Story of Claire Shaffer. Claire started her sewing business in 1976. She has taught sewing workshops for 22 years.
Name Claire Shaeffer
Claire Shaeffer is an internationally respected designer, teacher, and author. She writes regularly for several magazines in the United States and Australia, and teaches workshops in Palm Springs, CA.
What motivated you to start your own sewing business?
I spent a lot of time by myself. My husband’s job involved long hours and often week-ends, and my youngest child went away to school. I had learned many unpublished industry and couture techniques when I was at school, so I began with industry techniques, then moved on to haute couture. Since I was not responsible for the family income, I could invest in research trips and later a vintage garment collection which I used for research.
Tell us more about your sewing studio and what sewing lessons you offer.
I write books and magazine articles, make videos, and have taught sewing workshops for 22 years. I taught part-time at a community college. My focus has been to describe the techniques used in the fashion industry and haute couture so that home sewists can use them.
What is your most effective way to get new students?
My website and word-of-mouth. I have only had a website for 3 years. It’s very simple but it has been an excellent resource for new students.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered by running your sewing classes?
Paperwork, finding part-time employees and having less, almost no, time to sew for myself.
What do you love about teaching sewing?
The reaction of students when they learn new techniques or how to apply techniques they already know in a new way.
What advice would you give to others who want to teach sewing?
Teach hands-on classes. This is a good way to improve your skills and learn which of your techniques work best for students. When teaching, don’t skip the basics. If you sell products, show students how to use them—even simple tools like hand and machine needles. Some students have never had a sewing lesson; those that have have forgotten at least half of what they learned. My students range from professionals to beginners. In a workshop, I teach all the same things. Several pros are very fast so I have extra things for them to do. Write, write, and write. I am not a good writer but I can describe how to complete a technique in a clear step-by-step manner. I’ve improved with practice.