Sewing Lessons

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:

(That’s Miriam. This was before I’d ever heard of attachment parenting or knew how literal a term it was.)

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:

(hidden seam allowances, straps and buttons for embellishment!)

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!

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10 Responses to Sewing Lessons

  1. Joy says:

    I think it’s awesome that you are teaching them so young! I refused to take home-ec when I was in school and the only reason I regret that decision is it would have shown me the basics of a sewing machine. I can hand sew, but I’ve tried several times to teach myself to sew and it’s just not something I am able to teach myself. I so wish I had learned at a young age. It seems like something I would really enjoy doing. You are teaching them something that will definitely benefit them in the long run.

  2. Carol Womick says:

    We have a small Janome machine that was inexpensive. I think it’s called the Sew Mini. It makes very nice straight and zigzag stitches. It’s a real sewing machine, not like the small battery operated Singer machines. M & T love to use it, and Ceci isn’t far behind…she already has designs on my serger, lol.

  3. Rachel says:

    I love that picture of you sewing with baby Miriam on your shoulders!

    Kyrie really wants to learn how to sew. I let her run fabric scraps through the sewing machine, and she helps me pin things together and sometimes I’ll let her use the foot pedal as I guide the fabric through. I hope she learns naturally just by remaining curious and wanting to be involved when I am sewing — not that I sew a whole lot. I mostly do diapers and birthday gifts and special occasion outfits, etc.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Sarah, that is great! I learned to sew by using the scraps left over from my mom’s sewing and scraps I’d find at Mor Mor’s house. I made so many pillows that never had any stuffing. Or I’d stuff them with other scraps. If you are wondering about an inexpensive good machine. I ended up getting Corinne a bernette 46 for about $150. It does everything she needs it to.

  5. Katherine Lauer says:

    That is so wonderful! I love the photo of Miriam on your shoulders, as that means I’m not the only one who often sews with children on my back! Even now, Mary at 2 is often pressed against my back watching and refusing to be anywhere else, but at least then I know she’s not getting into mischief.

    I’m amazed at how young children can learn to sew. I still want to assemble a simple sewing kit (for which you sent me a link) for John.

  6. ann kraeger says:

    I, too taught all my kids to sew. (sons and daughter alike) They each own a sewing machine of their own purchased at yard sales then cleaned and fixed by me so that they had something that was inexpensive just for their use. All of them continue to sew in some capacity or other except my oldest son who let’s his fiance do the sewing for him now. When they were little I started them sewing doll quilts and clothing for 18″ dolls and then they graduated to clothing for themselves. My son’s even earned money sewing patches on the uniforms of their buddies when they were in basic training.

  7. Robin says:

    Think of all of the unschooling goodness! Spatial reasoning, math, fine motor skills, planning and executing a project. Great stuff. I was especially thinking of this with respect to Soren.

  8. Marsha Stein says:

    Audrey sent me the link to your sewing story and photos! My undergraduate degree was in Home Economics and I even taught it for one semester before working in the home sewing industry in NYC until we moved to Connecticut. I used to make all of my clothes and most of Audrey’s when she was little. I’ve made curtains, duvet covers and shams, window seats, pillows; reupholstered all of my best friend’s sun room furniture…and a few of our own pieces. I still make vests for Audrey and some things for myself, but I have never, ever, not even once, sewn with a child sitting on my shoulders! And, yes, I did teach Audrey hand sewing when she was young; she wasn’t much interested in the sewing machine, but had that Soren thing going with being able to determine what something would look like finished and then cut and sew to get it there. Enjoy your little sewing circle! It’s adorable! Love, Cousin Marsha

    • Sarah says:

      How neat, I did not know that about your history, Cousin Marsha! I could use a lot of tips for home dec sewing, that is not my forte at all. Too bad you aren’t closer!

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