Teaching in Your Shop,
Part IV: Preparing the Kit
by Martha Beth Lewis
originally published in The Needlework Retailer
copyright 2004, Martha Beth Lewis
Previous articles discussed planning, plus selecting the design and the teacher. Let's look at the kit.
Importance of a Good Kit. The importance of a good kit should not be underestimated! Students first judge a class by the contents and quality of the kit. Students form their opinions the moment they see the kit, whether they've threaded their needles or the teacher has said a word. Are they predisposed to like this class? Other classes in your shop? Your shop as a whole?
Know Your Costs. Be sure to allow for costs of kit materials—including a needle and a plastic zipper bag—when contemplating the amount of income you want to generate with the class. (See the previous article for some examples of student fees and the first one for more about finances.)
Obtaining Kit Materials. One way or the other, you want the kit materials to generate sales:
- Using a ready-made kit is an excellent option. Everything is there, perhaps even the needle.
- Probably all you'll have to do is iron the fabric. Ready-made kits can drive up the class price, however, or reduce your proceeds. Calculate carefully.
- Making kits is another option. This is probably the most common choice and is what you'll do if you're using a freebie chart.
- Having students purchase their own materials from a list you or the teacher provides is not really an option. Will the students buy the correct supplies? Will they buy them from you?!
Kit Contents. If you're using a ready-made kit, open each one and make sure everything is there. Iron the fabric.
Consider serging or zigzagging the edges of the project cloth. Unfortunately, some kit fabric cuts are rather meager, and normal handling can result in fraying that dramatically reduces the fabric margin left for finishing.
Make sure the chart is readable. Don't assume it is!
- Don't make skimpy kits. Use full skeins of floss.
- Use double the number of beads the pattern calls for. Put them in a 2x2" plastic zipper bag or other container. The beads shouldn't roll around loose in the project bag. Buttons and charms generally are large enough to swim with the thread and fabric.
- Include a generous cut of fabric. The general rule is to add 6" to each dimension of the design area. Example: The design area is 2"x2", so the project cloth should be 8"x8". Yes, this does seem excessive. A 6"x6" project cloth will suffice for a project this small. A large design area, however, say, 8"x8", needs the full 6" additional fabric (14"x14").
- You may want to add a doodlecloth if there are some unusual stitches (and if it's a pre-made kit with a minimal fabric cut). Perhaps the project cloth is big enough and students can doodle in the margins?
- Check that the chart legible, especially if you are copying from a copy.
- Use a 9x12" plastic zipper bag. If the fabric cut won't fit the bag, distribute the fabric separately so you don't have to put it in the bag at all. Sometimes a gallon bag from the grocery store will work if there isn't too much paper. The kit might amenable to putting threads in a quart-sized grocery store bag, so you can give out the paper and fabric separately.
- If you're putting the entire kit in the bag, put the paper handout on the bottom of the pile. Place the chart on top, then the fabric, and finally the thread.
Assembling the Kit. Allot time and care to kit.
Your time is worth a lot, however! If you "sub-contract" this task to your kids, how reliable are they? Will you have to check their work? If so, it may take less time to make the kits yourself!
No matter how the kit is created, you must prep the fabric. Will you prep the raw edges? Certainly, you'll have to iron the fabric. Hint for removing stubborn folds: Wet the fold thoroughly and place the fabric in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and iron. Take care! It's hot! You may need to repeat the process several times.
Work systematically to insure accuracy. Put items in each kit in the same order so you don't miss anything. To simplify this, make piles of needed materials and always work left-to-right (or vice versa), counting each item as you place it in the bag.
Count the pieces remaining in each pile every three kits so you don't have to paw through the all finished ones to find which is missing the skein of medium pink floss.
- The kits should be neat-looking and packed alike.
- The needle should not be parked in the project cloth! If there's a doodlecloth, put the needle there. Otherwise, put it through a small piece of paper or fabric. Have extra needles on hand during class.
- What about multiple colorways? If you make multiple colorways available, have students select thread colors just before class time. If you make kits in various colorways for students to choose at the beginning of class, inevitably someone will be unhappy because kits in the desired color already have been chosen. Avoid this aggravation. Identical kits are the way to go!
One final consideration: writing the directions.
copyright 2004, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.
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Bio: Martha Beth Lewis has taught at consumer festivals for many years and writes for consumer needlework magazines. She is the author of Handbook for Needlework Teachers: An Experienced Festival Teacher's Advice (See this file for more information.)