My dolls spend Monday afternoons busily creating wonders of their own design at their whirring, buzzing sewing machines. Like any other discipline, it takes time and concentration to learn to sew. I offer my home and very large dining room table as the learning laboratory so other kids can join us. You would be surprised at how much children like it, once they give it a try. Sometimes my husband comes home early from work and jokes that he hopes no one mistakes our dining room for a sweat shop, with a half dozens kids bent over machines and thread flying everywhere.
I credit my sister, the sewing instructor, with teaching me that kids are capable of more than you think they are. The kids, when given safety instructions, actually do not want to feel pain, and follow those instructions pretty well! She has ambitious first graders running sewing machines and ironing on the ironing boards.
The benefits of making my children pursue sewing have been numerous. First, sewing is great for their hand eye coordination. It helps them practice concentration and focus. It has also helped them understand how simple machinery works. All that threading and re-threading of needles and bobbins is good for something after all!
Sewing is a tool for their life toolbox. Being able to repair a uniform, create a costume, or hem your own slacks saves time and money. My oldest can create a pattern now, customized to her exact measurements. My middle daughter prefers stretchy, comfy fabrics, and so is now being trained on the serger, a better option for sewing knit (t-shirt type) fabrics. Sewing is an outlet for their creativity!
Planning a project and seeing it through to completion, start to finish, is a life skill that sewing teaches. I let my girls choose a pattern, figure out how much fabric and what notions they need, within a budget. They cut patterns, fabric, iron, sew, and finish it themselves (with plenty of supervision when they are young) and have guidance available when they need it. And since projects must be put away each Monday evening (special exceptions for deadline projects), the kids practice organization and time management.
Fabric can be expensive. My kids have learned to re-purpose old dresses and pillows, use coupons, shop the remnants and clearances fabrics, and buy bulk.
Don’t hoard that old machine in the back of the closet! Pull it out and experiment together. Do not buy a children’s machine. They are notoriously poor quality and will create frustration, not enjoyment. If you are going to purchase a machine, you will get more use from a simple, no-frills adult machine.
Purchase high quality fabric cutting scissors and do not let them be used for paper. Paper will ruin your sewing scissors.
Start with a simple bag in a fabric they like. A bag is a satisfying project that can be learned and made in an hour and a half. Keep the projects short and simple until the child can confidently thread the machine and bobbin, sew seams, and iron.
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