Tag Archives: sewing

Passion, Joy & Purpose: My Journey Of Becoming A Sewing Teacher

Believe it or not, I haven’t always been a sewing teacher. In fact, for most of my adult life I was doing something entirely different. But look at me now – it’s been almost 10 years and I’m still going strong!

10 whole years of teaching the art of sewing to children and adults… I still can’t believe it! If you would have asked me when I first started my sewing business if I would still be in business in 10 years, I would have said, “Probably not.” I hoped I would be – but I started this job during a recession, and a lot of people were out of work. I was hopeful, but I was also realistic.

I didn’t always aspire to be a sewing teacher, either…

In May 2009 I lost my job of almost 15 years. I had been working at a bookstore – one of the best  jobs I ever had. Part of the reason I loved it so much was I wasn’t an avid reader growing up… until my 5th grade teacher changed me forever. (She was also our nextdoor neighbor, which helped).

My teacher knew I didn’t like to read, so she told my mom she’d do what she could do to help me love reading. She hand-picked a book for me to start with – it was Where The Red Fern Grows. I remember starting to read it and instantly loving it. I loved it so much I hid behind the couch to keep everyone from bothering me until I finished it.

My 5th grade teacher changed me for sure –  and as I worked at the bookstore my love for reading (and my passion for helping others learn to love it too) grew. I thought of my 5th grade teacher often when I worked at the bookstore, and know she would be pleased with how much I’ve grown.

For all who are wondering: here’s a picture of me in 5th grade!

I believe there is a time and a season for everything – and after 15 years my season was over at the bookstore. What would come next? I wasn’t sure.

Times were hard. We were in the middle of a recession and jobs were hard to come by. After about a week of fruitless job searching, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

Alina, a dear friend and former coworker of mine, suggested I start teaching people how to sew. However, I was pretty sure that wouldn’t work either. I had attempted to start sewing businesses in the past, and they never worked out.

After more fruitless job searching, I finally thought to myself, “I might as well look online – maybe someone has a program about teaching sewing that I could buy.” Sure enough, I found Kids Can Sew. The startup costs were minimal, and it ended up being exactly what I had been hoping for.

Sewing has always been my passion. (Not that I’m the world’s best sewer, but I love it nonetheless). It was – and is – my joy and my therapy. Running this business has given me the purpose I’ve been looking for my whole life. I feel like I “have it all” doing my passion for a living – it brings me joy and purpose.

Sewing Tip: This is perhaps not a sewing tip as much as it is a life tip. Sometimes, seasons end and it’s time for us to engage in something new. If you have a passion for something, you really can turn a “hobby” into a career! It takes work and determination, but it CAN be done! (I’m living proof of that!).

It’s been 9 years now and I’m still in love with my job. As such, it’s got me thinking… next year I’ll have been in business for 10 WHOLE YEARS (in June 2019) – which is a HUGE accomplishment! I really want to “go all out” celebrating this milestone, and so I’ve decided to do something special.

For the next 9 months (including September) I will be writing sewing blogs that commemorate the last 10 years of owning JoLene’s Sewing School. I’ll also be sending out newsletters and doing Facebook updates – all with information on upcoming sewing events, giveaways, and service projects. You won’t want to miss this!

That’s not all… these next 9 months are leading up to something BIG. In June of 2019 I’ll be celebrating my 10th Anniversary Bash! This will be a very big event – and I want all of you to come!

Details and dates on the party, sewing events, giveaways and more will be coming. Keep your eyes peeled for updates, and make sure to check my website and follow me on Facebook for more information. This is going to be SO FUN!


Happy Sewing!


P.S: Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s blog: “From Then To Now: The Makings Of A Sewing Teacher.”

hand sewn quilt

A Gift To My Mother: My Hand Sewn Quilt

I’m so excited to show you my new hand sewn quilt!

My mom is getting older, and has been ill for the last few years. Because of this, I wanted to make this upcoming sewing project extra special.

As her birthday approached in September, I wondered what I could make her for a present. Having my sister Donna being her full-time caregiver, and my other sister Tonya helping out too, most things are done around the house (so there aren’t many things she needs)

After a few weeks of racking my brain, I decided a quilt was in order. I went to my go-to place for ideas (Pinterest) and began looking. I wanted something that would show her that she has a ton of people that love and care for her.

After a little while of searching, I found the perfect idea: a family tree.

I figured out my next steps and, with fabric in hand, began this project of love for my  mother.

Step 1: I selected my background fabric (a white-on-white pattern looking somewhat like clouds), and the tree fabric (which looks like tree bark). I cut out the bark and placed it where I wanted it to go on the white fabric.

Then, I applied “Wonder Under” – an iron glue – to stick it firmly in place. It ended up looking exactly as I wanted it to.

hand sewn quilt

Step 2: I then sewed around the outline of the tree with a blanket stitch. This added subtle detailing and ensured the tree stayed in place.

hand sewn quilt

Step 3: I looked online and found the perfect phrase to add to my quilt, as well as a heart with my parents’ names in it. I machine-embroidered these on with my fancy sewing machine, and took a look at my handiwork. I loved it!

hand sewn quilt

hand sewn quilt

Step 4: Now I wanted to make sure the names of our whole family were on it. These included my mom’s three daughters, seven grandkids (and their spouses), and 12 great-grandkids.

I wanted her to be able to identify which children belonged to whom, so I grouped them each family together – each daughter with her kids and grandkids – and put these families in different colored leaves.

I machine embroidered each name onto a leaf, and applied them to the quilt the same way I did the tree. I also blanket-stitched each leaf (like I did the tree), but with black thread to make them stand out.

Step 5: I chose very soft minky for the back – this is a very soft fabric similar to fleece, but is softer and thicker. I also found a red border to go around it, since that’s Mom’s favorite color.

hand sewn quilt

I decided not to stitch the minky into the quilt, as I knew doing so would bunch and tear the delicate fabric.

Here’s how it looked when all was said and done:

hand sewn quilt

Note: I completed this project with the help of my baby lock embroidery machine – it has many fancy stitches! However, you don’t need to have a fancy machine to make a quilt or wall hanging like this.

Instead of a blanket stitch around the tree and leaves, you can do a satin stitch, or just a zigzag stitch. Whichever you choose, make sure to follow the directions in your machine’s book.

For the phrase at the bottom, you can use machine embroidery, or can sew it on by hand. You can also write the words using fabric pens. There are many ways to get the job done!

This project was very difficult for me mentally, knowing that my mom’s time here on earth is short. But, through it all, I was able to take comfort in knowing that this project had a very personal message: “I love you. WE love you. And we want you to know just how much.”

Sewing Tip: I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: homemade gifts from the heart are always the best. It may be tempting to purchase a present from the store, but in the end a homemade gift speaks volumes, and is so much more meaningful. Not to mention, the process of creating is fun enough to make it all worth it!

I’m not sure what my next sewing project will be yet – it will be a surprise!

Happy Sewing!


Check Out My New Sewing Apron!

I’ve been teaching my sewing classes for over eight years now, but it took a while to realize I would need a sewing apron to make the job easier!

When I first began teaching, I was always running back and forth through the studio to grab supplies to help the students. This gave me quite the workout, but it was also frustrating not having everything on-hand whenever I needed it. Not to mention, this made it much easier to lose things in the process!

This process went on for a while, until I came up with an idea: I could make things much easier on myself by creating a customized sewing apron to fit my needs.

Check Out My New Sewing Apron!

This project came in stages, as I tried new things and figured out what worked best. The first version was a simple, 3-pocket apron sewn out of linen. This worked great for a few years, but as I got busier I came to the conclusion that I needed more pockets to hold everything.

I sat down and sewed a new sewing apron, which is the one I use today. First, I used some leftover fabric that I had made my sewing machine covers out of (along with some twill tape), so that my apron would match my new studio. (Haven’t seen my new sewing machine covers? Click here to see them!).

I then sewed two rows of pockets across the front, which would be ideal for organizing my supplies. The top row has small, narrow pockets – necessary for organizing my sewing gauge, fabric marking tools, writing pens, and other skinny, narrow objects.

I sewed larger pockets for the bottom row to hold things like my painters tape (to be a sewing guide on the sewing machine), receipt book, seam rippers, small screwdrivers, bobbins, cough drops, chapstick, etc.

I absolutely love my new sewing apron – it’s extremely useful! Now I have everything I need at all times, right at my fingertips.

Here’s a picture of the final product:

Sewing Tip:

One of my favorite things about my new sewing apron is that I can use it for a variety of activities. For example, it makes things like gardening, cooking, and cleaning much easier! Once you sew something you love, try to think up new, creative ways to use it. The more versatile your creation, the more you’ll appreciate it (and the less extra items you’ll have to sew unnecessarily).

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll show you my new ironing board cover.

Happy Sewing!



Upcycle Levis Into New Creations

In a Super Saturday event at my local church, I taught a workshop on how to recycle / upcycle Levis. My daughter Stephanie brought me four pairs of her kids’ Levis that they could still wear but that had holes or other problems with them. See what can be done to seemingly worn-out clothing that just needs a little sprucing to bring them a new life!
Natalie, age 5, doesn’t like to wear Levis because they feel rough on her tender skin. I solved this problem by making her a pleated skirt lined with soft cotton. I cut off the pants at the top of inseam and cut each pant leg in half to give me four pieces. I sewed them all together in one long strip, lined up the inseams and made pleats all around. After giving it a soft cotton lining, I put a ruffle on the bottom and looped a tie through the belt loops.
Aiden, age 7, loves Star Wars. His pants were ripped at the knees; I cut them off at the rips and put a Star Wars fabric cuff at the bottom of each leg. I used Wonder Under fabric to cut out Star Wars figures and glued to the front of the pants and sewed around each one for stability.
See these other upcycled pants and shorts!
Happy Sewing!

Summer Fun!

As usual, this summer has been a whirlwind! My summer camps have been a blast, and have been filling up so fast.

Below is a list of the camps I offered this summer. As I make plans for future camps, it helps a lot to hear from you about what camps were most enjoyable or which ones sound most interesting for students to take in the future if they missed this round.  Please email me your feedback about what camps you’d like to see again, or ideas for new ones to create!

Summer Outfit Camp

Who’s Hooting

Hearts Hearts Everywhere

Fun at the Beach

Kitty Cat Quilt

Circle Skirt and Cotton Tee

Skirt a Day Camp

Everything Fox Camp

Giving to Others Camp

Sock Monkey Camp

Hoodie Camp

Cats Galore

Freshen Up Your Bedroom

Harry Potter Camp

Camping Fun with Your 18 Inch Doll

Renaissance Cape Camp

Toothless the Dragon Camp

Back to School Camp

Make Clothes for Your 18 Inch Doll

We had a ton of fun, as you can see in the gallery. Please let me know what camp(s) you’d like to see repeated or created in the future!

In June, JoLene’s Sewing School held its picnic and fashion show, as a way to cap the schoolyear of classes and give my students a chance to socialize and show off their handiwork.

IMG_1043 IMG_1044


I hope the remainder of your summer was great!

Happy Sewing,



A Dragon Gift from the Heart (and Sewing Machine!)

Children, Grandchildren and Christmas can stir all kinds of creativity inside one’s soul. And I am no different. It is so fun to give from the heart, and I’ve been sewing gifts for Christmas longer than I care to remember. What I most enjoy is that I get to think of something that is made with just one person or group of people in mind. It’s personal, and it’s heartfelt.

I usually wait to post Christmas presents until after Christmas because the gift’s recipient might see the post! But the person receiving this gift won’t see it because he is so young. I want to inspire you make a gift this Christmas even if it is only one, so you can get warmth of giving from the heart.

So here it is – one of my Christmas gift projects:

My grandson Aiden saw some fabric I had bought for a camp and just loved it. He said that it looked like dragon scales. That is high praise from a little boy who adores dragons! He wanted me to make him a shirt out it but  there was one problem: the fabric was red and it just had to be green to fulfill Aiden’s vision.

So I went on the hunt to find this fabric in green. After a long exhausted search I decided that it didn’t matter which fabric it was but that it was green and looked like dragon scales.  It wasn’t long before I found the perfect fabric and the perfect pattern.

What do you think?  I added a dragon head coming out of his pocket and found these red eyes in my button stash. I was going to add a tongue but was afraid that Aiden would pull it out. He is almost 5 but I am hoping that the head stays put for a while and doesn’t disappear right away.

Naturally I had such fun with this pattern. Button-down shirts are not for the faint of heart, but luckily this pattern was on the easy side. I wanted it to look more like a shirt he already had so I changed it up a bit. The pattern called for two pleats in the back, but instead I did one in the center. I made flat welt seams, which is fancy way of finishing off mens shirts, and changed the front placket where the button holes are.

I love the finished product. I hope he does too!

Merry Christmas and good luck making gifts form the heart.

Happy Sewing,


December 2012 Newsletter

There are many exciting developments with JoLene’s Sewing School. Now we have two locations to serve you! With classes and workshops held in both Woodstock and Happy Valley, you have even more options to learn to sew or further hone your sewing skills. Join us!

This Weekend: Last Chance for Gift-Making Workshops

Last month we had Christmas Workshops During Thanksgiving Vacation. They were mostly full and we had a fun time making gifts for our families. I just love these workshops; seeing these kids make heartfelt gifts for their friends and family members is so satisfying.

I know a few of you were unable to come and had friends who wished they had signed up. So I’ve decided to add two more last-chance options!

Join us on Friday, December 7th, from 4:00 – 7:30 pm, with pizza and pop served in the middle as a dinner break, or Saturday, December 8th from 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

Cost is just $30, which includes all the materials and gifts that the students will produce. The workshops will be held at my Happy Valley location, 16661 SE Rock Creek Court.

Contact me to register or for more information.

This is an amazing gift-creating opportunity. In just three hours, students can make between 7 and 10 items. What better way to get a significant jump on holiday gift-giving?

There will be 15-20 projects to choose from, which will provide a wide selection of potential gifts for children and adults, both male and female. All materials are provided, and will be cut and ready to sew!

Winter Break Workshops

I am offering four workshops for kids over the Winter Break holiday:

On the Wild Side (NEW). December 26th, 27th, 28th; 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Make three wild animals stuffies – monkey, elephant, and giraffe. All supplies included. $130.

Become a DIVA. December 26th, 27th, 28th; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. After this camp you will be one step closer to being a diva. Come make a tutu bag to carry your diva supplies, a diva skirt, leggings, diva tee shirt. $120. Supply list provided at time of registration.

Sock Monkey and More (NEW). January 2nd, 3rd, 4th; 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Make the old-fashioned sock monkey and sock monkey hat, made from brown, pink, blue, or the original red heel socks. All supplies included. $130.

Animal Hat Camp. January 2nd, 3rd, 4th; 1:00 – 4:00 pm. Come and make the cutest animal hat out of faux fur with scarf and mittens attached, plus matching animal slippers! All supplies included. $130.


Holiday Class Schedule

Monday, December 24th – Monday, January 7th: NO REGULAR CLASSES

Classes start back up on Tuesday, January 8th


Open Spots in the Sewing School

Have you been waiting for the perfect time to enroll in JoLene’s Sewing School? With two locations, in Woodstock and now also in Happy Valley, you have even more opportunity!

Classes are taught in Woodstock on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:15, 4:15, and 5:15.

Classes are taught in Happy Valley on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00.

For more information, and to register, click here.


Project of the Month: Make Your Own Umbrella!

A while ago, a student asked me to help her make an umbrella kit. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to make my own.

So here it is! I had such fun with this, from picking the fabric to the quick and simple assembly. It’s very easy to make; you just purchase the frame and pattern, all available at cool cottons, a fantastic fabric store on Hawthorne in SE Portland. There is only one pattern piece that you cut out 8 times, sew them together, and finish the seams. You put the finished cover on the frame, tack it down, and waterproof the fabric.

For more pictures and information on this project, see my blog, and stay dry this rainy season with your own personalized umbrella!

Tip of the Month: Beautiful Finished Edges

Do you need to own a serger sewing machine to have beautiful finished edges? No! While sergers are nice to have, you can finish your edges without one with the following tips:

  • The easiest way is just to use pinking shears. After you are finished sewing each seam, use the zig-zag pinking shears to trim the bare edge of seam, then press the seams open.
  • Alternatively, pink the edge as described above, then sew next to the pinked edge, and press open as before.
  • Finally, you can make a zig-zag stitch close to the edge and then press open the seams.

These tips help your project stand the test of time while looking and feeling good inside and out.
Don’t let the season pass you by without registering for a class or a workshop! You can contact me for questions or registration.

Happy Sewing,

JoLene Tunison
JoLene’s Sewing School

First Adult Workshop was a success!

You never know how things might turn out when you do them for the first time, but my first Adult Workshop was great! We had good food, made new friends and learned a lot. I am not sure who learned the most, though, me or the students (I think it was me).

Kids Can Sew has a saying: “There are no mistakes, only lessons learned.” I so agree with that – we had lessons learned by both the teacher and the students.

The next Adult Workshop has started. It is a 5-week class teaching the same things as the all-day workshop – again, a great bunch of women and lot of fun.

The next all-day workshop is November 21st, but it’s already full (sorry!). I won’t be scheduling any more adult classes now until after the first of the year.

If you want to take adult classes after January 2010, send me an email at jolene@jolenesews.com and I will email you when as soon as I get the dates.

Until then, Happy Sewing!


Weekly Classes are now open for registration! Find them under Child/Teen Classes. Dismiss