Teaching kids to sew can be both a rewarding and challenging endeavor. Here are a few tips to help you get started with this adventure.
TIP 1 – Select the right machine
Your child’s experience with the sewing machine can make or break their entire sewing experience…no pressure, but choose wisely!
– Use a full size sewing machine, NOT a toy machine. I repeat, DO NOT use a toy sewing machine under ANY circumstances. (trust me on this, I’m saving you frustration and tears) Toy machines can cause even the most experienced sewist to want to throw it out an open window. (I am not recommending throwing anything, but for those who have experience with this…you know exactly what I am talking about)
– Make sure the machine you use is in good working order and you understand the basics of how to thread it, wind a bobbin, change stitches, change a needle, etc.
– Speed control is not required, but it makes teaching children SO MUCH easier.
TIP 2 – Select the right patterns/project
One of the most common mistakes when teaching children to sew is selecting patterns or projects that are too advanced. Although you want your child to be challenged so they can learn and grow, you need to start with a projects that are simple and give them opportunities to learn the basics. Selecting a curriculum like Kids Can Sew (levels 1, 2 & 3) will teach them the basics required for commercial patterns.
-For obvious reasons, I recommend Kids Can Sew patterns. I personally use Kids Can Sew in my own sewing school and am extremely happy with it. It teaches the basics and really prepares each sewist for commercial patterns. More information about our curriculum, can be found here.
– Start with basic patterns and projects (minimal curves) so they can learn the simple basics.
– Fabric makes a difference. Select patterns that use cottons or cotton blends. Avoid stretchy fabrics and silky fabrics until they have comfortably mastered the basics.
– Select patterns that have instructions that are written clearly and explain each step thoroughly.
TIP 3 – Teach the basics and teach them with repetition
Don’t rush the basics! I repeat, don’t rush the basics. Depending on the child’s age, it might take them 5, 6, or even 10 projects before they are able to easily and comfortably follow a seam allowance, remember how to do pivots without reminders. This is normal! Don’t progress faster than their skills. Keep the projects simple (minimal curves and non-stretchy/silky fabric) until they have mastered or working towards mastery with at least the following basics:
– following a seam allowance while sewing
– pinning correctly
– using a seam gauge correctly
TIP 4 – Expect their best, NOT perfection
Kids are kids…they get distracted, they get frustrated, they get bored, they don’t always listen to the instructions, but they DO NEED consistent direction and encouragement. (this will require an immense amount of patience from you) For the first year or so, (depending on age….sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) they will not consistently keep an accurate seam allowance (aka….sew a straight line). THIS IS NORMAL! It is fair to expect progress, but not perfection. It is alright to have a sewist remove his or her stitches when you know they can do better, but tread lightly with where your set the bar of expectation. NEVER belittle a sewist or degrade their work. Remember to recognize their successes, especially when they overcome a challenging step or skill.
TIP 5 – Make your space “kid friendly”
What is a kid friendly sewing area, you might ask? It’s simply a sewing room that makes accommodations and safety adjustments for young sewists. Here are some tips for making your room a “kid friendly” sewing room.
-Scissors that are easy to cut with. I personally like Gingher Featherweight (8 inch) scissors for my sewing kids. They are light and easy to open and close. My only complaint is that they don’t have a “lefty” version for my left handed kids.
-Quilting pins rather than regular pins….they are longer in length and easier for small hands to work with. PLUS, you can easily spot them when they find their way to the floor.
-Tape, markers, magnets to mark seam allowance lines on the sewing machine. I personally use permanent markers and I mark the 1 /2″ seam allowance line in green and the 5 / 8″ seam allowance line in red.
-Needle/finger guard. A needle guard is FABULOUS for young sewists. Janome sewing machines have a needle guard that can be purchased very inexpensively. Needle guards are a MUST in my sewing room, simply because they buy me peace of mind. Sure, accidents can still happen, but I haven’t had a sewist sew his/her finger (knock on wood) since purchasing my finger guards 10ish years ago.
-Go over your safety rules first thing and enforce safety. Constant reminders are a must. Review the rules at least yearly.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful! Happy sewing!