Life Skills: Teaching the Girls to Sew

With smiling faces and promises of a homework-free evening, my girls exit the big, yellow bus with a spring in their step.  I anticipate making a call for a play date or a continuation of the girls’ adventures in fairyland with a village constructed of mud, yard clippings, flowers, and shells.  “Mom, can we sew?”, my oldest asks.

Amazon.com recently delivered a package containing Jade Sims’ book, Craft Hope:  Handmade Crafts for a Cause.  G. devoured the pictures of craft projects, most involving sewing, a skill she has yet to master.  The girls cleaned the toy room on Sunday in anticipation of sewing lessons.  After last year’s failed attempt to teach G. to sew on a machine, I know I have to take a different tack.  I decide to teach the girls time using my mom’s approach, stitching by hand.

I ask G. to pick out a project and fabric from my fabric bin.  She chooses a patchwork pillow.  G. is a rule follower and insists upon using only red as stated in the instructions.  My fabric bin is a bit low on red so she choosee three fabrics in lieu of the ten suggested.
My forty five year old eyes find threading a needle an impossible task so G.’s first lesson is in threading a needle, then, onto stitching.  I am amazed at the precision of her stitches (for a first timer) and at how quickly she completes each task.
I find myself amazed and a bit frazzled as I consecutively manage two children’s sewing projects.  Two years ago, I made C. a stuffed turtle using the book, Bend the Rules Sewing.  C. wants to make a turtle of her own.  My turtle is christened “Turtley”.  Her turtle will be named either “Turtley II” or “Shelly.”  Naming is VERY important to C.  Her demand desire to start sewing with a project full of curves and little tiny pieces is additional motivation for stitching by hand.  My strong willed spirited child will melt into a loud puddle if her first attempts at a sewing project are not successful.
C. has chosen her fabrics after she cleaned the toy room.  She has also had lessons in stitching.  Her mom, the procrastinator, has put off repair of many a stuffed toy in C.’s room.  In her frustration, C. once brought me a needle and thread, requesting lessons on repairing her stuffed animal.  Armed with the skills necessary for the turtle task,  I cut the pieces out and away she goes.
Do you remember the excitement of acquiring a new skill?  My girls tucked into their sewing as if on a mission.  Rows of patchwork, and turtle parts are cranked out, rapidly.  Stitches are a bit large, a bit crooked.  However, at their ages, the ability to complete the project is a higher priority than making perfect stitches. I want to build up their esteem as they take on this task so they will not hesitate to try again.
As dinnertime approaches, I call a halt onto the sewing.  “No, mom, I’m not done!”  “Already?”  Before cleaning up the mess, we look at their progress.  C.’s turtle needs only to be stuffed and have the shell constructed.
G. has made good progress on her pillow top.
My foray into sewing instruction has taught me to start with simple steps.  It is easier for a child to sew with needle and thread than with a machine.  Start with a simple project of their choosing.  The books I chose have an emphasis on successful completion.  Bend the Rules Sewing makes sewing doable without all the pattern cutting and marking of Home Ec days of old.  Craft Hope:  Handmade Crafts for a Cause has some irresistible projects geared toward children.  Allow your children to choose their project and their fabric.  I limited the choices to the two books I mentioned and by directing them to a bin of simple cotton.  Patience is the guiding principle for the parent when teaching a child a new task.
If you get a chance, check out the latest charity project Jade Sims is coordinating:  http://crafthope.com/ .  Jade has taken blogging to a new level by coordinating gifts for charities around the world.  G. is also using Jade’s book to make homemade soap for Easter baskets for homeless children as part of her Girl Scout bronze award.
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About life in the micro

My children have honed me into a better person. They have softened my hard edges.
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