Encouraging Kids to Sew: How to Get Them on the Right Track
Teaching kids to be self-sufficient is one of the most important responsibilities of a parent. You want to know that they can do everything necessary to care for themselves by the time they are old enough to move out on their own. Although sewing is no longer one of the essentials of childhood education and home economics has virtually become a thing of the past, there is still a lot of value in developing sewing skills. Encouraging kids to sew will be valuable for them in the future. Not only will they be able to make their own clothes and those of their children and grandchildren in the future, they will also gain self-confidence and improve their motor skills and dexterity as they develop.
Some children will have a natural interest in wanting to sew simply because they see their parents or other adults making things with the sewing machine. Others may never look in the direction of the sewing machine. In either case, taking the right approach to getting them started will make the difference in whether they take learning the craft as a serious endeavor.
A good age to start is usually between six and eight, but children shouldn’t be denied if they want to start sooner. Some parents respond with the purchase of a toy sewing machine that uses glue or those which are nearly impossible to open up and adjust the thread when it gets jammed to make sure their kids are safe. The problem with this is that these machines rarely make a single good seam and sewing with a toy gives kids the impression they are using make-believe instead of really accomplishing something.
Parents have two options and either approach may be best depending on the child. One is to let them use your sewing machine but always provide guidance when they are sewing. If you want to give them an introduction to sewing to see how well they respond before investing in a child’s sewing machine, make sure you are in control of the stitching at all times. Children are injured all the time when they fail to keep their little fingers clear of the needle and let their hands slide under the sewing foot.
Full-size sewing machines are also quite powerful and learning to control the speed takes time. You may want to let them sew some salvage strips together and learn to control the pedal so they can handle the fabric and sew at their own pace.
If you do opt to get a children’s sewing machine, the first thing to realize is that these machines are not all the same. Each will have recommendations for ages/skill levels and you should choose according to where your child is at right now. It may be tempting to get something that they can use longer but you will be defeating the purpose of buying a child’s sewing machine in the first place. Get the right one for them now and let them work their way up to the next level. With so many affordable, good quality machines to choose from on the market, it won’t be that expensive to advance to a machine with more sophisticated features as your child builds her skills.
Some of the features to compare include:
- Lightweight and Sewing Guard – These are the two most significant features for keeping young sewers safe. A finger guard will prevent their small fingers from going beneath the swing foot and a lightweight machine won’t hurt them if it gets knocked over.
- Pedal or Pushbutton – Pushbutton machines may be easier for younger sewers who haven’t quite mastered the skill it takes to push on a pedal while guiding the fabric through the feed.
- Threading Function – Chances are that even if you have been sewing for years, threading the machine is still one of the most challenging parts of each project. Make sure the machine you choose for your child clearly illustrates how to thread it and that it is a simple system she can follow on her own. You should also look for a model with an auto-threader.
- Secure Sewing Foot – Snap-off feet can be a real convenience but they can also be a problem when they don’t stay put. Since beginners aren’t likely to be switching the feet frequently, get a machine with one that screws on securely.
- Easy Bobbin Winding and Installation – Winding and installing the bobbin should be as simple as possible to prevent frustration.
- Number of Stitches – The beginner doesn’t need an endless number of stiches that they aren’t likely to ever use but they do need some variety. Five or six stitches are enough for the youngest sewers but older kids can probably handle more. Every machine should include reverse for securing ends and a zigzag stitch will be needed to finish seams of fabric that is easy to unravel.
- Free Arm – This feature is an absolute must for being able to get into tight spaces like sleeves.
There are kids’ sewing machines that come in an assortment of colors and some even feature popular cartoon designs. Although these may not have a direct impact on their sewing capability, they can make the machine more appealing to younger crafters.
Choose the Right Projects
Let them be as big a part of the selection process as possible. Find a few potential projects that are right for their sewing level and let them decide which one they would like the most. Also, let them pick the fabric and just steer them away from specialty fabrics or designs that will make matching up seams difficult.
Some ideas for beginners include:
- Fleece Scarves
- A Pillowcase
- Decorative Felt Eyeglass Case
- Felt Figures
- Simple Clothing Pieces
Nothing will be more satisfying than making something that she can wear, display in her room, or give to someone as a gift. Actually being useful will make sewing valuable and give her the confidence needed to keep sewing and advance her skills.
Although most of us think of sewing as something girls are interested in, boys can also enjoy learning to sew. Even if they don’t take an interest in making clothing, there are plenty of crafts, like making felt monsters, an iPod holder, or a pillowcase featuring a favorite sports team or dinosaurs, that will appeal to boys of all ages. At the very least, you want your child to learn enough about sewing to repair busted seams or sew on buttons when they need repairs in a pinch!