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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.

teaching kids to sew 3


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!

hand sewing



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).

hand sewing for kids


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.

sewing for kids

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

Teaching Kids to Sew: Intro to the Sewing Machine | via

Thanks for checking out my Teaching Kids to Sew, Part 1: Intro to Hand Sewing post. Check out my full collection of DIY Sewing articles. Find even more sewing projects, patterns, and tips for beginners and advanced sewists by Liz Call, Mariah Leeson, Randi Dukes and Tauni Everett.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Loved the idea. My son has autism and fine motor skills difficulties and I thought what a great life skill to give him. We tried it today and it was great. Thanks!

  2. Maiya says:

    This is great! Thanks for sharing.
    Did you do a follow-on article with the next step for teaching kids to sew?

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Karlyn says:

    What size of tapestry needle do you use?

  5. hooda says:

    I love you .Thank you for this.

  6. JeanneMarie says:

    I can’t wait to incorporate these thoughts into a beginner project to start my 5 y/o granddaughter into this wonderful world of sewing. I’m going to use a sm wooden hoop and help her add trim to make her first project into a Christmas ornament. Can’t wait !

  7. Grandma Barb says:

    I just gave my 7 yo granddaughter her first sewing lesson which she herself requested. I recently moved just two blocks from her house. Yay! I am a quilter and have wanted to get her and her twin sister interested. They have loved sitting on my lap, watching the machine stitch their names on fabric. I bought them each a Singer Featherweight and definitely want them to learn and love it as much as I do. Your first lesson tutorial is wonderful. I started another granddaughter 9 years ago on a printed doll quilt, using hand quilting around each printed Sunbonnet Sue. She loved using my treadle sewing machine to stitch the borders. So in my eagerness I got her pedaling up and down with her feet, which she loved, but the hand sewing concept didn’t get established in her mind. Consequently, she never took the time at home to work on it when I wasn’t . So at 16 yrs of age, and living even further away, I am at a loss what to teach her next. I started my 40 some daughter making hot pads, which she fibished with beautiful hand stitches.
    but she has made nothing since…too busy.

  8. Emma says:

    Do you have to use plates??

  9. Kelly says:

    Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I just finished instructing my daughter’s kindergarten class on hand sewing using your tutorial. They loved it! I drew Christmas Tree’s on plates for them to stitch, it was perfect! I sent home a bag with a needle, some embroidery thread and instructions for the parents pointing them to your tutorial with a website link. Thanks for sharing this tutorial so I could share it with them! Blessings to you!

  10. Rachel Amanda says:

    Thank you for this! We’ve started a few projects with felt, and this whole idea of working with plates is so much easier. Master the stitches first on something firm, and then figure out how to do it all with fabric once you’re comfortable. Brilliant! I’ve just read this post, and am looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog.

  11. Hilary @ KatrinkaJane says:

    Thank you for this series! We’re using your posts in our curriculum for our Charlotte Mason homeschool handicraft. Eagerly awaiting the machine posts! :)

  12. Debbie says:

    I am eager to teach my kids to sew as I it is an activity I love to do. This worked wonderfully with my 4 y/o son! I plan to do it again. Thanks for the suggestion and tips.

  13. caroline says:

    Hi Ashley, I love your clear photos and instructions! I would like to share your post over at {fun ideas for connecting with kids}. Thank you!!!

  14. Pvc fabric supplier says:

    :) I love the idea! Thank you so much for this

  15. cecile says:

    Great ! I don’t like styrofoam, but burlap works very well, too ;-)

  16. Lovaine says:

    This is a brilliant idea, so simple. I’ll be getting my Grand children onto this, I think even the 12yr old will want to be involved. We have a good age group in Campaigners in our church too that would really love this, thank you:)

  17. Anna, od Andulky says:

    What a great idea!!!!

  18. Elana says:

    I love it! I never thought of using plates. Also-your daughter’s drawing looks like my name with a few extra “ls” :-)

  19. birdy boots says:

    GREAT IDEA! I will be trying this with my almost 7 and 4 year old ;)

  20. Jaren says:

    This is a fabulous idea! I can’t wait to try it with my kiddos! Thanks!

  21. Sarah says:

    what a great idea! You really are a genius!

  22. Brooke says:

    Thanks for this! My youngest daughter (almost 7) joined Exploring 4H this year. 4H is HUGE in our county here in northern Indiana, and Exploring 4H allows the younger kids to get involved. She of course decided to try sewing. I have some experience, and I do own a sewing maching, but our first experience was an epic fail. My little one is easily frustrated when things don’t go as planned, which leads to tears, which leads to a frustrated mama as well (bad mama). This project is so amazingly perfect! The needles, the embroidery thread, the plates…I love it! Thank you so much :)

  23. Gwen says:

    This is a great post! My seven year old and five year old girls are wanting to start stitching…I bought a kit for kids but it was too much for them. I love the simple ideas you presented here, they make great sense and I think my girls will love exploring the world of sewing with the ideas you shared. Thanks a bunch!


  24. Tee says:

    I just love your site!! This project is exactly what i needed for a group of children at Sunday School After Care.
    Thanks for all your great ideas!!!

  25. Andrea @ No Doubt Learning says:

    I am so excited about this series! I’m teaching a co-op class and we’re doing sewing projects – this is perfect timing! Thanks so much for posting your ideas.

  26. Jen says:

    What a great idea! I’m excited for this series! My daughter has been asking me when she can learn to sew…we will definitely be following along.

  27. Rebecca Pomper says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. My five year old has been begging for me to teach her to sew on my machine but I wanted her to learn the basics first! Thank you for the great idea.

  28. Sheila in Sf says:

    Thank you what a great project for my granddaughters visiting me this summer.

  29. KAthy says:

    That is a great idea! But I want to share with you the project I have been working on with my daughter’s kindergarten class. They are doing something similar but on burlap. It is far more environmentally friendly than foam plates and pretty easy for them to fix a missed stitch! Plus, Burlap fabric is cheap!

  30. Cheryl says:

    thank you for this. my daughter has gotten a taste of sewing and loves it.

  31. Emily says:

    My 5 year old was driving me bonkers and I let her go to town with a 5″ embroidary hoop and a lot of colors. She has the result hanging on her wall :)
    I used some of the plastic grid stuff ( you used it to give your storage boxes firm sides) and knotted the thread on for my two and a half year old. She loved sewing it in and taking it out to start again. She got the concept very well and called it her “pointy” because she didn’t remeber needle.
    Totally going to do the foam plates. That’s an excellent idea.

  32. Susie at ProsperityStuff says:

    Awesome! What a great idea! I never thought of stitching on plates for starters, especially for kids! (And I’m totally with you on the confusing Monday-holiday thing. Felt like Saturday. Was waiting for Sunday, not Tuesday! LOL!)

  33. Ellyn says:

    great idea with the plates. I’m teaching a group of 9-12 year olds hand sewing this summer & have lots of fun ideas, can’t wait to see yours!

  34. Daisy says:

    Love this new series! A co-worker was just mentioning teaching her 8-yr-old daughter how to sew, I’m going to show her your blog! Never thought of using a paper plate to learn hand sewing, what a great idea!! Thanks so much for posting it!

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

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