Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew!}

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Blog She Wrote: Teaching Sewing Whether or Not YOU Sew

One of the things I’m asked about the most with R13 being such an accomplished seamstress and designer is, how do I get my child started with sewing- especially if I can’t sew?

In years past, women learned to sew from their mothers and grandmothers. It was a skill you left home with ready to use when it was your turn to mend or sew new garments. In the last probably 20 years or more, not only are girls not learning it at home as much, but even school systems have been removing sewing from their home economics/family and consumer science programs. Although it may still happen, it is not a major part of the curriculum any longer. When I was in middle school, sewing was still half of any portion of home economics we had for the year. By the time I taught in a middle school in the same school system 8 years later, the sewing machines had been sold and it was no longer part of what had become Family and Consumer Sciences.

What does that mean for us today? It means that more often than not, a child who wants to learn to sew may not be able to learn from his mom!

This week, I’ll be sharing ways to teach sewing at home even if mom doesn’t sew!

Supplies to have on hand when you are teaching sewing

  • fabric scissors– these are sharp and designated for fabric only. Dull scissors are difficult to use and chew up fabric. R13 likes a pair for cutting fabric and another pair for trimming that she wears around her neck. You almost never see her without them on when she is working on a project.
  • pins & pin cushion– you’ll need pins to hold fabric together before you stitch. We like the kind with the balls on the ends. They are much easier to see! The pin cushion keeps those pins in one place.
  • thread– we use Guterman thread because it behaves well in our sewing machines. As you get more experience, you’ll know what kind you prefer.
  • fabric markers– just for fun! They add dimension to any project and you’ll want items kids can use on their own as they are still gaining skills. We like the Crayola fabric markers.
  • measuring tape– you’ll want this for measuring fabric. You might choose to use a pattern or your kids might come up with something on their own. Either way, you’ll want to measure to see the dimensions as you get started.
  • needles & a needle book– needles are a must have for hand sewing and the needle book makes a great first project. I’ll be sharing projects, patterns and places to find them on Friday.
  • fabric– you’ll want to keep your budding sewer in plenty of fabric. Fat quarters are a great way to stock up on more than one pattern of fabric quickly. Stores like JoAnn’s often have sales on fat quarters.
  • doodads– things like rick rack and buttons to encourage creativity and skills.
  • sewing machine– depending on whether or not you want to teach machine sewing. Most folks do what to machine sew and stepping out to make that investment can be confusing. Tomorrow I’ll be writing about sewing machines- how they work and what to look for in a good machine. It’s one of those things that is hard for a mom who doesn’t sew, but kids are sometimes super interested in it. You’ll want to know what’s happening!

Blog She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Where do I purchase sewing supplies?

  • JoAnn Fabrics– or another fabric/sewing chain store. JoAnn’s has frequent sales and a coupon program. If you sign up for their flyer, it’ll come with 50% coupons.
  • Michael’s, AC Moore, and Hobby Lobby– are all general crafts stores with good coupons. Although they carry some sewing supplies, you will not find a full selection at any of these stores.
  • Sewing Shop– along with quilting shops are fairly high priced, but they are generally helpful to new sewing enthusiasts and carry high quality supplies
  • Second Hand Sewing Shop– these are shops with used fabric and doodads and sometimes they offer classes. We have found some really great fabric, books, and other supplies at ours.

A note on supplies: Initially you may be tempted to go conservative on the cost for supplies. Just keep in mind that good quality supplies will make the job of learning the skill easier. you don’t want to add frustration to a project by providing super cheap materials that are more difficult to work with. A finicky sewing machine, for example, can be very discouraging! I’ve seen people quit early on because of a bad machine.

Blog She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Be available as a mentor and a facilitator to your new sewing student

This could happen in a variety of ways with different resources both of which I’ll be sharing later in the week. For now, know that part of teaching sewing at home is allowing your student time to learn and to manage her projects- especially if you are inexperienced and can’t always show the way exactly.

A good mentor means showing your child that learning doesn’t stop…by everyday immersion in a life that celebrates learning interesting things and doing challenging, meaningful work. – Lori Pickert, Project Based Homeschooling

You might choose to learn with your child or you can help make it happen. Being a mentor means being a guide to something your child wants to learn. The great thing in this situation is that your child is coming to you with an interest. Just think of the intrinsic interest and motivation already at play!  I’ll be writing about ways to mentor on Thursday.

Blog She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Provide a designated space for your sewing student

As with any great project or learning experience, environment is key. If your student needs to fish out lots of materials and find and clear a spot for her work every time she has the time or inclination to sew, you are going to lose valuable momentum. I know we don’t all have the space for every project out there, but see if you can dedicate some space all her own to work on projects. Whatever those projects might be.

Seeing work in progress and be able to immerse in the challenge without having to worry about cleaning up is so essential to going deeper in your work.

Remember that if you want your student to be in control and to lead the way in her endeavor to learn to sew, then the materials she needs for the job need to be at the ready. You’ll want to keep tabs on safety, but you’ll be on hand to mentor anyway. Workspace is about making the project/learning activity accessible. I could make a long list of things my kids have ownership over in their learning and all of them involve us relinquishing control over workspace. We’ve worked to carve out spots for our kids to engage in what matters the most to them.

Blog She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Sewing is a wonderful skill and many of us don’t have much, if any, experience in this art. If you have a child asking to sew and you don’t have the knowledge, then this series is for you!

Join me for the rest of the Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew} series when I’ll be writing about:

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. I’m looking forward to this series – I’m not a mother or a sewer, but I would like to be both! My very first venture into sewing was last summer when I (almost) made a skirt. You’ve inspired me to get back to it and finish the hem, and then make another one!

  2. I have a sewing machine that’s never been used. I also have a 5 yr old daughter that just busted me out in front of friends “my mommy doesn’t know how to sew anything”. Thanks kid. She learned some basic stitch work in a Montessori school at 3 yrs old. Do you think 5 is a good time to begin learning? What about 42? LOL

    1. LOL I’ve been busted out by my kids on stuff too…most notably a speeding ticket during a Q&A at the local libary program with police officers and the entire town. haha

      Five is a great time to introduce sewing and 42 I’m positive will work out very well! Details in the coming days.

    2. We started sewing lessons when our children were about 4, but we started with threading beads onto string, and cutting out shapes from cardstock and punching holes around the edges and having the children use a huge, plastic, blunt needle threaded with yarn to sew around the shapes. When they were 5 or 6, we did some simple hand sewing projects. The kids loved it.
      My daughter is now 11 and recently finished sewing a pair of pants–her first full-sized garment from a pattern.

      1. That’s great Cheryl! I guess I forgot to mention the plastic needle for the yarn. Lacing cards are wonderful beginner items. Thanks for the reminder. Congratulations to your daughter on her first garment!

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog. My daughter and I do a lot of sewing and other crafts we started off with making doll clothes, some which she’s made from patterns, some from her own creations. She has often said that she wants to be a fashion designer so what better way to begin.
    Thanks for sharing, I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thank you for commenting Shieron!

      Yes, my daughter makes doll clothing as well. Such a great way to practice for bigger garments. R13 really enjoys making her own patterns.

      I love that you make things together.

  4. I’m in the process of setting up a room for art/crafts/sewing/reading. It used to be my husband’s office and he doesn’t use it anymore, so my dd (9) and I took it over! The timing is perfect for us as I don’t sew but would like to know how. My grandmother and great aunt were fabulous seamstresses, even doing wedding gowns, but I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from them. So better late than never! Thanks!!

  5. This is great advice for any household with children, don’t you think? Such a basic life skill that isn’t taught to kids these days in this throw away society. My boys love to sew and are quite skilled at fixing items of clothing too. Sasha

    1. Absolutely Sasha! One of my boys enjoys sewing as well. None quite as much as our aspiring fashion designer. Sewing is a great skill and one largely lost since a lot of moms no longer sew.

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