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Old Jul 7, '10, 6:23 pm
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CB Catholic CB Catholic is offline
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Default Teaching an 8 year old to sew

Have any of you ever taught young children to sew? My 8 year old grandaughter just wrote me a letter asking me to teach her to sew on a machine when she comes to visit me for a week. She has been bugging her mother non-stop about this, and finally her mother got a good deal on a decent basic sewing machine, and is sending it with her because I am not keen to let her learn on my expensive machine.

I am not sure where to begin, and a week is not a very long time. Her mother plans to enroll them both in some beginner classes, but wants me to start her now because she is pestering her so much. I am not even sure she can reach the foot pedal with her legs. I didn't start sewing on a machine until I was in junior high, I'm wondering how much an 8 year old can learn. Any suggestions?

Personally, I think I should teach her basic hand sewing first, like I learned when I was young, but that doesn't appear to be an option. (Grandmas are such pushovers).
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Old Jul 7, '10, 6:33 pm
jamanne jamanne is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

I would be very careful about teaching this little girl to use a machine at this age.The needle can be very unpredictable for little fingers and an injury like having her fingers caught under the needle are not uncommon even in adults .it happened to me at thirteen ,very nasty.If you decide to go ahead with it let her practice on several layers of newspaper till she gets the feel and the rhythm of it, also a good idea to keep her forefingers in thimbles and only use those fingers to move the papers,be careful !!!
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Old Jul 7, '10, 6:51 pm
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MomaMary8 MomaMary8 is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

I'm sure I was using a machine at about that age. By the age of 10 my mom set me up on my own machine. It was the best birthday present ever!

A great first project is a pillowcase. If you wan to teach hand stitching, you can have her hand stitch the hem or add some embroidered flowers. Last summer I had my (then) 11, 10 & 8 year old making and stuffing odd shaped pillows. They had a blast and still have the pillows on their beds.

Go for it Grandma! You'll both have a great time!
Mom of 10, abundantly blessed!
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Old Jul 7, '10, 6:52 pm
tundramom tundramom is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

I'm 43. Can you teach me after you teach your grandaughter? LOL

I have always wanted to learn, and I have sewn a few items in the past. I love to cross-stitch and I'm good at hand sewing. But a machine has never been my forte'. I don't know if it's because I've just been so frustrated at the ones I've had (they've all been cheap ones) or if I'm just not good at it.

Christ, of course, is Who He is; our speculations do not change Him. How we view Him however, has a consequence for our relationship with Him. ~Dr. Bohdan Melnychenko -- Homoousios in Hebrews 1~
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Old Jul 7, '10, 6:56 pm
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KarenElissa KarenElissa is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

I think I learned around her age. I know it was well before I was 12 because that is when we took home-ec and I knew before then.

I think it would be easiest to just teach her the VERY basics, start, stop, forwards, backwards, and then just let her have some cheap fabric to play with. After she gets the hang of it a bit, pillows are a good easy project, especially the block ones that are pre-printed with the pattern.

As long as you show her where to keep her fingers, and where not to put them, and help her start slow, she should be ok. And as for reaching the pedal, either set it up at a shorter table, or you could put the pedal up on a box pushed up against the wall.
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Old Jul 7, '10, 7:05 pm
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Ponyguy Ponyguy is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

Grandma, I admire you for teaching your granddaughter to sew! Sewing (as well as other home economics topics) seems to be a dying art... Why don't they stress cooking and sewing and home ec for girls in schools any more? And, likewise, why no workshop class for boys? It's all college prep around us... apparently, nobody wants to work for a living any more...

I had some upholstery repairs to make when I was working on the interior of one of my older cars, and I decided to buy a sewing machine and teach myself how to do some very rudimentary sewing. I'm not going to tackle making myself a dress shirt or a gown for "my girls" but I got the upholstery job done without too much blood shed, and I think I could probably make a serviceable pillow.

Congratulations again!
The Ponyguy
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Old Jul 7, '10, 7:22 pm
jilly4ski jilly4ski is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

hmm, I don't know about a machine, but the others had some good ideas, like doing simple hems (on a dish towel, or a pillow case). I remember embroidering dish cloths at a very young age. Doing the simple broken outlines which were really just in and out, following the lines. (My mom would do any more difficult parts that were required, but I learned the basics like how to thread a needle, tie a knot, follow a pattern, etc. I learned how to use a machine later (don't know if I still remember) and all I really had to learn was how to get the machine to work. How to put the spool and bobbin in, thread the needle and make it go forward, and backward.

Jonathan Danial 4/21/09
William Thomas 12/13/10
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Old Jul 7, '10, 7:28 pm
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monicatholic monicatholic is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

i learned at 8. the first practices i was taught was to follow chalk likes on fabric. stright lines, curved lines and then swirls.

i was taught to stay away from the needle by a little drill my teacher did. she chalked out a square, aproximately 2 inches around the needle (maybe a little bigger?) she called out "foot on. foot off. foot on. etc" everytime we put our foot to the pedal we had to move our hands to the outside of the square. if the foot was off the pedal, we were allowed to reach in to the needle. we did this alot before we switched on the machine. she drilled that several times thoughout each class for the whole summer.

in the first summer of sewing classes, i sewed a dress which i loved and wore to death. the instructor had to approve each project pattern and the garment had to have sleeves. i made an adorable little mod print summer dress with cap sleeves.

a good first project is cotton napkins for the table. or a pillowcase can surely be made in a week. the summer of my 9th year, i made a lot of very popular tote bags with my mom.

i am such a remiss mom. i havent taught my daughters to sew, but did send my oldest to quilting classes one spring..
we love because
HE first loved us.
1 John 4:19
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Old Jul 7, '10, 8:03 pm
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Miss Linda Miss Linda is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

Have you seen Simplicity's "Learn to Sew" pattern line designed for young aspiring seamstresses? I haven't actually inspected the patterns myself, but the line is designed for young people who are learning. The patterns are advertised as having easy to follow instructions. Here is the link:

This might not be quite right for her very first project, but it might be a fun little gift to give her--a pattern and some beautiful fabric. She would think herself quite a big girl to receive something like that. I should think that once she learns the basics she could easily tackle a simple skirt, and imagine how proud she would be at her next sleep-over to show that the pajamas she is wearing were made with her own hands!

I agree with you about keeping her away from your expensive machine. She could do some real damage, throw the timing off or worse, without really trying. Plus, she should really learn to sew on her own machine. She should get comfortable with the machine she will be using when she is home.

I think it is just wonderful that you are teaching her to sew. I decided to teach myself two years ago, and have wished time and again that I had a more experienced seamstress at my side to teach me. I've learned from books and trial-and-error, but I notice that all the best sewing enthusiasts learned from their mothers or another close relative!

I hope this experience will bring both of you closer together, and inspire a life-long love of sewing and creativity.
"Let your adornment be the hidden man of the heart, the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great value in the sight of God" (I Peter 3:4).

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Old Jul 7, '10, 8:20 pm
HouseArrest HouseArrest is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

I would teach her the basics of how to thread the machine, then show her how to put the fabric on the machine and stay safe with the needle.

I agree with the others to then let her sew on scrap pieces of fabric until she becomes comfortable with the foot pedal and moving the fabric around.

Then choose a very short project that can be completely quickly to give her a success so she'll keep wanting to do it. Just keep choosing more short projects so that she'll get lots of practice.
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Old Jul 7, '10, 11:14 pm
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Ruthie again Ruthie again is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

Advice: if her machine is what they call a "beginner's" machine, especially if it is made by... let's call them "Cantor"... be aware that the fabric will be pushed down into the needle hole on corners. To prevent that, I had to take hold the corner fabric, behind the needle, an inch or so before I got to the corner, and stretch it back while keeping a lot of pressure on it. That put my finger very close to the needle. So you might want to leave a huge seam allowance in the corners.

And I like Monicatholic's teacher's safety drill.

About the foot pedal - you could put it on a book or a fat pillow.

God bless us all,

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Old Jul 7, '10, 11:28 pm
Marysann Marysann is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

What a wonderful grandmother you are! I began sewing by stitching shoe laces through holes in cardboard pictures before I started to school. My mother then taught me to sew by hand by embroidering dish towels. (Now I see the same towels for sale in antique shops!) I learned to sew on the machine in 4H, and my mother was the leader. We had fun projects and a systematic way of learning to use the machine, read patterns etc. I googled 4H sewing projects, and found that they offer their new, colorful and up-to-date materials for sale to the general public at a very low price. You might look at them. Teaching your granddaughter to sew will give her a skill that will be very useful in the future. Passing on the joy of needlework and sewing will give her much pleasure throughout her whole life, especially the loving memories of the grandmother who took the time and effort to teach her.
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Old Jul 8, '10, 12:36 am
former Catholic former Catholic is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

Basic rules for teaching an 8 year old:
#1 A sewing machine is a machine. When we operate a machine we wear safety glasses.
If we are not willing to wear safety glasses, we are not allowed to touch the sewing machine.

#2 The sewing machine must be well lighted and arranged solidly on a solid table and to fit the child comfortably. Please do not ever put the foot pedal on a fat pillow! Foot pedals work by variable resistance and they get warm. They need air circulation or they can overheat, such that burying one in a pillow could potentially start a fire.

Bricks (or hefty boards) are better for a foot pedal platform than books, if needed. Books slide much too easily! Bricks (or hefty boards) do not slide. You must build a wide platform with plenty of room for both feet and the foot pedal. You must have both feet of the child solidly and comfortably resting on that even and solid platform as though it were the floor if you must use a foot platform. Feet and foot pedal must be even, comfortable, not slipping, and not dangling, and all cords must be tucked far back out of the way.

#3 Get a long piece of masking tape. ( If it is much too sticky and you're afraid of residue on your machine bed, stick it to your t-shirt or jeans and pull it off so that it picks up a tiny film of lint to take down the excess stickiness.) Stick the masking tape firmly to your machine bed along your desired seam allowance guide, running all the way across the bed of your machine, straight and square, front to back. You've now got a seam guide for the child to sight on that looks like the white line on the edge of the freeway and that cannot be missed, and that will train the child to sight on and align the fabric long before it gets anywhere near the needle.

#4 Demonstrate and explain the machine: On/off switch. all buttons, knobs, dials, controls, foot pedal. Demonstrate how this machine runs and sews all the basic stitches. Explain that you need to find the slowest stitch mode for her to learn on. Run through all your basic stitches on scrap fabric and FLOOR IT. Floor it in front of the child, demonstrating that this is not a toy. It runs a sharp needle. It makes noise. It grabs the fabric with its feed dogs and pulls it through. It is to be treated carefully and with respect. One's hands have to be kept back, far away from the needle. One has to always wear safety glasses, because needles can snap, and we don't ever want a broken bit of needle to go flying up and get into our eyes! ALL SEAMSTRESSES AND PEOPLE STANDING NEXT TO RUNNING SEWING MACHINES ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES. No exceptions and no excuses.

Demonstrate the machine, running through all the basic stitch patterns and find your slowest stitch mode. Your upscale machines will have a "slow mode" for topstitching that is WONDERFUL for using when teaching children. Even completely floored, it's always nice and slow.
A regular reverse cycle machine will not have a slow mode topstitch for precision topstitching, but will generally have a reverse cycling reinforcing or stretch straight stitch that goes one stitch forward, one back, that is its slowest basic stitch.
Set the machine on its slowest stitch mode. Set proper tension and needle size for your scrap fabric, and get some nice contrasting thread. Friendly blue on old white sheet is good. You want plain fabric so it's easy to see the contrasting stitching and there is no distracting pattern for starters. Demonstrate lining up the fabric along the masking tape, keeping one's hands forward of the machine bed and nowhere near the needle, and gently guiding the fabric as the machine pulls it through and sews it all on its own. Demonstrate how one barely needs to touch the fabric at all, and the machine pulls it through.

#5 Remove the thread, needle, and bobbin. It is now the child's turn to explore the machine.
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Old Jul 8, '10, 12:51 am
Arlene Arlene is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

My mom taught me to sew when I was 10, and the first thing I learned to make was a pair of shorts. The pattern is simple, just two pieces. I learned how to lay the pattern on the fabric, pin it, and cut around it. I was able to practice sewing straight lines, curves, and a casing for elastic.

I was so proud of those shorts when I was finished.
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Old Jul 8, '10, 1:30 am
former Catholic former Catholic is offline
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Default Re: Teaching an 8 year old to sew

6. Explain to the child that with no needle and thread, we are just going to get the feel of how the machine pulls the fabric through it and how little we need to do to line up the fabric and keep it straight. Our hands don't ever go up on the machine bed. Our hands stay in front of the machine bed.

7. Have the child sit down at the machine and check for comfort and proper posture and alignment. Have the child turn on the machine and turn off the machine. If anything ever jams up or goes wrong in any way, we turn off the machine! Have the child press the foot pedal.... no thread, no fabric, nothing, just to get the feel of the foot pedal. Practice with just the foot pedal.
Start. Stop. Start. Stop. How slow can we go? Can we hold our speed even and slow with our foot? Can we go a little faster? Can we hold it even at this speed? Slower. Faster. Slower. Faster. Start. Stop. Work on holding it slow and even. Floor it, just to see what flooring it is like. No hands. Foot only. Start.... slow and even.... stop on command.
Are we comfortable with the sound? The vibration? See how the needle bar goes up and down? That will be where the needle will go. You don't want to get anywhere near it with your fingers. See the big white line with the masking tape? Along here is where the fabric will go.
But only after we are totally comfortable with the foot pedal.... when we can turn on the machine, start the foot pedal, run it slow and even, and stop on command, and turn it off.
Only after the child is comfortable, confident, and competent operating the foot pedal do we graduate to the next step.

8. Properly insert the needle in the machine. Guide the child through the proper threading of the machine and bobbin, leaving long thread tails out the back.

9. If you need to use pins, pin your fabric scraps longitudinally and far away from the seam allowance, such that you can sew straight through without them getting anywhere near the needle or presser foot or feed dogs or pull them out one by one as you like. The line of pins not only holds the fabric, but further reinforces the idea of keeping the hands back and in front of the machine (to pull the pins out toward you before they get anywhere up where the needle is)

10. Insert your plain scrap fabric under the presser foot, aligning it with the masking tape, and take a few stitches to make sure it's running clear and properly. Make sure you are set on your slowest stitch mode.

11. Now it is the child's turn to gently press the foot pedal, as you guide the fabric, demonstrating proper alignment with the masking tape, and proper hand position. We are now sewing, with the child controlling the stitching, and you controlling the guiding of the fabric and the child observing how the fabric is aligned and gently guided, but together you are sewing!
Sew quite a few practice seams so that the child feels comfortable with this. Scrutinize the sewing. Have we got our tension right? Explain how the needle comes down and picks up the bobbin thread from below and that is how it works.

12. Once the child is very comfortable controlling the foot pedal while you guide the fabric, have the child assist you in aligning and controlling the fabric.

13. Once the child is comfortable and confident assisting you in aligning and controlling the fabric, gently back off with your hands until the child is aligning and controlling the fabric herself.
The child is now sewing. Stay plenty close and give lots of praise.

Been there, done that. You too can do this.
With one straight seam, and fabric carefully ripped in strips on grainlines..... sewn together, cut into squares, turned, and sewn into strips, then sewn together....
my 7 year old made a quilt top for a tied strip quilt..... when she was in the first grade.
She is working on a masters in engineering at this point. Time flies.
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