Personal Letter to Teachers

Dearest Teacher: 
You are about to embark on a delightful journey of discovery, learning new skills and applying them to every day life and more. Oh, and your students will learn a lot too!

My daughter and I started our journey by creating two books, one geared for sewing with boys and the other with girls. With active classrooms in mind (is there any other kind?), we launched the books and were overwhelmed by your response. This active mother/daughter team began brainstorming other projects and, experimenting with our own children and grandchildren, we quickly put together more books covering a wide range of topics. From sewing their own clothes, to clothes for Dolly, to making their very own cloth doll and more, children continue to learn fundamental sewing skills and many ways they can put these skills to work. Building on the existing foundation, each book provides instructional pages that students can understand, followed by projects to practice skills, more instruction, and more projects that build upon techniques and skills learned. Beginning projects are made to be completed in one sitting, and yet are fun and practical.

Here are a few considerations I have found to be helpful when teaching children and grandchildren to sew.

 Make sure children are well rested before beginning any sewing project. As a beginner, they need to focus and anticipate each project as a fun experience.

Plan projects around your child’s skill level. Let them build on the basic foundation and see success before they tackle a more complicated project. Save those tiny doll clothes for later.

 Let children choose their own fabrics. The objective is that they learn to "Love to Sew" so start them off sewing from fabrics they select themselves. You may have fabric remnants from grandmother's supply or leftover from your own projects, but do not even practice with these. Let them show off their creations from start to finish. Most projects only take a yard or less of fabric.

 When helping your child select a pattern size for their own clothes, use it as a teachable moment. Explain that sizing on patterns is different than sizing for ready-made clothes. Many students say “I’m not that size!” and will use a pattern where the end product will not fit (usually too small). 

 Make time to sew with your kids, or have someone else come in to sew with them. When I taught my daughter, I would make the project to show her how, and then she would make it. We sewed together and it was fun for both of us. 
 When teaching children to use a sewing machine, limit it to no more than two hours at a time. If the sewing time is too long, it overwhelms them and it is wonderful to have them looking forward to, not dreading, the next session. I've found that about age nine, they want to learn and are capable. Should you choose to start them at an earlier age, keep the sessions even shorter. Starting them too young may cause unneeded frustration; both for you and them.

Make sure your machine is in good condition. Should it break down, use it as a teaching moment and show the children how it can be fixed. Be careful it doesn't happen often! Breakdowns can discourage children, and prevent them from completing projects. 

 Let them make mistakes. Do as little ripping out as possible. No one is an expert when learning. Choose projects that will forgive a stitching line that is a bit squiggly. That’s why we begin with pillowcases - they don’t fit snugly, they are always usable, and are great for gift giving!
These are just a few items to consider. You will adapt your teaching style to your classroom and each student. The books, puzzles, patterns, and other activities found on this website, will make your teaching time a pleasant experience. We want sewing to be a positive fit for you and your classroom. If you have any further concerns or ideas, please contact me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have and include other tips into future books.

Remember, the desired outcome is that each child learns a valuable skill and develops a love of sewing. There are hours of fun and learning ahead for both you and your students. Write me a quick email and share your experiences!

JoAnn Gagnon 
Copyright © 2012 Bunkhouse Books. All rights reserved.
JoAnn Gagnon, 1-800-337-8845