In the craziness of our schedule these past few months I just realized that I never blogged here about our latest book, A Kid’s Guide to Sewing. So right on time to begin holiday sewing with a young person in your life, here’s the scoop.
So let’s start at the beginning. We volunteered 2 years ago to facilitate the making of a class quilt as a fundraiser for our daughter’s school. We were surprised that only a few of the children had ever sewn before. Some had never used an iron before. One commented, “Yeah. I think we have one of those somewhere in our house.” This came shortly after the Girl Scouts eliminated the sewing badge as “irrelevant.” Even if you never have the aspiration to make a quilt, having a general knowledge of how to hem a skirt or make a basic pillow seemed to us a life skill, just like cooking or managing a bank account.
Then we were doing a lecture/trunk show/book signing at one of our favorite shops, Stitchers Crossing in Madison, Wisconsin. One kind woman asked if Sophie would sign her book too. Soon there was a line of people asking Sophie to sign their books. On Facebook later that evening I thanked those kind women for making Sophie feel special. One woman responded, “Don’t you think it’s time for Sophie to have her own book?” Bill and I discussed it and decided to ask Sophie if she had any interest in working on a book with us to help fund her college savings. She said she would.
Sewing is one of many interests of Sophie, who had just turned 11 when we wrote the book. Although we had hoped to have eight or nine months to write the book, C&T asked if we could finish it in one. We agreed to two months because they were ready to start up Fun Stitch Studio, a new imprint for kids’ sewing.
We wanted to “kid-test” each project to ensure that the skill level was appropriate for young sewists. So Bill and I designed the projects in conjunction with Sophie. She sewed each one and dictated to me a sidebar explaining to kids what was fun and what was hard. This, in my opinion, is what makes this book so wonderful. It’s like sewing with a friend your age right there to tell you when to pay attention and which parts are tricky.
In the process of working on the book and in making that class quilt prior, we learned a tremendous amount about how to encourage kids to sew. Below are our five best tips for sewing with kids:
1. Encourage the kids to start with a simple project but one that they like. We arranged the 16 projects in the book in order of difficulty. Start with something easy like a pillow for their room or a zippered pouch for gift cards, an ipod and headphones or toiletries. Choose a project that the child can do mostly on their own with a little help. If you need to sew all of the seams, it’s too hard.
2. Allow them to choose the fabrics. Kids have more ownership in projects in which they have choices and can tailor it to their interests and tastes. Sure they may not want that rainbow and unicorn fabric next year but they will want to sew because it was fun. That’s worth more than the value of a fat quarter.
3. Don’t focus on craftsmanship early on. In the same way that you don’t correct every mistake when a child is learning to read so he doesn’t get discouraged, nothing will shut down a fun sewing session faster than telling a child that their work isn’t good enough.
4. Give them space. Even if it’s as simple as a cardboard box, kids need to have a place to keep their projects and their materials. Make sure that they have access to it so they can work on it and admire it when they have free time.
5. Make it a party. It’s ten times more fun to sew with friends than it is by yourself, according to Sophie. Let them choose the music and give friends scraps to make something as simple as a drawstring bag. It goes without saying that sewing and snacks are a great combo.
To purchase an autographed copy of A Kid’s Guide to Sewing, click here.