Teaching in Your Shop,
Part V: Preparing the Written Directions

by Martha Beth Lewis

originally published in The Needlework Retailer
copyright 2004, Martha Beth Lewis

Now we're down to the last step in preparing for an in-shop class: the written directions. These are for guidance during class, as well as for stitching at home.

Will you need them? There's a 90% chance you will.

What Written Directions Are Not. A chart. Or a chart and a couple stitch diagrams.

What Written Directions Are. The directions are a running commentary about stitching the project, as though the teacher were at home beside the student. Directions are particularly important if there are fancy stitches, areas stitched over one thread, advanced materials, etc.

Good directions create students who will be delighted with the class and will come back to the shop to see what else is planned, have you finish it, show off the completed piece, and/or buy materials for future projects. This is what the class is designed to do: get customers into the shop to buy! You've planned carefully, hired a great teacher, and made excellent kits. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by having poor—or no—directions.

You may not be able to rely on the directions in the leaflet because layout restrictions often mean the designer must sacrifice detail in the instructions. This is why you write extra directions: to amplify or fill in the holes.

Exception: A chart with cross stitches only and no specialty threads or embellishments probably will not need written directions.

On the other hand, don't work harder than you have to by repeating information already on the chart.

Student Level and Written Directions. Assume the students know nothing, even though you suspect they do know the basics. Ok, you don't have to include how to do a cross stitch (or perhaps a backstitch), but do all students know that all satin stitches should start "from the same end"? I'll bet they don't!

Content of the Directions. The directions should be clearly written and generously illustrated so students can finish the project successfully. Remember, your class is a marketing tool, and you want that tool to work!

Include stitch diagrams, other illustrations (such as location of basting lines), enlarged sections of the chart, and the master chart.

Obviously, if you are using a shop freebie, you'll have some writing to do.

If you're using a retail leaflet, you only may have to expand on some of the points the designer assumes the stitcher knows, such as how to make kloster blocks. Perhaps you'll want to offer a few stitch diagrams or larger versions of them.

Accuracy. Make sure the directions are accurate! It's hard to imagine what could be more embarrassing!

Layout. After content accuracy, readability and clarity are the next most important concerns.

Sometimes commercial layout constraints require sacrifice of fine points such as stitch diagrams and enlarged charts of detailed portions of the design.

Stitch Diagrams. It's likely you will find yourself needing to draw stitch diagrams, either to illustrate a freebie chart or clarify a retail chart.

Investigate EasyGrapher Stitch Wiz (www.easygrapher.com), a program that draws stitch diagrams to rival those in magazines. There's even a needle! (Secret: Some magazines use this software!)

Unless you want to spend most of class mastering stitches, you'll want to zip through stitch-teaching as quickly as possible. You want students to leave class with as much stitching done on the project as possible! Happy stitchers = loyal customers who are frequent buyers.

Enlarged Detail Charts. Your students may have greater success with the project if highly-detailed areas of the design are enlarged. Ask the designer for permission to do this.

Extras. Perhaps you'll want to include a few finishing suggestions, though you needn't offer actual directions. (Would finishing this project make a good follow-up class?)

Writing the Directions. If you are stitching the model, make notes as you do the piece. Use these as the basis for the written directions.

Now it's time to "publish" your handout. These five tips will make your handout look professional:

Testing the Directions. You may wish to have a staff member or friend stitch the piece from your written directions to insure that everything is clear and complete! Are all the stitch diagrams there? Is everything written in the sequence the stitcher will follow? Leave nothing to chance! Better to have too much detail than too little. Students who don't need directions in such depth can skip over what they don't need, but those who do need extra help will bless you that they didn't have to raise their hands to get answers to what they are sure are basic questions "everyone else knows."

Let's tie up a couple of loose ends.

Evaluation. Your students will let you know how well they liked the class. Did you see smiles or disgruntled expressions during class? Perhaps you'd like to ask students what designers or types of projects they'd like to see in future classes.

Did students mention the class and/or the project when they were next in the shop? Did other customers say they heard about the class or saw the class piece?

If you like, circulate something among the students before class is out, asking them what sorts of designs or designers would interest them for further classes.

Follow-Up. A subsequent class on finishing the project has been mentioned. There are other things you can do to extend the impact of your class.

Why not have a couple of stitch nights specifically slanted toward this class design? You'll be there to help with stumbling blocks, and general customers who are in the shop can observe how you go to extra effort to help your customers ("This must be a wonderful shop! What great service!"), as well as how much fun these stitchers are having and will be interested in taking a class the next time one is offered!

If you've used a freebie chart, how about a class by the same designer, using one of her retail charts?

As soon as you set the date for your next class, contact the students and ask for a sentence describing the previous class ("I'm so glad I took this class!" or "This was so much fun!" or "I loved it!"). Personal recommendation is the best kind of advertising there is!

Note: Ask permission to use these customers' comments in future advertising. Don't let them discover their words when they see the advertising flyer. I promise you they'll all say yes because they'll want to see their words and name in print!

Good in-shop classes result in more foot traffic, which increases the chances of improved sales.

Happy stitching and successful selling!

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.) 4