After graduating college with a degree in Family and Consumer Science Education, I taught middle 7th and 8th grade beginning sewing. To say that I was nervous to run a classroom of 25 sewing machines and 25 rambunctious middle schoolers, repeated 5 times a day is an understatement! I quickly learned that classroom management was more important in the beginning than learning to sew perfect straight seams. So we started with the very basics.
It took an entire week of learning the anatomy of a sewing machine before I allowed the students to begin their first project. At first, we learned all the components of the machine, the names and how they work. We learned how to properly set up and put away the machines. Then we spent a whole day learning how to “drive the machine.” It takes coordination to use your foot to make the machine go (the gas pedal), and your hands to drive (manipulating the fabric). To impress on their minds the potential dangers of a sewing machine, I had my students hold their hands behind their back, and step on the foot pedal “full throttle,” making the needle swiftly go up and down all on its own. The force behind the moving needle demonstrated to them the importance of being careful, and that sewing machines are not toys. They were nearly experts in their knowledge of a sewing machine’s components by the time we were ready to begin our first project with fabric!
My classroom teaching career was short-lived, but the skills I learned as a teacher have benefited my teaching skills at home with my children. I learned that kids are capable of a lot, and can even be trusted with a sewing machine with when they are correctly taught and supervised. If only we are willing and patient, small children can learn to do a lot!
Have you ever noticed that children love to help when you let them? (I’m sure you have)! My children LOVE to help me sew, and have assisted with several projects since they were about 3 years old. When I am making a project for them (a skirt, or bedroom decoration, for example), I like to find an opportunity for them to help. I feel that giving them a special job teaches responsibility, is a great way to spend time together, and results in true satisfaction for my little helper. There is nothing more rewarding than allowing a willing child to help, passing along my love for sewing, and teaching the skills that I learned as a college student.
Here is a list of ways that I let my young children help with sewing. (As they get older, they will be trusted with more responsibility).
*Shopping- I ask for their opinions on fabric colors and patterns and let them help with the decision making process.
*Thread- I have the kids try to match the color of thread to the fabric.
*Fabric- When it comes time to prep the fabric, my kids love to rip it. It makes them feel so strong!
*Bobbin- My kids know how to fill a bobbin. They love to step on the pedal at full force until its filled.
*Pedal- I usually set my machine to half speed, and let the kids push the pedal to sew straight seams. Sometimes they leave the pedal on the floor and step on it; other times they set the pedal on the table and push it down with their hands. They respond to my commands, slow, medium fast, or STOP! (At one point, my oldest daughter was pretending that her princess dolls were sewing with her, taking turns letting them stand on the foot pedal.
*Sit on Lap- At times, I will let one child sit on my lap as I show them what I’m doing, and teach techniques like backstitching and pivoting.
*Helping with their Own- Last year each child helped make their own Halloween costume. I let them help with as many things as were practical. I also involved them in understanding what all the steps included. They were pretty excited to tell people that they helped make their own costume!