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teaching 5-yr-old to sew
suggestions?!
Courtney Ostaff
Courtney Ostaff
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West Virginia USA
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Date: 10/27/13 11:33 AM

My daughter knows I sew, and she loves that I can make her things. In the most recent issue of Threads, they had the Make It With Wool winners, and she and I were poring over the outfits. One of the teens said she had learned to sew when she was five. I told my daughter that, and nothing would do but that I start to teach her to sew.

I didn't think much of it, but the night before last, she brought me my hand-sewing kit, and insisted we make something:


Those hand stitches along the top? She did them all by herself!! Momma is so proud!

Then we went to WalMart yesterday, and she saw some Halloween fabric that she wanted. I sighed, and bought her a quarter yard (I figured we could afford that $1.25). She brought it home, and as soon as I sat on the sofa last night, insisted on sewing a hammock for her dolls. She did some fairly decent overcast stitches around a chopstick to make the hammock.

Sooo.....where should I go from here? I don't want to make her dislike sewing by being nitpicky (I can be really intense), but I would like to think of some good way to teach her to sew other than random projects.

Any ideas?
-- Edited on 10/27/13 11:35 AM --

Changma
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Date: 10/27/13 12:19 PM

Pillow and blankets for her doll, pillow for herself, small open-top purse, carry-all bag, scarf, simple stuffed animal. Maybe even a block-a-month type deal for a quilt...you can date each and she'll see how she improves over time.

I just started teaching a group of 4th graders how to sew, so the ideas are fresh in my mind!

Speech girl
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Date: 10/27/13 1:00 PM

One thing I have found from sewing with my own kids is that the project has to be interesting or meaningful to the child in some way.

One fun thing is to have her draw a picture of a person/animal/creature and make a pattern from it that she can hand sew using felt. Simple stuffed animals are fun, like pillow animals and sock creatures. The first thing my dd made on the machine was a bean bag and while it sounds really simple, she enjoyed making it and playing with it. My 8 year old son made a pair of elastic waist sleep shorts this summer. I had to provide a lot of help but they turned out great. For a girl, a simple elastic waist skirt would be even easier than shorts.

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Kim
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BriarRose
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Date: 10/27/13 1:38 PM

I started sewing when I was four; my grandmother taught me a couple of basic embroidery stitches, drew a picture of a bird on a scrap of cloth, and off I went. A running stitch and pile of scrap fabric and trim kept me busy for hours making collages and doll clothes and doll quilts. They looked about the way you'd expect them to look (I still have some of those pieces) but in my mind they were couture.

If someone had turned my play into work with set and critiqued projects I don't think I'd have continued. The promise of being able to use the treadle machine as my hand sewing skills improved inspired me to keep stitching. That machine is sitting in my own home now, 54 years later, and is one of my treasures.

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I've quit fighting my inner demons. We're on the same side now.

It's just fabric; we can out-think it.

JeanM

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In reply to Courtney Ostaff <<
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Date: 10/27/13 4:09 PM

It's really great that she is interested!!!

Follow her lead, where you can. Teach safe use of pins, needles, scissors (no rotary cutters, yet!), seam rippers, etc. Pin cushions, small pillows, "treasure" bags (small bags), headband, wristband, sewing on buttons, simple embroidery, doll clothes and 'blankets', small quilt squares, bookmarks, placemat, napkins ... are all possible projects. Look online and in books for other ideas (your library might have some, if you want to look at books prior to purchasing).

There are a couple of fairly recent books with projects suitable for children; one is focused on hand-sewing and has tips and projects (I looked at it briefly in the bookstore but didn't purchase, Younger DS isn't interested in the projects).

The big thing is to let her choose projects - she's more likely to stick with it if she is choosing projects and working when she is interested - and maybe, sometimes, gently show her how you do something (use scraps or make a sampler for this). You may find that her interest is strong for a while, then she does other things, and later comes back to the sewing - that's typical for most kids.

Enjoy!


P.S. - I wouldn't start with the sewing machine for a few more years (maybe 9-ish or 10-ish, depending on her hand-eye coordination); there is a lot to coordinate using the sewing machine!

[To start it's a good idea to work in tandem - you 'steering' the fabric, and her doing the foot pedal, and switching. It's a lot to coordinate at first! Another thought is sewing on paper, following lines (straight at first, then curved), then small simple projects similar to the hand-sewing projects. (The other book follows after the one about hand-sewing and is for beginning to learn to sew with a sewing machine; similar format with tips and projects)]

ShantiSeamstressing
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Date: 10/27/13 5:40 PM

Courtney,
This is really exciting. My two daughters wanted to begin at about this age, also. I used the book See and Sew and Winky Cherry's My First Sewing Book as starting points.

(These begin with hand sewing. I have heard of some children starting machine sewing young. That probably works out to be a very individual thing. But I felt comfortable beginning with hand sewing versus the machine.)

We also sewed Christmas tree ornaments, and sachets stuffed with lavender, and little tiny purses, and those sorts of things.

How very exciting! Mommy and daughter!


Edit:
Oops, just noticed you had mentioned "other than random projects." Hhmm. Now, I'm not sure if those books would seem possibly randomized, to a child. But you mentioned her doll, and the hammock. Perhaps her initial sewing can focus around the doll. My daughters spent (or spend, the one who's not a teen yet), hours of time working on their doll clothing, bedding, scarves, etc.
-- Edited on 10/27/13 5:48 PM --



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Date: 10/27/13 6:16 PM

I think JeanM is right. This is all about empowering her. I would give her a huge box, if you've got it, of scraps and let her pick and choose what fabrics she wants to play with. It is all about play at this stage so nothing too serious. There is plenty of time for that later. If she discovers that she can make choices and have the fun of experimenting with color and texture I think that is great for now. Also, when you make her something totally bring her into the process. Take her with you to pick out fabric and pattern, trim and such. Let her watch and ask questions as you proceed. I am telling you all the tings my own grandmother and mom did to foster this passion in me. Give her the tools and let her fly. Perfection is not for five year olds.

Arctic Mama
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Date: 10/27/13 8:47 PM

Among my children, I have six year old and five year old daughters. I just taught them their first sewing about two weeks ago, as they wanted to do knitting with me but weren't showing enough coordination with the needles, even with me having already cast on for them.

I cut out felt squares, threaded their needles, made a starting knot, and showed them how to do running stitch. They then proceeded to make very serviceable pouches and were thrilled. Though I'm all about letting imagination take them, I did drill the initial instruction with reminders for neat, small, even stitches. This will help them get the results they want and is no burden. The same way I teach them handwriting with a proper pencil hold, some basic instruction on form and the occasional reminder to tighten things up and neaten their work is helpful to progress.

I was originally endeavoring to give them the basics off the top of my head, but both of the books referenced above (the Winky Cherry book and the See and Sew one) look absolutely excellent for more structure. I would never have thought of teaching them blanket stitch as a beginning stitch, but for making little animals it is a great idea! So you don't know what you don't know, and now I'm planning on adding those resources into the lessons I already had planned.

Sewing isn't rocket science, especially with children, and I think it can be undertaken without much adieu. But having a good child-level resource to aid in structure isn't a bad idea at all :)

Courtney Ostaff
Courtney Ostaff
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Date: 10/27/13 8:49 PM

You all have been so helpful! Random is OK!

I'm just not a random sort of person, so it's really tough for me to sit back and let her play with sewing. But I can definitely get her a box of scraps, assist with knots as she likes, and let her go to town. I just have to steel myself not to be bossy about it.

I wish we had a sewing store that had a big barrel of buttons that she could choose from. Picking a handful of buttons was one of my great joys as a kid.

Arctic Mama
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Date: 10/28/13 0:22 AM

Do you homeschool, Courtney? With my kids, we just treat it as a school lesson - which allows me to teach and correct them without issues. Then, once they have the instruction, they can go to town in their free time. If your daughter is familiar with being instructed, especially by you, don't assume that teaching instead of allowing completely unguided exploration will somehow ruin it for her. I have found my kids get MORE frustrated and learn bad habits when I just let them muddle about, instead of coming alongside and actually imparting some knowledge and correction.

The key is balancing that with TONS of encouragement and praise for their creations. Practice is always needed and the results can be a bit... questionable, at first. But offering unvarnished praise and then gently suggesting some corrections the next time they begin a project, from what you noted in their previous work, allows them both encouragement and instruction, without the two competing.

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