The next in our series as Jolene’s Sewing School looks back on the past fifteen years!

Like everyone else, March 12th, 2020, is burned in my brain. One day we were normal, the next day we were not. Remember how it was supposed to be just for two weeks? We had no idea what COVID was going to bring us. 

In those early days, I remember a lot of people kept texting me, wanting to know when I would reopen. But soon it became clear that I had to completely shut down for several months. 

So instead of hosting my students for classes, I started making masks. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids all joined in and we made masks together . Some cut, some sewed, some turned – everyone had a job and we made as many as we could as fast as we could, and ended up making close to 1,000!

I kept waiting for the precaution levels to drop so that we could do in-person classes. Remember how strange that was? Well June 12th came and went and no restrictions changed, so after a discussion with many students and parents, they suggested that maybe I could do classes outside for the summer. We decided to do just one-day camps in the morning for four hours – trying to avoid the summer heat. It turned out to be a good idea, as it was one of those really hot summers!

When September rolled around, everybody encouraged me to keep classes going outside. The plan was to do September and October classes outside before the weather turned. We did it for one week, and then the wildfires came and we had to close fora couple of weeks. What else could possibly happen?? I thought! But we made it all the way until the end of October after that. When the weather got colder, we wore gloves and scarves, lots of coats and boots…I put up tarps in the rain. Everyone was so eager to sew that we all came together and found a way!

On October 31st of 2020, I shut down for the winter and continued to make masks and then re-opened in April of 2021. The weather was pretty good, but we did have a couple of really bad rainstorms. I remember turning around one day and seeing a wall of rain pouring down between two tarps, right onto some little student’s sewing machine! After that, we made sure to put machines far away from the edges, and improved our tarp-rigging system as well!

It was so cold we bought gloves for the kids and cut the fingers off. Luckily it was only an hour. Looking back, I never had one student not show up because of the weather; not one person complained. It didn’t matter how cold it was, we all made it through. 

But for the most part we had good weather! After that first rain storm, we figured out where to put the tables, all the ways we could keep everything from blowing away. 

Sometimes looking back, it seems like three or four years instead of only two. It was long, stressful, and crazy, but at least I could sew. 

In summer of 2021, I hosted camps outside again. Then we continued to hold regular sewing classes outside in September and October until we finally moved indoors in October 2021, when they lifted part of the quarantine restrictions! What a relief. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to sew inside ever since, and certainly dont’ take it for granted! 

As I remember those times, I’m astonished at my incredible students, who were all so flexible and understanding. In a normal situation, would people have done what I asked them to do? But everybody knew we had no choice: it was either sew in the rain or don’t sew at all. And so we all banded together, kept calm and kept sewing! 

What about you – were you part of Jolene’s Sewing School during those years? What are your memories of that time? I’d love to hear!