Thursday, November 5, 2015

Question: Teaching Your Daughter To Sew

My eleven-year-old daughter has been wanting to learn to machine sew.

I've been dragging my feet. I can still remember the trials I put my mom through when she taught me to sew. One skirt in particular had nearly every seam torn out as I sewed the pieces inside out and upside down. I just didn't know if I could be a patient teacher and I didn't want my daughter to have bad memories about sewing because of a frustrated mom.

But I think (or hope) my mom would say that teaching me to sew was worth it. At least it did not discourage her from teaching my younger sisters to sew. And I'm grateful to have the skills now. If my daughter had an interest, maybe I should at least try.

It doesn't seem long ago that I first taught her hand sewing with an embroidery patch. I thought my patience would be worn out on that first day. I had to sit beside her and help with each stitch otherwise she was putting her needle into the wrong side of the fabric and stitching her skirt to her patch. I didn't know that it was possible to get so many knots in one piece of thread.

But since then she has mastered many different stitches  and demonstrated that she has the patience to complete numerous pieces. And she can knots out of thread without my help at all.

Two or three years ago she cut out squares from scrap fabric and sewed the rows together with the sewing machine to make a comforter for her bed. She struggled with making straight seams but I thought she did well for her age.

But I also thought she needed a year or two before we tackled another project. Or maybe it was mom who needed more time.

Now I figured it was time to move onto the next step in teaching her to sew. If I could just move past my reluctance. (Maybe fear?)


So last week we gave it a start. We cut out two dresses. I taught my daughter how to pin the pieces together and she helped to sew all the straight seems. She also learned how to press the seams open. I sewed all the curved seams but it was a great start. She is eager to sew again, and I think I'm eager to try again too.



And we were all pleased with the final result.

But now I'm asking for your help. Do any of you have hints on teaching a young seamstress to sew? What are good projects to attempt? Do you have any books/patterns that have worked well?

And any good ideas on how to keep mom's blood pressure from rising?

43 comments :

  1. We have had success with machine sewing together when my daughter controls the pedal and I "steer" the fabric. Your daughter is probably beyond that by now, but maybe your younger daughters would enjoy getting into machine sewing little by little in this way. I find it less stressful than trying to teach all the skills of machine sewing at once.

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  2. Pregnant and teaching your daughter to sew...you are my new hero!

    My oldest daughter is 12. She hopes you have inspired me.

    Don't take this wrong...but I may have to avoid your blog for awhile. :-P

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    Replies
    1. With the complaints of this pregnant body - sitting at the sewing machine is about all I have the energy to do!
      Gina

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  3. This fall I've had my 11 1/2 yr old finish the comfort top she started last winter. Then she did a nightie from start to finish.
    My 10 yr old is almost finished with her comfort top, as well. (This was a first for her.) I felt they needed to prove their skills on patches before we move to clothing. Bravo for you!!
    To keep things 'cool', the patches are 10x10, so when they get sewing, they aren't at the end of the seam right away. Also doesn't take as many patches & the project isn't as over whelming.
    The nightie was a very simple pattern. She opted to try a ruffle around the bottom, instead of just a straight skirt. And she did well! ;)
    Anxious to 'hear' what everyone else says!

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  4. After quilt squares we made simple skirts with elastic casing waist, no curves. You could also try simple throw pillows, stuffed animals, pillowcases or square tote bags. These could be given as gifts or donated.

    Also, to practice straight and curved lines, simply draw lines on a piece of paper and sew on the paper without thread. You can check for accuracy with the pin holes and there's no wasted thread or fabric.

    So nice to see the tradition continuing! Enjoy!

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    1. Carolyn -
      I had forgotten about the "sewing on paper" idea. Thanks for reminding me!
      Gina

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  5. Gosh! Dresses! I started with rice bags and matching pillowcases. :) You are far more ambitious! They turned out really well.

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  6. I'm not sure this will help,but I'll relate my experience. When I was 8,my mother sewed for the Cameo doll factory in Port Allegany(of Kewpie doll fame)..she brought the cut pieces of doll clothes home and sewed them. There were 60 doz. at a time. She had 2 machines set up at our kitchen table. She did the harder parts and had me do the basic straight stitches. I got very tired of those and did not sew too much until high school home-ec class. I then rediscovered something that has turned into a life-long love. I am sure my mom would have loved to have had more experienced help,but my sister had gotten married and the rest were boys!! Once in a while,a neighbor lady or my grandma helped..but not often.I guess my point is,try to allow your daughter to do her best,but don't expect too much. That way,you will both be happy with the results!! Good luck to you both! As a p.s. , I should share that I always had a new doll and clothes..job perks!!

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  7. Paper sewing. It's cheap and easy to learn curves and understand the machine. Then she could move on to actual fabric projects. I lease little stuffed fabric blocks for my little brother as my first project.

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  8. How about baby bibs with a button faster? She would have straight and curved sewing areas, button holes and a small enough project she could be finished in one session.

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    Replies
    1. What a great idea! Especially with a new sibling due. I think she would have fun going through my flannel stash and making something for the baby. Thanks.
      Gina

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  9. I never advanced very far on the sewing machine myself, so felt I wouldn't be much help to my 'about to turn' 11 yr old Grandaughter. Like you, we had done some hand sewing and crafty kinds of things, but when I caught her trying to hand sew a dress for her 18 inch doll, I knew it was time for a machine! I got her one for her 11th birthday. We had to look online just to figure out how to thread the machine!! She had a friend from school that was already sewing up a storm, so I suggested a sleep-over, and the girls had so much fun making projects from the materials I provided ahead of time. ( I had fun picking out materials that I had a good guess, little girls on a sleep-over would enjoy. Kittens are a sure thing). She was thrilled to make pillows, and totes and give them as gifts. She loved picking out fabric on her own. She's now just 11 1/2 and is a far better sew-er than her Grandma. I just picked out a very simple pattern for a dress, left it on the sewing table, and eventually away she went! All on her own. Youtube is our standby for help. I love that she goes straight from school to the sewing room. I suspect she will be making lots of home made Christmas gifts this year. We'll have fun picking out fabric, but she will do all the sewing!

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    1. Wow. What a gift you have given your granddaughter! And you have inspired me that 11 isn't too young if they have motivation.
      Gina

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  10. No ideas for you but, thanks for the memories of sewing with mom. The dresses are beautiful. Have fun sewing.

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  11. O my. I can so relate to the eager daughter an feet dragging mother deal! I finally helped my 11 yr old sew her first dress this summer. I must say I was a little pleased when the job was a little harder than she thought it would be :) She did pretty good, though! I did kind of the same idea as you, her doing the easier parts and me the harder things. She's the kind that wants to do it all herself and I sometimes get frustrated with that but then she is the kind to stick with things and complete the job, too! Looks like you made a good start and I'm sure your daughter is so pleased!!

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  12. If you can teach her to laugh at the mistakes, smile at the seam ripping and be confident in her knowledge/skill set, you will have given her a wonderful gift! My mom still has a few of my more spectacularly strange beginning projects and we still smile and share a laugh when she pulls them out to look at! As far as books go I still use my "Coats and Clark's Sewing Book" it is old but if you can find it it is veritable encyclopedia of sewing tips and information.

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  13. Hi Gina, I enjoy reading your blog and I think this is the first time I've commented. When I learned to sew in home economics class back in the 1960's, the first thing we did was to get familiar with the speed of the machine and how it operated. We were given pieces of paper with straight lines on. We had to stitch (with an unthreaded needle) on those lines which helped us to learn to sew straight and also to back stitch. Then we were given paper with a circle that spiraled smaller and smaller into the center. That helped us to learn control while we sewed curves. I remember our teacher closely examining the pierced stitching on the paper and we were graded according to how well we were able to follow the lines without deviating. We were all eager to sew on fabric but we had to learn to "walk before we could run." After that we graduated to potholders, half-aprons, A-line skirts and finally dresses. Hope my memories give you some ideas.
    Judy in PA.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Judy!
      Gina

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  14. Love all the ideas I read here! My daughter just turned 7 and is already begging to sew! She has done some hand sewing but there's lots to be done if we attempt all the mentioned projects! Thanks Gina, for bringing up this subject. I love to sew and I like you question my patience to teach it. Love the finished dresses!

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  15. Hello Gina

    I recently discovered your wonderful blog. Super thanks for all the sour dough information - I've made my first successful starter, and 2 different breads from it so far. Saturday I will try making a proper "loaf".

    Now, like Carolyn Jones(hello Carolyn) has already written about, I also started on my Mum's sewing machine sewing down lines on paper. I would have been eight or nine years old. Yes, no thread and use your old, blunt needles - no sense in damaging newer, sharp ones.

    At age ten Mum's sewing table lived in my room for a while. She was banned from entering in the lead up to Christmas 1975. I made her a patchwork bag which Mum still has and shows with pride.

    These days I'm 50 and more of a knitter, Mum is 78 and a quilter. Dear Dad will be 85 in December, and is an amazing "Quilter's Husband". He does all the Maths (Math to you) and gives Mum so much encouragement and support. This coming Xmas I'll be taking some of my sou rdough starter up for him to experiment with as he makes most of their bread too.

    Oooo this is way too long. The message that I hope has come through is, please, please encourage your eldest girl in her sewing on the machine and by hand.If she is keen and asking to learn then it is the right time for her.

    Sending love and care to you, amazing Gina, and all your family, plus gentle snores from my little rotund tabby cat, Megs,

    Michelle, down-under in Wellington, New Zealand

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  16. Hello Gina,

    I commend you for taking the leap and teaching your daughter to sew despite your own hesitations. I was the mother who hesitated too long because I didn't believe my Songbird was old enough thus, by the time I thought she was mature enough, had enough patience, etc. - she had lost interest.

    However, just last year her best friend made a quilt for the beginners division of our county fair and the girl won a blue ribbon. This inspired my Songbird to sign up for a 4-H quilting project this year. We've already purchased her fabric and have plans to begin a twin sized nine patch as soon as our Christmas projects are finished. So! maybe this quilting project will be the resurrection to an interest in learning the skill of sewing.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope it encourages others mothers to not be hesitant as I was.

    Blessings to you and yours,
    Mrs.B

    P.S. Your girls' dresses are beautiful. The pattern is similar to the one my grandmother used when making my childhood dresses ... VERY fond memories for me.

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  17. One of the first garments I made that I was to sew the whole thing was a nightgown. It was just an a-line. So it was alot of straight seams, but I did have yo learn to put in sleeves. Sleeves were a sore trial to me and I do think I quit begging to see for a while. :)
    Wendy

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  18. You and your daughter are off to a great start. Some good ideas are potholders (square and round), tote bags and place mats. In the end, my daughter does not sew...she brings her mending to Mom.

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  19. The dresses you and your daughter sewed are beautiful! My mom taught me to sew, and my two sisters. All three of us still love sewing. I think that the best factors to learning are a desire to learn and watching your mom sew, both you already have! : ) Some of our earliest projects were aprons and nightgowns, that way if we made mistakes they weren't necessarily clothes we would wear outside of home.
    Psalm 90:17
    -Sarah

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  20. I like the idea of starting with something other than dresses. That's what my mom did--she started my sister and I on nightgowns for ourselves (long straight seams, no zippers). But I am wrestling with this myself... My five-year-old daughter is already begging for a "real" sewing machine (she has a sewing kit and loves hand-stitching already)... So my advice is untested and all I have to say is that I think starting them young is definitely the way to go. I've seen moms wait till their girls were 15-16 years old and by then, the girls often aren't into it anymore. Apart from the valuable art of crafting and creating, if we care at all about passing on a clothing style to our daughters it's great to get them started on those skills early! (That was free. :))

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  21. I learned to sew in Home Ec in 7th grade. I started with a dress--def. should have picked something simpler--and had to rip out every seam at least twice and some 3 or 4 times. I hated the dress so badly I vowed to take it home and burn it when I was done. (I didn't) Now I love to sew.
    I told my daughters that they needed to make 100 mistakes before they'd enjoy sewing. It helped them not get too discouraged. One daughter even kept track on a chart on the wall and of course was off and running long before she reached 100.
    The book I used with my daughters was Stitches & Pins. I recommend it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Stitches-Pins-Beginning-Sewing-Girls/dp/0971494401/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1446830201&sr=1-1&keywords=stitches+%26+pins

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  22. Like several other commenters, I started my daughter on paper, using an old needle. I moved her onto sewing on a double layer of gingham so she had lines and corners to follow, and got used to feeding the fabric through the machine. I also bought the Stitches and Pins book. It includes the patterns, sizes 8-16 and very clear directions for 14 projects from a pillowcase to pyjamas. Check out www.bunkhousesewing.com, they do other books too.
    One of the most simple but often forgotten tips is to check the positioning of the machine, the height of the chair and the ease of the foot pedal use. ( a rubber mat underneath it can stop it slipping) we set it up ourselves without thinking but it needs pointing out to a child. Things work better if they are in the right place or are the correct size. If necessary put the foot pedal on a fat book to raise it up! Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your tips. I never thought of checking the chair
      or foot pedal.
      Gina

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  23. hi I am really not sure where your tension is coming from it might be helpful to ask yourself this. Watching your children learning to walk you celebrated everystep and understood every fall you didn't get stessed about it. Why would it be any different for any other major learning experience? We started with paper (this will blunt your needle), then doll's clothing/blankets. We then did aprons -celebrated and worn every one made them with older ones doing the machine sewing (wonky lines) and younger the design of their apron and hand sewing. iron on double sided interfusion meant that anything they designed could be cut out of fabric and stuck to the apron they then hand stiched around the edge of the design in embriodery cotton, some very cute wonky aprons were made and loved -the wonkiness was never mentioned you want them to love the creative process not get frozen by perfectionism. We then moved on to sleepwear and sewed with french seams and some ruffles in flannelette which is easy to sew as it doesn't slip around. Then we did shorts (for swimming this was hard as special fabric). A-line skirts, circle skirts. Then I paid for them to do a teen sewing (by then the olded two were young teens) course which they loved it was a christmas gift including paterns and fabric of their choice. This course taught them to draft the pattern to fit and was skirts with waistband, invisible zip and patch pockets; and jeans with pockets and zip, so quite hard. Start small and make it fun (oh we did bags lots of bags they don't use much fabric, we started with a book bag but they designed lots of bags and lined them with silky satins or lovely cottons they gave lots as presents they were lovely and useful as well. Have fun creating together. :)

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  24. the boy's designed and made their aprons as well in a navy drill, all aprons were bib and waist tie the boys decorated them with kitchen tools wooden spoons etc.

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  25. I have ideas for several resources, but keep in mind that I have limited experience doing this myself yet. I have taught my sons to hand sew, but not machine sew yet, and my daughter is only 5 and getting ready to start hand sewing.

    There is "The Winky Cherry System of Teaching Young Children to Sew" by Winky Cherry (a pseudonym for authors Marcy Miller and Pati Palmer), the publisher's website is here (http://www.palmerpletsch.com/childrenbooks.htm). They have inexpensive books & kits from hand sewing and embroidery through machine sewing, with a separate teacher book. I originally found these through a montessori education store. The first book can be done by a preschooler/kindergartener almost independently.

    I have purchased the CLE (Christian Light Education) Home Ec sewing books for myself as a resource and though they are written for a high school elective, they could be adapted to teach a child. They do have some patterns/project instructions. They also recommend reference books to use.

    On my wishlist is Modesty Matter's 12-week You CAN Sew! course, with 185 page spiral-bound text, 5 instructional DVDs, and 1 project CD-ROM with adult and child size patterns and boy's supplement. It contains three projects: a simple apron, a simple skirt or slip, and an A-line dress or nightgown. The DVDs show precisely how to perform the skills taught. The stated age range is ages 10 & up. Their website is here (http://www.modestymatters.net) where it is listed for $159. Christianbook.com carries it for $99.49. I have their "The Classic Everyday Dress: Child Sizes DVD & CD-Rom" set and have liked it, I use it on my computer.

    I will be following this post and looking forward to all of the great ideas!

    Shannon

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  26. Oh i have very fond memories of my Nanna teaching me first kniting at 5/6 by the time i was 11 i could follow a complicated pattern, she didnt show me sewing till i was older and alot i self taught from embroidery books, i have only used a hand sewing machine so it was alot slower and i felt easier for me to cope with the fabric, i still only use a hand machine and really cant get on with electric. So when i taught my daughter it felt quite relaxed, i showed her first patttern cutting and reading a pattern, then she machined easy blocks together and made quilts, she is 27 and has an electric machine and loves it, and with the knitting it was harder because she is left handed but we got there in the end, i dont remember being frustrated by the learning process, and the skills she has have helped her now she is a mother herself, i often teach friends etc it is so good to pass on skills. She has done very well bless her.
    Sue

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  27. I started with sewing doll clothes by hand. Then, I sewed on paper. Then, I sewed doll clothes by machine. They are small enough to handle and go quickly. I was ten the first time I used a treadle sewing machine. Mama was patient and I learned to rip out anything crooked. So, I grew up to be a fantastic seamstress, even supporting myself by sewing a few times after my divorce.

    If she is eager and understands each step, she will be okay. Just get her a seam ripper of her own. Make sure she watches the right side of the fabric not the needle. Most of the time, that works. Only when things are more complicated will she need to ever look at the needle. If your machine does not have a mark on the right side to show her the seam allowance, just use tape as it can be removed.

    I started hand-sewing when I was four, so I have been sewing for over 65 years.

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  28. I'm enjoying reading all these comments. I do think its important to start them when they are interested. But like you, I don't really get excited about the idea. I've tried a little bit but I need to make it more of a priority. I wish I knew how to sew better than I do, and my Mom wanted to teach me but I didn't want to when she wanted to...I was in my mid-teens by then. It seems to me the ideal time for a lot of girls might be earlier like 10-12 or so from what I am reading, Maybe the majority are more interested at that age.

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  29. I cant say I have any more grander ideas than the ones already suggested, my Daughter was introduced by a dear elderly lady years ago when she was very young, she started off making her self a pin cushion and then a little pillow for her baby dolls. Then a few years ago I found an old embroidery primer and gave it to her and at first she wasnt interested, then all of sudden she got the hang of it and literately was trying to embroider everything and anything she could. To this day if dad needs a button or brother needs something sewn.. they take it to her..

    I can do a basic stitch, and I like quilting.. but I seem to have a love hate relationship with my sewing machine((Sigh))

    My daughter creative talents tend to do a seasonal rotation.. in some times its nothing but Embroidering things.. other times its her artistic drawings and then reading nothing but books, or wanting to just make things. Then back around again.

    I guess let the student lead :) If they have a desire nothing will stop them from learning

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  30. Looks like she's a natural! I'm a quilter. My mom taught me how to sew and I was in 4-H for many years. Some good projects to start on are skirts, tote bags, baby burp cloths, receiving blankets, pillows. There are lots of free patterns online. By the looks of the beautiful dresses she made, I don't think your nerves will be to frazzled. Is there someone else who could help? An aunt or sister? Tell her happy sewing!

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  31. It's fun to see the kids get excited about such creative hobbies. I learned to sew in 4H - a neighbor who was a meticulous seamstress taught us, sometimes as a group of about 4 and sometimes individually - she was very patient - I'm think she was probably ready to tear out her hair sometimes! Initially, we spent time practising sewing straight seams and then curved ones. Then we started on projects - an apron, a skirt, a nightgown and finally a dress with set-in sleeves and a zipper. I think it's important that the project you attempt with your daughter is something that she really looks forward to using or wearing - a style or fabric which she has input in - like the dresses you've already done with her. When my daughter (as a 12 year old) was interested in sewing we signed up for a team quilting class. It was a log-cabin quilt - therefore, lots of straight seams. She had mastered straight seams and did a wonderful job on a project she was quite proud of and happy to use on her bed. As a teenager she made many cushions - lots of ideas on how to decorate those on Pinterest. Another idea for practicing a few aspects of sewing would be to make fabric bags for the health kits and school kits that the organization - Mennonite Central Committee collects and sends overseas to people in need.
    http://mcc.org/get-involved/kits/school
    I'm incorporating that as a Christmas activity. My grandchildren are quite young, so I'm sewing the bags (MCC website has a pattern) and buying the contents (health or school supplies as directed by MCC). When we get together for Christmas an activity for the children will be to pack the bags. A good way to teach them generosity. Have fun together!

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    1. Thanks for the ideas, Ruth!

      Last year we made school kits to send with Christian Aid Ministries - similar to those that MCC does. My mom made the bags, but I was thinking that if we did it again, my daughter could help with the bags.
      Gina

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  32. The first sewing project I do with my high school home ec kids is for them to sew a fleece hat and mittens set for a local preschooler. Fleece is very forgiving. They can always go back and trim their edges. We take it one step at a time. They feel very confident and successful in the end.

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  33. I only have time for a quick reply, but I have some project ideas for an eager beginner. I used to teach Home Ec before staying home with my children and I've done some sewing lessons for children and adults since then. Here are a few ideas based on my own experience learning to sew and teach.

    1. MCC kit bags
    2. Baby blankets with square patches
    3. Apron (this was one of my first projects as a young teenager)
    4. Simple tote bag (so many free patterns for simple bags can be found online)
    5. Small zippered pouch (once you advance to zippers, that is). I have a very simple pattern. Let me know if you'd like it.
    6. Pillow case (directions found online)

    I'd start with those while she works to master the use of the machine, ironing seams, working with pins, etc. So much of it will depend on her motivation. If she is not getting things perfectly, keep in mind that she has many many years to perfect her skill! Have fun!

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  34. I love reading all the great experiences of teaching kids and learning to sew. I learned to sew from my mom when I was very young, and never took home ec in school. When I had two daughters, I was eager to pass on the skills and love of sewing.

    My girls were in 4-H and I found our county had a great guide to building skills by adding new features to projects at each level. For instance, year 1 required a pillowcase or tote bag. Year 2 was a skirt or shorts with a casing waist. Year 3 added neck and armhole facings, 4 added set in sleeves and zippers or button holes. They could progress all the way to tailoring by late teens. By increasing skills a little at a time, kids don't get overwhelmed or burned out.

    I taught 4-H workshops. The introduction workshop included learning about various tools; cutting out a square "pattern" (which I hand drew on tissue paper for each participant because I didn't have a copy machine or printer to use back then) for a pin cushion to learn about pinning a pattern and seam allowances, fabric grain and cutting; sewing the pincushion, pivoting at corners, backstitching at the beginning and end of seams, turning, stuffing and hand sewing the open seam; pressing by ironing the fabric first and then the turned pincushion. Ironing was practiced as well by putting fusible interfacing onto a matching square, then cutting with pinking shears so the edges didn't fray, folding in half, inserting and sewing in a piece of felt, cutting a buttonhole in the interfaced fabric, sewing on a button. This added the experience of using pinking shears. threading a needle and hand sewing the button. If you haven't guessed, this made a nice little matching needle book! The little 8-12 year old girls (never had boys in the class, sadly) always took these home as great new additions to the prescribed sewing kit they had brought in their own basket or shoebox.

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  35. I'm curious where you purchase your fabric since you do so much sewing. Do you have a store locally or do you shop online? We have Joann Fabrics just a few miles from us here in the Pacific Northwest and I get all my fabric there. They have great coupons for in store and online.

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    1. I usually buy my fabric at a small locally-owned store that is only minutes from my house. Joann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby are a half hour away so I occasionally visit those stores.

      I've never tried online fabric shopping but I've heard there are some good options.
      Gina

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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