions and go to save the changes, it re-arranges my pictures in a most unfortunate way.  E.V.E.R.Y.  T.I.M.E.!!!  This makes the dreaded task even less enjoyable and so much time is wasted putting those pictures back in place.  Oy!

Graphing the smocking design used to be another dreaded task, however, once I finally understood the software enough to work with it (thank you Claire Meldrum for you tutorials and patience with me!!!), that has become a task that takes a while, but I do enjoy the process now.  It used to make me cry!  LOL!

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Every time I create a smocking design and get it graphed, I feel so accomplished!  Hahaha!!!  Don’t you love it when little things can make you happy!

The next part of the class process is figuring out what will be included in the kit and what the student will need to add to that in order to complete the garment.  Lists with requirements are made and you cross your fingers that you haven’t forgotten anything!  This takes some serious thinking!!!  Everything included in the kit needs to be enough for the largest size offered.  Costs for everything need to be figured out to come up with the cost of the kits.  That part is tricky for me as well.  At this point, the class can be submitted to SAGA for approval.

Then there are decisions to be made about what to do to make the class run more smoothly, eliminating the possibility for cutting errors, or just doing some of the work so that more class time will be for sewing and not cutting out.

For fabrics that will shrink, washing, drying and pressing is next.  Thank you to my hubby who bought me an iron press to make this job easier!!!  (picture from Amazon)

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Supplies have to be on hand or ordered – everything from the fabrics, notions, etc. to the plastic bags for the smaller things (buttons) as well as a larger plastic bag for the entire project to go into.  Instructions and patterns need to be printed.  Once you “think” you have everything needed, the kit-making process begins…….

For the kit shown below, bias bands were cut for the neck, underarm, angel sleeve contrast, ruffle strips were torn, elastic lengths cut, rick rack – one package and an additional cut length added, smocking needle and embroidery needle inserted into a piece of felt, practice piece pleated as well as garment piece pleated.  After everything is cut and/or pleated and folded, it is brought to the “assembly room” (aka: guest room).  Everything for the kit gets a spot.

At this point, I decided that I needed to label all those cut pieces, so back to the computer to type up the sheet and print the labels – armhole bias, neckband bias, etc.  Then pin the appropriate label to the cut pieces.

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Then begins the assembly line to pack up everything in the kit.  Of course, this is when you discover that you are missing a few embroidery floss colors (or some other little thing when it is a different kit!).  So, kits are put together and the ones that have everything (you hope!) are placed in one location – a dresser drawer at our house! – and the ones still in need of a couple of items in another location – a different dresser with a note as to what is still needed.

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An attempt is made to fold up everything neatly and in a semi-attractive way (honestly, I cannot make this jumbled mess attractive!) and slip it into the large bag.  Add the printed instructions and you hope that you’re done!!!

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I recently made 25 of these kits (pants not included) and 20 of another kit to prepare for a class.  It took about 60 hours to get everything ready because both kits had a lot of work cutting and/or sewing so that students didn’t have to spend time in class doing that work.  You can imagine how thrilled I am when the kit process is finished for a class!!!  Doing the happy dance!   I like to enjoy the moment, because when it’s time for the next class(es), it will be kit making time again!  LOL!

So, if you get to a class and are missing an item – please understand that its human error!  I try so hard to make sure that each kit is complete, but because I do actually have to stop and cook, sleep, etc., the interruptions can sometimes cause a blip in the process and something gets forgotten.  I wish I could blame it on the “help”, but I’m the “help”.  😛  For this reason I try to take a couple extra kits along for each class.  🙂

If you’ve made it this far without being totally bored, you are to be commended!  I hope that this gives you a bit of insight into the process of creating classes and preparing kits.  I know that all teachers strive to do the best for their students and classes.  We all love to teach and share our knowledge – hopefully helping students master new techniques.

I’ll continue designing/drafting and creating classes, but now you know why I only manage a couple new classes each year!  I love it and can’t wait to come up with the next one.

 

 

15 thoughts on “Classes, kits and how it all comes together!

  1. Stephanie Steppe

    Kathy,
    having taken one of your classes a few years ago, I am truly amazed – and thrilled – at your detail, patience, and love that goes into those kits. Your class was superb and the kit was perfect! My granddaughter wore the dress and white pinafore (with waves of red/white gingham piping) for almost a full year, she loved it so much. It was a great design!
    Stephanie

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thank you Stephanie – I’m so glad that your granddaughter enjoyed the pinafore so much! It was wonderful to have such a talented seamstress in my class and I do hope that our paths cross again. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Terry Collins

    Kathy,

    As one of the students in the aforementioned classes, I’d like to thank you for your efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed both classes and wish I could have stayed for the last day. I loved learning different techniques for accomplishing difficult tasks. How had I never heard of using washable glue for bias binding?

    Terry Jane Collins

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I so enjoyed meeting you Terry! I don’t know why I hadn’t put it together that you were “Terry Jane”! What a delight to meet such a talented designer!

      Reply
  3. Bunny

    I hope all who read understand that you pleated each garment piece that needed it before you went to class, 25 for one class, 20 for the other. Your lucky students just have to learn and listen and practice what you teach, no time wasted on the “other” stuff. There is an amazing amount of prep work that goes into your classes and I am sure every student appreciates your efforts so much., Kathy. Great work you should be very proud of!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thank you Bunny. All teachers do this kind of work – it’s boring, but needed. I love teaching class and want all the students to have the best possible experience and learn some new tricks to add to their repertoire. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Rettabug

    Bless you, Kathy, for being such a conscientious teacher! I so wish I could take one of your classes.
    I had NO IDEA what all went into creating the kits…never gave it a thought, but I surely will from now on.

    We have a local quilt shop that skimps on the fabric in her quilt kits something awful. The last one I bought was 3/8″ short but in a quilt fabric, that turns into a drastic amt. I refuse to ever buy from her store ever again, as when I went back to show her, she refused to try to make it right. Lost my business forever!
    I know that this wasn’t a one time error either, because lots of other quilters have complained about the same thing.
    I appreciate that you include enough fabric for the largest sizes in yours!!!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Until I had to start making the kits, I had no idea either Rett.

      What a shame that your quilt shop isn’t willing to correct an error. That seems to be very short sighted of them.

      Reply
  5. Patsy

    Kathy, I so enjoy your beautiful work and appreciate your willingness share it with those of us who are a little further behind on the learning curve!!

    AND, I totally understand your frustration with the learning curve that computer software presents us. Maybe I can help you 🙂 When using MS Word, do you change the “text wrapping” of your images to “square”? (The default is “In line with text” and has its advantages.) Changing the text wrapping to square let’s you move the images to any location in the document. Once you position the image to the desired location, try this: Right-click on the image, select “text wrapping” and then select “more layout options” this opens the Advanced Layout dialog box. Click on the tab (top left of the box) that says “Picture Position”. At the bottom in the Options section, check the “Lock anchor” box and click OK. FYI – every image is independent, so this would have to be done for every image. And you have to unlock the anchor it you want to move the image to a new location 🙂

    Give it a try!! I hope it helps 🙂 Patsy Chalker

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thanks for your tip Patsy!!! I’ve done both the text wrapping as well as the “square” for the imagine, however, I didn’t know about the “lock anchor” box. I’ll be checking that out as I work on my next set of instructions. I appreciate that you took the time to write and explain that!!!

      Reply
  6. Sandy Friedlander

    Kathy:, first, thank you for sharing your skills. I am enamored with this outfit. Is there any possibility of buying a kit for the turquoise version? I bought the digital copy of AS&E #80, with the belief that stretching my limited pattern drafting skills would be a worthwhile task. Now I am hoping for an easier (for me) solution!

    Hope you will consider offering your patterns for sale on day….

    Reply
      1. Sandy Friedlander

        Thanks for your prompt reply, Kathy. I will apply myself to the Temily pattern from AS&E! Thanks for your blog, which has helped me brush up my smocking skills for my granddaughter.

        Reply

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