Monday, July 23, 2012

Teaching Kids to Sew (or anyone else for that matter)

After realizing that my oldest daughter only had a couple more summers at home before she would be heading off to college (Yikes! that scares me) I decided that this summer I really needed to buckle down and teach her some clothing sewing construction--not just straight lines on pillowcases.  She already knows how to do that.  As much as I love to sew I don't really want to be sewing for my kids for the rest of their lives.

So we've slowly been working on a couple projects for her.  I did help with a couple different steps (like the invisible zipper), but for the most part she made them all.

First up was dress to wear to a Church dance earlier this summer.

We basically made view D in a shorter version and no ruffle.  This daughter is NOT the ruffle type at all.  And she also didn't want the empire seam.  The fabric is some stretch poplin something.  I've had it for a long time. Originally bought it at Jo-Ann's and was going to use it for me, but she liked it (and it wasn't blue--her go-to color--see below) and so I let her have it.  I do have another similar piece that I'll use for me instead.

We've discovered that she has pretty broad shoulders and so usually she needs a slightly larger size up top than at the waist.  We had to take it in quite a bit at the waistline to get it to look like it should.  The cut of this dress--raglan sleeved--works great for her and the gathers around the sleeves and neckline (encased elastic) are super comfy.

Then she wanted a funky "mullet" skirt as I've heard them called.

Skirt--McCall's 6567 
This fabric was super slippery and drapey.  But she got the hang of it and figured out the best way for her to handle it.

And finally a pretty little tee to go with it.

My girls love to wear t-shirts. And I'm O.K. with that, but I'd also like them to step it up a notch at times.  So this tee works well for both of us. With the pretty little gathers in front onto a neck band, and cap sleeves with elastic it dresses it up just enough.

Daughter #2's version of this skirt, which she made herself.
Here are a couple of my own thoughts on teaching someone to sew, based on nothing else except having done it before.
  • Go fabric/pattern shopping with them if you can so that you can guide them in the right choice based on the project they are making.  Too many times those left to their own devices pick something totally inappropriate or beyond their abilities:  i.e. some slippery fabric that will drive them nuts if they've never sewn before or some complex skirt that requires lots of details.
  • After showing my girls the pattern pieces and teaching them what the markings mean, I let them lay out the pattern on their own.  I leave the room, and then tell them to come get me BEFORE they cut anything.  That way they can do it at their own pace and I won't be frustrated, annoyed, impatient at their "slower-than-my-pace" pace.  This way I can check their work so that something isn't cut out wrong and the project is ruined before you even get started.  I also did this with a couple different roommates in college and it worked beautifully.
  • I do the same as they pin and sew step-by-step.  We read the pattern directions together, I show them what that means.  Then they pin and sew and then return and report to me before moving on to the next step.  And I always tell anyone and everyone: pin as much or as little as you need to be comfortable as you sew.
  • Finally, if they are happy with the finished project then you are too.  Period, the end.  Don't project any of your expectations onto them.  Of course you've been sewing longer and wouldn't do things a certain way, but the point is to teach and encourage, not criticize and deter.  They'll get better with more practice and projects and they'll recognize on their own the improvements they make.


  1. It is wonderful that you are teaching your daughter to sew. My mother taught me and it is the best thing that she ever taught me!!! I love to sew and quilt. My sister on the other hand never wanted to learn and never did. She cannot sew on a button or make a simple hem! If she needs anything repaired or altered she has to pay someone since I live too far away! Your daughter's clothes turned out beautifully! She should be proud of herself and you for teaching her!!!

  2. I really like what they have made. Like Donna above, the best thing my mother taught me was to sew because I have sure used that skill over my lifetime. They will also be grateful for that skill and it will save them lots of money in the long run, as you already know. Love you all. Mom

  3. I appreciate that you have put in the link to each of the patterns for a closer look. Thank you.

  4. The clothes look great! She did a fabulous job, and I love your tips. Excellent way to go!

  5. Great stuff! I'm a bit away from my girls going off to university or moving out (I know it'll be here before I know it though!) Thanks for the tips. I think the last one is especially good. :-)



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