Passing along life skills, the art of teaching
Once I found sewing to be a great outlet by default my sons started to get a window into my own childhood, wandering fabric stores. They immediately got the bug too and wanted to make EVERYTHING. This was initially a bit of a buzz kill for me. I have five kids, I arrived at a very drained place and I was feeling a bit territorially about my new found source of mental healing.
They begged to learn to sew and I couldn’t disagree that it could be a good activity and a necessary life skill. Reluncantly, I took them to the pattern books and their imaginations soared as they contemplated the possibilities. This was a huge mistake.
We returned home with a cape pattern, a stuffed animal pattern and fabric to complete the projects. As we began my mistake became glaringly obvious to me. These were exceptionally difficult projects that would end up becoming mine. No real sewing would be learned by them and I now had a sewing project I truly had no interest in.
This is the fully lined cape with hood he chose and I essentially made, clearly a happy customer. Oh and it was an adult pattern I adjusted for a child. Obviously, we set out to do something a beginner could not.
This led me to a new vision and approach for this issue, how do I teach them? First, I had to choose the projects. They had to be sooooooo simple or all of it would fall on me.
I looked at local sewing classes for children to gather ideas. A pillowcase! Yes, a few straight lines, all straight cutting, this is the first project. They had tons of fun pillowcases from their grandma so I made them choose a friend they would make it for. Two birds, one stone. Serving others instead of themselves and gaining basic sewing knowledge. They had a ton of fun selecting the fabric for their friends.
The boys ages are 9,7, and 4. Full disclosure, the four year old basically sat in my lap as I did it but they other two are doing more of it according to their ages. My seven year old did about half the work and my 9 year old did about 90% of the work.
Here they are with their finished products.
Last week we went to the library after a very long hiatus. I’m not sure why I don’t bring them weekly. It leads to hours of silence from my two oldest, but I think it has to do with the fact that don’t keep their books together and hunting them down is a nightmare. I’ve tried giving them reusable bags to have as their library bags but they always seem to get lost. So I decided this was our next project, a library bag they felt invested in.
Off to the store we went and they made some selections. Once again the four year old sat near me or in my lap, the 7 year old did about 60% of the work and my 9 year old did about 95% of the work. I sent a video of the oldest sewing to my mom, who was delighted with his technique already. He can sew straight!!!!
I wanted to try to teach actual skills so we started with pattern layout. We went over grain and stretch and how to follow instructions for proper layout.
The little guy picked emoji movie fabric. His thrill of having a poop emoji on his library bag was huge. He chanted, “We’re number 2!”, THE whole time I sewed it.
The sewing itself went really well. I can see how my oldest son is improving. The challenge is picking projects that they’ll feel invested in but that are still simple enough for them to pull off. The hunt continues to find the next project that fulfills those requirements.
It has definitely sparked their creativity, generally something that doesn’t need to be encouraged in my oldest son, oh the stories I could tell you. Anyway, it was determined that his lion stuffed animal needed a cape. We created our own pattern and he did some hand sewing.
People often say one of two things about sewing, they wished they knew how to sew or that they tried it and it was awful and hard. I learned to sew on an expensive and nice Bernina sewing machine. It wasn’t until my 30’s that my mom gave me a garage sale sewing machine to have around for mending that I learned the value of that Bernina. The machine she gave me was paramount to torture. It jammed constantly. If that was the only machine I ever used, I would loathe sewing. My kids are learning on nice machines. They are making mistakes but they are human error rather than a POS sewing machine’s issue. If you’ve ever tried sewing and thought it was torturous, was the machine a piece of junk or a wonderful tool? My dad made me help him in the garage often and around the house with mechanical projects and I vividly remember the lesson often reiterated, “It’s all about having the proper tool.” Nothing could sum up sewing quite as succinctly. Proper tools make or break the experience. So if you are interested in sewing, borrow or look into a great machine, not a cheap one. And start with an easy project. Expect failures along the way . . . Flop Friday surely illustrates that even a seasoned seamstress will roll out some losers.