Sewing with Children

I had written a little bit ago about my dd wanting to sew. We started by making sure that she could maneuver the sewing machine by having her follow lines that I had drawn on paper with just a needle in the machine. We started with straight lines, added in curved lines, and at the end she was easily doing squares and circles. So, now we are at the point where it was time to start sewing on fabric!

I was looking for a project that only had straight lines and would result in something useful. I had originally thought about sewing pillowcases, but my dd was not too keen on that idea.  One day, while eating breakfast, I looked down and realized that placemats would fit both criteria. Over Memorial Day weekend we went to JoAnn’s and my dd picked out some patriotic fabric (with a non-directional pattern) that she loved.

Finally, this past weekend I found some time while my parents were visiting us to cut the fabric and get it ready for my dd. My mother and I decided that it would be easiest to sew 2 pieces of fabric together and leave a gap in one side so that we could flip it right side out. Then we would have my dd top stitch the fabric all of the way around and finally she would quilt some star shapes on top as well.

pinning the fabricI started by measuring the size of our current placements and added a 0.5″ seam allowance (size to cut was 18″ by 12″ for a finished size of 17″ by 11″). I then drew on the seam allowance lines that she was supposed to sew on with a fabric pencil. After that I pinned the fabric (right sides together) and used a different color pin for where she was supposed to start and stop stitching.

I threaded the machine with a different color thread in the bobbin so that she could see more easily how a sewing machine works.  I gave her a scrap piece of fabric to practice on for a few minutes and we talked about thread tension just a little, but I decided not to play around with the machine settings because she was so excited to begin her project.

My dd stitched the two pieces of fabric together, but said that it was difficult to know exactly where she had to stop to turn the fabric at the corners.  I did teach her how to backstitch at the beginning and end of her work.  It took her two sessions of about 10 minutes each to sew the pieces together.  I think that she was concentrating so much that after about 10 minutes it was mentally exhausting for her. 🙂

finished placemat
If you squint hard enough, you can see the topstitching and the stars in the middle!

We flipped the fabric right side out and my mother decided to set up the presser foot so that the edge of it could be even with the edge of the fabric while my dd top stitched.  Once again my dd took about two sessions of 10 minutes each for this step.  I think that she found this method to be about the same difficulty as following the line that I had drawn in the previous step.  This technique may be a good way to transition her from needing a seam line drawn to actually using the seam allowance guide.

I then cut a 5″ star out of cardstock (using my Cricut machine) and we traced around it to put two stars on the top of the placemat.  This was by far the most difficult step for my dd to perform.  I think that it was mostly due to the busyness of the fabric making it difficult to see the fabric pencil lines.  But she finished and was very proud of her work.  Altogether she worked on this placemat over two days.

I still have three more placemats awaiting her and if she finishes all of these then she will have had quite a bit of practice sewing basic straight lines.


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