Simple sewing patterns for costumes or bags, for boys?
September 23, 2015 6:33 PM   Subscribe

My five-year-old son is interested in sewing (he's interesting in construction and design, in general). I am not much of a sewer, but I could probably cut out something from a simple pattern and stitch it by hand. (No machine). How can I indulge this with him, given that I have limited skills and he's five?

I was thinking making something very simple, like a bag for trick or treating, or a ghost costume, which he's been asking for. But it's important that it follow a pattern, because that's what's interesting to him about sewing.

Can you suggest any simple patterns that I could buy online that we could make some garment out of? By hand? Are there "sewing for children" patterns?
posted by pipti to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The major problem for kids sewing is handling a needle and pushing it through the fabric.
Tightly woven fabrics, fine needles and not using a thimble are potential problems. You need to select a needle he can handle and check it against the fabric too. Using wax (rubbed along length of thread) will help prevent tangles, a common problem with doing long seams. If you do hit a hitch, you can just tie it off and start the seam right next to it. No big deal- no one is looking inside anyway.
A good pressing helps hide any mistakes!
That said, a ghost can be a cheap and easy project. I would definitely pick up some felt or old garment to cut and use as appliqués with fabric glue. Decorating is a lot of fun and ideas and stitches should always be tested on scraps first so you don;t damage the final piece by guessing!
I would forego fabric stores and go get off price white sheets for this. For other projects, clothes from Goodwill (especially in XL sizes are great sources for a wide variety of fabrics.
Google DIY ghost pics for links and inspiration. Good luck!
posted by TenaciousB at 6:49 PM on September 23, 2015

Felt superhero mask would be small enough to manage easily, and felt's easy to put a needle through. You could find a template and cut two different colors of felt, then stitch them together to create the mask.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:53 PM on September 23, 2015

Maybe a felt hat? You could do large whip stitches with a big needle and make a Robin Hood type hat by just doing a couple of triangles?
posted by xingcat at 7:01 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

You should look at the Sew Mama Sew website, and their Handmade Holidays stuff. They run it every November, and I'm pretty sure you could find some simple patterns in the many many they post every year.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:05 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can use button thread (XL or heavy duty is how the Coats & Clark thread is labeled) along with a large needle to do some of what we used to call "Pirate Home Ec." If he was old enough to get that joke, I'd totally say you should call it that, but Pirate Sewing is probably good if he's into pirates. We called it that because the thread is thick and visible and pretty literally piratey looking, but it's also hard to mess up as the thread is less delcate than regular thread and it's easy to see what you're doing.

I sort of loathe that this is labelled "boys' " But whatever, it's some projects.

Oh, and Sew Mama Sew is pretty fantastic, well played bibliogrrl.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:09 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get a single-hole punch, craft felt, fiberfill, a yarn needle, and some yarn.

Cut two identical shapes out of craft felt. Something simple, like a heart! (You can probably find a pattern to trace if you'd like)

Holding the two pieces together, use a hole punch to punch holes around the shape. (Kind of like this.)

Thread the yarn/tapestry needle with enough yarn to sew the shapes together.

Help your son tie a knot at the end. He can then hand sew around the shape.

When he gets to the last two stitches, have him stuff it full of fiberill and then stitch it closed.

Voila -- cute little felt pillow or ornament!
posted by Ostara at 7:13 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

How about sewing decorative patches on things or extra pockets? Not the normal sort of embroidered patches, which would probably require more force than he could safely apply to a needle, but felt or cloth ones you cut out for him.

Also, I took a sewing class in junior high school and the first project was to make a stuffed snake toy. It was sewn inside-out, then inverted like a sock and stuffed with batting.
posted by XMLicious at 7:15 PM on September 23, 2015

Use some of the plastic mesh they have for needlepoint and some big plastic needlepoint needles with yarn. First let him see his own designs in the plastic and then graduate to sewing two pieces together. Easy for little hands. It comes in different colors too.
posted by tamitang at 7:57 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely agree with using felt, I remember sewing with it as a kid and it was very satisfying. Plus, it looks good with thicker and larger stitches (especially in a contrasting colour) which means what looks good is also in the range of what's achievable.

You could make a nifty waistcoast/vest thing out of velt. Like what Han Solo wears. Or probably many other characters.
posted by kitten magic at 8:51 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's easy to learn to make even stitches in straight lines with sharp corners when you're sewing on gingham fabric.
posted by kmennie at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

When we were kids, my mom got us both (myself and my brother) embroidery hoops. Sometimes she would draw things for us to decoratively stitch; sometimes we would come up with things ourselves. The tautness definitely helped. That's where I got most of my sewing skills that I still use today.

How about a nine patch quilt using cool fabric remnants he gets to pick out?

How about a teddy bear or other stuffed buddy?
posted by St. Hubbins at 9:03 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This blog has a few different sewing activity ideas for young children which I have been planning to try when my son is a little older - needle threading, sewing buttons on material on an embroidery hoop, a sewing activity tray, and threading and lacing activities.
posted by fever-trees at 9:06 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid (starting from age 5) I took sewing at camp and we used felt (they used a sharpie to make dots around the edge to show where to sew. They used some kind of thick thread. Not embroidery floss but something similarly bright and heavy.

In fact my sewing teacher wrote a book and it's still in print. It's called My First Sewing Book (and yes her name is Winky Cherry).
posted by radioamy at 9:08 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here are some links from Sew Mama Sew:

Gifts for Boys 2013

Gifts for Boys 2014

Master Lists:

Have fun! Handsewing is pretty great.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:46 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh! And also their Sewing With Kids tag.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:48 PM on September 23, 2015

Here's a pattern and tutorial for a kids' cape that might be a fun project. I would start out by making one out of felt, PVC, suedecloth, or some other fabric that doesn't need to be hemmed.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:18 PM on September 23, 2015

A sewing awl might be helpful for kid handsewing. And you can use it to make bags out of tough material.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:10 AM on September 24, 2015

My sister made t-shirt pillows for my kids. Go to wherever, have him pick out a t-shirt with some of his favorite characters. Sew the the neck line closed with the picture facing out. Once that's closed, add stuffing (easily bought at a Joann Fabrics or A.C Moore). Sew the bottom together when the shirt is full.

It's maybe not putting an entire piece together, but it's pretty inexpensive, fun, and you'd get something kinda useful out of it. It would also give him some idea as to how to repurpose objects for other use.
posted by zizzle at 4:00 AM on September 24, 2015

Wow, thanks everyone! Woke up to all these great answers. Will peruse more carefully later today, but I can tell all of these are going to be helpful. Thanks again!
posted by pipti at 5:49 AM on September 24, 2015

Make a kite. A simple sled kite would be easy enough. learning to hem fabric and reinforce stress points.
posted by Gungho at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2015

As a beginning sewer, I can totally understand wanting to sew from a pattern. It's like a build-your-own puzzle!

I remember around that age I enjoyed making tissue box covers out of plastic canvas and yarn. It was like cross-stitch, kind of, and the needle was big enough to hold and the yarn and canvas were easy to poke through. Here's an example youtube about plastic canvas. He might really like making the bold designs, too!
posted by jillithd at 7:36 AM on September 24, 2015

I am going to go right back to the beginning of your question and suggest something that isn't sewing. You wrote that your son is interested in design and construction, and that he's five and maybe not ready for hand or machine sewing. I agree. Instead, here is a totally fun thing to do that will let him do the same thing (but safely) and get him ready for those activities in a few years. As usual, author Kevin Kelly at the Cool Tools website does a better job of explaining this than I can:

"Just in time for Halloween. A trade secret from professional costume designers: throw out your sewing kit. The way to make quick and dirty costumes is to scrounge for old clothes, cut them up creatively with your scissors, and then instantly reassemble the pieces using a hot glue gun. No measuring, no patterns, no threads. The glued clothes hold up remarkably well. Since you can even wash them, it works for local theater shows. Now that you know the secret, you don’t have to buy this book — except if you want a whole bunch of cool recipes for recombining thrift-store bargains into pretty convincing period fashions."

I think the glue gun is safer than a sewing machine, but be careful about which model you get, and definitely have adult supervision until you are comfortable with this process. And good on you for supporting his creativity in a positive way! I am a man who likes sewing, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. I love that your boy is learning that at such an early age.
posted by seasparrow at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2015

Here's a pattern (translated into English) for a pretty awesome fleece hat: scroll down and click on "Hat #4".

This shouldn't be too hard if you cut the piece for him.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2015

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