Five Things To Think About When Teaching A Child To Sew

My youngest daughter Yiscah first started sewing when she was three. I vividly remember how she used to peek into the room whenever I was teaching a class so she could watch the older girls sew. After every class she’d ask me why she couldn’t join in. Being the wise parent, I told her that she was too little just yet but she always insisted she wasn’t. One day I decided to let her sew something simple and to my surprise, she did a pretty good job… and she altered forever my ideas about when a child can begin to start sewing.

I still find people who believe, as I once did, that children have to be a bit older before they start sewing. Not true. So here are some tips to help you maximize enjoyment and minimize problems when your child begins sewing at a young age.

1. Getting them excited

There are lots of ways to get your child excited about sewing. Showing them a book of projects and letting them choose what they wish to make is always a good idea … as is letting them choose their fabrics and the colors of their embroidery floss. The basic rule here is simple: the more they do by themselves, the more they’ll enjoy it.

Even if they can’t manage the sewing on a project they’ve chosen, just watching Mum involves them more deeply than we might suspect and is a sure way to ignite their desire to sew something all by themselves.

2. Using good quality materials

Good materials are essential for a good experience. Sewing supplies are not expensive, so make sure you choose good quality felts, fabrics and embroidery floss.

Acrylic felts are the least expensive but they can feel a bit hard and scratchy to sew with. I personally love using wool blend felts as they’re soft, easy to sew with and reasonably priced.

Also, instead of using regular sewing cotton, I prefer to use embroidery floss, and I recommend using a brand like DMC as cheaper products tend to break. Recently I've started using Aurifil cotton mako thread and love it.

Use an embroidery needle with a large eye that makes it easy to thread. Make sure your needle isn’t blunt. Sewing with a blunt needle can be difficult and frustrating.  And it’s a good idea to first sew a few stitches yourself in order to check that everything works as it should.

3. Stressing safety

Explain to your child that scissors and needles are sharp and can be dangerous if not used sensibly. In classes I stress that needles have to be put back in containers and we always do a floor search to check for needles that may have dropped. Scissors are always closed and put point down in a jar after sewing.

It doesn’t really matter what safety behaviors you decide on, what matters is that your child sees that you treat these things with caution and knows that this is what you must do when you sew. I’ve found that when children really want to do something that requires responsibility, they have no difficulty behaving as they should.

 4. Accepting that wonky is ok

Young children begin to sew with large, wonky stitches and their sewing lines are often crooked. With a little practice, however, their stitches rapidly improve. Don’t do the work for them. Let them sew their own stitches and they will be proud of what they have accomplished.

Sometimes young children’s work becomes messy simply because they forget to look at what they are doing. A gentle reminder to look at their work while sewing can bring about a miraculous improvement. Hand sewing doesn’t require excessive concentration and the modest demands it does make will actually help to improve your child’s ability to concentrate.

5. Making the projects your own

There’s nothing wrong with copying a project exactly as it’s given but this never really compares with the feeling you get when you make a project your own. So don’t be afraid to adapt things, to change them, and to make them to suit your own and your child’s interests and wishes.

You can also drop in to Mollymoo Crafts where Michelle has adapted Baby in a Pouch. The original project is small enough to fit into the palm of a child’s hand but Michelle and her daughter wanted something that could be hugged, so they made the baby and her pouch much larger giving the project a very different feel.

This post is part of a series done in conjunction with Lisa Press who blogs at
Part 2 of the series will be simple projects to start your child hand sewing or machine sewing.

Have fun sewing, Trix

P.S If you'd like to sew some projects with your kids have a look at my book Sew Together Grow Together