Okay guys, Ellie has been chomping at the bit to learn more about the sewing machine and actually sew on some fabric, so we decided to hop right back into this whole Teaching Kids to Sew Series. And oh how my heart triples in size every time she asks to learn more!
In case you missed the last ‘Teaching Kids to Sew’ lesson, I taught Ellie the basics of the machine in the Intro To The Sewing Machine lesson about 2 weeks ago…..and she had an absolute BALL! So in this lesson, I actually pulled out some fabric scraps and taught her different stitch types, how to do a back-stitch, and all about seam allowances…..and she felt like a BOSS making that machine purr! :)
Do you have any kids needing a new hobby this summer? Or hey, maybe you’d like to learn the basics….and weren’t quite sure what to do first. Either way, let me show you a good place to start!
(Be sure to review the Intro To The Sewing Machine tutorial and be sure your child [or you!] is comfortable enough to move on.)
Teaching Kids to Sew: The Back-Stitch Function
For Ellie, I could tell she had the whole paper method down just fine, so it was time to move onto fabric. I found this lined fabric in my closet and had her practice sewing right along some of the lines, just to practice sewing straight.
Once she got the feel for it again…..I jumped right into teaching her about the BACK-STITCH function. I explained to her that the back-stitch helps lock in the ends of the threads and will be something she will do at the beginning and end of a seam, so that it doesn’t unravel.
I then told Ellie to sew a few lines, making sure to add the back-stitch at the beginning…..
….and also at the end! (Your back-stitch button may be in a different location….but it’s there, so look in your manual if you’re not sure!)
Teaching Kids to Sew: Different Stitch Types
Now, it’s time to add in some variety and show some of the other stitch types that your machine is capable of. Explain that the straight stitch is most common, the zig-zag is probably 2nd….but then after that, it just depends on the person sewing. A lot of the stitches on my machine are purely decorative…..so I let her have a little fun with it and try any of the stitch types.
She tried stitch after stitch, and thought it was so cool that the machine seemed to have a mind of its own. She even started writing down her favorites, so that she wouldn’t forget! Ha!
Don’t rush the experimenting because it’s not only fun for them to test it out, it gets them even more comfortable on the machine!
For more info on changing up the STITCH WIDTH and the STITCH LENGTH, go check out this Basic Stitches Tutorial…and be sure to practice that as well.
Teaching Kids to Sew: Seam Allowances
Now….it’s time to talk seam allowances. I explained to Ellie that a seam allowance is the distance between the line you’re sewing and the edge of the fabric. Also, because of the seam allowance, whatever you’re making will end up smaller than the fabric you started with.
It’s good to explain that all patterns have a seam allowance and will always be noted in the instructions. The most common seam allowance is 5/8 inch and is generally noted on the machine plate. The 1/2, 3/8, and 1/4 measurements are usually marked too, because those are the other common seam allowances. (I actually don’t like using the 5/8 mark….it always seems like too much excess. So, if I’m making my own pattern, I go with 1/2 or less. But that doesn’t matter right now…)
A good way to practice seam allowances is to give the student some fabric and then call out a seam allowance number and have them create a seam using that measurement. Once they finish, call out another one. Check their work and once you can see that they are staying consistent, you can probably move on! (I placed 2 layers together because it’s easier to sew than just one layer.)
Ellie’s very first 5/8 inch seam allowance…..and she kept it nice and even!
Teaching Kids to Sew: Sewing Corners/Curves
Once the straight lines are mastered, it’s time to make things a little more fun and add some corners or angles to your fabric. It doesn’t really matter how much of an angle you cut off…this is just practice!
Now starting at one end, have them start sewing along the first side of the new shape you’ve created. But once the fabric changes and is about to turn a corner…PAUSE.
I asked Ellie what she should do…..and she wasn’t sure!
I explained to her that this second edge needs to have the same seam allowance as the first one, so you have to sew far enough to get your needle in position, the same distance away from the second side, as it was along the 1st side.
A good way to check this though, is to lift your presser foot, keep your needle DOWN, and then rotate your fabric so that the 2nd side is now parallel with the seam allowance guide. My markings are washed out in the photo below, but that fabric is too far over to the right now….so you need to rotate it back to the 1st side, sew one more stitch (or more) and then check it again. Once she gets more comfortable with the sewing machine, she’ll be able to eyeball it a little better and won’t have to check so many times!
Here it is, after she corrected it and sewed another stitch or two. Her 2nd side is now ready to continue with the 5/8 seam allowance.
Now Ellie knew exactly what to do at a corner and finished off the rest of the angled edges of her fabric.
Once the angled edges are mastered, it’s time to practice on something a little more tricky……the CURVED edge! Just cut off the angled edges into a nice fluid curve.
Sewing on a curve takes a little more practice and requires lifting the presser foot and adjusting fabric….but it’s a good skill to have and get really good at, because curved edges are very common in sewing.
And whew……once Ellie finished that, I stopped teaching anything new and just let her practice whatever she wanted!
This was such good practice for a brand new sewist and by golly, this child is really catching on! I can’t wait to show you the next few things she has learned how to sew (because the next lesson is already done…I just need to edit)! She is really having so much fun with it!
Hopefully that was helpful for you and/or your kiddos!
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To take a few steps back, check out the first few lessons in this “Teaching Kids To Sew” series.