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.


She was.SAM_2365

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.

SAM_2366 She’s thinking that she would like to make her bat-mitzvah dress. there is no reason why she won’t be able to.


  1. sarah ... you are an amazing role model as well as an excellent teacher ... how, possibly, can this gorgeous young maiden go wrong ... thank you for all your contributions to young people -- your insights and experiences and wisdom help them to be fearless ...

    darlene {from the sewing list}

  2. I'm impressed! She did a great job on her first top. A knit is definitely not the easiest thing to start with. She's a creative little girl and you are the perfect partner for her.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts