A New Sewing Student

I have known Y since before she was born. I met Y’s parents before they had gotten married. Last year I had made a tallit for her.

Y’s mother mentioned to me a few weeks ago that Y wanted to learn how to sew.I asked what her goals were, making clothing? making something else?


Y’s mother didn’t think that her daughter wanted to make clothing but she did want her daughter to learn how to use her new sewing machine.



They came by this afternoon with the Hello Kitty sewing machine. It’s a machine made by Janome and is better than you might think with Hello Kitty on the machine.

We took the machine out of the box. I had Y thread and re thread the machine several times until it was an easy task for her to do.


I got out a scrap of fabric and showed Y how sharp the needle was and asked her to sew a seam. I showed her how to line up the edge of the fabric with the edge of the sewing machine and how you use that alignment to sew a straight seam. Y sewed a beautiful seam.


I asked Y what she wanted to make. She suggested a skirt. We went shopping for fabric in my stash. She selected a great piece of fabric a nice heavy weight stretch with an abstract plaid.  I love the fabric. I had made myself two dresses out of it. I know that a stretch fabric is perhaps not what most teachers would start a beginning sewer on, but it is a sturdy fabric.

Y is small for her age and very thin. I know that she is often mistaken for being far younger than her actual age. I like that she chose something that was fairly sophisticated. Because Y is not yet curvy we had the luxury of making a really simple one seamed skirt.

I pulled the length of fabric around her hips and talked about having enough ease to be able to sit down in comfort. I cut the fabric to the correct width.

Y first edged stitched the raw edges so the skirt wouldn’t fray. Then she sewed the back seam.


She selected a wide elastic for the waist. I mentioned that there are dozens of ways to apply an elastic waistband but we would do one that I thought she could manage today.  She sewed the elastic into a ring . She then quarter marked the elastic with chalk. we tried to quarter-mark the skirt with chalk as well but the chalk didn’t show up well. Instead we marked the quarter marks with little nips in the fabric.


Y sewed the elastic to the outside of the skirt, matching the quarter marks. She then turned the elastic to the inside and then tacked the elastic to the inside of the skirt, also at the quarter marks.


When I teach sewing I will do some of the potentially tricky bits for my student until they are willing to try the tricky tasks themselves. Y was relatively fearless.


I then had Y topstitch the elastic. The combination of the stretch fabric and the elastic and the zig zag stich we had used ( The machine does not let you adjust stitches for width or length) was too much for the elastic and for Y’s new to sewing hands and it was stretched out of shape and did not recover with steaming.   I explained that the top stitching didn’t work because it was tricky to manage all of the layers and the different amounts of stretch in the skirt fabric and the elastic.  It was a task completely beyond beginner skills. She has good hands so I felt it was worth the gamble of having her try. The gamble didn’t work.


Unfortunately, we then had to unpick the top stitching. We both worked together on the un picking. I told Y that when she was working at home and had to unpick a mess she should feel free to curse, because that’s what I do when I am alone.Y was a good sport about it though. We chatted comfortably while we unpicked.

We talked about skirt length.Too long and she would look more religious than she is. She didn’t want to look six years old, and she does not want to look trampy.

She decided on an above the knee length.

 Y sewing

So after 90 minutes Y ended up with a wearable skirt.  There is a funky wobble at the back that Y can choose to fix if she is so inclined. I think she decided that since she didn’t have to look at it, she would ignore the wobble. There is just enough fabric left to make a top for her. Her next skirt will come out better, but this one is awfully good.


Y has learned that being small has some advantages. When Y’s mother came to pick up the two began discussing what Y would be making next.


  1. Good job, Y! Don't worry, eventually your physical appearance will catch up to your age. Mine did! (I'm still short, but I haven't looked like a young girl in many years!! LOL) I hope you have many happy hours of sewing ahead of you.

    And, Sarah, good for you, teaching her to sew. She did great!! Charlitte


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