Thursday, November 14, 2019

Teaching Children to Sew, Part 1 - General Overview

My Mom taught me to sew when I was little, and it's been a love of mine ever since.  Naturally, when my children were around 4 or 5, they expressed interest in learning how to sew themselves.  Quite natural, when they see Mom doing it all the time, right? 

Of course I was thrilled, but when I thought about where to start, and what to teach them first, I felt all thumbs.  Over the past 10 years I've taught all 5 of my kids to sew (to some degree or another), and I am also a quilting leader with 4H, where I've taught girls how to quilt.  When I began teaching children, I rented every book I could from my local library, and searched their pages for guidance!  Out of all the books I read, there were two that I knew I wanted to have here at home to keep - they were that good. (I'll tell you about them both further down)

Today I'm going to share with you the general progression I use to introduce my littles to the art of creating with needle and thread.  First we began with hand-stitching, and then we moved on to a sewing machine.
(Please remember: There's no right or wrong method for teaching children to sew, this is just what I've found works very well.)

HAND-STITCHING 

I always start young children with hand-stitching.  This introduces them to fabric, thread, needles, scissors, and a lot of eye-hand coordination working with the brain.   I think it's good for them to learn and appreciate hand-stitching before they jump to a machine.  Warning: It also involves patience on your end - lots of untangling thread knots, and re-threading that new color on their needle.  But just remember: you are teaching the next generation the art of creating, and letting them experience the satisfaction of making something with their hands. 

Embroidery
You will be the best person to determine what your child is capable of.  If my child was very young (around 4-6), or this was a first attempt at hand-stitching, I let them choose a simple design (like a star, heart, etc), and then I drew the outline, using dash-marks the size of their stitches - so they knew exactly where to come UP with the needle and to go back DOWN. For this, they used the most basic of stitches: the running stitch. (like the photo on the right, of my son with his star.)
Once they finished that design, I let them progress to using these iron-on transfers
I also started with these if I was teaching an older child, say 8 year or up. I would teach them either a running stitch or a back stich, and they could jump right in.














[Note: At this point you can also teach them how to thread a needle.  But usually I did it for them, so they could focus on learning to love embroidery, and not get too bogged down with the details.  They'll get it later!]


My children did MANY of these embroidery creations, one after another.  It's an especially great activity during the long, cold winter months! Once they finished one, we turned it into a small pillow or framed art.  We have also given them as gifts to grandparents or cousins.  And when they out-grow them as decorations for themselves, I tuck them into their "memory bins" for later.

Small Projects
Small hand-sewn projects are the best!  They're usually items that can be finished in one sitting, and give that instant gratification and encouragement that a child needs!  My kids made and stuffed many pint-sized pillows... too small for really anything.  But they MADE something!
The first book I purchased (and wished I had found sooner) is called Sewing School

It has clear instructions to take you from the very beginning of hand-sewing.  It teaches basic
stitches (with lots of good photos), and has quite a few fun easy projects they can make.  It also transitions into machine sewing, which you'll want later.  Many older children could use this book to make all the projects completely on their own!


MACHINE SEWING

To introduce the sewing machine, I always begin my children stitching on lined paper with a bare needle (no thread).  This teaches them 2 things: eye-hand coordination and pressing the foot pedal.  First they work at following the straight lines, with the needle poking holes on the line.  Then I downloaded more practice sheets for them (here) - and they practiced curved lines, zig-zag lines where they learned to put the needle down and pivot, etc.
(NOTE: If your child's legs are short, put a step-stool under the pedal, so they can reach it!)
Once they were ready, I let them sew together 2.5" squares out of my scrap bin, and they made 9-patches.  (which we later turned into hot pads or doll quilts).  Remember, kids love to create!  Most of the time I just let them go to town - not even with a plan.  They just sewed those squares together!  
You can also make a pillow, and stuff it.  This uses both machine stitching, and then you teach them to whip-stitch the opening shut after adding the stuffing.
Another fun way for kids to sew, is digging into your scrap bins and sew them together using the "Slab method".  I learned this from the book Sunday Morning Quilts.  This will require your involvement in helping them trim the scraps after each row of stitching, but it's a fast and organic method for kids who haven't perfected the 1/4" seam.  =)

The second book I highly recommend purchasing is one that also has great information and fun projects for the sewing - called Sewing Machine Fun for Kids.  Older kids will be able to read and do on their own!

If you're a quilter, don't underestimate the power of fun, small crafts!  Quilts are long-term projects, and many fun things can be created using felt.  Be sure to keep some of that on hand. I highly recommend buying 8"x12" sheets in a variety of colors, like THESE HERE.
Valentine garland  (tutorial HERE)
"Just for fun" sewing with my 4-H quilting girls.
And lastly, once my kids were ready, I taught them to thread the machine.  And then I unthreaded it and made them do it 5 times in a row, so they would remember.  They were so proud after they learned how to do it!  After that, they truly were able to spread their wings.  No more waiting for Mom to re-thread the machine.
(Ellie, my oldest daughter, has an insatiable love to create.  She started hand-stitching very young, and then at the age of 4 she was sitting on my lap at the sewing machine, guiding her blocks under the presser foot, while I pushed the pedal. Now she's 13, and has made multiple full-size quilts.)
Below you will find a list of items that I would recommend purchasing, if you are going to be teaching a child to sew.  They would also make a fun gift idea!




Products I recommend buying:
Sewing School book
Sewing Machine Fun for Kids book
- Felt Sheets
LoRan needle threader
- embroidery thread, various colors
- embroidery hoop
- embroidery needles (with a large eye)
iron on transfers 
Polyfill stuffing


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Stars and Stripes quilt along - Week 2!


Welcome to week 2 of the Stars and Stripes quilt along!  Can you believe we have over 580 quilters signed up to sew together?!

It was so fun to tap the hashtag this past week and see the many different fabric combinations you all chose! Quite a bit of inspiration to draw from, isn't there?  I also noticed how supportive you all were - leaving encouraging comments on each other's posts.  Keep up the good work, ladies!

Homework (Mon-Sun, 5/6-5/12)
Pretty simple - get your fabric cut out, post a photo of your fabric piles, and use the hashtag #starsandstripesqal to be entered into the drawing for week 2.  

Question of the Week
I was thinking it would be fun to get to know each other, and make our weekly posts even more fun, if we had a "question of the week" that you answered when you post your photo!
So the question for this week is (ok - it's actually TWO questions):
1 - How long have you been quilting?
2 - How did you learn? (or who taught you?)
week 2.2.JPG
Winner for last week
Congratulations to  @farviewquilts - who won the Stars and Stripes barn quilt!

Prize for Week 2
Head over to my Instagram post today to see what the next fabulous prize is!


Looking forward to another fun week with you,


Welcome to WEEK 1 of the Stars and Stripes quilt along!

Welcome to the Stars and Stripes quilt along official kick-off!   It’s Week 1 and I’m so glad you have decided to join in.
(quick note: this is a rather long email - if you need to get the cliff-notes version, jump down the the one sentence in RED.)

Our weekly assignments will run Monday-Sunday each week.  And as you already know, your assignment for this week is pretty simple:
1 – gather your fabric and pattern
2 – post a photo of it, along with the hashtag #starsandstripesqal
AfterlightImage_5.JPG
 (I pulled my fabrics from my scrap bins, my friends bins, and my stash!)

A few things to keep in mind over the next 4 weeks:
Monday Updates
While these emails give extra info and tidbits, you will want to also check-in with me every Monday on Instagram, to see what the prize for the week is, and to see who the winner of the previous week’s prize is.  That will be announced ONLY over on my Instagram account.

Working Ahead
If you want to work ahead, do so!  It never hurts to get a jump-start on things. 
Just remember to take photos as you go, so that over the next 4 weeks you can post those photos during the appropriate week in order to be entered into the weekly giveaways. (the 4 weeks are: fabric, cutting, blocks, and quilt top) 
AfterlightImage_3.JPG

Be generous with your contribution!
Whether it’s with IG photos and stories, encouragement, advice and tips – please share!  I’ve been amazed at the wide range of people we having joining this group – many first-time-quilt-alongers (is that a word?) to very experienced (almost professional!) quilters.  This is a great place to share advice and tips, or a simple word of encouragement to others.  You’ll be amazed afresh at the simple fact that when you give, it comes back to you tenfold.

Your Goals
If you’re here simply because it’s a fun thing to be part of, that’s great!  But if you have a few things in mind that you’d like to accomplish, take a moment to ask yourself what your goals are for this quilt along?  Is it having a finished quilt top by the end?  Meeting some more quilting friends? Learning a new skill?  Growing your IG account? Or maybe being the one to encourage new quilters in their new-found love of quilting?

If you make yourself stop for 60 seconds and think about what you want to accomplish or get out of something, the chances of it happening are much more likely. You will find yourself being more purposeful in certain things if you take the time to think about what it is that you want beforehand!

I would like to personally challenge you to think of TWO goals for this time, and share them this week when you post on IG!  I would love to hear what’s on your heart, and I know others would too.

When I asked for feedback on what you all love about quilt alongs, and here’s a few of the responses:
-       The camaraderie of sewing with friends
-       Motivation to finish a quilt on time
-       A group working together on the same project
-       Seeing the variety of what others are making (on the hashtag)
-       Learning new tips
-       Meeting new people who love the same thing I do
-       Being a part of a community that is creating and has the same goal as you do
-       Prizes that give additional motivation

Well I think that about wraps it up for this week!  I feel honored to be on this quilt-along journey with you, and that Camille had enough faith in me to let me lead it.  You know this is my first quilt along too?  Now let’s have fun and do this!


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Scrap Buster Pumpkins Tutorial

If you're looking for a quick, fun, scrappy fall sewing project, these Scrap Buster Pumpkins (#ScrapBusterPumpkins) are the perfect thing for you this season.

I used my pumpkin blocks for a table runner, and 2 hot pads - 
but a throw pillow would be so cute, as well.
#scrapbusterpumpkins
One thing to keep in mind as you make these blocks:  The dimensions I'm going to give you are just a jumping off point.  You can make these any size you want!

At first I stuck to an exact 5"x6" orange piece, and simply rotated it sideways to achieve two different pumpkins (a taller/thinner, and a shorter/fatter pumpkin).  But the more I made, the more I switched things up.  I trimmed a little off the side to make a short, squatty pumpkin.  Then I pulled out some long, thin scraps to make a tall, skinny pumpkin.  

For me, this isn't as easy as it is for some of you.  I'm a rule-follower, and I stick to the pattern!  This time I forced myself to just sew pieces together, and in doing so, I experienced the fun of letting go, simply sewing pieces on, and trimming things up at the end.  I highly suggest you try it!

So here's what I used to make my Scrap Buster Pumpkins:
PUMPKINS
5" x 6" (makes 2 different pumpkins, when rotated)
5" x 4.5" (short, squatty pumpkins)
6.5" x 3.75" (tall, skinny pumpkins)

PUMPKIN CORNERS (low-volume)
1.5"-2" squares

STEMS
1-1.5" wide x 2" tall (or whatever height you want)

LEAVES
1.75-2" square (makes 2)

BACKGROUND FABRICS
dig through those scraps!

Step 1 - Leaves.  (Note: I added leaves to most of my blocks, but I left a few without!)
Use (1) 1.75-2" square of green, and (1) same size background square.  Mark a line diagonally from corner to corner, and sew on either side.  Cut apart on marked line and press open. (This yields two.)
Step 2 - Sew your stem piece next to your leaf.  
Now add scraps of low volume pieces on either side, to make it as wide as (or wider than) the body of your pumpkin.
Don't worry about these background pieces being exactly the same height as your leaf or stem.  Just line up the bottom as good as you can, because you will trim the top to match your leaf later on.
Step 3 - to make the pumpkin body, use your small low-volume squares (1.5"-2").  Draw a diagonal line on each, place one in each corner, and sew on the drawn line.  Trim off corners, and press out.
 Step 4 - Sew stem/leaf panel to pumpkin, and then trim (if necessary) to square up your block.
Now for the fun part!  I have a bin full of fabric scrap "strings".  These are scraps that vary in length and width, but each one is a consistent width.  These work fabulously for finishing the blocks.

*Note: to do this part of my blocks, I used a method that Emily (@SimpleGirlSimpleLife) showed us when she made her Wonky Log Cabin Blocks.  I would highly recommend reading her great tutorial.  It's got lots of good details and info for all of us who have a hard time going improv!

Ok here we go! 
You will be sewing a piece of background fabric to the top and the left side of your pumpkins only.
To start, measure your tallest pumpkin.  This will be the height you'll make your smaller blocks.  Mine tall pumpkins ended up being 8.25" tall.
After you measure your tallest pumpkin, find a scrap to sew to the top of a shorter pumpkin.  Use a piece that is a little too big, so you have room to trim it later.  Sew and press.
(In the photo above, you can see that I used a very large scrap for the top of my short pumpkin.  After sewing it on,  I trimmed it to 8.25" tall, and then trimmed the sides even with my pumpkin. (To save time, you can wait to trim the top of your blocks down till the end.)

Now add a scrap to the left side of your pumpkin block (this can be ANY width).  
Sew it on, and trim off any extra length.  
And now you have a pumpkin! Isn't it cute?

I found it easiest to make these in groups of 4.  
Once I had my pumpkins sewn, I laid them out, and chose scraps to sew on the tops.
Then scraps for the the left sides of the pumpkins.  
(I used my scissors to cut super long scraps down to workable lengths.)
Now for trimming and squaring up your blocks.
Line the bare side of the pumpkin (side that does NOT have a background scrap sewn to it) along the left side of your cutting mat.  Trim the RIGHT side square. (This is easy, because the width of your block doesn't matter, remember?)
Then if you haven't already, trim the top of your block to whatever your tallest pumpkin is. 
And this one is done!

To make my table runner, I made 18 pumpkins. (this fit my table well, but you might need less/more).
Lay out your pumpkins.  Once you have the layout you like, you will need to add a side scrap to the pumpkins on the ends that don't have one! 
(See blow photo, with the pumpkin on the left.  It needs a backround strip sewn to its side.)
scrappy pumpkins
I also noticed that my right side was a tad bit shorter than my left.  I decided to add a small strip of background fabric to one of the pumpkins, to even this out.
I then sewed my pumpkins together into 2 long rows.  

Using some larger scraps, I cut them down into 2" strips, and pieced them end to end for a middle sashing.  

To attach the sashing, I made sure to start my rows even with each other at one end, but I didn't worry about them ending up exactly the same length, as long as the larger piece was one that ended with a background scrap (so I could trim it even).

In the photo below you can see that my bottom row was a bit longer than the top row.  
After sewing the two rows together, I left them laying right sides together (photo on left), and simply trimmed the larger scrap down even with the row on top. (photo on right)
 I added 2" wide sashing to both outside long edges as well.
#scrapbusterpumpkins
scrap buster pumpkins
I tried to do a wiggly, zig-zag quilting stitch on my Bernina, but it kept skipping stitches when it went to the left.  I tried everything I knew to do: I cleanned it out and oiled it, changed the needle, rethreaded it, and adjusted the tension.  The only thing I didn't have was an actual "quilting" needle on hand (and wasn't about to drive 30 minutes to the store).  
I'm not sure if that would have helped or not.  
However, after the 3rd failed attempt, I changed my plan, switched over to my Juki, and went with simple straight-line stitching.  I marked my lines every 2", and then also quilted in between each of those lines - eyeballing the middle quilting lines. 
You can tell - the quilting lines aren't perfectly straight, but neither are the scrappy pumpkins, so it fits  the look perfectly.
I also made my two extra pumpkin blocks into hotpads, which will be so fun to pull out for my kitchen each fall when we get out our other decorations.  
So there you have it!  
I want to see yours too, so be sure to 
tag me on Instagram @RedRainbootsHandmade, and 
tag your photo with #ScrapBusterPumpkins, so others can see and be inspired as well!

-Julia

Teaching Children to Sew, Part 1 - General Overview

My Mom taught me to sew when I was little, and it's been a love of mine ever since.  Naturally, when my children were around 4 or 5, t...