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Teaching Kids to Sew, Part 2: Using Fabric, Tying Knots, & Tracing Designs

Is summer break in full swing for you?  It is here.

Which was my motivation to get this “Teaching Kids To Sew” series going.

teaching kids to sew 3


And you know, Elli (age 6) and Connor (age 5 in a couple weeks) are really enjoying it.  I think a lot of their interest stems from it being something that I really like to do.  So, they get to use my special fabric and needles and scissors, etc.  What could be cooler than using the “off-limit” tools in mom’s craft room?!?! :)

And just like I explained last time with the Intro to Hand Sewing post, I think it’s really important for kids to get the hang of hand-sewing before hopping on the sewing machine.  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.  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.

So today, we’re graduating from a foam plate, on up to fabric and an embroidery hoop.  Plus, how about teaching them to tie their own knots?

teaching kids to sew-1


There are many basic stitches but I’m still having them work on the good ol’ Basting Stitch.  Just big stitches, up and down, up and down…

Draw an image on some plain fabric and let them practice going around all the lines.



Or, if you get tired of drawing things for them…..have them stitch around objects on printed fabric.



Either way, they’ll stay busy for hours……..sewing around this and that and using whatever colors their little fingers are drawn to most.

hand sewing


What a perfect way to get rid of some of that summertime boredom.  (Also, a great thing to take on a road trip!)



Would you like a few more ideas and tips??

First of all, gather some supplies: embroidery thread, plain fabric, embroidery hoop, and some needles.



The needles we used for the Foam Plate sewing, were these Tapestry Needles.  They have a very blunt edge and are great for little fingers but if you have a fabric with a tighter weave, you may need something a little sharper.



Now, draw an image……or let them draw one.



Place your fabric between the 2 hoops, secure the bolt, and pull the fabric tight between the hoops.  Tighter fabric between the hoops makes it a lot easier to sew through.



Now, it’s time to thread a needle and knot the end.  Let your child practice their knots over and over again.  You may be surprised how quickly they catch on.  I was. :)

**P.S. These are Elli’s little fingers below.  You may be able to tell by the chipped nail polish but also, she has regular shaped thumbs…..not like my stubby ones!  Lucky girl! ;)

  • Thread your needle and then hold the needle in your right hand and the end of the thread in your left hand.
  • Cross your thread end over top the needle.
  • Place your pointer finger over the top of the thread on the needle, to keep it from moving.
  • Wrap the thread around the needle 2 times (or more for a bigger knot), wrapping towards you.

tying a knot1


  • Pull the thread in your left hand (and the 2 wraps) down the needle, toward your pointer finger.
  • Pinch the 2 wraps between your pointer and thumb of your right hand and then grab the tip of the needle with your left hand.
  • Keep pinching the 2 wraps and begin sliding them down the needle, past the eye hole.  (If you can’t get it past the eye of the needle, you probably wrapped the thread around a bit too tight.  Try again.)
  • Continue pinching and pulling the little wraps between your thumb and pointer, on down the thread.

tying a knot2


With the needle in your left hand, pinch around the eye of the needle, to keep the thread from pulling out and keep pulling the wraps in your right hand down to the end of the thread.



Pull until the thread stops……



…..and you have a nice little knot at the end of your thread.


**This knot tying technique is really common for hand sewing.  I also tie knots a different way sometimes.  It just depends on what I remember right that second.  But truly, the technique above is the quickest way, once you practice a couple times.


Now, teach your kiddo to always start sewing from the back.  Also, have them hold the needle in their dominant hand and hold the hoop with their other hand.  Teach them to always keep it this way and to not switch back and forth.

hand stitch with hoop


Have them look closely and show them that as they are trying to find the correct place to poke their needle up from the back, they will see the bump of the needle tip trying to poke through.  With patience, they will see that they can glide that needle tip along the back of the fabric until it reaches the place they want to poke it through.  Get lost video games…….this hand eye coordination is by far superior!! ;)



Also, show them that when they are pulling the needle up from the top, to pinch the base of the needle to keep the thread from coming out.



Then…….let them have at it for a while and sew around their images and/or shapes.



After they become more comfortable, explain to them that if they take shorter “hops” from the back, they’ll have less gaps from the front.  You can call it whatever you want, but calling the stitches, “hops” made sense to Elli.  When she started along the bottom of the house, she was taking longer “hops” from the back.  Once I explained to her how the stitch size affected how it looked from the front, she did much better and it started looking a lot better.



When she was done, instead of tying a fat knot, I showed her how to hide her thread ends (like cross stitching) but threading them under other stitches on the back…..



…..and pulling it through.



And then I had her thread it under another one, pull it through, and then snip off the end of the thread.



Then, have them switch to whatever color they’d like and practice re-threading and knotting the end of their new thread color.

And like I mentioned above, if you’d rather not draw something, find some fabric with a fairly large print and have them stitch around the objects in the fabric.  If you have them stitch around every object with its matching color, this would give them great practice threading, knotting, and changing colors.



Now, just remember……have fun with it!

Their little brains are learning the most important beginning steps of sewing.  And most likely, if you show them how proud you are of what they’ve done (even if its wobbly), they will gain more and more confidence and hopefully interest, in this little craft called Sewing!!

Good luck!



. . . . .

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

Intro To Hand Sewing



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 2: Using Fabric, Tying Knots, & Tracing Designs 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. Heidi says:

    Hello, I was wondering exactly what kind of embroidery floss your kids are using in the photos. I am familiar with the 6-strand floss, where each thread can be divided into 6 strands (so you could use just 2 or 3 strands to make thinner stitches), but your floss looks like it is all one thick strand.

    I think the one-strand kind you have would be easier to use with my kids, so I would love to know what to look for to buy some.

    Thanks for sharing these projects! My kids have had fun doing the styrofoam plate and some simple designs on muslin.

  2. Elizabeth Donna Sweeny says:

    Its good but it would be better if it was in 3 simple steps

  3. Andrea @ No Doubt Learning says:

    Great idea! We haven’t used hoops yet, but I have them waiting in my sewing room. I think I’ll pull them out for this afternoon!

  4. Caitlin says:

    I’m going to use this some day for my kids (they’re a little too young yet) but seriously??? I never knew you could tie a knot that way!!!!! So excited about it!

  5. cecile says:

    Great article ! Thank you. My daughter is 7, she’s been sewing on her own for a few years already but she still needs help with knots. I will show her your pictures, and look at the rest of the series to get my son started, too. Thanks !

  6. Kathy says:

    I love this! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jaren says:

    These are fabulous ideas! My kiddos would love doing this!

  8. Jodi says:

    What a great idea! Especially when kids are bored during the summertime.

  9. miele pisces says:

    Great idea to keep busy kids in vacation. They can learn some new thing and also u can be free from their. Thanks Ashley! Your post always sounds good. Keep posting!

  10. Sarah E. says:

    Okay, you made me laugh…. do you seriously have stubby thumbs? Now I need a picture! I totally do… and my 8 year old’s thumb nails are longer than mine because hers are normal.

    I can’t wait to do this with my kids btw, thanks for sharing!

  11. Camille says:

    I love this idea. I have a 5.5 year old and I had never thought about teaching her how to do simple cross stitching at this age, but I think she would love it. Thank you!

  12. Meghan says:

    Hi there! I know this is off topic, but what camera do you use for taking your pictures? We are buying a new one and I think we have it picked out, it’s between a Nikon and a Canon. I love the way your pictures turn out. Love your website as well!

    1. Ashley says:

      More info on my FAQ page here:

      Hope that helps!

    2. Meghan says:

      Thank you so much! We were actually leaning towards the canon, as the Nikon i haven’t seen as nice of pictures! Hope you are almost settled into your new home :)

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

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