10 Tips for Sewing with Kids

TipsforSewingwithKids

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.

IMG_1745

 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.

sewing with kids string block

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!

vintage bernina

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.

 

sewing with kids 16 patch

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

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.

 

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8 Comments

  1. kaholly
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    A very timely post for me. I have been asked to teach a family friend’s ten year old how to sew. I’ve already Scrolled through your archived posts looking for ideas, tips, and tricks. Thanks, heaps!

  2. Katherine
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I think I learned this from your pictures, but kids can sew standing up. For some reason that never occurred to me, but younger kids are the right height to stand at the machine with their foot at the pedal.
    My four year old made a doll quilt for her sister for Christmas. She can raise and lower the presser foot, run the pedal, and push the automatic thread cutting button. I still guide the fabric through the machine. She also picks her fabrics and lays out the pattern (with guidance). She helped turn the quilt right side out and can put pins back into the pin cushion.
    My two year old sits on my lap while I sew and says “ready set GO!!!”. She “helped” make a doll tutu for her sister for Christmas.

  3. Posted December 21, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Love this! I did a kid’s bee a couple of years ago now with my youngest. She’s still finishing up her quilt top (she turns 13 next week …) But by letting her learn to do it all herself, she is so much more confident and capable when it comes to new skills now.

  4. Kate
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great tips, especially the suggestion to sew with one kid at a time. I love knowing I’m not the only one who finds it a bit of a frustrating exercise at times. For me, the hardest thing about sewing with my kids is giving up some of my own sewing time to do it. But hey, I just need to accept it and put in the teaching time on my good machine with the speed regulator so when they’re older they can use my basic machine and we can sew together.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted December 21, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      I hear you on giving up your own sewing time. My sister in law sewed with my niece all the time. At 7 she is totally self sufficient! So I’m hoping that by giving up some of my time now, it will pay off later!

  5. Posted December 21, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    These are great tips. It is always good (no matter what we are helping them learn) to use good habits. We of course are the example, so it teaches us to do the same… Later when they are preparing to get their learners permit to drive, it willbe the same. Show your good habits and example
    Thanks for sharing all of these tips

  6. Lynnette
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I love this blog post. I need to sew more with my just turned 7 year old.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted January 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. I have found it gets a lot easier, the more you do it!

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