Teaching a 7 year old to sew.

Making lasting good sewing memories!

For several years I have sewn with my oldest granddaughter by my side.  She was always egging me on to sew doll clothes and other critters (see my post here) with a little Janome Mini sewing machine. I purchased this machine on sale for $39.99 on a whim from Hancock Fabrics since I had small granddaughters (You can get one here).  I kept the carrot out in front of her that soon she would be able to sew with the machine.

FINALLY she was old enough and we had 2 glorious days when she was on vacation from school and mommy and daddy were on a mini get away vacation.  I kept in my head that if it was too hard for her we would not proceed, but this child is very good at drawing, writing and cutting.  Along with a good attention span, and I felt it might be the right time.

I started her introduction with Sharpie lines drawn on paper, straight line, then lines that formed boxes, then in curves like ocean waves.  Without thread in the sewing machine she punched away, holding them up to the light to see the holes.

  • First teach what the sewing presser “foot” and take up lever are /do on a sewing machine
  • Second name the foot power pedal the “pedal” so the difference from the foot can be explained when sewing.
  • Third learn what the hand wheel is and which way to turn it.
  • Turning corners is a great practice to learn to use the take up lever, needle down concept while learning to control the pedal use.

As I fixed supper she was working away with the machine, hopping up and down to show me what she had done, giggling with delight!

We then traced out a very basic pine tree and drew it onto a brown paper sack and cut it out.  We were going to sew around it in green thread.

  • How to wind a bobbin (the cute little spool of thread that is wound on a bobbin that looks kind of like a donut).
  • How to put a bobbin into the bobbin case of the sewing machine
  • How to use the spool to thread a sewing machine, using the thread guides
  • Threading the eye of the needle
  • Testing the stitches to see if we did the job correctly (HINT: Ugly on top, bobbin not correct. Ugly on the bottom, the spool not threaded correctly)

Now we were ready sew around the paper tree.  We laughed, if it was funky, we would just do it again…no big deal!  We cut new shapes, and around we went.  She used the edge of the presser foot as her guild for sewing even.  While I fixed breakfast the next morning, she was back at the sewing machine working away.

Kit, her beloved 18″ American Girl doll is the perfect size with which to start sewing projects.  I went to the web page that has the .jpg ( free ) for Molly clothes and downloaded the one piece pajama bottoms.  As a side, this is the same project, but adult size I use to start beginning adults. (If you are interested in the dolls pattern:  http://www.agplaythings.com/AG%20Patterns/DollDressPatterns.html ).  After I printed out the 4 pieces that make the pants, we taped them all together like the puzzle they are, and with PAPER scissors, cut them out.  I started the girls cutting paper dolls at 4 to help them with basic skills.  We then went into Grandma’s stash of fabric, picked out our “favorite color, pink” fabric.  We pinned and cut together, with Audrey doing most of the cutting as I sat and watched.  Lots of praise, never a “let me do it” from me, but a “let me show you” then turning it over to the child.  Sure I could have done the whole thing, but this is not what teaching sewing is about.  I would tell stories about how I goofed up lots, and how every time I made a goof I learned something new!  We talked about how our bodies are not flat, but curved and we have to remember that when we sew.  She asked me, how do people know how to make patterns, and we talked about how some people do that for their jobs.

Step by step WE worked through the process of the pants.  Patience is the name of the game for Grandma, learning is the game for the child!  We talked about how irons and sewing machines work together.  I have a mini iron, that does not get too hot, and she learned to use it.  Before long we had performed magic, and she turned her Kit’s sleep pant right side out, and saw the “magic” of sewing.

Audrey doing the “magic”!

As I was driving her back to her house, she was planning what she was going to make next time!

WE both had a good time!

More information about Janome Mini?  http://twowildflowers.typepad.com/two_wildflowers/2009/11/janome-mini-sewing-machine-manual-instructions.html  I have referred to this as a “toy”, and it is NOT, it is a mini sewing tool!

*BOLD used to indicate sewing vocabulary

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