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Summer Sewing School {tips on teaching children to sew}

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Note:  I’ve mentioned before that all my boys have various levels of sewing ability. They all have learned to at least sew a button and do some simple mending. So while most of the stories I draw on will be about Phoebe since she is by far the most proficient sewer, please remember that sewing is for everyone, not just girls. I hope that you moms of boys will find some projects that will inspire them, even if the project is to be given as a gift.

When Phoebe was 5, almost 6, her aunt gave her a small sewing machine. Carl and I had already approved the the gift and so we were not shocked when she opened it. Looking back, I think “What was I thinking? five…. really? five!” But she was just 3 months away from six and well, six is so much bigger than five.

I quickly ordered a book to teach her to sew, and although the book had some useful information and some cute projects, it just didn’t excite her. She wanted to sew what I was sewing. Whenever I’d get my machine out,  she’d get hers out and want to sew. At first, I really struggled with this because my sewing time was very limited and to teach her would mean that I couldn’t do as much of what I wanted to do. But I knew my attitude could kill her excitement. So, unless I had some kind of deadline that I was up against, I would let her sew along side me and just realize that it would take much longer.

This is what a 9 year old boy needs to be able to sew… the most comfy chair in the house, mom’s book
that was in the chair and “can’t” be moved because he’s too busy to do things like that, and the xbox
controller so he can be in charge of the music selections.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point she became a profient sewer. We can whip out great gifts in half the time it would take me alone. She even has had a few people pay her to make burp cloths and other items. It has been so worth the extra time I took a few years ago to teach her and let her sew along with me.

One thing I learned with Phoebe is that children, like most of us, want to spend out time doing something useful. Phoebe would sew on paper for a few minutes, but she really wanted to create! To teach her to sew in a straight line, turn corners and sew a circle I drew on paper and then had her sew right on the line. After she did this, we would sew the “real” project. We would do this each time… and then at some point, it didn’t need to be done anymore.

Please keep in mind that when making these projects, mistakes will be made. Sometimes, lots of them, some will be able to be fixed and some won’t be. It’s okay. Just start over. With this in mind, I would suggest that you let your child pick out fun fabrics, but not expensive ones. It is much easier to remain calm when a mistake is made with $3 a yard fabric than it is when a mistake is made with $10 a yard fabric. Also, buy a little extra fabric – anticipating mistakes.

None of these projects need to be perfect. We have picked projects that will be just fine if there is some wiggle in the stitches. There will be times that you need to rip out stitches, but try to do that as little as possible. The more your child sews, the neater the sewing will get.

If your sewing machine has more than one speed, meaning that when you push harder on the foot pedal the machine goes faster, I suggest putting a thick sponge under the pedal. That way your child doesn’t have to worry about how hard to push the pedal down. You can remove it as your child’s confidence builds.

Just like learning any new skill, sewing at times can be frustrating. If I have a choice between either laughing or crying (or yelling), I chose to laugh. So when mistakes are made when we sew, we try to just laugh, learn our lesson and start over.

Above all, have fun!!!

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In the garden...melons
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