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Teaching a child to sew

Julia_Fletcher | Posted in The Archives on

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Can anyone help please? I’m writing from Oxford, England and I’m looking for ideas on how to teach my daughter (Louisa, aged 4 1/2) to sew. She is showing an interest in sewing and is passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits (cutting, sticking, drawing, painting, playdough etc). She loves to come and “help” me in my sewing room. Last month, she made some laced puppets from an American kit (with a large plastic needle and yarn through pre-punched holes) and was delighted: “I’m doing real sewing”. Where do we go from here?

I sew clothes, quilts and soft furnishings. Having learned my skills over the past 30 years by reading Threads and various books, talking to friends, and a whole lot of trial and error, I am finding it hard to work out a fun but systematic way to teach Louisa. Perhaps someone out there can pass on tips as to what materials or projects were good to start with and how to progress from there. All suggestions would be gratefully received! Thanks in advance.

Julia

Replies

  1. Sarah_Kayla | | #1

    *
    My daughter, now 10, started sewing when she was
    3. She wanted to make pillows for her Barbie doll.
    I prepared the fabric by marking dots with a
    permanent marker on both side of the fabric where
    the needle had to enter the fabric. Before she
    started I touched the needle point to her hand so
    she could feel how sharp it was and work
    carefully.

    She does not sew all the time, but when she has
    wanted to make something she has made it. This
    year she made bolsters for her bed on my machine.
    She has made some stuffed dolls and doll quilts
    over the years.

    We have not been systematic at all. She has
    learned skills as she has needed them. I have
    found that the whole thing works better when the
    project ideas come from my daughter. Then she is
    far more likely to follow through and enjoy the
    process. Otherwise it feels too much like school.

    The hardest and most important thing to do is to
    let go and let you child make mistakes.

    Good luck

    1. TJ | | #2

      *There are books for children on learning to sew. I took a quick look at http://www.amazon.com, searched for the subject "sewing children" and came up with several books that looked good to me. The "Klutz" series of books are usually terrific and good fun, and I would expect their book "Simple Sewing" to be just as good as their others. It's aimed at ages 9-12 and includes patterns, colored felt, and a sewing kit for 7 projects. Books by Winky Cherry also seem to get good reviews (including some from kids!). In Britain, amazon.co.uk has these books too.Good luck! I am so grateful my mother taught me to sew when I was 10, even though hemming (not to mention ripping out) seemed unspeakably boring in those days. I wish more kids were learning to sew; otherwise who will keep the remaining fabric stores in business so that when we're really old, we can still go in and touch the fabric?!?

      1. Linda_Simons | | #3

        *Whatever you do, please let your daughter enjoy whatever she sews without lots of criticism. I contrast my mother's approach with that of my mother's friend. My mother always complimented me and let me wear whatever I made. Looking back, some of my garments must have been pretty amaturish looking, but at 10 years old, I didn't care. And I learned to sew well and to love it. My friend's mother made her rip out and redo everything until it was perfect. She grew up hating to sew for herself. Attitude is very important!

        1. Julia | | #4

          *Linda: thanks for the timely reminder. It's OK to be have perfectionist standards for ourselves (within reason!) but obviously not appropriate for our children otherwise, as you say, we can discourage them totally.Julia

          1. Julia | | #5

            *Thanks, TJ. Winky Cherry's "My First Sewing: Hand Sewing" for the 4-8 age group looks great with lots of practical ideas.Julia

          2. Margaret | | #6

            *You certainly seem to have the right idea about teaching in an encouraging way. My daughter, 7, is very interested in sewing at times, and completely disinterested at others. So far, she has been working on a "patchwork quilt" for her beanie babies (made out of the sample cuts that I receive from fabric mailings), all done by hand with a running stitch. My son, 9, and daughter both made eyeglass cases for Christmas for their grandparents and other significant adults out of felt and seemed to enjoy it. They both have sewing baskets (he calls his a sewing tool kit), given to them by a good friend, and are very proud of them. I want them to think of sewing as a positive and relaxing, not a frustrating pastime.

          3. Margaret | | #7

            *You certainly seem to have the right idea about teaching in an encouraging way. My daughter, 7, is very interested in sewing at times, and completely disinterested at others. So far, she has been working on a "patchwork quilt" for her beanie babies (made out of the sample cuts that I receive from fabric mailings, all done by hand with a running stitch. My son, 9, and daughter both made eyeglass cases for Christmas for their grandparents and other significant adults out of felt and seemed to enjoy it. They both have sewing baskets (he calls his a sewing tool kit, given to them by a good friend, and are very proud of them. I want them to think of sewing as a positive and relaxing, not a frustrating pastime.

          4. Nancy_Schien | | #8

            *I've enjoyed helping my grandchildren learn to sew. When they showed an interest, the first thing I started them on was a knit T-shirt for themselves. They picked out the fabric and co-ordinating ribbing. Knits are easy to work with and are so 'forgiving'. If the pattern has a set-in sleeve, I always have the child sew in the sleeve BEFORE the shirt and sleeve sideseams are sewn. It's so much easier to sew the sleeve in flat rather than sewing it in a circle. Each of my g'children began at 4 and 5 years of age, even my grandson.

          5. Jenny_Horsley | | #9

            *Both my children are hot and cold when it comes to the sewing room.My daughter has been making Barbie clothes since she was about 5, using my scraps and running stitch, as well as sellotape and glue (initially).She can now use a sewing machine and is picking up a lot of fabric decorating ideas.My son is far more adventurous and loves to play around with fabric decorating and then constructing on the machine.

          6. Carol_Hawkey | | #10

            *I am the owner of Sewing Prose, publishers of DIRECTIONS: Sewing Adventures for Children. They are progressive sewing lessons for learning garment construction on a sewing machine in an orderly fashion, easy enough for any child who is reading at a second-grade level. I would be honored if you would stop by http://www.sewingprose.com to see if our products suit your needs. We export all over the world, primarily Canada, Europe, and Australia.There's free information on helping children to sew in the "Tips and Tools" section, and you can see samples of our learning materials in the "Our Philosophy" section.I've taught sewing to children for 11 years, and all of you who are allowing your children creative expression without being too picky over quality are right on target. Thank you for allowing me to share DIRECTIONS' existence on this forum.

          7. lin_hendrix | | #11

            *Hi Julia, My mother started teaching me to sew when I wasthree (never too young to start). I remember being given a small, child-sized, hand-operated sewing machine. It was about 10" high, black, with a bobbin holder, presser foot, and variable straight stitching. I loved this little machine and spent many hours attempting to sew simple doll clothes that my mother had cut out for me. Mom and I would sew side by side, each on her own machine. Of course my mom usually had to complete the projects for me.I'm sure there are children's sewing machines out there. You may wish to give this approach a try.--lin

          8. S.A.Drake | | #12

            *My daughters, 17 & 15 have been sewing since thay were about 4. I tried the child's sewing machines w/ the chain stitch and it was a frustrating experience for all of us because the thread broke and they had to rethread often and then the ststiches would rip out. I got out the machine that I learned on, an old singer hand crank. It goes only as fast as the child turns and it REALLY sews. Less frustration, more success and that fostered more interest. I would at first do the ripping out and "drudge" tasks so they wouldn't get bored. I really tried to keep it fun and at their pace. I used the "I Can Teach Myself to Sew" books w/ great results. They both sew and love to quilt. I taught them to hand sew using a plastic darning needle and plastic canvas, sorta a step abpve the lacing cards. Some of the best times are when we three are sewing together and talking. It's a great pastime that my mom taught me and that I'm honored to pass on to my daughters. Good luck and have fun w/ yours!

          9. cathi_chambley-miller | | #13

            *My 8-yr old niece asked me to teach her to sew as she recovers from brain surgery (she's doing well, thanks). She wanted to sew "tops", so I bought 5 patterns, and let her select from those. I took her a little sewing kit with scissors, pins, safety pins, measuring tape, sewing machine needles, hand needles, seam ripper, pin cushion, a selection of buttons, and elastics. I measured her, and showed her how to pick a size, then we measured the fabric, and made sure we had enough (we did, of course, I brought the fabric). Then we cut the pattern out, pinned it, cut the fabric, and then she learned to thread the machine and wind a bobbin. She absorbed this like a little sponge! She practiced staystitching and seaming, then learned about the iron to press. She really didn't like the steam. We discussed sewing safety A LOT, and she was very careful. Then she sewed the staystitching, then the seams, then I showed her how to zigzag the seam allowances, and we discussed why. At this point, I was exhausted, but she wanted to keep going, so we made the facing and attached it. Then we finally took a break. She also made a buttonhole by machine, and sewed 3 buttons on the finished vest. She was wearing it by 8:30 pm. Her mother reports that she won't take it off! She also made a date for this Friday to do another. What a pleasure this was, and so wonderful to show another person how to create something from "scratch". I wonder how many kids are out there who would love this opportunity, but who's parents don't know how to sew, or how to find someone who does?

          10. Julia_Fletcher | | #14

            *What a wonderful way to help your niece convalesce! It will be great if she can look back on this positive experience as the beginning of a lifelong interest in sewing. I remember my mother being overly concerned with perfection and wanting to do my sewing herself rather than let me make mistakes; it was an anxiety-provoking experience. The person who really allowed me to get interested in sewing was a friend's mother who would have little projects ready for us to do when I went over to play (aged 7+), e.g. an embroidered bookmark. I am so grateful to her: I still have the bookmark and the friendship has lasted 32 years so far!I plan to sew a simple top this summer with my daughter (4) and son (8). Why should girls have all the fun?Julia

          11. Marian_ | | #15

            *Cathi, your niece sounds as if she really is doing very well, both in health and in sewing. Where does she get the energy to sew so much and learn as she goes? You covered about a semester of my 7th-grade home ec class in one day, I think! One-on-one instruction really makes a difference, as does being eager to learn, I guess. (Having a knowledgeable and articulate aunt probably helps, too. :-) )

          12. cathi_chambley-miller | | #16

            *This is just a very goal-oriented child. She's also a competitive gymnast, and a real "teacher-pleaser" so she was fixed on the goal, and as long as I told her how great she was doing (and I wasn't lying!), she was eager! Of course, this was HER idea, too!

          13. TJ | | #17

            *You might want to look at: .It is about teaching kids to sew in classes, but has some good suggestions.

          14. thimble_ | | #18

            *hi there!!I just wanted to say that I love the fact that you are even encouraging your children to sew! I truly believe that in this new generation of computer games and pokemon that our art will suffer huge losses!i WORKED IN A local fabric store for 8 years...when I started 1o years ago I noticed a lot of youbnger sewers than there are today! It is really upto us to keep our children excited about sewing and being creative...continued success!Thimble!

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