I began learning to sew after I was married. My mother in law is a professional level seamstress (though she did not generally sew for money and now will not on principle- though with 20 grandkids to sew for who could be surprised) and has a sewing room whose proportions and appointments are so vast and well stocked that it would make anyone wish to learn. She still sometimes allows me to “shop” in her sewing room for notions, trims or fabrics as I have need.
While I was pregnant with Miriam, Dave (who’d done some basic garment sewing for himself and friends) and I decided to take a beginners sewing class together in which we each chose the project of sewing a maternity dress for me. I still have the one Dave made, but I gave away mine :D.
The main way I learned, though, was just to get a pattern and try to follow it, and run downstairs to my mother in law every few minutes asking her what this could possibly mean?
It was all grand and fun and exciting, as any new endeavor can be, and I tried as well as I could to keep it up after I had kids. Sewing was something I loved doing because it was basically the only accomplishment in my new mom’s day that actually stayed done. (This was obviously before my children began discovering scissors and the joys of snipping the clothes one is currently wearing. But by then I was too entrenched.) So in my efforts to stay on task with my current newfound hobby I ended up performing strange feats like this:
Anyway the kids being underfoot (er, overhead) has always been quite a challenge to my sewing endeavors and so I have alternated between choosing to sew anyway, while they occupy themselves, and then try to call in a few favors from my friends at FEMA to get aid in cleaning up the ensuing mess (an explanation for the former crayoned glory of my every wall); and trying to incorporate the children somehow into the activity.
As the girls got a little older I thought it was probably a good time to allow them to really learn some hand sewing and I gave them access to real needles, thread and scraps. They began sewing pouches and things (that could not possibly have held anything, but cute nonetheless). So I asked a young friend of mine who is a great sewist to teach my girls hand sewing. We organized a little class of 5-9 year olds (or so) and they have done a variety of cute projects over the last several weeks, most recently a doll size quilt.
In the interests of full disclosure, I stitched around the quilt to put the three layers together, but every other stitch on there is their own.
Jireh seems to be the one who really loves sewing; she has a greater attention span for it and she sews late into the night when possible, and every chance she gets. So when she’d finished her quilt, she didn’t stop there, but made a bag to hold it:
And then immediately began cutting and arranging more squares for her next quilt!
By the way, though only the oldest 2 girls are taking formal lessons, Soren enjoys it just as much and though I don’t have any photos of him doing so, he amazes me with his ability to envision what something will look like after it’s all put together – preferring to design the projects and then have me sew the seams on the machine. (“Mom sew this to this along this line. Now this. OK thanks, now it’s a hat.”) Christina, too, has been sewing “pouches” all by herself (I only need to thread her needles and secure the thread). I’ll try to get some photos of that soon. She loves to sew really tiny things. Today she even made a “buttonhole” (snip in the fabric) and added a button (with help) as a closure.
Agnes is still content to sort through buttons, and today wanted me to fill up her container with buttons that were attached to a card. Instead I grabbed a bunch of loose ones from the bottom of the box and she protested, “NOT THE BOY ONES!” and made a big show of picking out all the brown and tortoiseshell buttons to discard, favoring only the pearly, flower-shaped or heart shaped buttons. I saw a flower shaped bead on the floor and offered it to her, to which she astutely commented, “That’s not a button!” and turned up her nose at it.
Meanwhile Estella sits on my lap and tries to grab my scissors, or sits on the floor trying to eat pieces of thread. Thankfully there are enough of us around now to help monitor that situation. 🙂
As soon as I have the funds, I plan to buy a simple sewing machine that I will allow the children to learn to use, as they seem to be gobbling up the fundamentals. I’m excited they are starting this skill much much earlier than I did!