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Teaching Kids to Sew, Part 1: Intro to Hand Sewing

Oh gee, where did that holiday weekend go?  Did everyone (here in the U.S.) enjoy their Memorial Day yesterday?  (A big thank you to past/present service men/woman who fight for and honor our country!)  Holidays that fall on Mondays, confuse me.  Because it makes me think it’s a Saturday.  So, naturally, today should be Sunday.  And I should have one more restful day with my husband and little ones.  Instead, Steve left for work.  And the laundry piles are laughing at me. ;)  Anyone else here in the U.S. feel confused today?

Anyway, onto something a little fun for today.

Do you remember back when we voted on the Next Project Idea??  Well, the Fabric Dolls won the vote and good grief, those turned out so fun to make.  (So, thanks again for the excuse to make those! ;) )  But one of the other projects on the ballot was something I’ve been trying to put together for a long time.  In fact, I finally started putting this together right before we moved…..but then it took a back seat while I started working on Home Improvement projects.  Darn house……it has made a fickle person out of me on more than one occasion. Ha!

However, it’s time to start sharing.

And what better timing than now…..because summer vacation is here.  So, kids are home and are needing extra little things to do.


I have several posts that I’m putting together, to help “beginning sewists” (not just kids!) gain a little confidence with fabric and needles and constructing sewing projects.

And my guinea pig for this series…… little Elli (who is 6 1/2.).  And let me tell you, she was HAPPY to volunteer!  I can’t tell you how many times she has asked to start learning on my sewing machine.  (I know, this is long overdue!)  But, I’m going to show you a few things that she has been working on and mastering……before she graduated to the sewing machine.

And yes, it’s just as important……..and that’s Hand Sewing.


Even if you prefer the sewing machine, there are still times when you HAVE to hand stitch something in place or closed.  So my advice, is to get comfortable with that first.

And for little kids, it helps to let their hands manipulate the needle and thread and gain an understanding of the thread going up and down and securing itself to the fabric (or in this case, a plate).  It helps to demonstrate in a very basic way, how the sewing machine works.  So……letting those fingers explore is a great way to begin the sewing adventure.

And hey, even Connor enjoyed this and was able to complete master it!


So all you need…….is some fun and colorful embroidery thread.  And some styrofoam plates (which are easy to poke through and stay nice and stiff while your beginner learns to make stitches).


As for needles, I like Tapestry needles best.  They generally have a really big eye for the thread to slip through (making it easier for kids to thread themselves) and a dull point.


And Elli and Connor didn’t want to stop at just one project.  They kept going and going and going…….


Truly, a fun thing to see…… sweet little ones, experiencing a small taste of something that I truly love.  I sure hope by teaching them young, that they’ll always appreciate the art of sewing.  And hey, maybe one of them will take things much further than I ever will and we’ll see their designs in stores one day! :)

Want a few more tips and ideas?

First of all, I’m not sure there’s a magic age to begin teaching someone to sew.  Connor is almost 5 and Elli is 6 1/2.  They both enjoyed this project and there was very little frustration.  In fact, they have asked several more times to use the needles and thread and a few plates to create some of their own creations.  But, I’m thinking a good guide would be, if your child can use a pencil and draw letters and shapes, then they probably have enough hand control to at least try hand sewing.  And if it fails miserably, tuck it all away and try again in a few months.  No need to push this.

Anyway, to begin, allow your little one (or your student) a little exploratory freedom.  Let them get used to the needle and thread and just go up and down with these new items.

To let them do so, thread your needle and then tape the end of the thread to the back of your styrofoam plate.  If you tie a knot, it will most likely just pull through the stryrofoam.  The tape holds it in place very nicely.


Then explain the idea of the needle going up and down through the plate.  And be sure to demonstrate a few times, so that they understand that whatever side of the plate that the thread came out of last, is the side that you poke the needle back into.  Then let them do their own thing……..and become more comfortable with it.

And if the thread comes out, show them how to re-thread the needle themselves.


And when you can see that they understand how that works, it’s time to move on.

Here’s Elli’s practice plate:


I was a little surprised at how well Connor did with this.  He clearly understood how it all worked and was able to carefully pull the thread through the plate from both sides.


His little mind was so curious how it all worked.  And he was so proud of himself with every stitch.


And here’s Connor’s practice plate:


Now, it’s time to follow some lines and gain some control.  So, I quickly drew some shapes on the plates and let them practice.


Tape the thread to the back of the plate, just like you did above but be sure it’s out of the way of the drawing…..or they’ll have a hard time poking their needle through it.  And then guide them to a good starting point.


And then let them practice going up and down, right along the existing line.


At the end, add a piece of tape to the other end of the thread so that it doesn’t come loose.


If they want to change colors, let them!!  Just use tape at each end.  Learning knots is for another day. ;)


And then one more idea……and something really rewarding for little ones, is to let them draw their own image.


And then let them stitch along their own creation……and feel extra proud of their hand-sewing skills! :)


And that’s it for today.

If your child (or you, if you’re the student) feels comfortable with this, it’s time for the next step.


Which is coming soon……so stay tuned!



. . . . .

To see other lessons in the “Teaching Kids to Sew” series, check out these other skills!!

Using Fabric, Tying Knots, and Tracing Designs

Hand Sewing: Sleeping Masks & Super Hero Masks

Intro to the Sewing Machine

Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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