Sewing with Small Children

October 13, 2016By Angela PingelArticles, Sewing 15 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

I have a gorgeous Brother Dream Creator VQ2400 machine. I ALSO have a gorgeous 6 year old daughter. Put together in bowl and mix! (oh wait…sorry…I’ve been watching too many of those cooking video shorts on facebook.)

But seriously, I really do want my daughter to learn to sew. It’s an essential part of my life and I want to share it with her. However, teaching a small child to sew can be be…dare I say…a bit of a challenge. (I get points in heaven for every time we work together.) In a moment of love and insanity, a group of 8 or so moms who specialize in quilting, got together from around the country and devised a plan to get our little ones to sew. The kids at the start aged in range from 5 – 9 I’d say, and some of those moms had 2 kids they were working with each time!

We put together a fantastic quilting bee called “Not Your Mama’s Bee” and let each child pick out a quilt block that they wanted the other kids to make for them. There *may* have been some guidance on the moms’ part for these blocks as some kids were particularly ambitious (paper pieced Harry Potter blocks?! no). It’s been a great year and we all had different goals with each of our kids.
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My daughter and I (have I mentioned she is strong willed?!) had a bit of a struggle through the first few months because she was sewing on my lap. And she was DEFINITELY wanting to sew on her own. But she couldn’t reach the pedals.

Then I had an idea that I should have had from the beginning. Use the Pedal-less feature!!! I never use it myself because I’m such a control freak with my pedal speed. But for a little one, it was one less thing for her to worry about. Just take off the pedal and put the speed on a low setting.

And she was off and sewing in no time. Freedom for both of us! I adore this machine for her…which is about the size of her!…because it has so many fantastic features with the buttons. I didn’t realize how great those buttons would be for her, but let’s face it, in this day and age, kids are totally comfortable tapping a screen or button to get what they want. She does still like to do things manually at times, but who doesn’t love a needle threading button or a presser foot lift button?

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And my girl was not just sewing, she was quilting! Nothing like making her work on a 1/4″ seam allowance right off the bat. I’m such a mean mama. LOL But if she can do that then she can do anything! And she IS working with cotton fabrics that cling to each other, so that helps a lot.
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Hmmm….I really should have made her redo her nail polish for this. Just keeping it real. Sewing with a six year old looks like this, pink fabric and all.

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She’s always so stinking proud of herself in the end. We are all smiles when it is done, but I’ll admit that we can both get a bit tense with each other while the sewing is going on. Her attention can wander easily and soon that 1/4″ looks like a wave of thread. Oh and just for the record, I do not, at this point, allow her to do any of the rotary cutting or ironing. She can pin and sew, but I do those other steps. After all…she is only six.
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And we often work on arranging the block into the correct orientation. I will deliberately lay them out without the pattern correct and have her figure out where the pieces should be to add a little spacial understanding too.

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Then, eventually she has a completed block! She’s helped me sew dresses for her and made her own pillow case. And she does have one piece that she can sew all on her own…I don’t give a hoot about the seam allowances and she can just sew whatever she wants. So she’s piecing together a little improv pillow.

I like to think that she is getting the best of both worlds with precise sewing and improv. She does some hand sewing as well, which she adores. But, most of all, I’m just happy to see her at a sewing machine and becoming familiar with fabric. She’s not afraid to chop into fabric and just create!

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15 Comments

  • Awesome! Wish I had a little one to teach to sew. My brother and his families were missionaries so I didn’t see much of them, but at one point they came to visit and there little girl couldn’t have been more than 5-6 got together with me and embroidered out a little hand towel on my then Janome 8000. She came to visit a year ago – grown up now with kids of her own. She said she had never forgotten sewing with me that day 30 years prior! These are good memories that we need to help instill in our children.

  • What a wonderful, inspiring post! My 12 yo has been sewing since she was six and still loves it. Her 11 yo brother loves my Dream Machine and want to embroider something–anything when he visits. Good for you to share this creative outlet and useful skill to your daughter. You are both doing a fabulous job!

  • I hit a gold mine of sewing and needlework books at my local Friends of the Library booksales last week. One of the books I picked up was The Complete book of Sewing by Constance Talbot http://amzn.to/2dxD6y9 published in 1943. It has all sorts of interesting info and includes an entire chapter on WHY we should teach our daughters to sew. I have to get IV’s every 6 weeks for my arthritis and one of the nurses told me that her young daughter got her own sewing machine for Christmas ( a real one, not a toy) and her grandmother is teaching her how to sew. I brought in some large scraps to make American Doll clothes, notions, lace, rick rack, etc. She won a blue ribbon at the fair this year. Anyhow when I saw this chapter in the book I decided to make a copy to give to the mom about all the good reasons to encourage this girl in her sewing. I also found a free pattern for a sleeping bag for her doll and and a free easy dress pattern. I don’t have girls, but I sure will encourage sewing any chance I get.

    My next chapter to read in the book is one on basically recycling clothes into new garments. Looking forward to reading that knowing the latest frenzy of thrift store shopping to turn things into something else if not better.

  • I also have a Brother Dream Creator, which is perfect for teaching little ones and big ones (Like me ) ! I just put it on the lowest setting with a quarter inch foot and let her have a. Glance to learn. She has made a bag and a babydoll quilt … and it was so wonderful to see the excitement on her face !!

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thank you for your comment. I agree, there is something so special about seeing the excitement on someones face when they make something for themselves. I hope as the weather cools, and children (and adults) return indoors, those who sew will be able to help share this skill and passion. Thank you for sharing your skills!
      best,
      Kimberli

  • i love to sew been doing it sence i was 7 am now 68 yr s old any way i taught both my boys to sew.my dad came from a large family ,each child had a chore to master my dads were baking and sewing .he taught me so the boys mever thought this was for girls only.

    • Hi Sharon,
      I love to read this! I come from a family where both of my parents sew! At one point my nephew had decided not to spend an afternoon at the machine learning with me when his sister did as something else was more tantalizing at the time. He later regretted it and at his next visit asked if we could spend an afternoon making something at the sewing machine. We drew simple monsters and then created the monster he drew. He carried that stuffed monster in his backpack for years! (I wonder if he still does?)
      I think it’s so important for both boys and girls to learn to sew and see what they can achieve with their own two hands.
      Thanks for your comment!
      Best,
      Kimberli

  • I have just purchased a new machine for my 10 year old Granddaughter. I gave it to her yesterday and she was so excited. She can sew straight lines and curves very well, but seems to loose interest easily. I thought that we would complete several projects this weekend, but it didn’t happen. Am I expecting too much from a beginner?

    • Hi Donna,
      I’ve taught sewing for over 20 years to both adults and children. I find that typically a 1.5-2hr block of time is the very maximum for a beginning sewer in a classroom setting, and often 1 hour is maximum for a child in a one-on-one setting when they are beginning. It can be a lot of information for them to take in at once and they may be more comfortable with absorbing it in shorter, frequent sessions. Even at school they will usually be taught their subjects for under an hour at a time. Your enthusiasm and excitement in sharing your passion for sewing with her is sure to come through, and this can be part of the fun. Even with adults, I have found some enjoy a 2 hour maximum in a one-on-one setting while others enjoy more time all at once, especially once they learn the basics and are more confident in their own abilities.
      Every child is different and will progress at a different pace. It may be a test of your patience to let her grown at her own speed, but in the end it will be wonderful time together that you both can look back fondly on.
      Don’t give up!!
      best,
      Kimberli

      • Kimberli, thank you for your wise words. I guess maybe I expected her to be like me and want to sew all day. She lives almost an hour away and I wanted her to be able to sew by herself right away, I guess, since she was bringing her machine home. Do you think that I should have had her leave it here for now?

  • My Grand Daughter loves to sew also she is only 5. I put the foot petal on my step stool
    so she could reach it and turned the machine to slow. I have bought her a machine to take home once we have some time to train on it. I so love sharing my hobby.

    Renee

    • Renee, I guess maybe I should have kept her machine here for a little longer, but I didn’t. She does know how to thread it and wind a bobbin though, so maybe she will be ok.
      Thanks for sharing your experience with me.
      Donna

  • I love this! My daughter is only 4 and always watches me sew and use my embroidery machine. I can’t wait to teach her when she’s a little bit older.

  • I used to do hand embroidery squares with primary children in small groups – that is no longer on offer and the majority of children are only ever introduced to sewing and machines when doing Design Technology around 12 years.
    I had a little hand machine when I was 8! My grandson of 6 yrs loves to sew! I do the pedal (very slow) and he guides the machine. I am looking to buy him a small machine … any ideas?

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