Learning to sew (on a machine)

I went walking all over the vendor hall looking for a curriculum that I could use with my daughter who very much wants to use my sewing machine.  Sadly, there was only one option…and it was quite expensive, in my opinion, for what it delivered.  Not to mention that when the person at the booth heard that my dd was not yet 5, she became quite alarmed and questioned me as to whether or not that was a safe/wise decision.  Never mind that I had first told her that my dd had been sewing on paper for quite some time and could easily follow zigzag lines, squares, and circles all by herself.  *sigh*  Some people will only care about the age and not the ability, I suppose.

Anyhow, I was talking with a fellow TOS Crew mate about why I wanted a sewing curriculum when I realized that it was to simply satisfy my need to check off boxes.  My dd can sew on paper (check), now she is ready to sew straight line seams on fabric.  Sewing straight seams? (check)  Now, on to curved seams.  And on and on and on.

Teaching a child to sew is not that difficult, especially if a parent already knows how to sew.  You begin with the basics and slowly progress once the previous step has been mastered.  This reminds me of a lecture by Andrew Kern in which he stated that this process is how we teach all arts/subjects.  So, what are the basics of sewing?

My First Sewing Book
1.  Sewing by hand – I think that it is quite useful for the child to become adept with using a needle and thread by hand first.  This does not mean that you must teach a bunch of stitches (unless they are also interested in embroidery)…only that the child is comfortable pinning together 2 pieces of fabric (felt is easiest), putting dots where they want the stitches to be placed, and then using a needle to sew those 2 pieces of fabric together.  I used the Winky Cherry book for inspiration, but if you have a simple animal pattern that can be traced onto felt, then you do not need the inspiration from this book.

sewing straight lines
holding up a completed paper with straight lines

2.  When you and your child feel that they are ready to begin using a sewing machine, then I suggest that you first practice “sewing” on paper.  Find a piece of cardstock paper and cut it down to a width of 5-6″ for ease of use.  Draw a few straight lines with a medium point Sharpie on the paper.  Let your child follow the lines using only the needle, no thread.  Once they do well with straight lines, then you can introduce zigzag lines and teach them how to raise the presser foot, turn the paper, and lower the presser foot again.  After zigzag lines I suggest using gently curved lines, squares, and then finish up with circles.  It took my dd several sessions at the sewing machine, over a period of a few months, before she could easily do all of this.

3.  Once they can sew on paper, then they are ready to move on to fabric and a threaded machine!  This is where I am at with my dd right now.  I think that we are going to sew a pair of pillowcases for her bed.   And then, if she needs more practice we can make more pillowcases to donate.

Janome MagnoliaDon’t have a sewing machine yet?  I would recommend that you buy a full machine, not one marketed to children.  Buy the best quality machine that you can (good brands include Husqvarna, Bernina, Janome, Pfaff) and go to a local sewing store to try them out.  Many times your local store will have used machines for sale, making a high quality machine much more affordable.  A good machine should last you many, many years and thwart quite a bit of frustration.

Have you taught a child how to sew?  I would love to hear about your experience and any advice that you may have.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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