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.)


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. 

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!


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
 (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) 

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!

Modern Pearls Quilt Along - Week Four (the finish!)

Good Morning, friends!  It's the fourth (and final) week of our Modern Pearls Quilt Along, and this is where all those 9 patches start t...