Nellie"s Needles

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kids Sewing

It's nearly time to move to Studio North in Michigan. I'm looking forward to sharing that space with those who "like to make stuff" ... most especially my grandchildren. Last summer the three then-6-year old boys finally got to operate Granellie's sewing machine. Each of them have been totally fascinated for years. Every time I sat down to sew, at least one of them would be at my elbow. They got to hand me things, fetch, and take care of the pins.

I always knew that I'd be letting these boys sew, but I hadn't a clue how we'd go about it. Last summer I met a woman in Colorado who's been teaching children to sew for years. She advised positioning the standing child between me and the machine. This worked great! The child felt like he had total control from turning the machine on, to lifting and lowering the presser foot, to pushing the button for reverse stitching,and of course stepping on the foot petal. All the while my hands were at the ready to make any corrections as well as to help guide the fabric. Also, I could talk/instruct quietly right into their ear. As you can see in the above photo, Jackson is doing very well sewing a super cape for his stuffed dolphin. Winston is patiently awaiting his turn. Jennings is still selecting his fabric.

I had drawn the seam lines for the boys to follow. Pins were placed along it about two inches apart. I instructed them to stop the machine when they had sewn to a pin and remove it before continuing. The frequent starts and stops kept them from racing the motor. I was amazed at how quickly they had control of the machine. PLUS, they know NOT to sew over the pins and WHY after a few broken needles. The first project of super capes for two dolphins, one cat, and a doll was a BIG success. All three boys helped make the one for Tessa's doll. She declined learning how to sew saying, "I'm too young (she was 4). Maybe next year."

Jennings Quilt - 24"x18" - 2005
Jackson's Quilt - 24"x18" -2005

The next project for the twins were quilts (the above photos) for those same dolphins. Again, they selected fabrics from a drawer full of novelty prints. I rotary cut them into squares. They arranged the fabrics on a design board. Part of the project was for them to figure out WHAT got sewn together WHEN. After the piecing was finished they used the acrylic ruler to draw the diagonal quilting lines across the squares (I had to hide the chalk wheel marker after that). They chose backing fabric and helped pin baste the quilt together. And of course, they did the machine quilting. The last design decision was which fabric to bind the edge. By that point, they each had reached their limit and I stitched the binding on. All this took place over two days. One boy built and painted a sail boat with his father while the other was making his quilt.

Jennings presented this picture to me at Christmas time when I was in Chicago for the holidays. All the important parts of the sewing machine are there ... especially the light.

The last weekend Jackson and Jennings were at the cottage their mother and I took them to the fabric store to choose fleece for new robes. The boys and I stitched those together during Christmas vacation. I can't wait to see what they'd like to sew this summer. Winston gets to go first, since he ran out of sewing time last year. I think Tessa may feel ready. I'm looking forward to a fun, busy time in the studio.


jenclair said...

I can't wait to see the pictures from this year's sewing camp! My favorites topics on Simply Quilts are those that involve quilting with kids. Hope your "camp" this year is as much fun as last year's obviously was.

Sharon said...

I absolutely love the last picture of the sewing machine! Thanks for sharing the story! My girls will surely want to make something this summer too - we shall see.

Beverly said...

First, Toonga is lovely- I am familiar with the convergence technique, and like how you used it to achieve the effect of "moving in and out." Like always, I'm sure that web photos are only a pale imitation of the real thing! Thanks for letting me know.
We had six people in our group. We met together to start off: each of us had chosen a picture and sliced it up. We didn't have a size limit, so mine ended up being the largest I think. Each of us gave the other participants a picture/pattern of their slice, finished size. We set a goal of a slice due and mailed to one designated member every two months- but most people went over the time frame, and the project that should have taken a year took six months longer. We got together last summer to "unveil" all the slices. Then it was each person's job to assemble and quilt their completed picture. I'm hoping we will all have our quilts finished to exhibit as a group at our state guild meeting next fall- but deadlines have not been a group strength!
What would I do differently? Set an upper and lower size limit for each project, and make sure that you have people in your group who can keep a deadline. I do like the fact that no one got to see the finished slices until all were done.
I wonder if you could take this idea and work with your grandchildren? It could be interesting to see what they came up with- and you obviously have a gift for teaching children to sew!

Mary K. McGraw said...

Sewing with your grand kids is great. I love their finished projects. My grand daughter is four and is visiting in July and may be too young to begin sewing like your grand daughter.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Nellie I am so glad you brought your computer to Colorado and I had a chance to see the projects from your grandkids.

I would like to say kids are so curious and uninhibited. The younger you can encourage their creativity the better. Although, I do think your grandkids may have a headstart with the creative genes. Ha!

You have inspired me to blog too. I will post some pictures of the grand-girl's projects.

We got home late last night. Hope you had a safe trip too.

Danna (fellow Colorado camper)