Sometimes I worry that I am way too unconventional to teach sewing.
Then I look at all my super sewing kids and remember how far they have
come, from shy, quiet little novices to proud, independent and confident
little artists. That pride and confidence is apparent in every little
(sometimes wonky) stitch and fabric combination.
How to get a
child to this level of sewing joy? I have put together a list of the ten
things to think about before you sit down and start sewing with your
1.Perfection is for the birds.
think that before you actually start the sewing process, it is
important to talk to your student about expectation. The prospect of
using a sewing machine for the first time is probably a little scary...
You don't want the child to be striving for instant perfection. Make it
clear that perfection is optional... Sewing takes practice, kind of like
learning to ride a bike except without the helmet and skinned knees.
2. Set the scene
Create a space that inspires learning and focus. Turn off the tv, mute the cell phone and get down to the business of sewing.
nice sized table and a comfy chair will do the trick. I have also found
that in a room of little sewing girls, Taylor swift cd's are a wonder
for concentration. Instead of chatting with their friends and being
silly, their focus is on singing along whilst sewing hard!
3. Sewing machine practice
from the obvious practice involved with threading the machine (I have
my students thread and re-thread their machines multiple times) speed
control is the most important thing to master. I always say that it is
like a car... Drive too fast and you can lose control and have a
crash..noone wants a sewing crash right?
Like a car, the idea of
using the machine is simply to steer the fabric through the machine.
Seems simple right? Well for a new sewer it is a lot harder than you
I have a pretty foolproof method of teaching speed
control and at the same time having the kids practice on straight line
I like to cut a large square of white canvas and use my
pilot frixion marker to draw 10-12 lines from the top to the bottom of
the fabric. I thread the machine with a bright colored thread and let
them go. It is pretty awesome to watch how long it takes them to
understand how to control speed and sew on the line.. It becomes
somewhat of a challenge to get it right. I will never let a student move
on to a real piece of fabric until they have mastered control and can
sew in a straight line.
Still having trouble with speed? Stop and
take a look under the table. If the child's heel cannot reach the floor,
they are going to have a really hard time controlling their speed.
4. Offer choices
they are ready to start working on a real project. If you want to have a
class of super motivated and excited students, think about offering
choices of fabrics. You may need to Pre-cut your fabrics in advance, so
think about cutting a small variety of fabric choices for them to mix
and match. There is nothing worse than thinking that you have found the
cutest, sweetest fabric in the world only to have half the class
absolutely hate it. Offering options unlocks the inner artist in the
children and offers a kind of creative pride in their work. You may not
love the choices they make but they do and that's all that counts right?
5. Be realistic
like a bad hair day, a bad sewing day happens to all of us at some
point. Don't get frustrated if your students are just not getting it.
Most kids are not that handy with pair of scissors or even with pins.
Sometimes it is ok for you to take over that part for them. Think about
pre -cutting your pattern pieces and accept the fact that you may need
to step in and help with the parts they hate. Don't worry, they will
eventually get it.
6. Class structure
like to have my class size at about 4 kids. Sometimes I will take 5 if I
know that I have my trusty sewing assistant around to help with any
sewing machine snafus. I never will go over that number. It is not fair
to you or your students to do that.
I like to teach in 1 hour
classes. Kids these days are so over scheduled and overwhelmed with
school work that 1 hour is enough to keep them engaged without putting
them to sleep.
When I teach workshops I like to teach for 2 or 2 1/2 hours with a little hot cocoa break in the middle.
7. Don't make promises you cannot keep.
It is the question most asked in my class. "Will we finish today?"
have made a point of never promising anything. Just because I can sew
an owl in 30 minutes doesn't mean that a child can... It's more like 4
times that. I like to take 2-3 weeks to work on a project. The owl in my
book is a great example of that. The first class is creating the face
and sewing on the eyes and the second is putting him all together and
making the wings. You really have to be realistic in your expectations
of children. It may take one child 5 minutes to sew a button and 30
minutes for another. Try not to rush your students and only step in if
you feel that they need help.
We have been working on quilts for
about 6 weeks and for most classes we took a break halfway through the
process to make something quick and fun. It really helped to re energize
the kids to keep going with their big project!
8. Acknowledge the skills.
is always great to be able to introduce a new skill with every new
project that you tackle and acknowledging that new skill is just as
important. I have found it funny to see how boys and girls are different
in that way. My boys class are thrilled to earn their colored belt
(actually just a piece of twine) for every new skill learned. My girls
all want me to create a certificate for them for their new skills!
Every new skill, no matter how small, is a great achievement for them so try to make a point of rewarding it!
summer we love to enter projects in the local county fair, the great
thing about this is that in most cases all the projects will earn a
ribbon. It's amazing the effect this has on the kids, it is like they
won the lottery, how awesome is that?
9. The power of Pinterest.
all love Pinterest right? Well did you know that it is such an amazing
tool for class planning? Think about creating a board and having your
students pin projects and other favorite things to the board. It will
open your eyes to the things that they really want to make. You will get
a better understanding of the fabrics that move them and the designs
that woo them!
10. Have fun
For me, this
is the most important aspect in teaching children. Find your groove,
create a safe, open environment for discussion and confidence building
and do your thing! There is nothing better for me than having kid tell
me that sewing class is the highlight of their week. Remember, make it
interesting and fun and you will have a sewer for life!