Thursday, November 15, 2012

Teaching Young Kids to Sew - needle and thREAD

How do you teach really young kids to sew?

Good morning sewing friends! Its Thursday morning, which means its time for needle and thREAD with Elizabeth! I love to see what she and her sewing partners in crime are sewing each week, so if you're visiting from there, welcome! Last week, Elizabeth posted a sewing project completed by her young daughter. I've been wanting to get Alexa (age 6) on a sewing machine for some time now, but needed a little push and Elizabeth's post fit the bill.

My very first sewing machine. Birthday gift. Age 7. Yeah, that was more than 35 years ago.
But isn't it AWESOME?? I still love it.

It has survived several little barbie clothes and a housefire. Guess what? I don't recommend starting your child sewing barbie clothes. Because they are TINY!! So finicky. And frustrating. Naw, don't do that.  Long, straight lines are much better.

When teaching young kids to sew, help them get used to handling a motorized machine first. Don't bother with thread. Just let them sew on paper to start! You might even draw several lines down a piece of paper and have them try following the line as they sew.  Remember, no thread, just the needle piercing through the paper to get the hang of it.

If you use lined paper with the pink margin, have them follow the pink margin. Its near the edge of the paper, so its similar to having a seam allowance.

When they've moved on from paper, try charm squares! You can cut scrap fabric into squares, all the same size, or even use the pre-cut squares. I gave Alexa two charm squares and explained that they had to "kiss" each other, to explain the "right sides together" concept when sewing. Make the fabric kiss, take it to the machine and sew along the edge.  I'm sure there's a better analogy than kissing, but it was all I could come up with at the time! She caught on super-quick and was able to piece together a row quite easily and with no help from me.  She made several rows of 6 squares, then I helped her sew the long rows together. But first we made the rows kiss :)!

The squares of her blanket don't quite line up (like, at all!) but its nothing that a little pressing and a good rotary cut around the edges can't fix!

Gosh she was proud! I think that's because she had complete control with what colors she used and how it came together.  She made a couple of these little patchwork blanket tops.

That old machine sounds like a train ripping through the house though!  And I'll probably move her onto an adult machine soon enough.  The little Junior Miss doesn't sew *wonderfully* but it does sew, she can operate it without help, and there is something nostalgic about it.

Although I began sewing when I was Alexa's age, it wasn't until grade 5 that I made my first blouse - I remember it distinctly - it was a green and pink hawaiian collared-button-down blouse! My older sister taught me, and what worked for us was her just reading the pattern and telling me where to sew. I did whatever she said. That was enough to get me hooked, and later, I became more interested in reading the pattern and learning more of the technical stuff.  Hey, in our family, you grew up knowing how to sew. Every girl (there were four) got a sewing machine prior to graduation; it was considered a valuable skill. And you know what? Last week when my 70-something-year-old momma came to help me with the kids, she got started sewing some Amy Butler purses. How cool is that?

I want my kids to get hooked on sewing. That's why I'm choosing easy projects for instant gratification. Alexa doesn't need to know about straight of grain at age 6.  Or how to cut a pattern. Keep it simple, keep it fun, let it be a creative process.

Reading. I'm starting to reread Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto for my Classic Moms Class next week. A homeschooling cult classic for sure. But I'm also pouring over some patternmaking books that teach you how to take a garment you own and love, and copy it. Got some projects on the go there.

Tell me, how did you learn to sew, and at what age? Have you taught your children to sew? Got any tips to share?

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