Saturday, November 26, 2016

Each One, Teach One

Back in the summer I became interested in having a "sewing date" with a child, showing her the fun of creating something from fabric and thread.  I reached out to the mother of a former client to see if her 8 year old daughter would be interested.  She was and so the day before Thanksgiving we finally made it happen.

Here is Lyla Z, using "Ruby" the red Featherweight, to make a pillowcase:

She quickly understood the simple directions I gave her, only needed instruction on the machine's operations once, how to go backwards, how to start and how to stop, etc.  Once she got the line of stitching started, I moved over to my machine and just let her go, no hovering.  I did the pressing--she did all the pinning and sewing.  Her finished project:

After that, I gave her a choice, make two more pillowcases for her brothers or do "something" else.  She was ready for "something else".  I gave her a stack of 4" squares, put a piece of batting on the design wall and let her go.  Here she is designing a quilt:

Again, I showed her how to flip one square on top of another, pin the pairs, stack them and chain sew the pairs together.  She quickly got the process, sewed the chain, snipped them apart, put them back on the wall, and continued on.  I was surprised that she completed the whole top in the time we had.

For the backing fabric we went "shopping" in my closet and like any good quilter, when she saw a sparkly, purple peacock fabric that she loved, she got real excited and wanted that for the back.  I layered the batt, back and top, showing her how to place the back and top right sides together with the batt on the bottom.  She questioned that at first then said, "oh, after you sew it the back will be right sides out!".  Yes, she gets it.  I did the sewing all around the outer edge, leaving a 6" space for turning.  Lyla told me she has made a few pillows before so she knew how to turn the quilt right sides out.  She had not used a chopstick before to poke the corners out, she liked that tool.

It was almost time for her mom to return so I was going to quickly sew the open seam closed with my machine when I got a chance to show Lyla what NOT TO DO:  I sewed my finger--breaking off the tip of the needle inside my index finger.  A tissue stopped the bleeding but it was going to take my husband and some tweezers to remove the broken needle.  Her mom arrived, we chatted for a few minutes then I had "surgery" to remove the needle, more than 1/4" long, that was buried in my finger tip.  No problem, "Doctor Will" likes to do these things and peroxide and a band-aid had me good as new the next day.

Lyla's mom was very impressed and surprised at what Lyla got done.  Lyla told  me she has done some hand sewing on her pillows so she will hand-sew the opening on the quilt when she gets home:

We both had a good time and I learned a few things about working with a child:

1. Two hours is enough, especially the first time.  Lyla was tired at the end of the 2.5 hours.
2. Have fabrics cut and ready to sew--the 3 pillowcase fabrics were prepped before she arrived.
3. Have a second project ready--playing with the squares on a design wall was a good way to occupy her for a bit.
4. Provide only as much instruction as the child can absorb, a little at a time.
5. Mom went shopping--the child will do better without "help" from her parent.  She was eager to show me what she could do.

I hope you can reach out and teach a younger person.  We know the joy of creating a useful item from fabric and thread, let's pass that on to future generations.  I learned to sew in Girl Scouts and Home Ec and caught the bug early.  Sadly, there is not so much of that being taught in schools today.  But kids still want to make stuff with their hands.  Help them learn.

Let's Quilt!



  1. I know you were a great teacher for Lyla except for sewing the needle through your finger. Madison was sewing with me with plastic needle, yarn and netting when she was 3 years old. Except for Thompson, all of our grandchildren have sewn on my machines, boys included. So much fun to have them enjoy creating in Grammy's studio. It's only a matter of time before you'll have Stella in yours.

  2. Wonderful! Well done teacher, and student!

  3. How wonderful to teach a young girl. Oh your poor finger. I did that a couple of years ago. Be sure your tetanus is up to date.

  4. No good deed goes unpunished, right? Sorry about your finger but what a wonderful opportunity for Lyla & you!