Sewing with Children
Will you have extra unscheduled time with your children or grandchildren this summer? I hope so! I am a firm believer in the benefits of "boredom" for children. Even though we are homeschoolers, taking time off from formal schooling for a few months is an important part of our rhythm. That change of pace and lack of structure create space to explore new things.
Summertime can be a great opportunity to sew with your children. Here are some ideas to help you plant seeds of creativity in the next generation.
Set aside "kid" scraps in a separate ziplock, basket or drawer. Those fabrics and trims that just don't appeal to you might well delight them. Plus you won't feel the need to monitor what they do with the fabrics if they weren't something you were ever going to use. Just like us, kids enjoy digging through scraps to find fabrics or colors that inspire. Make it accessible so that your kids can rummage without having to ask for help.
Little children of 4 or 5 years often enjoy hand embroidery. Set them up with burlap or some other loose-weave fabric secured in an embroidery hoop. Purchase an extra-large, dull sewing needle and thread it with embroidery floss, knotted so it catches at the back of the work. There's lots of learning to be had as they experience the basic rhythm of in and out (not around!) and fun choosing colors and making marks. Eventually they can stitch along the lines of a picture traced on background fabric.
Felt is fun to cut and doesn't fray. Buy a small selection in bright colors, a sharp hand sewing needle with a large eye and thick "button" thread. Your child can cut out a traced shape, pin it to a background and attach it with a basic running stitch. Remember to praise his or her efforts even more than the results.
Eager to teach your older child to "really" sew? Well, first of all be sure to sew yourself, when your child is watching. The young child is drawn to imitate you and will be naturally curious about what is bringing you joy. Make sure you have those Kid Scraps close at hand!
Sometimes older kids resist our invitation or prodding, but respond to books written directly to them in the voice of their peers. At ages 7-10 Aria very much enjoyed these books: Sewing School, Sewing School 2 and We Love to Sew. Sewing School teaches independent hand sewing, while Sewing School 2 is all about machine sewing. She even did a book review on We Love to Sew. We checked out many kids' sewing books from the library and bought more than a couple. These three made were her favorites because they made her feel capable and successful at sewing independently.
Two Sewing Machines!
If possible, have a second sewing machine on hand so your child can sew alongside you when inspiration strikes. It almost always goes that way. When you are snatching a few seconds to sew, your child is suddenly ready to learn. You'll both be happier sewing side by side, rather than taking turns!
If you've been meaning to step up to a better machine, this may be the perfect excuse to do so. Your child will be pleased as can be with your "old" machine. If you choose to buy a machine specifically for your child, I caution you to avoid miniature machines made for children. Although the colors and dimensions are fun, these cheap machines tend to be difficult to use. You don't want bobbin jams and threading hassles to derail your child's enthusiasm. Instead, I suggest a basic, non-computerized adult machine in the $200-$300 range. The best sewing machine feature for little sewists is speed control, which improves safety and stitch accuracy by leaps and bounds. If you're not sure where to start, I recommend Sew Vac Direct, whose selection, pricing and customer service are top notch.
I hope these tips for sewing with children help you spread our love for sewing to your dear sweet ones. Over the years I have so enjoyed sharing sewing with Liam and Aria as they've shown interest. Now at ages 10 and 12, they are more often deep in a book or enthralled in their unique interests rather than imitating mine. They grow up so fast! Be sure to catch those moments and memories as they flutter by.