Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lisa Press on teaching children to machine sew

I "met" Lisa who blogs at PhoebeandEgg on Instagram and was enchanted by the amazingly beautiful dolls she creates. We share a love of sewing and teaching children to sew. I teach hand sewing, Lisa teaches machine sewing. We thought that swapping posts would be a great way to bring our different skills together. 

A young sewer at a workshop I recently gave for parents and children at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2014 

You can pop over to Lisa's blog PhoebeandEgg to see my post on Five things to think about when teaching a child to hand sew and here's Lisa's post:

Five things to think about before introducing a child to the sewing machine

Children seven and older can usually handle a sewing machine, I feel before starting with the machine your child needs to understand the mechanics of sewing. This is best learned through hand sewing. Once they understand about stitches, seams, fabric, thread, pins and needles, or how to attach fabric to fabric, they may be ready to try the machine. 

I feel you should get them competent enough to enjoy hand sewing before trying the machine, otherwise they may not master both. To really sew, you need to know both. But when you and your child are ready to try the machine, here a few things I recommend considering:

1. Test drive your sewing machine

If you already own a sewing machine but don't sew regularly, sit down before promising your child sewing machine time and take it for a test drive. Is it jamming and spewing clumps of thread? Is it making a strange rattling sound? Is the tension out of sorts? Your machine may be in need of a tune up. If you want your child's first sewing experience to be an exhilarating smooth ride, make sure the machine is in good working order.

If you do not yet own a machine and are thinking of buying one, beware, all machines are not equal. Some of the models of certain brands can quickly introduce your child to frustration. Do a little homework before buying.

2. Lower the table or raise the pedal

Most children under eight struggle with being able to reach the pedal. There are two easy solutions to this: either place the sewing machine on a child's height desk or table or place the pedal on a box. 

3. Safety: there are a few rules

For the teacher 

If you can control the speed of your machine, put it on slow or half motor. This will still seem very fast for a child. I have children sew long straight seams on strips of fabric (as in from a jelly roll of fabric) to just get comfortable with the machine and hand placement. In the beginning an adult needs to be there watching. If your machine has a "needle down" option use this, it will ensure the needle is down when they stop sewing which keeps the fabric and needle both in a good place.

For the child 

Always look at what you are doing while your foot is on the pedal. Not at the dog, the teacher, or your friend who is laughing. If you have to look away, take your foot off the pedal.

4. The speed of machine sewing is your friend and your enemy

Children love the machine for the same reason most prefer downhill skiing to cross-country. It is faster and more exciting. But mistakes can happen faster, too. So machine sewing requires concentration and focus so you don't quickly get into trouble. But the speed can also give you the freedom to try more things and get more creative. If you spend twenty minutes sewing a pillow and you want to try doing a variation, twenty more minutes to try something new is not a problem.

5. Wonderclips 

Your machine should not be sewing over pins and pins are pointy and sharp and hurt and tend to make kids worry.  Wonderclips are just wonderful.

Lisa Press sews dolls and and doll clothing and writes about her craft and about sewing on She enjoys teaching children to sew using simple doll clothes patterns and the sewing machine. Currently on her blog is a doll dress-making series, geared towards older children and adults and this week she is introducing a learn to sew kit for children ages 7-10. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Treat Bag Tutorial

Designing a trick or treat bag for kids to sew isn't usually what I have on my to-do list but as I'm writing for Kids Activities Blog which is based in America it seemed like a fun idea especially seeing that trick or treating has even found it's way to Australia. Pop on over to find my tutorial.

Have fun trick or treating!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How a Fringed Cushion became a Zenkidu

If you pop over to Kids Activities Blog you'll find a tutorial for my simple to sew Zenkidu. So, what's a Zenkidu? Well, a Zenkidu is really just a fringed cushion that became one of these little fellas.

 I discovered Zenkidu when I was making fringed cushions at an event at Dymocks. I was looking for an alternative project for the boys (or girls) who might not want to make a cushion…and I found it. Instead of sewing a heart or flower on the cushion the boys could sew on a big nose or funny eyes and instead of cutting fringes all around the cushion they would only fringe the top and cut out arms and legs …and so Zenki (which is what I like to call him) was born…and of course the Zenkidu family has grown.

I decided to play around with the shape of my Zenkidus, at first I used a square, then a rectangle, then a triangle and my latest is…not quite sure what shape it is but it's this little one.

I'm sure she's a girl but not all my family agree.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

School Holiday Hand Sewing Workshops

I'll be running some hand sewing workshops for mums (dads, grandmas, aunties) and kids these holidays. Non Sewers are welcome too! So come join me at...

Australian Museum

Discover more about the colours, fabrics and handicrafts of the Aztecs in this fun sewing session. Children will work together with a parent to create a shoulder bag featuring an Aztec design.

When: Tuesday 23 September
Time: 9:50 - 11.30am
Ages: 5+
Cost: $15 per child
Bookings required: 

Museum of Contemporary Art

View the incredible works on display in 
Annette Messager: motion / emotion, then participate in this hand sewing workshop. Parents and children will work together to design
and sew their own soft sculpture which can then be hung on the wall, a door or can be used as a cushion.

When: Tuesday 30 September
Time: 10:30 - 12:00
Ages: 5+
Cost: $25/ $20 members


A hand sewing workshop where parents and children will work together, learning how simple it is to design and sew their own softie.
When: Thursday 2 October 
Time: 10 -11:30
Ages: 5+
Cost: $35 Ticket price includes a copy of the book. 
Bookings required

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sew a Simple Family with the Kids

This simple to sew felt family of softies is one that kids of all ages can enjoy designing and sewing. Older children can sew the smaller felt softies and younger children can sew the larger ones. All the members of this strange softie family are peanut shaped - but you might decide to sew your softie family from rectangles, triangles, or even squares.

Not sure how to sew:

You'll need to know how to  thread a needle and sew a running stitch

What you need:

Embroidery Thread

What to do:

Draw your shape onto felt and cut out. I've given my monster a pouch.

 Pin and sew on facial features.

 Place the two body shapes one on top of the other.

I've decided to add spikes which I pin between the two layers of felt.

Pin the pouch into position.

 Pin and sew 1/4' from the edge.

 Leave an opening for stuffing.

 Add stuffing

 and sew the opening closed.

If you'd like to sew another family why don't you try these sweet little owls. You can also make your family of owls reflect the number of people in your own family. Happy sewing!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Dreaded “S” Word: Myths and Misconceptions about Hand Sewing with Kids

For many people today hand sewing has ceased to be something familiar and friendly. Having no first hand contact with this once pervasive skill, and having never experienced its creative potential, many parents tend to view hand sewing with their kids through a mist of myths and misconceptions.

Three Common Myths about Hand Sewing with Kids

1) Sewing needles are too small and too sharp for children to use.

Young children’s hands are very agile. Once shown how to thread a needle and how to make a running stitch they are fine and will act responsibly under supervision. I sew with children as young as 3 years old and they love it.

2) Trying to sew with young kids will be stressful

Relax and be well prepared. You can pre-thread needles. I always do this for my workshops as some kids find threading difficult and I don’t want them to be turned off the fun of hand sewing. If you enjoy the process your kids will enjoy it too.

3) If kids try to sew, it will just look a mess

Young kids begin to sew with large, wonky stitches but with a little practice their stitches improve rapidly. Let them sew their own stitches, they will be proud of what they've accomplished. Often young children’s work becomes messy simply because they forget to look at what they're doing. A gentle reminder to look at their work while sewing can bring about a miraculous improvement. 

Exploding the Myths: A Sewing Crafternoon

A few weeks back, I ran a hand sewing “crafternoon” at Dymock’s city store in Sydney. We had parents and children sewing cushions together…it was problem free and fun for all:

Here’s 6 year old Josh sewing:

Josh stuffing his cushion. If you look closely at the photo you can see his first stitches in the blue square and how they improve:

Josh's mum, Mariane, cutting the fringes for him:

A proud Josh with his finished creation…apart from cutting the fringes and gluing on pom-poms with a low temp glue gun, all the hand sewing and decorative work were Josh's: 

…all done in just over an hour.

Many thanks to Mariane for the two photos above of Josh sewing and stuffing his cushion…and also for her great blog post on the crafternoon.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Peanut-Shaped Softie: a simple idea with loads of potential

Fatmumslim has just featured my Triplets tutorial as a guest post on her blog. Like the Triplets, Baby in a Pouch creates a softie using a very simple peanut-shaped form. She's about 7cm long and made from calico.

What you need:

embroidery floss

What to do:

Take two 10cm x 5cm pieces of calico and place them one on top of the other. Draw your peanut baby shape onto the calico. Sew around the shape leaving a turning gap. Trim 1/4 cm from your sewing line and turn right side out. Stuff and sew your turning gap closed.

To make baby's hair, cut eight 5cm lengths of wool. Gather the lengths into a bundle and sew the bundle at its mid point onto the baby's head.

The original tutorial which focuses on how to make the pouch can be found HERE

Be careful if using a felt tip pen to draw on the face as some felt tips can bleed into your fabric. 

Have fun sewing, Trixi