General Tips & The Process of Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool


It’s Day 3 of the series on Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}. Today, I’ll be sharing some insights on the process of teaching sewing.

Our thirteen year old daughter (aka: R13) loves to sew! She’s been sewing for five years now and though I do sew, I’m no expert. At this point, her skills have surpassed mine. Today I want to highlight a few things I’ve learned along the way as we’ve fueled this passion for our daughter and developed some skills with our boys.

Blog She Wrote: General Tips & The Process of Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool

How did we get started with sewing?

It all started with a trip that our oldest two kids took to their grandparent’s house. R13, who was 8 at the time, worked on sewing a doll dress with her grandmother that week and it was discovered that she had an innate skill with a sewing machine. She took to the machine right away and had beautiful stitches.

At the end of that summer, we had the good fortune of having two sewing class offerings at our homeschool co-op which we certainly took advantage of that season. Afterwards, she practiced at home on various projects and we sent her for a short season to a refashioning, cooperative sewing classroom for a few sessions/events throughout the spring that year as time and finances allowed.

Since that first year, we’ve been sewing primarily at home, the details of which I will explain in tomorrow’s post on mentoring the sewing process.

Blog She Wrote: General Tips for Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool

What are some things to remember about the process as you work with a student learning to sew?

The first thing is to just provide the materials for creating sewn items. We covered supplies on the first day. There are a lot of products on the market that you can start with if you want to identify an interest or just get things started. Klutz kits are a great resource for both machine and hand sewing starts. Beyond that, you’ll need the basics- sewing machine, thread, fabric, pins, scissors (designated for fabric), seam ripper, hand sewing needles, and a marking pen. Simple patterns and tutorials are available on the internet so you can begin with not a lot of investment. Resources for teaching sewing is Friday’s topic.

It’s important to remember when sewing (and with any other handicraft or art experience) is that the process is sometimes just as important as the product. That is a cliché in the art teaching world, but it holds very true at our house and I have learned a great deal from it. My daughter and I are very different in terms of our creativity. I love to craft just like she does, but I am more product oriented. I love to create because I want to see that finished product. My daughter is a creative person from the inner most part of her personality. For her creating is the thing and whatever product comes out of that will be just fine. She finds more joy in the journey!

This is really something to think about when you begin a sewing program in your homeschool. Will you be product oriented or process oriented or a bit of both? Ideally, my daughter will begin her creative process with a goal in mind, but often she likes to dive right in and she’ll enjoy the outcome no matter what happens. I have to remember this as I navigate this passion with her.

The sewing cooperative she attended truly takes this to heart and there are many lessons learned from how they operate. Sewing is a creative endeavor that has a reputation for being steeped in many rules. This classroom aims to develop the children’s creativity while teaching them some basic sewing skills. At home I work on more finishing skills with my daughter while in the classroom, she immersed herself in that creative process and we enjoyed whatever she brought home. She made a sundress she can now wear as a lovely skirt and she spent a lot of time there just draping fabrics on a dress form and dreaming.

At the classroom, they encouraged a lot of the kids’ own designs and visions for things and they didn’t make so many rules as to discourage the excitement. At home, I make sure she practices and we at least talk about how to make a more “finished” looking product. On her early dresses, she decided a hem would be appropriate while on other items, she will go with a raw edge. All the while she learned while doing and as she matured, I have seen the more meticulous pieces fall into place.

If you are going to be a good mentor in this creative process, it’s helpful to know what kind of creator you are. Once I realized our differences, it made it much easier to work with her creative passion. More on mentoring tomorrow!

Blog She Wrote: General Tips for Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool

Encourage both hand sewing and machine sewing and we make it a part of the child’s everyday experience.

This is where a lot of facilitating and mentoring happens. It’s not necessary to micromanage every step your child takes in the process. You want to provide enough for them to practice the skill well, but give them room to get better on their own and choose their own projects.

The strides R13 has taken in the last five years are because we provided her with materials and let her run with what we gave her. It’s been a daily part of her life and she gets better at it all the time. Details were never her thing, but at 13 she is skilled and careful and it pays off.

Blog She Wrote: General Tips on Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool

How do you encourage boys to sew?

I get this question a lot and I understand why. Most of the resources out there are oriented towards girls. We’ve been successful with a few things.

  • find projects boys will be jazzed about making- adventure play items like coon skin caps, hunting satchels, holsters for nerf guns, cloaks, etc. Character items are very popular too. Angry Birds make excellent subjects for hand sewing!
  • allow them to try out a sewing machine- let’s face it. Sewing machines are power tools. They do cool stuff. Boys want to see how it works and make it go. This goes a long way! Say yes and see what they can make.
  • have a sister who sews a ton & mentors well- they know she’ll try and make anything for them and she encourages them to try it on their own. She gives great machine lessons and lead a project like a pro. She’s really good at getting younger kids to sew well.
  • put together their own sewing kit- the first day the sewing kit in the box belongs to I11. He asked for one after he started borrowing his sister’s a lot. He’s made quite a few things and isn’t afraid to pull it out and make something he needs for his projects and adventures.

Blog She Wrote: General Tips on Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool

When is a good time to begin teaching sewing?

You can begin teaching basic stitching to preschoolers with plastic canvas and yarn. Lacing cards are early sewing tools. I’ve used large buttons so my preschoolers could sew buttons to the plastic canvas.

When your child can hold a pencil well and form letters, that’s a good time to begin hand sewing. It may take a while for the skill to catch on, but simple projects with yarn and burlap are easy to put together and it will develop their fine motor skills even more.

Machine sewing can be started at about six or seven. You can guide their hands along if they are younger, but 7 or older is a good time to allow them at the machine independently- with your help. J8 started machine sewing on his own at age 7. You can see his little hands in the first picture.

The level of your expectation is what you need to adjust the most with beginners, no matter what age they are. Slow and steady wins this race.

These days, your grandmother’s kind of sewing is not at all the norm. I love how our daughter enjoys learning this skill while satisfying her need to create. I have enjoyed seeing how her work has matured as she’s grown older. I love watching our boys trying it out and being successful and I especially enjoy watching their older sister mentor them in the process.

Tomorrow I’ll be talking specifics on how to facilitate and mentor kids who want to sew. I’m excited about this post. I hope you’ll join me!

Please join the iHomeschool Network on a Hopscotch June 10-14, 2013 for some great topics from other homeschool bloggers!

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  1. we taught sewing at my little private school and all the boys loved to sew! an easy first project is a t-shirt backpack — no pattern necessary, straight seams, an old t-shirt and some inexpensive cording. 🙂

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