Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sewing lessons

I don't remember a time when I couldn't sew.  When I was three, my grandmother stuck a needle in my hand and started teaching me to make stitches via chicken scratch embroidery.  (Example to the right.)  There are advantages to learning this way--the stitches are a regular size and have to be consistent to get a nice-looking result.  From there, I moved on to regular embroidery, then cross stitch, and from there, sewing clothing.  Like Gracie, I was gathering up scrap fabric and begging for help in making doll clothes from them.  By the time I was a teenager, I was making some of my own clothes.  Not many, mind you, because we simply didn't have the disposable income to spend on fabric store trips.  But by the time I was seventeen, I could competently make both pants and dresses, as long as the pants were looser-fitting.  (It was the 90s, anyway, and baggy pants were no problem!)

I didn't sew much in college because I had a lack of access to a machine.  I made a few rag dolls and tied quilts as presents, but didn't really start sewing until necessity drove me to it.  I mean, I couldn't buy pants that fit over my lower legs anymore, so I had to start making them!  Then we got kiddos and I started sewing for them.   And now Gracie, who has watched me make things for her and her sister and cousins her entire life, wants to learn.

I didn't start her off with embroidery (she doesn't have the patience for it), but with working with a pattern and grainlines because she started begging when I was cutting out.  And truthfully, she wants to make clothes--just like Aunt Laura.  Every time I cut out when she's here , we go over how to pin (we're still working on that due to fine motor coordination!) and what the arrows on patterns need to line up with.  I've allowed her to help cut with my hand over hers, because, frankly, my sewing scissors are too heavy for her, and she's not an accurate cutter yet.  Last week, we learned how to make hand basting stitches because I was doing pleats (tutorial to come).  She's chosen both fabric and patterns for projects, and with her standing between my legs, she's sewn her own seams.  I have a small sewing machine that I bought at a yard sale that I'm keeping for when she gets a little older.  I figure I'll take it to my fixit guy for a tune up and then give it to her sometime next year.  Soon, we're going to start making clothes to fit her dolls together.  Maybe four is too young, but she wants to learn.  In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye out for vintage hand-crank toy machines.  Considering the fact that she's inherited mine, my mom's and her mom's lack of grace, I'm a little unwilling to let her just have at on a powered machine!

So what age do you start teaching a child to sew?


  1. This is so fabulous! I gave my daughter an embroidery hoop with a piece of muslin and a ball point needle just before she turned 4 and let her just go for it. I started "teaching" her last year when she was 4, we've learned a little about patterns and she's "sewed her own dress" with me on my machine. :)

    1. Grace has helped me baste and learned to make stitches that way, and she's forever collecting my scraps. We just did some wooden clothespin dolls where she "made" clothes by gluing on fabric scraps. She's been fascinated by sewing since she was a baby, so I have hopes that she'll be one of the next generation of sewists!