I can’t remember when I learned to sew. My mother sewed, and I know I used a sewing machine in late elementary school. But stitching by hand must have come first.
I still sew a lot, and my Etsy business is almost entirely sewn products. So in true “whatever Mommy does I can do too” style, Amelia wants to sew. Lately she’s been hanging around the sewing room more while I’m working, making beds and scarves and clothes for her stuffed animals with fabric scraps.
She’s turning six this week, and she’s cracking eggs and flossing her own teeth. Surely she can handle a needle and thread. But she’s not interested in lacing cards and plastic needles. She wants the real deal. So this week I gave her a thick needle and embroidery thread, and some felt. Felt is an excellent first fabric because it holds its shape and doesn’t fray (unravel) at the edges, and the weave is loose enough to easily accept a thick needle.
There are lots of interesting kids’ beginner sewing projects online. But for our first attempt, we didn’t use any of them. I wanted to see what Amelia was able to do, and how interested she really is. We started with a simple running stitch. I threaded the needle for her and knotted it at the bottom. I showed her how to bring the needle through the fabric from the back to the front, take a stitch, and go to the back. Take another stitch and go to the front. Take another stitch and go to the back. We started with a straight line, which she picked up right away, so we moved on to simple shapes. She proudly stitched a circle with surprisingly small, even stitches, over a drawn line. No injuries.
Next we made a pillow. We cut out two heart shapes the same size, and I drew a line around one of them, about ½” from the edge. I left a few inches open for stuffing. She stitched along the line, fastening the two pieces together. We used scraps of felt for stuffing, and filled the pillow through the opening, and she sewed it closed. With this simple project, Amelia demonstrated that she understood how the parts would fit together, and the sequence of steps she’d need to take. Yep, she’s a natural.
I was all excited, jazzed up to make more things together – little pouches to wrap holiday gifts! Tiny clothes for all her dolls! A necktie for the dog!
Nope. Amelia was done. She was so proud of her heart pillow that she wanted to show it to her stuffed animals, still asleep under their fabric-scrap blankets. They’re much more comfortable with a pillow, and she played with them for another 30 minutes, leaving me, literally, holding the needle.
But this was only our first venture into sewing together. Now Amelia has her very own sewing basket stocked with felt, scraps of ribbons and lace, and a very real needle. Turns out she’s old enough to use it – but only when she wants to.
A few suggestions:
- I’m thrilled that Amelia wants to sew, and I believe her interest stems from wanting to do what she sees me enjoy. It doesn’t have to be sewing, just do what you love and share it. If you cook, try cooking together. If you garden, go outside and plant something – you get the idea.
- Using real tools is half the fun. In our case, Amelia is so accustomed to NOT being allowed to touch needles and scissors, that to be given these tools was like a maturity milestone. And she was extremely careful with the needle – I’m still not sure whether she was afraid of sticking herself or afraid I’d take it away if she did.
- Remember your kids’ attention spans. When they aren’t having fun anymore, stop – even if you want to keep going! Save it for another day, so hobbies together stay fun and child-driven.
- And of course, remember safety. Amelia’s using an embroidery needle, which is very thick and rounded, and she is only using it with my close supervision. She’s still using safety scissors, even to cut fabric. I believe in using real tools with kids, but never more than they can handle safely and never unsupervised.
Want more Mess? Visit Melanie’s blog, or drop by her Etsy store, Made by Mommy!