Guest Post by Emilie Kahn
As my daughter approaches her third birthday, I find myself thinking about when and how to start teaching her to sew. She already has a great interest in fabric: “helping” me choose fabrics and playing with little scraps and trimmings that I give her. She loves to sit on my lap and watch me feed pieces into my sewing machine; I can’t help but imagine that she enjoys the process as much as I do.
How do we pass on the passion for quilting on to the next generation? Here are some things you can do with young children to help foster their interest in sewing and quilting. The age ranges are merely suggestions, children develop at different rates and some are ready to move on before others.
Ages 2 to 5:
- Take them to a quilting or fabric store with you. Let them “help” you pick out fabric for your next project. Allowing them to be exposed to and involved in the process helps spark and foster interest.
- Give them a plastic sewing needle they can thread with yarn and have them thread small tube pasta noodles or pony beads onto the yarn. This will help with hand eye coordination, as well as providing them with the basic concept of sewing.
- Draw basic shapes, like square or a triangle, on a piece of cardboard and poke holes all along the lines so that the child can practice making stitches with their plastic needle and yarn. As their skills advance you can provide them with more advanced shapes like hearts or flowers, moving up to their favorite cartoon character and poking more holes where there are curves.
Ages 5 to 7:
- Start introducing them to a sewing machine and talk to them about how to safely use a sewing machine.
- If they’re a little scared of the moving parts, allow them to sit and press the foot pedal while you feed the fabric in. This will show them the ease with which they can control the machine.
- Once they feel confident enough to start feeding the fabric themselves, draw a line on the fabric where the seam should be for them to stitch along. The line is easier to follow than trying to keep the fabric edge lined up with the seam guide or presser foot.
- Start making small easy to finish projects together: pillow cases, a drawstring bag, a throw pillow, doll quilts made with large squares of fabric, a place mat for their spot at the dining table, etc.
Age 8 and up:
- Let them start choosing their projects and the components. If they want to make a flying geese quilt with an appliqué lady-bug using fabrics that make your eyes hurt, let them. It’s all about learning the process and their interest will be kept longer if the project is theirs at every step. Only guide them where components may be too difficult for their skill level: like using velvet or making a double wedding ring quilt.
- Sign them up for sewing classes! Many fabric stores offer sewing classes for children 8 (sometimes younger) and up. They will enjoy learning with kids their age, and see that it is something other kids do and not just Mom!
These are just some of the things you can do to pass on the passion for sewing and quilting on to the next generation. For other ideas search the internet for projects with sewers of every age and skill level. Of course, there’s no guarantee that there will be interest, or that it is something they will want to continue to do with you, but if that spark of interest is there I encourage you to foster it and help it grow.
If you enjoyed this article please visit Emilie’s blog at www.SeeSawSew.com