Woman teaching girl to sewKris Thurgood, owner, My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe

“Mom, Mom! Look what I made!” Isn’t that the excitement parents love to hear coming from their children’s voices? This is the thrill that comes from our little “sewists” at My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe each day.

When we think of life skills we want our children to learn as they get older, sewing may not be at the top of the list. However, I believe that it helps spark creativity and helps kids develop practical handmade skills they can use throughout their lives. It’s a gift worth giving as it instills confidence in their ability to imagine through their own creative hand. Problem solving, perseverance, patience, coordination and critical thinking are added benefits.

One question I’m asked often is, “What is the best age to let my child begin sewing?” My answer is “Teaching children to sew can begin at any age.”

Children under the age 5 should not run a machine by themselves, but you can definitely be at their side to help them learn how a sewing machine works. Before you begin, teach them to hand sew. This skill will help them learn how fabric goes together, what a seam looks like, how to fix mistakes and improve their hand-eye coordination.

Once your child is ready to sit at a machine, I suggest you control the foot pedal while allowing him or her to control the fabric. This will help you stop the machine before their little hands get into the path of the needle. Once your child feels comfortable controlling the fabric, teach them how the pedal works. Look for a sewing machine where the speed of the machine can be controlled.

Teach your child how to thread a needle and how to wind a bobbin. Teach him or her the basic stitches of a machine, including a forward straight stitch, a back stitch and even a zig-zag stitch. Find sewing classes in the community through your local quilt shop or 4H group. Taking classes together can be a lot of fun.

The key to teaching a child to sew is to be patient. Allow your child to make mistakes and learn from them, but also make sure to teach them the proper techniques along the way. If you let them do it themselves, they will have loads of fun and will be proud of their accomplishments.