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!!
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.