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Teaching children to sew

Occasionally, I get a little good-natured flack from parents about my requirement that stitchers be in third grade Imageor higher before they can take a sewing class with me. There’s a good reason for this: most younger children do not have the manual dexterity, reading skills nor the ability to focus for the extended period of time that a sewing class requires.  At school, group instruction is usually given in 15 minute blocks followed by work time/centers.  K-2 students are learning to build stamina in their school work and reading.  By third grade, they are accustomed to focusing on an activity for an extended period of time and usually have the ability to understand and follow directions quite well.  My six year old niece, who is a rising first grader, illustrates this observation quite well.

Miss A. has been fascinated by my sewing machines and fabric stash since she was 3. She’s helped “Aunt Resa” with parts of projects, but has never really operated a sewing machine. She’s practically begged me for the past several months to teach her how to sew. Now that I’m camping out at my Mom’s while we wait for the new house to be completed, it seemed like the perfect time for her to come for a real sewing lesson. 

Yes, in the picture you see Miss A. stitching away on my Janome 6600.  Admittedly, not my first choice of machine for her to learn on, but it was the only machine available as my others are in storage.  (And the table’s too high…even for me…but we’re working with what we’ve got). Little niece was fascinated by all the fancy stitches.  She picked up very quickly on how to properly hold the fabric samples for stitching and which buttons to press to get the stitch she wanted (she knows how to read and decipher a chart – something many adults have trouble with).  She also learned how to change machine feet.  Threading the machine didn’t work quite so well, nor did operating the small pair of scissors.  She hasn’t quite developed the fine motor skills needed for these tasks.  Not to worry, It’s something that comes with maturity and practice.

We made a travel size pillow case.  She selected the fabrics.  Together we cut out the fabric, with her reading the chart to tell me which dimensions to cut the fabric pieces. (That was another lesson in itself).  She helped pin the hot dog roll and stitch the seams.  She sat in my lap while we sewed, with her guiding the fabric under the needle (with a lot of assistance from Aunt Resa) while I pushed the foot control.  For the final seam, she pushed the foot control while I sewed.

Our pillowcase project took a long time because she had to try out the fancy stitches, inspect every foot in my sewing machine box and rearrange the pins on my pincushion (which I rearranged after she left).  I certainly didn’t mind answering her numerous questions, but could you imagine doing this with 4-6 little girls at the same time?   Oh my goodness!

Miss A. will visit me in my new sewing studio in a couple of weeks for another sewing weekend.  She’ll have a smaller machine, work space more her size and her own tools. She mentioned something about making a quilt.  I have a pattern for a wonderful tied quilt.