It’s a scary prospect letting your child loose with a sewing machine, but as we mentioned before, we’re huge fans of anything that gets kids out from behind those screens – and when it comes to playing with fabrics, that’s an even BIGGER plus for us! So we got in touch with some experts on the subject; the London based sewing teachers at Little Hands Design CIC!
Little Hands Design CIC are a non-profit company who have been running sewing classes for kids and adults in West London for over 10 years. Here is Astrid and the team’s invaluable advice:
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Where Do You Start?
You may have an interest in sewing and want to encourage your children to have a go to, or your kids have expressed an interest themselves. Whichever way, just go for it! Get some fabric and a needle and thread and teach them some basic hand stitches. (If you need a few pointers check out this article on Hand Embroidery.)
A little bit of hand sewing will show you if they are genuinely interested and it’s worth investing more time and money into it. It’s good at this stage to get them designing, if it’s clothes they want to make start a little sketch book and look through magazines with them. Get them excited about using their imaginations.
What Age Should They Start?
We have kids as young as six using sewing machines and all the other equipment at Little Hands! Although we always supervise the 6-8 year olds – which we would highly recommend you do at home too, but you’d be surprised at the straight lines some kids can sew in! They’re sometimes better than the adults. Think about the difficulty of the project you choose for the age of your child. Start with simple things like cushions, especially for younger ones.
Many kids may not be ready to work straight from patterns, but you’ll find hundreds of easy tutorials on the internet they can use. We have a Little Hands Pinterest where we add lots of exciting projects people can do at home.
One of our top tips is – do not start with dolls clothes. Lots of people are under the misconception that the smaller something is, the easier it will be for a child to do… That is unfortunately not the case, especially if they are using a sewing machine! By hand is okay, but all the tiny seam allowances, tiny hems -It’s so fiddly that on a sewing machine it’s a nightmare. It’s much easier to get them making clothes for themselves! A simple t-shirt or a-line skirt with elastic. Give plenty of extra fabric at the seams for things to go wrong. It’s also much more fulfilling for them to be able to wear something they’ve made and be able to show it off.
For teenagers it can reinforce the skills they use in academic subject, at the same time using different parts of their brains. It teaches logic, problem solving, resiliance. Not everyone who takes up sewing wants to be a fashion designer, sewing is just a great life skill to have.
Not Just For Girls…
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It’s sad that sewing is still seen as a girly activity. Especially when so many top fashion designers are men! We can’t lie and say the majority of our sewers aren’t girls, but we do have quite a few boys, and the numbers are rising – they love it!
Sewing isn’t just about making pretty dresses, it tunes your fine motor skills. It’s not just about fabric either we do lots of recycling projects with bicycle tyres, leather, we’ve also introduced E – textile projects that take sewing to a much more exciting level! Think about ways to make sewing more adventurous, more boys should be encouraged to sew.
Introducing The Sewing Machine
Sewing machines are an added expense, but if your child is keen, it will be a worthwhile investment that will last for years.
If you are a sewer yourself let them have a go on yours. As long as you teach them how to use it thoroughly and give them good health and safety tips they will be fine. One of our tips is to leave the machine switched off whilst you are threading and arranging the fabric. Only turn it on when you are ready to sew, this reduces the risk of foot pedal accidents. You can also get a finger guard to go around the needle.
If you aren’t a sewer and you are buying your child their first machine, (depending on their age) it is a good idea not to leave them to their own devices. Make sure you understand how it works and how to fix problems. Read the manual and YouTube is a great place to pick up hints and tips. In fact, we have this video for Threading the Machine. Most machines thread in similar ways.
Buy A Full Size Machine
Those little machines you can get seem quite sweet but you’ll only have to upgrade it if your child is really into sewing in a few years as they simply don’t have all the same functions as a real machine. They are also often quite poorly made, so may break fairly quickly.
We have never been able to see the advantage, yes they are smaller and maybe easier to handle for small hands but they aren’t any safer, (the needle is just as sharp and goes up and down just as fast!) and they are just as tricky to thread.
Quick Guide On Scissors
Surprisingly, cutting fabric is possibly the trickiest thing to master when you start sewing. Even for adults! It’s not the same motion as cutting paper, so let them know how difficult they may find it, and don’t let them give up! Our trick is to remember you need to push with your thumb and pull with your fingers.
Fabric scissors need to be sharp so do supervise little ones. Proper dress making scissors are often too big for kids to handle, so just get them a sharp pair of normal sisscors, and make sure they know they aren’t allowed to cut paper with them, or they’ll be ruined. They’ll soon learn that lesson if they cut paper then have trouble cutting fabrics. Buy your child left handed scissors if they need them.
There’s nothing more disappointing than hearing a parent say to a child ‘is that all you did?’ or ‘it’s a bit messy!”. Sewing is a difficult skill to master, you can’t rush it. Descriptive praise is the best way to go, just don’t knock their first attempts!
It’s also important to let them do things on their own. Don’t take over because you think it should be neater, and don’t give them the answers straight away. Let them try and figure things out.
Of course we’re biased, so we’re going to say sending them to sewing lessons is a good idea! But, it does gives them a great opportunity to meet likeminded peers and exposure to expert advice, that you may not have at home.
Even if you are an experienced sewer, it takes patience and commitment to teach a child, and lessons can give them a good grounding in more advanced skills. Some of our kids only sew when they come to us, others sew all the time at home. It really depends on the child.
If your children are interested in fashion or textiles, external lessons can be great for building up a portfolio and giving them an edge over their peers who are only doing sewing at school or college. We’ve had students going on to Fashion Design courses, who have said the experience they had at Little Hands learning practical skills put them miles ahead of some of the others on their course.
Sewing is a growing trend, and it’s an amazing skill to have – whatever age you are! Having the ability to make and mend your own clothes and homewares is a something that stays with you for life.
What are you waiting for?! If you are interested in booking a course for you or your child at Little Hands Design, you can find all of their information on their website.
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