Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Sewing

A long while ago I promised to teach my daughter to sew.  I quaked.  Instead of sitting down to do lessons together, I managed to distract her and put off any lessons involving needle and thread.

Guilt got the better of me and I decided to take the time this summer to teach her some sewing.  So far its gone well.  For anyone else out there thinking of embarking on this at home, here's how I've attacked these lessons so far.

1.  We started out by simply going through my sewing basket and talking about all my supplies - scissors, seam ripper, cloth measuring tape, etc.  Then, we went over the sewing machine and discussed what the knobs and buttons do.  I haven't yet shown her how to thread the machine.  I think I'll save that for later.  I just thought it was a little too much to remember at first.

2.  Being able to use the sewing machine was what was really getting my daughter to drool.  Yet, it was also a bit scary.  For both of us.  I found this page that is perfect for little girls.  Print off a dot-to-dot page and a maze, put an old needle without any thread in the machine, and let her practice using the machine to get a feel for its speed and maneuvering what's being sewn.

3.  Later, I let her practice with some thread on some scraps of fabric.  No stress.  No worries of making mistakes.  This was a time to experiment.

4.  We took the time to go over different kinds of fabrics.  At the same time we discussed how the machine will need different thread and needles to successfully sew the different fabrics.  For young girls like mine (age 8) this doesn't need to be very technical.  For older girls, here is a link about needles that may help.  And, here's another link about needles.  Here is a brief table describing which thread to use with which fabric and needle.  Coats and Clark also had a handy table.  Honestly, I found the best information for this in my machine owner's manual.  There's actually a wealth of information in there if you can find yours.

By the way...for older girls, the pdf downloads from can be helpful for building a sewing course, I think.  They're well done.  I've printed off some myself and keep them as a reference. 

5.  On to a project!  I wanted my daughter to have success right away.  I know that she saw sewing as a wonderful hobby and expected to create beautiful things right off the bat.  Yet, learning is full of mistakes, bungles, and disappointments.  So, I tried my best to come up with easy, straight forward projects for her to start with.  So, for her first project she took two same size cuts of rectangular fabric and sewed them together, right sides together, with some batting (ours was a scrap piece of fleece) on one side.  Then, we turned it right side out, sewed it shut, and tied the quilt together with some embroidery floss.  Ta da!  A doll blanket.  Simple - sewing straight lines and it didn't have to be perfect. 

6.  Her next project was a reversible draw string bag.  Again, sewing straight lines and it didn't have to come out perfect for her to enjoy it.  I actually didn't use a pattern; not because I'm that smart, but because I thought I could go without one.  We only had to use the seam ripper once.  Here's a pattern/ instructions to use that closely resemble what we did. 

7.  Next, I thought we would move forward with building up a sewing box for my daughter.  My idea for this is that we'll build it up and it'll be all hers.  When she leaves home she can take it and all her sewing supplies with her.  Even if she doesn't become serious about pursuing sewing as a hobby, she'll still need something to help her sew on loose buttons or mend a hem later on in life.  I've been watching sales and clipping coupons so as to get her a few items at a time.  The actual sewing box - it can be as simple as a dressed up shoe box or as fancy as one likes.  Not being a particular fan of the sewing boxes at the local craft store (my sewing scissors don't even fit in them! Plus, they're expensive.) we looked on Etsy and found a great vintage sewing box for a reasonable price.  I also like the thought of using a vintage train case - plenty of room there.  

My criteria for a good sewing box:
  • A handle to carry it with you.
  • A tray to help sort small items
  • Long enough to hold sewing shears
  • Enough room for your items
To go along with her new sewing box, I helped my daughter make her own pin cushion.  Again, we didn't use any particular pattern.  I ended up helping her with mixing the ideas from two different patterns together so she could make a pin cushion that she could strap to her wrist.  We used ideas from this pattern, and this one.  Just a note, if you plan to make a pincushion you wear on your wrist, make sure you put some cardboard or other material between you and the pincushion so you don't prick yourself.  This is how my daughter's pincushion turned out:

That's as far as we've gotten.  On our list of projects we have:
  • Pillowcase
  • pillow
  • pajama pants (learning how to use a pattern)
  • skirt
  • dress
And then, there are a handful of little projects we can do such as making headbands, dressing up t-shirts, making napkins, and other things. 


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