Sewing instructor Claudia Miller was inspired to pick up her needles and thread again by her kids- and thank goodness for that! Her free Craftsy class Sewing Machine 911 has helped many students finally make friends with their sewing machine. By combining her elementary school teaching background with her love of sewing, she's able to foster a love of creating in all of her students. We wanted to find out more about her history, influences, and experiences, so we chatted with her for for this week’s Maker Monday.
We'd love to know what prompted you to begin sewing.
The very first time I tried sewing was in middle school in a Home Ec class. The class was required and I enjoyed it but it didn't exactly pique my interest in sewing. In high school and college I continued to sew but it was mostly experimental. Most of my projects were attempts at constructing patterns from big name pattern makers. Some were successful and some were not. At that age what I liked most was attempting to make something simply by following the instructions--it seemed so magical.
It wasn't until I became a mom that I realized sewing was more than just following (hard to understand) directions. It was fun and creative and could be so practical! That's when sewing took off for me and I began making things my family needed, things I liked, and things for gifts. You know what? Sewing is still magical.
We're also curious, what the first item you made was.
The very first thing I sewed all by myself was a skunk! It was a stuffed animal that I made in my middle school Home Ec class. It makes me wonder why the middle school teacher had us sewing with faux fur fabric. Can you imagine the mess of fur inside (and out) of the sewing machines! I don't remember it but I'm sure it was horrible.
You've obviously come a long way since then! Can you share with us what inspires you to try new sewing projects?
What inspires me most is being challenged. I like practicing new skills and trying out new techniques. I'm always learning and keeping my eyes open for great tips and tricks. At the shop where I teach sewing lessons I was given the title of "Stitchery Whiz". I think that says it all.
You recently made a Justin Bieber pillow for your niece. You're probably the coolest aunt ever! What other types of pillows have you created?
Aw, it was fun to make but more fun to give to her! It seems that pillows have become my go-to project for gifts. They are fun to design and quick to complete. Most of the pillows I've created involve quilting techniques. It's a great way to quilt on a small scale! If you don't have much time for sewing or you are too impatient to wait days before completing a sewing project, pillows are perfect! You can see a few of them on my Craftsy projects page. I've also made pillows with pockets to hold special treasures. You can find instructions for creating fun pillows with pockets on my Craftsy Workshop: "Pocket Full of Fun".
We couldn't help but notice your lovely Hermione, Princess Leia, and Obi-Wan halloween costumes. Do you have any favorite costumes you've made?
The Star Wars characters were fun costumes to make for my kids but my all-time favorites are the WorldGirl and Captain Huggy Face costumes I made a few years back. The girls loved the PBS show so much which made it the perfect theme for Halloween. They were each WorldGirl and my son, who had just turned 2, was the perfect size for being Captain Huggy Face. Besides enjoying the process of making these costumes, what I enjoyed most was that my children were over the moon about being transformed into their favorite characters. Well, Captain Huggy Face didn't really have a clue but I sure thought he was cute!
We'd also love to know when you're using your sewing machine, what is the most common problem you run into?
Honestly, it's kind of silly but I have two problems. They are common problems that sometimes go together and I should know better. I get thread nests at the beginning of my seams and my machine jams up with the beginning threads. I guess I'm too overzealous when I get started. TIP: The best solution to this problem is to hold the beginning threads before you begin sewing or simply begin sewing just under the top edge of the fabric. If you begin sewing about 1/8"-1/4" inch below the top edge, then backstitch to the top to make sure you get a full seam from top to bottom.
We're also curious what you enjoy about teaching.
I love seeing the smiling faces and hearing words of excitement when I teach my students something new. There's nothing better than sharing what you know with others so that they can do it themselves! It's freedom!
And as an instructor, what drew you to the Craftsy platform?
I like everything about the Craftsy platform because it's the next best thing to being in a live classroom! With Craftsy, students have the benefits of being in a live classroom but don't have to worry about a schedule or traveling. The courses are available whenever you have time to watch and wherever you have access to the Internet. It's all about convenience. I also like the Craftsy "Projects" community because you can interact with fellow students by sharing your projects, posting comments, and asking questions.
And finally, do you have any tips for aspiring sewists?
Get to know your machine, for starters. (We just have to interject here, Claudia's free online sewing class is a great way to do just that.) Once you understand how your sewing machine works and how to correct simple issues, then you can move on to making amazing things! Take on projects that are at your skill level but maybe challenge you in one area so that you can always find sewing exciting, e.g. using basting stitches, trying out a French seam, learning a new quilting block, installing a zipper. Sewing is fun and you should enjoy it!
Subscribe to our blog, as our Maker Monday series continues next week! And in case you missed it last week, learn more about sewist Christine Haynes' history and passions.