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Tips & Tricks for Sewing With Children

January 16, 2017

Have you taught a child to sew? One of my boys has been begging me to learn to sew…he was inspired by a social media post about a boy in Australia who makes stuffed animals for children with pediatric cancers. How can you say “no” to that motivation.

However, he is just a beginning sewist and we needed to start somewhere. The first day I drew lines on paper and had him follow them by sewing with paper. We decided on a simple straight line pattern, a tie, using the Everyday neck tie pattern from Made Everyday. We muddled through the tie, but there seemed to be so much to teach, I felt overwhelmed with the possibilities.

For advice on this post, I turned to two fabulous and talented friends, Erin Pearson Beauchamp (owner of Vint Hill Vintage) and Isabel Dichiara (owner of KvaraBaby) for their advice. Both women are mothers of sons about the same age as my sons and both are a font of knowledge. Here are some tips to make sewing with your young children easier ( I would like to clarify my sons are six).

Here are some tips:

  1. Teach your children to sew on a real sewing machine. If you don’t want them to use your machine, you can find them inexpensively at yard sales or in thrift shops. Sewing machines marketed to children tend to have a chain stitch rather than a lock stitch. The chain stitch unravels very easily and can be very frustrating. most machines marketed to children are junk and hard to use. The higher end machines are much easier to sew on.
  2. Placing a machine on a kid sized table is helpful. If  you don’t have a kid sized table then place a box under the foot pedal to raise it to a comfortable height for kid to reach.
  3. Run the thread through beeswax (available in notions at fabric store) to reduce tangling and frustration. This works for hand sewing, too.
  4. When threading the machine, make sure you leave the pressure foot in the “up” position. This allows the thread to fall between the tension discs and then be held in place properly. If the presser foot is down the discs are closed and the thread can’t go between, therefore no upper tension on thread causing birds nesting underneath the fabric. (This tip is so important and was news to me!)
  5. Start with teaching the parts of the sewing machine. Show the child how the needle goes up and down, how the pressure foot moves, how the foot pedal works…
  6. An electronic machine with variable speed control is fantastic for teaching kids. Turn the regulator all the way down until they are confident in their control of the fabric. (We don’t have variable speed control so I’ve taught C how to control speed with his foot and he practiced this concept on scrap fabric until he could control the machine without driving off like he was headed for the Indy 500).
  7. Teach kids to always keep their hands flat on the bed of the machine and they can never sew their fingers as the presser foot can’t run over a finger.
  8. Practice lines on paper. Then move onto gentle curves, followed by sharper curves and then needle pivots.
  9. When your child has mastered paper techniques, move onto practicing on scrap fabrics. I’d start with cottons because they are easy to manipulate and don’t slide around. Cottons also rarely require a special foot.
  10. Once comfortable with controlling paper, move to scrap fabric and finally to a real project. Pillow cases with French seams, draw string backpack, simple pillow, all great first projects. Beyond a guided project, allow kids a box if scrap fabric to play around with. They tend to make seemingly useless stuff with it but it’s all wonderful practice in controlling the machine and experimenting with design and a true artistic endeavors.

We jumped the gun a bit on skipping curves. C. really wanted to make “something that I can wear,” thus the tie. I think since he eventually wants to make stuffed animals we will go back and paper practices curves many more times before trying them out. Not only did he make a tie for himself but he made one for his twin. They wore them to school the next day and now he has ties for church. He also spent a good amount of time at Hobby Lobby choosing fabrics for friends and relatives to make them ties. Most importantly, he felt proud, confident and wants to continue sewing.

His brother in the green tie for the record thought his tie was “too floral” and it was only when we told him his pattern looked like exploding stars was he excited to wear it. All the fabrics shown in the photo were the only “manly” fabrics I had available in my stash (I mostly sew for my daughters). This is now a joint stash with my little boys. I love that.

Do you sew with your child/ren? What have you made? Any tips to share?

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4 Comments on "Tips & Tricks for Sewing With Children"

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Your son’s first sewing project looks very impressive. What is next? My children all know how to sew though the girls do much more than the boys. The boys kind of stick now just with mending. My oldest girl likes to quilt. She does all machine piecing and quilting. She’ll sew items for the house and for presents like curtains, potholders etc. The middle girl does some sewing, like her own dresses but much prefers to knit. They both have their own machine. The youngest still uses my machine. She made everyone reusable grocery tote bags for Christmas. We made… Read more »

Yes, that is what they are like. Pillowcases sound like a good second project. Are the girls asking him to make them something ?

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