Teach Me How To Teach How To Sew
September 10, 2008 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I've volunteered to help teach 10-12 year olds how to sew. We have limited supplies (only three machines for 15+ students), so I was wondering what suggestions you had for: a) teaching the very basics to youngsters in a safe and fun way (not too frustrating and not too bloody) b) working with limited resources

I meet with the students once a week. My first lesson is in three weeks and it's been a while since I first learned to sew, so I'm not exactly sure where to start. Any words of wisdom, online or paper resources would be appreciated! Thanks!
posted by chara to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I will remember making one of these for the rest of my life. I still own it, in fact, and use it to hold my dance shoes. That was 20 years go.

OMG, I feel so old and handy right now.

It taught some very good basics and since it can be done part by hand and part by machine no one person needs to hog a machine. We also made pillows in that class that didn't hold up nearly as well.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:15 PM on September 10, 2008

Since your youngsters are going to not get much machine time maybe you can have them do projects that requre a lot of embroidery, something that will give them a chance to be creative yet still allow for the basics of machine work on part of the project. Have them make bags or things that require a minimal amount of seams. Then they can decorate with embroidery. They don't really need embroidery hoops, thread, and needles. Those are relatively inexpensive though if you want to work with them. Download instructions for basic stitches from the Internet. They can also create their own techniques.

Also quilting techniques don't use a machine and allow for much creativity. If you are unfamiliar with the techniques a minimal amount of information will go a long way. You wouldn't have to do much research.

If you want to teach them the basics of sewing clothing, find simple patterns that will not require difficult techniques but will introduce them to patterns, cutting, measuring and then a few seams. Do they have patterns for things like aprons? Shawls? Much of sewing can be done without a machine, it's just more tedious. But if the project is simple, the student winds up with something useful and they'll understand that it's infinitely cheaper to make their own clothes than to go out and buy. Of course they'll want a machine eventually but that would give them something to work for. How come there aren't machines in libraries? They have Internet access there, why not sewing machines?

Buttonwork can be done without a machine. Even hand made button holes are a possibility.
posted by suelange at 2:19 PM on September 10, 2008

When I took a basic sewing class as an adult, the instructor gave us sheets of paper with various lines on it - straight, wavy, zig-zagged, etc. We practiced "sewing" the paper first to get an idea of how the machine worked.

You may also look into the 4-H sewing project guidelines. Google "4-H sewing" and see what you get. This page has some ideas.

Maybe you could have some of the kids practice hand-sewing while the machines are in use. This adorable little pincushion would be super-easy for them to whip up, plus it encourages further interest in sewing! Maybe bring in some plates/glasses for them to trace around to make the circles.
posted by Ostara at 3:06 PM on September 10, 2008

I learned to sew not long ago and one of the things that I had difficulty with was threading the (ancient) machine and adjusting the tension. My mom sewed some examples of seams with varying tensions and we used different colored thread in the bobbin so I could see how it's all constructed and how a proper seam should look.

I could still use a primer on fabric (What exactly does double-knit mean? What do I need to know about bias?) and figuring out how to figure out my pattern size (since it appears to have no relation at all to off-the-rack sizing)

Sew, Mama, Sew! is a good resource; they have a post about selecting patterns here and a nice selection of sewable gift ideas here. The Purl Bee has a tutorial on using a seam ripper here. Wheat (or rice) heat bags are super easy to make as well.
posted by stefanie at 3:16 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe t-shirt surgery? (Google for ideas, tutorials, books, &c.) The end product is wearable/usable and in the process you learn about making things fit, but there's not a ton of sewing involved.
posted by clavicle at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2008

When I used to teach college freshmen to sew in a theatre costume shop, I would have them first unthread the machine, top and bobbin, and take the needle out and just have them use the foot feed to get a sense of how fast the machine could run, without the danger of having a needle and thread to get tangled up or stab them. Then I'd have them sew traced lines on paper, again, without thread. Finally I'd have them do the same thing with thread. I think it really helps with their confidence - you'd be surprised at how afraid some people can be of the FAST SHINEY SHARP NEEDLE.
posted by jvilter at 5:37 PM on September 12, 2008

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