It's almost time for class! On Monday, February 4, RiSE will welcome 16 new students to ten-week our Sewing Basics session. Some of these ladies have never touched a sewing machine, and some were sewing in their home countries since they were children. We've been asked, "Why start them all in a beginner class together?"
Good question! We have a few answers:
1. The women who come to the U.S. as refugees have had to leave everything in their home country, including a sewing machine. Often, these machines were a hand-crank machine, or a very different type of machine than what they will have the opportunity to purchase here. We teach them to sew on the kind of machine they will be using here, and we show them how to care for the machine as a basic lesson that is part of our beginner curriculum. This prepares them not only to sew, but to care for and maintain a quality machine.
2. Most of the women who come into our program have never used a pattern. They learned to sew by taking items apart and making their own patterns, or taking body measurements and creating custom clothing - skirts, blouses, dresses. We recognize that these methods are more difficult than using patterns, but we know that when you are literate in reading patterns, it opens up more opportunities for both income-producing and personal sewing. Our last project in our Sewing Basics class is the favorite Ankaase Crossbody, which teaches pattern utilization to create a beautiful, functional bag.
3. Women who are more experienced in sewing are able to help beginners, which creates more community within the class setting, and helps form relationships between students. We've watched women from very different cultures work together as one student helps another.
4. As we evaluate the skills of each woman who comes through our Sewing Basics class, we are quickly able to identify women who are ready to move into income-producing opportunities if they choose this.
5. Women who go through the Sewing Basics class and attend at least five six classes have an opportunity to purchase a sewing machine through our Sewing Machine Credit Program. You can learn more about the program here. Having a machine opens up possibilities for contract work doing at-home production for local individuals and businesses.
The semester, we're looking forward to seeing the beautiful textile products that the women will create, but also the relationships that will be formed, the confidence that will grow, and the opportunities that will be brought to the women as they move through our Refugee Sewing Enterprise. RiSE!