I have many fond memories of sitting on the floor at my mom’s feet sorting the buttons she kept in her (oh so 70’s sleek) metal tin. I spent hours looking through her paper pattern envelopes, wondering at the “tools of the trade” like her tailor’s chalk and bodkins.
My mom is not a fine seamstress. She is a home sewist. She learned a thing or two in Home Ec class as most girls did at that time and she brushed off her Singer sewing machine every December to sew my brother and me Christmas pj’s.
Those memories of spending time with her sparked in me a love for creating and most especially a love for creating with and for my own kids.
I’ve worked on sewing projects with each of my kids and they’ve created some of the most wonderful projects to give as gifts and to keep for themselves. But most importantly they’ve walked away with a sense of pride and accomplishment that’s worth more than all the fabric in the world.
Here’s a few tips for sewing with kids I’ve picked up over the years:
Hand sewing projects can be fun as soon as you feel your child can hold a plastic needle. A couple of small squares of felt make a wonderful pillow project for soft dolls or plastic figures and a child around the age of 3 or 4 can work on their fine motor skills and patience. If your little one is ready for a stronger metal needle they can push it through the felt themselves, otherwise punch holes at even intervals around the edge of the felt and a plastic needle will do the trick! There’s even some great kits already made with projects just like these from Klutz (#ad).
Keep it short and sweet.
For our youngest sewists, being able to pick up a project and work for a few minutes at a time may be the single most important factor for success. Nothing is fun when you're frustrated but anything can be fun for a kid with the right mindset. Make it okay for them to pick up their project and set it back down again. That is one of the best things about hand sewing, you can do it anywhere and anytime!
Support and guide but let them take the lead.
This is always a fine line and something that I truly struggle with but, I know just how important it is to back off and let kids explore their creativity and capabilities with support and guidance rather than “hand it to me” help. Meaning, if they skip a few holes or go across the square rather than around the edge, don’t sweat it. It’ll be okay. What you can do is do a parallel project. You work on yours and they work on theirs. When they show you how they did it you admire it and share yours with them. This is a great opportunity for you to give guidance by explaining why you did it the way you did but make sure you listen to their why, you might just learn a thing or two!
Don’t force it.
Not every kid is going to love sewing but I can assure there will come a point that every kid will be willing to try IF they know it’s an option. Even a reluctant sewer will need a special pouch for some treasure or a part of a costume that has to be just right. If sewing is something that they’ve seen you do a hundred or a thousand times to solve a problem or simply for enjoyment it’s likely that they’ll see it that way for themselves too!
There’s never a bad time to start.
Wondering if you might have missed your opportunity to make a sewing connection with your kid? You haven’t. There’s never a bad time to start.
Young kids are natural caretakers so offering projects that will help them do that can usually capture their attention. Think things like blankets and pillows or even small creatures to love on.
As they grow up and graduate to using a sewing machine, usually around 6 to 8 years old, utility becomes key; a book bag or scrunchie might pique their interest. Simple projects with useful results are your best bet for capturing their attention at this age.
Once kids reach 10 or 12 years old they really need to feel ownership in their projects. Let them browse patterns with you or shop your fabric stash. Be generous with your time and your supplies. Remember how fun it is for you and let them have that kind of fun too!
Finally, if your kid is well into their teens and they’ve not yet taken to sewing or have decided it just doesn’t seem that cool anymore, may I suggest that you relate sewing to something that does seem cool. Sewing is like driving - pedal, steering, stopping, going, following directions. It’s like driving instruction that doesn’t cost a dime and you may just convince your savvy teen that spending some time sewing with you is a great way to earn those wheels.
One last thought.
Whatever you do and however you approach it, the one thing that will ensure success over any other is that you have fun with it so, relax and simply try to be in the moment with a child that wants to learn from you.
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