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Getting Children Excited about Sewing

By Lacy Razor 


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Showing off a finished draw string bag.

Getting children interested in and passionate about sewing is more than just buying those huge plastic needles, colorful yarn, and throwing down some crisp construction paper. That just aint gonna fly next to all the other stuff competing for your child’s attention.

Having recently become foster-to-adopt parents, Josh (my husband) and I began working to come up with creative ways to get the children to take an active role in simple living. This is no easy task. Nope.

Helping make muffins

We started by taking baby steps: cooking, baking bread and cookies to give away, and making up a batch of homemade laundry detergent. The children loved each task and seemed to grasp the beauty of ownership when presenting their homemade goodies to friends and family. The words “I made these just for you” build so much confidence. Yet there was so much more to our lifestyle than simply cooking and creating household cleaners.

Just as any other thrifty and active family, we have a constantly growing mending pile. In fact, it expands to rapidly that one might think that it enjoys regular exposure to radioactive waste. As I pulled out my trusty sewing machine to tackle ripped jeans, torn sleeves, displaced pockets, split seams, missing or broken zippers, and countless button issues – I realized a huge department in our lives that we had yet to introduce to the children.

Sewing.

Aprons ready for sewing

Sewing is a foundation block of our household. I’ve made drapes, pillows, quilts, tablecloths, aprons, washcloths, towels, clothing, and countless other money-saving items. I haunt the local flea markets and yard sales for scrap fabric all summer long. As a military wife, I end up sewing various patches and name tapes which saves us quite a bit of money. But how to get my new children on board?

The fabric stash

First: fabric selection. For girls, find fabrics with glittery threads and cheerful patterns. For boys, find bold colors and strong masculine patterns. All of the selections must be easily washed and durable with great textures. Once you have gathered an assortment of these fabrics, let your children pick out their favorites.

Second: project selection. Keep it simple and useful. If your girl cares only for soccer -- please don’t force her to make a pot holder. If your boy loves all things indoors, don’t insist that he sew up a flag for his tree house fort. Let your children be your guide. My advice? Begin with a drawstring bag. Regardless of your child’s interests, they will love special bags to stow away their marbles, armies of little toy soldiers, doll clothes, favorite scented markers and colored pencils, and treasured rock collections.

Learning to sew

Third: make it fun. Play some music that you can all sing along to and get to it. Keep in mind that you may be doing a lot of the work yourself (depending on the ages of your youngsters) but that’s okay. Tell them everything you are doing as you do it. Pretend to be a television sewing guru. Use different accents. I like to pull out my best Robin Leach voice and be their guide as we place pins and measure seams. The fact that I am pretending to host Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous beside a gargantuan mending pile does not escape my notice. That’s just how we roll at our house.

Helping with the straight seams

Depending on the child, you may allow them to use the pedal, thread the needle, put pins in place, guide the fabric, and all that jazz. Don’t worry if they royally botch the project – it doesn’t matter! The important thing is that you are getting them involved in a sewing project and remember that kids (and adults) learn from their mistakes.

An easy and small drawstring treasure bag using fat quarters:

- 1 fat quarter (18”x 21” fabric sections)

- approx. 1 yard of ribbon, yarn, or some sort of cord (you can get really creative here)

1. From your fabric, cut one piece that is 6" x 6" (6.5" x 6.5") and one piece that is 9" x 21" (10" x 24").

2. Place the right side (RS) of square facing up, lay the corner of the rectangle about halfway down the square, RS facing down. Sew it in place using a ½” seam allowance starting ½” from the start of the rectangle. (All that “right side” business means is that the pretty sides of the fabric are facing each other.)

3. By carefully folding your work, continue sewing the rectangle to the square until you have made your way back around to where you first attached the rectangle with ½” to spare.

4. Turn your work and sew up the bag stopping 3” from the top to create a lidless cube, of sorts, with a “V” shaped gap at the top. Now, fold the edges of the “V” over ¼” and sew them to the back side of the fabric. This is where the drawstring ties. It’s okay if it isn’t perfect. No one is judging you. Least of all: me.

5. Fold the top down 1 ½” with your cord/ribbon/yarn/string in the fold. Feed the string through the “V” and tie the ends together so they do not slide back through the channel for you to fish out later. Pin the flap down and sew it all the way around.

6. Turn your work right side out and admire your handy work. You are one fine individual.

Check out these awesome instructions for a drawstring backpack made from fat quarters by Wendy Coburn.

Drawstring bag

These darling bath bags are so easy to make! You have options... you know how I love options! When I make these, I like making a matching towel. Then you have a set that is wonderfully soft, warm, and inexpensive.

MATERIALS:

Approx 3 yards of 100% cotton flannel or very soft light weight knit or woven terry cloth or fleece

Fleece, flannel, terry cloth binding

DIRECTIONS:

Cut 2, 1 yard (36 inches) pieces of fabric. If your fabric is a standard 45 inches you will now have an approximately 45 x 36 inch rectangle.

Lay your two pieces of fabric wrong sides together (so that the print/right side is facing out). Trim the pieces so that all edges are straight and they are the same size.

Using the fleece binding, bind the edges of the towel.

Sewing a terry bag

To make a matching wash cloth cut two 12x12 inch pieces of fabric from the other yard of fabric. Place the fabric wrong sides together and bind the edges with fleece binding!

To make the drawstring soap sack:

Cut out two 12 x 12 inch squares.

Zigzag the edges all the way around.

Place one square on top of the other so that the edges match up and with printed or "right sides" together. Pin in place.

Sew three sides with a 5/8 seam.

Cut the ribbon or string you want to use with plenty of excess string for tying purposes and fold the unsewn top down over it (around two inches). Pin in place.

Sew the flap down all the way around the piece and then turn it right-side-out.  

Voila! You have a nifty little soap holder for the bath with matching towels.

Don't forget to check out the Razor Family Farms Web site.   

 

 

jim simpkins
5/20/2012 4:18:47 PM

very good information, would love to see articles available in a pdf format so I could save on hard drive for later reading and reference.


dawn_1
1/17/2009 6:10:32 PM

My kids all started with drawstring bags. Unfortunately, the youngest didn't as we restructured our lives before she came along and have not done sewing. I should say, I haven't done much sewing, but the oldest has done alterations to her clothes and we did do a sewing class in which the two oldest did some sewing. The youngest will get her chance soon.


robin_1
1/10/2009 9:53:08 PM

Hey Miss Lacy! We lovvvve Grit! I am going to pour through all of my magazines again before spring to see if I can glean anything new before the new planting season begins. Which will begin about two months earlier than last year for us. You are one rockin' cool lady, Miss Lacy! How exciting that all those way-cool things that you learned can now be passed on to your dear children. Awesome!!


aly in ga
1/10/2009 7:23:35 PM

Sewing for kids? How about sewing for MOMMY?!! I can remember, as a kid, using my mom's (which used to be HER mom's,) ancient rocker-peddle singer, and 8th grade home-ec, where I made a pitiful, but adorable to me, robot pillow. I now have an 8 yr. old that is bigger than most 11 year olds, and he's forced to cuff pants that are too long for him because Mom can't sew worth a spit. Oh, what a horrible confession to make on your blog, Lacy, but there it is. I've also never given thought to showing my 2 sons how to sew. Perhaps I need to rethink this. Off to the GRIT.com blog. BTW, I haven't mentioned, but I'm doing the Amazing Digiscrap Race again this year. It's season 4 (hence the acronym ADSR4,) and it's my second time playing along. I'm telling you this because my (new) friend, Manda, is an Alabama girl living in VA. Our team name is G.R.I.T.S. - Y'all!, since we were both girls raised in the south. It's almost painful for me to admit that, too, but after living in GA for about 30 of my almost 43 years, I have to 'fess up to being "raised" here. Have a great weekend! ~Alya


tipper
1/10/2009 10:42:18 AM

Lacy-all great tips on getting the kids involved in sewing!


julie at elisharose
1/9/2009 9:01:12 PM

Once again, you have reminded me of something I need to be doing. I used to sew a lot, but not so much anymore. I need to introduce my children to something more than handing me something to be mended. My daughter would love to make little blankets and things for her animals. Thanks!


cc
1/9/2009 5:38:21 PM

Fantastic! If only I knew how to get my sewing machine to work....


annmarie_1
1/9/2009 2:23:19 PM

Oooh, I think my 4 year old could help me make a drawstring bag. That's easy enough! I just have to take her shopping to get some fabric!


maureen
1/9/2009 2:22:10 PM

Ok, you have definitely inspired me to use my sewing machine for something besides patching holes in our kids pants. Our son(college) still brings his mending home....maybe I'll have to teach him to do it himself :) Or maybe I should just be satisfied that he doesn't feel the need to go out and buy new pants just because his old ones are wearing out. Thanks for all the great 'DIY' articles!


laura_1
1/9/2009 2:08:29 PM

As always, you have the best ideas! I'm hoping that my son will be able to cook, sew, and clean a house better than any other man when he grows up.


crossview
1/9/2009 1:00:41 PM

What a great idea! Seems like they'd definitely learn the pride of having done it themselves... The good pride, by the way! =P


dianne
1/9/2009 12:27:38 PM

Wonderful post, Lacy! I have 6 granddaughters and 1 grandson and I love doing projects with them. I'm headed to Iowa to visit 3 of my grandchildren soon and may just try one of these...most likely the drawstring bag...great idea! Thanks for sharing, Lacy! I love the pics of your lovely daughter in this post too! Blessings, Dianne


melanie_1
1/9/2009 12:06:12 PM

Great post! I second the drawstring bag - my kids' first sewing projects were little bags made out of silver lame to hold their lost teeth for the tooth fairy. :)


warren
1/9/2009 9:56:46 AM

My Dad got me sewing by allowing me to cut up old jeans and use the legs to make other stuff...mainly bags to put my other junk in. Anyhow, a little destruction may be in order to get boys sewing (or girls too for that matter)?


christina
1/9/2009 9:25:28 AM

I love sewing. I really have been sewing since I was 3 years old. My grandmother gave us a needle and thread and 2 squares of fabric. When they were almost sewn together we add beans and closed up our bean bags. We had hours of fun, making and playing with those bean bags.... by the next summer I was helping grandma make quilt squares for her never ending quilt projects! By the next summer, I was making clothing for myself. I actually made a pair of culottes and put the zipper in myself. Those culottes actually are now a part of a quilt I made! But the story goes on. I continued to sew. My parents bought me my own sewing machine at 8 years old. In High School, I was the seamstress for the drama dept. I made everything from rags to tailored linen suits for plays. When it was time to get married, of course I would make my dress. So I designed and constructed my wedding dress. I stopped sewing when my daughter was about 1 year old. We lived in military quarters and had precious little space. I would count pins in the beginning of the project and at the end. I was an ever diligent mom and came up missing a pin. Crystal had swallowed the pin ... luckily it was a glass head pin and she swallowed it head down. I still have the exray of that pin in her intestines. Fortunately, a couple days of waiting patiently later, the pin appeared and all was well. My projects went on hold for the time when I had a safe place to work. It was never the same. I still sew, but not like before. And I regret never passing that skill onto Crystal.


dirkey
1/9/2009 8:55:00 AM

This would be great for reusable gift bags as well! Would be a great way to get kids into giving for Christmas and Birthdays :)


cindy murphy
1/9/2009 8:12:12 AM

Hey, Lacy. Yes, the bath-bags are darling, but even more adorable are the children! Best wishes in the New Year to you and your "new" family.


jeni hill ertmer
1/9/2009 8:10:22 AM

Although when my children were growing up, I sewed many of their clothing items but my girls -neither of them developed any type of interest whatsoever in sewing no matter how I tried to interest them. However, now that my younger daughter has two little ones of her own and she has watched me over the past couple of years as I got re-interested myself in sewing and crafting, etc., she is now slowly showing a bit of interest. Older daughter still associates a stigma with "hand-made" items particularly clothing but does now appreciate hand-embroidered things but I still can't see her trying to do any of this stuff. Perhaps after I am long gone, she might give it a try as I think sometimes she is more intimidated over the aspect of Mom teaching her anything! LOL


razor family farms
1/9/2009 7:40:11 AM

Very cool, Michele! I can't wait to see your handmade Christmas items!


razor family farms
1/9/2009 7:39:18 AM

Comment here and you are entered to win a $25 gift card to Amazon.com --- TWICE! Want one more entry? Comment on my website (www.razorfamilyfarms.com) and get entered once more. THREE chances to win! Winner to be announced on Tuesday!


michele_3
1/9/2009 7:34:23 AM

The little bath bags would be great filled with fancy soaps and lotions for gifts. Think I'll put some together throughout the year for next Christmas.