L. has been on a kick to hand sew for quite some time now. I actually meant to teach people over the summer, and had invested in a bunch of new felt and new needle threaders to do so. But summer, well, it all escaped me. Yesterday, L. really, really, really needed to learn to sew. She was at the level of need that it was just easier to go ahead and teach her than to have to continue to fend her off. The trouble was, I have been down this path before and just couldn't face five frustrated children all clamoring for my attention all at the same time. Since L. was the child who was genuinely interested at the that moment, I made a new rule. I can only teach one person to sew at a time. Everyone will get a turn, but all on their own. In the moment, everyone was ok with this.
There a few tricks to hand sewing with children. The first is to get them able to immediately learn to thread and knot their own needle and thread. If you do not do this, you will be spending untold hours doing it for them. L. mastered it pretty quickly, and can now even thread her needle without the handy needle threader. The quilter's knot took just a little longer, but she can now do that as well. The next trick is to use felt for the first few projects. It is forgiving. It doesn't ravel. And it has some grip to it so the two pieces stay stuck together without a lot of bother. I decided that L. should make a bookmark first, so I cut out some shapes, showed her how to start, and let her go. She worked on it all afternoon yesterday, only needed a tiny bit of help. Today, I cut out a back and she sewed that on. Here is what she made.
Not bad for a first try, huh? But L. was not done. I have a book that I love, Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts, and Toys by Petra Berger. I've used it for years with various children. In it, there are little patterns for making small felt animals. I had some traced out already, and sent L. to see if she could cut out one of the patterns. She chose a dog. So between today and yesterday, L. cut out her pattern, sewed it together, and stuffed it. The only thing I helped with was to show her how the different parts fit together and the order to sew them, and to embroider the face on. She did absolutely everything else. Here is her little dog.
Empowered by her new found sewing abilities, she then went on to make him a ball and pillow of her own design.
Of course, by this time, I had four other children clamoring to sew, too. I reminded them of the one-child-at-a-time policy, and that everyone would get a turn. With L. sewing independently, Y. was next in line, being the quickest on the draw to call dibs for the slot. She wanted to make a bookmark like L.'s, except for a pink flower. She, too, has mastered threading and knotting, and an unforeseen benefit of my completely unthought-out plan is that L. taught her how to finish the end of her thread, because I was busy cooking. Y. sewed the stem tonight and is ready to start on the flower and pedals tomorrow morning. She is pretty tenacious. I expect she will have completed her own felt animal by the end of the day. Here's the beginning of her bookmark.
At the rate people are learning and with the enthusiasm I am seeing, I have a feeling I will need to restock my felt supply fairly soon.