In case you have kids in your life (your own children, neighbor kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews) etc. who want to learn to sew, especially over Winter Break, I thought I would share a few things I have learned lately. In the last six months, my 6 and 9 year old have gone from pushing the pedal while I guide the fabric, to sewing almost entirely on their own! In June, I blogged about a new quilt bee my kids are involved in, and it has been a great starting point! Some of these tips might be intuitive, but still helpful.
Denyse Schmidt style block for Faith’s son
1. Start with small projects that can be completed in an hour. Kids don’t have a long attention span, and everyone likes to be able to finish something! We made holiday garlands few years ago, a fun place to start!
2. If you are sewing on a deadline, start early. Everything takes longer than you think it will, and things seems to turn up. Like book reports. Or football practice. Don’t wait until the last second to mail your bee blocks or you will be late every.single.time. (Voice of experience, here).
3. Try to teach your kids a variety of skills. In this bee so far, we have worked on paper piecing, precision piecing, and wonky blocks.
string blocks for Jen’s daughter
4. Be patient. Sometimes, you will need a lot of patience. Last week my six year old told me, “I just love sewing with you. Even when you get mad.” If you have a hard time being patient with your kids, consider swapping lessons with someone else who sews, or sending them to a sewing camp, sewing lessons, etc. No shame in that.
5. Encourage sewing *and* be ready with a redirect. Sewing with kids is rarely convenient. It *can* be rewarding. My daughter was intent on making a Christmas dress for her doll. I suggested making a Christmas garland for her room. She agreed, and she did it almost entirely herself. Win, win.
6. Sometimes, a child’s enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment is more important than perfect (or even close) points. My daughter came to me one night and said, “Mom, my teacher’s birthday is tomorrow and I know she will just love it if we sew her a zipper pouch.” So many things in that sentence made me want to cringe, but I decided to go along with it. She was soooo proud, and insisted on making it a patchwork pouch (of course.) I put in the zipper, but she sewed almost everything else. She never would have been able to do that six months ago. In the end, I was glad we sewed together. We can do hard things!
apparently we make a lot of last minute zipper pouches together
7. Two machines. If you have the space and budget, having two sewing machines is awesome. You can sew while the child sews (once they don’t need as much help). I think it’s great if kids learn to sew on a “real” machine, one that doesn’t have tension problems and sews well. Craigslist is a great place to find older machines. Tip: Wonder clips instead of pins sometimes work really well with little fingers.
8. Sew with one child at a time. Sewing with both of my kids is always a disaster.
9. Maybe the most important!!! Safety first. Teach your kids how to iron correctly, how to cut with scissors (or a rotary cutter when it comes to that), not to put pins in their mouth, etc. There is no reason they can’t start out just pushing the pedal while you do everything else. Follow your instincts and common sense.
Ninja star block made for Faith’s daughter… I should have limited color choices because it totally doesn’t go with the other blocks…but he was so excited about it. Lessons learned!
10. Limit choices. If you are making a star block, pick three star blocks you are willing to help them make and give them a choice. If your color palette is green, teal, and purple, pick fabric before hand and let them choose from that. They still get to make choices, but your color palettes aren’t jarring.
11. Bonus: Have fun. Take deep breaths. Celebrate the process.