The Sewing Teacher (1)

I am not by any means a seasoned sewing teacher – I haven’t even taken any classes that might qualify me to teach sewing.  But having taught one young lady for a couple of years and helped a few others (including my sons) here and there has taught me a lot about teaching sewing.  Every once in a while, I’ll share my tips on teaching sewing and file it under category of “The Sewing Teacher”.  Any hints are welcome in the comments!

My little student, Katie, is now 10 years old.  She started with me when she was 8.  On that very first day, I had a stack of 5″ wide cardstock strips and a Sharpie.  I drew lines and with an unthreaded machine and she practiced “sewing” on the lines I had drawn.  This method of getting the feel of the machine is really great for kids and when they are done, they can hold the paper up to the light and see how close they’ve sewn to the line.  She got the hang of the thick Sharpie lines pretty quickly and then we moved on to pencil lines, then curved lines and finally circles.  For the last part of “unthreaded sewing” I gave her a long strip of paper had her practice sewing with a seam allowance – no line – just learning to sew a given distance from the edge.  This sounds all complex, but it all takes about 20-30 minutes.  Now she was ready to sew with thread! 

Great first projects are

  • little square pillow pincushions (two 5″ squares sewn together and stuffed) – this gives kids a basic idea that we sew things wrong side out.  It’s very counter-intuitive to a kid who doesn’t understand that seams aren’t supposed to show.  It’s also great preparation for the next project.
  • large square pillows with an overlapping back flap that fits over a pillowform
  • long stuffed rectangles aka swords (for boys)
  • headbands (Heather’s tutorial here)

Some projects for the next level include

  • simple purses (like the Lindie Bag)
  • Little Artist Drawing Case (my pattern here)
  • Seamstress Apron (my pattern here).  Cute story here: Soon after Katie finished her seamstress apron, she had career day at school.  She stocked up her apron and went to school as a fashion designer.  Cool, huh?  I was so proud! 
  • Barbie skirts
  • Doll quilt using 30 5″ squares.

And finally when they are ready, clothing! 

  • PJ bottoms (my son’s Spiderman PJ pants are pictured)
  • Basic skirts
  • Basic dresses

After mastering the basics, I started sending Katie and her mom to JoAnn’s or Walmart to pick out a pattern and purchase fabric and notions.  This opened my eyes to a few more things that I needed to teach.  For those of us who grew up going with our moms to the fabric store, these things seem obvious, but Katie and her mom really missed out on their trip to JoAnn’s because they didn’t know that most of the patterns are located (or shall I say “hidden”) in file drawers.  Note to self: mention the file drawers next time!!

spiderman pants

Thanks to Lisa for the Spiderman fabric from her boy’s clothing line stash!  As you can see, Timo loves hemming pants as much as his mother does.  One evening he told Dad he was going into the sewing room to hem his pants and 10 seconds later after quickly cutting a few inches off the bottom of his pants, he was back.

Also thanks to all who gave me advice when I started teaching.  Hopefully this will help someone else when their kiddo decides they want to try sewing.

22 thoughts on “The Sewing Teacher (1)

  1. That is such a cute story about Katie and her career day!

    I thought Timo’s pants looked a bit raw at the legs! 🙂 That is hilarious! He seems to really enjoy showing those pants off too!

  2. Aww… great story. I love the pants!

    Great ideas for the projects!

    I think I will save up for the Seamstress Apron (housebound SAHM with no play money :(, great idea for gifts for the holidays.

    I will keep these ideas in mind for when it comes time to teach my little one… we’re a LONG LONG way from that, but I will write it down!

  3. Fantastic! I really appreciate these ideas because I taught myself to sew just a few years ago, and it was tough! I really want my children to enjoy sewing, and in order for that to happen, they need to learn in a comfortable and non-intimidating way. So thank you! And thanks for passing on your skills to the next generation too. 🙂

  4. I love the idea of using an unthreaded machine. I wish they had let us do that at school. Until I taught myself recently, my only other experience was a half-hour session on a sewing machine at school when I was 11, which for some reasn left me with a fear of sewing machines (and an awful wonky bag)

  5. Speaking of your sewing student….. We’re digging out from the crazy few weeks and hoping to get back to the sewing machine soon. Maybe next week? I’m glad you had a wonderful visit with your sister! I’m looking forward to seeing you all very soon.
    Katie loved reading this post!!!

  6. I had been wondering lately when and how to start sewing with my 7 year old. I love your ideas. Thank you so much. I just got butterflies in my stomach, I am so excited for her to give it a try.

  7. My passion is teaching young people to sew and I have been doing this for 20 years now. I also use your idea of sewing on the line with an unthreaded needle in the machine. What I have found that works as well is getting students to use the guide marked on the throat plate of the machine, especially with the Bernina machines. If you don’t have a machine with guides marked on them I stick a piece of masking tape 15mm from the needle and get them to butt the paper up against this and then their fabric when they progress on. The thrill of having sewn in a straight line keeps them keen.

  8. I hate hemming pants too. Your not the only one!! Thanks for all the tips on sewing lessons. My daughter is taking Life Skills this year at school and in the third quarter she will learn to sew. I want to give her the upper hand here since we have two sewing machines. I can’t wait for us to create together!

  9. Thanks for the sewing advice. I am thinking of putting together a little sewing kit for christmas for my daughter who’s 5 and this post has really inspired me to introduce her gently to my sewing machine.

  10. Thank you so much for the tips aabout teaching sewing to children. I have grandchildren I want to practice teaching to so I can eventually expand and teach other children too. blessings.

  11. Thanks Linda! I started Miss Clare (aged 5 1/2) on my machine today, using your tips. She did really well! I suppose that she’s been watching me for long enough. The hardest part was finding the right height box to put the foot pedal on!

  12. Sewing the lines with an unthread machine is EXACTLY how I started when I was 12. and it is how I start my students. My next step is having the student sew on a scrap of fabric with contrasting thread. The other thing I do is all the threading and rethreading, and the unsewing (ripping out) for the first few lessons. I teach those things in later lessons, lest the student becomes discouraged! It is so fun to pass along skills that you are passionate about huh?

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  16. Can you tell I’m spending my morning going thru your blog? Love the tips on teaching. This summer, my 9 year old daughter and my 12 year old niece want me to give them lessons once a week over the summer. I’m definitely not qualified to give them real lessons, but could get them started. I love the notecard / line idea!! That will be the first lesson for sure!

  17. I’m spending my beautiful Saturday morning reading your posts and I’m hooked (and will keep coming back). I love your blog! I wish I knew how to use the sewing machine. It’s on my bucket list.

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