sewing with children

June 25, 2016

She is older than she looks, but not by much.


She has had her own sewing machine (an old Elna TSP) for about a year and a half. I taught her to sew with very small projects like pillows but didn’t put a huge amount of time into it. She has a very three dimensional mind and is always sculpting or creating something with paper which means what she really wants to sew are creatures.

A one legged Enderman (from Minecraft) and an Octopus.
She got frustrated with it before she got to the last leg and decided she liked it as is.Attachment-1

There are two schools of thought when it comes to teaching children to sew. The first is what I call old-school. Teach the child how to do it right – carefully following each step of a pattern and unpicking when things go wrong. I have heard story after story after story from women who were taught this way, gave it up in frustration, and finally returned to their love of sewing years later. Most still struggle with feeling inadequate every time they make a mistake.Attachment-1-1I don’t subscribe to that school. I showed her the basics then let her play around, never commenting when something was a mess. She loved it. She would experiment with construction techniques and show me her creations. Every once in a while she would get frustrated and I’d tell her a way that might be easier. Sometimes I tell her that on the next one she makes she might like doing it ‘this way’ instead.FullSizeRender-7

One day she decided to make slippers. She would shape cloth to her foot and sew it – then trim and sew and trim and sew and trim and sew. I made a few suggestions which she took well. She ended up making about six pair, tweaking her construction each time. Experimenting. None of them are what I call really well designed but she will never hear me say that. I think they are wonderful – and she still wears the pair where she used fleece on the top, made a quilted footbed, and added an ankle tie to keep it on.  You see, I don’t think it’s about the outcome at this stage. I think it’s about learning to love something and being willing to play with the process.FullSizeRender-19

These bears are pretty much the first time she has followed a pattern and she did it on her own. She only asked a couple of questions and I only showed her a couple of things. She didn’t know what a dart was or to use stabilizer behind the cloth on the eyes. Don’t worry – she has added eyes to the little bear since this picture was taken. Can you see the progression from her first to her second bear? In real life it’s pretty impressive.

You know I have five children right? That means I know this method won’t work with everyone. I have five opposites among my offspring. I didn’t know that was even possible.

The first two didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say so I signed them up for a children’s sewing class taught by my friend instead of trying to teach them myself. They made wonky log cabin quilts – no precise measuring – no way to get it wrong. One child has gone on to sew lots and lots of stuff and now creates the most amazing costumes! The other, who has had extreme perfectionist tendencies since toddlerhood, sews very well but I don’t think she has ever finished a project. She will get to the very last seam and give it up because it’s not perfect and she knows she will never wear the thing. Ah well. She is now putting those tendencies to very good use while studying graphic design.

I’d love to hear your experiences with teaching children to sew. Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Laura Tawney
    July 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Hi Lyric,
    I also have 5 children all grown and now grandchildren. My twin girls do other crafts but didn’t really take to sewing or quilting. I have one granddaughter that wants to sew and I think I’ll take your advice about the letting them do it their way and see where it goes. Sounds interesting and fun:-)

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