What's the next challenge?
Lucy has delivered a variety of sewing and textile courses at our centre at Clare House in Scunthorpe since 2017. When Covid-19 closed these popular classes, Lucy immediately agreed to explore the possibility of delivering her planned summer term classes via Zoom and Canvas. She has invested in all sorts of devices and applications to bring her classes to life and make them interactive. Her classes have attracted new students from all across the country, some of whom would not be able to access classes in their area.
The good thing about the WEA is that we can signpost people to the ESOL classes if they are struggling with their English. You never do just one course with the WEA!
My courses have always attracted a wide range of people. This is a multicultural part of the country, with a large Bangladeshi community, so I teach lots of students for whom English is not their first language. But it’s amazing how you can communicate through sewing. The good thing about the WEA is that we can signpost people to the ESOL classes if they are struggling with their English. You never do just one course with the WEA!
A lot of the literature that's written for sewing and dressmaking relies on background information that's passed down from your parents, because that's how it used to be done. I help students to learn that rudimentary language. My style is very much student-led. It’s their journey after all. As a tutor, you’ve got to listen to what they’re saying and then reflect on their evolving needs. I would say the courses are 30% sewing skills and 70% confidence building.
When COVID struck, I wanted to keep everyone together. The WEA was brilliant at getting the online courses up and running. I think we were one of the first groups to get online. We lost a couple of people due to technology, but we opened up a whole new world of people online, which was brilliant. It wasn't a case of that's it, let's not do anything. It was: right, what's the next challenge?
The first sessions were quite frustrating though. I struggled to show people what I was doing with my hands, while talking at the same time. I started pre-recording videos, which I could talk over. But it still lacked the live element. That’s when I found a visualiser, which is like a webcam that angles over a certain area, like my hands or the sewing machine. I could now line things up and show the students as I sewed. The final piece of the jigsaw was a digital switcher, which meant I could jump from, say, the pattern instructions to the visualiser in a click of a mouse button. It just flows really well.
I’ve loved bringing all the different cultures in from around the country. Somebody in the south will sew in a zip totally differently to somebody in the north! My job is to facilitate group learning. There are so many different techniques, I’m learning too all the time. I always make that clear to my students. I don't know everything. But I'm very good at finding things out.