Today, I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts about sewing with children from the very beginning. Next week I will show you how a child with a little bit of sewing experience and a little bit of help can make a great Christmas gift for their Dad or Grandparents - a sunglasses case.
Let's get started.
When sewing with children:
- Start simple. Madeleine and Pippa both attend a Montessori school and it is there that I learnt the value of giving children a series of small achievable projects that continually build skills. For both my girls their sewing debut was at about 2 and consisted of a sewing card - a single straight line across a piece of cardboard made up of about 8 stitches. Tiny holes had been made by their teacher in the card and they were given a tapestry needle threaded with embroidery thread and shown how to push the needle though, turning the card from one side to the other. With time the sewing cards can become more complicated - circles, squares, hearts, even two shapes interlinked which can be sewn in different coloured threads. Madeleine has since moved on to more complex projects - she can competently sew on a button, make a fragrance bag and sew a simple hand stitched softie. Amanda Soule, in her book The Creative Family has a lovely first sewing project that a very young child can do. She suggests placing a coarse piece of fabric in an embroidery hoop and showing the child how they can do free form stitching pushing a tapestry needle back and forth through the fabric. Pippa's Christmas decoration is a variation of this project.
- Be Prepared. With any sewing project for a young child it is worth thinking it through carefully before you even suggest sewing as an activity to your child! Break the project down. Think about ways in which it can be simplified or preparations you can do beforehand to make the project more manageable. From personal experience, once the word sewing is mentioned to my children they want to start straight away. Frustration levels run high if they are waiting for me to trace off a template and cut out fabric.
- Let them use the good stuff! There is something very appealing about beautiful crafting materials, soft cottons in colourful designs, 100% wool felt and a rainbow of embroidery threads and knitting wool. I think children appreciate this as much as we do. I know it adds to the cost but show your children how to use these materials sensibly. Most projects that young children make don't require much fabric and if all goes well they will make something that you will want to keep forever.
- Let them use the real stuff! This is probably a little controversial but I think children need to know that pins and needles are sharp and hurt if they get stuck in your finger and that scissors can cause damage if not used with care. My children's Montessori teachers say that a child will not know that a glass is fragile and will break if you drop it, if they have only ever been given a plastic cup to drink from. I feel the same way about sewing equipment. Carefully supervised, my children have access to most of my sewing kit. (I draw the line at my rotary cutter and hot glue gun!!!)
- Be an inspiration to your children. Let your children see you sew and the pleasure it brings you. Let them see you learning a new skill, making mistakes and learning step by step. If I am sewing, my children want to sew. I find it works well if we have projects we can work on side by side.