This is a guest post from the people at Toyota Home Sewing, manufacturers of quality [home sewing machines](http://www.home-sewing.com/en_GB). I have a Toyota machine myself and love it. Can’t wait till Little E is old enough for me to do crafts with!
At Toyota, we’re all for passing on the joys of sewing to the next generation, we hope that our children and your children can enjoy sewing and dressmaking as much as we do.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a few suggestions on teaching the young ones the art of the sewing machine.
Teaching children to sew with a sewing machine can be fun, and if you sew and have children, then at some time they are going to want to learn to do what you are doing. It is important that you approach the task seriously, but with certain factors in mind.
It is a good idea to buy them their own machine. In fact, if you are like most serious sewers, you won’t be happy about anybody else using your sewing machine, even your children. In any case, most modern sewing machines are a bit complicated for children to start on, so you should get them something simple and inexpensive. They will also feel more responsible if they have ‘their’ sewing machine.
You can buy sewing machines that have been specifically designed for children, simple to use, predominantly straight stitching and designed for smaller hands. Some are battery powered and some run from mains electricity. However, there is a body of feeling that a child should begin with a full sized machine, albeit a smaller basic model. That way the child can get used the machine as he/she grows and understand that she is not using a toy, but a real sewing machine.
Understand Your Child
Before you start teaching children to sew with a sewing machine, you should first understand your child. Does she like doing her own thing or is she better at following instructions? It’s important that you understand this so that you won’t get frustrated when teaching them, because your frustration will soon be picked up by them and that might be the end of the sewing lessons! Some children are easily frustrated themselves if things don’t go exactly right, while others don’t care and just get on with it.
When teaching a child, don’t expect perfection. You can be perfect with your own sewing, but if a child sews a wavy line he/she should be praised, and not criticised for it not being straight. You can explain that she should try to make it as straight as possible, but that will come as he/she practices. Mistakes are a natural part of learning.
Offer Encouragement and Praise
As with any kind of learning, children need encouragement rather than criticism, and if they do something particularly well tell them something like: “Fabulous – that’s your straightest line yet, well done!”, or “That’s a really cool zigzag line – I bet you’ll be great at them when we come to them!” Make fun of errors, but not of the children, and praise them when they get it right.
When teaching children to sew with a sewing machine you should first tell them what each part is for and tell them not to get their fingers under the needle or it will hurt. They will sew their fingers together, and how can they learn to count then? Then demonstrate what you want them to do, and explain what you are doing.
Using your child’s machine, explain in basic terms how the thread passes through it and how the needle and shuttle work to make a stitch. Show him/her how to start it, and then demonstrate how to sew a straight line down a piece of cloth. Forget about projects or sewing two pieces together for now – just explain that they will learn how to make stitches using the machine.
Then let him/her get some practice. Once you think he/she can use the machine, you can allow her to sew seams. Let him/her sew their own handkerchief, for example. He/She will get a sense of achievement and will feel proud, happy and raring to do more.
Make sure your child’s sewing is shown to the rest of the family, and start up a portfolio for him/her where he or she can store all his/her own work. Kids love that, and it enables them to build a true sense of achievement. That also enables them to see his/her own progress as he or she compares this month’s work to last month’s. Once your child has reached the stage where they can complete projects, then you can get some simple patterns out and explain how to follow them.
Teaching children to sew with a sewing machine is a combination of psychology, patience and understanding. It may not be easy, but it is made easier if you don’t expect your child to immediately sew perfect lines. If he/she is the type that likes to do his/her own thing rather than follow instructions, then let him or her learn their way. There are no set rules to teaching children how to use a sewing machine, but you must first demonstrate what you want them to do and then give them a go.
Patience, perseverance and praise: they are part of teaching children to sew with a sewing machine and will certainly be repaid with a happy little boy or girl who can do what mum does.