A new student
I’m part of a couple of different internet based sewing discussion groups. One topic that often comes up is what to teach kids who want to sew.
Invariably, a few of the discussion participants will outline a very structured step by step curriculum. It’s a structure that assumes that the teacher sets the curriculum.
Frankly, I have trouble wit that idea. I can understand that if kids were expected to learn how to sew as children so they could more easily move into manufacturing jobs in the garment industry, learning a standardized sewing course makes a certain amount of sense. But given that kids are learning how to sew purely for their own pleasure, it seems to me that it makes a whole lot more sense to teach sewing based on a child’s interest.
The standard first project is a pillow case, but suppose your student has no desire to make a pillow case but instead wants to make clothing? When I teach sewing I follow my students’ interests.
A couple of weeks ago I began working with Rebecca. She’s ten. I started our first lesson by teaching her how to thread the machine and had her run through threading the machine until she could do it comfortably. I also had her sew a bit just for practice learning how to sew straight lines and then following a spiral I drew on fabric. I could see that she had good hands.
I then asked her what she wanted to make. she wanted to make a tank top. She chose a black jersey for the shirt. I explained that most people don’t start sewing with a knit. We could see how it went, if it proved too difficult we could switch to a woven fabric. I took her measurements and drew the outlines of the tank top directly on the fabric as I explained what I was doing.
Rebecca cut out her top and sewed the side seams and the shoulder seams. She tried on the shirt and then suggested changes she wanted to the style. I re cut the armholes according to her style sensibilities.
Rebecca then hemmed the shirt ( I figured that was easier than the more fiddly armholes and neckline.) She then went on to edge the armholes and ran out of steam. I thought that it was a really productive first lesson and sent her home.
When she came for her second lesson she talked about a movie costume she was obsessed with. The costume was for a movie based on a young adult book series . We did a Google search for the costume. Rebecca was in love with the fabric. I saw that it was something we could reproduce easily with paint. Rather than hemming the neckline during our second lesson Rebecca painted the shirt which involved using lace as a stencil.
Monday, Rebecca came by again. I suggested that she use fold over elastic to edge the neck of the shirt. Part of me though that this is madness to have a ten year old using fold over elastic on her third sewing lesson. I also thought that if it proved too difficult I could come up with an easier to do plan B. I told her my thinking and she said she thought she was up for the challenge.
Is all of the sewing perfect? Of course not! But she ended up with a wearable shirt that she loves.
We started on a light weight dolman sleeved denim jacket. Rebecca wants it to have a zipper. I really think she will be able to pull it off.