Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Safer Alternative to Straight Pins

Do you think your child is too small or lacks enough coordination to use straight pins?

A few serious pokes from a pin could be enough to make you question safety. It may turn a child off sewing, too.

If your child understands that by moving his hands without thinking means he may poke himself, that’s good. He is self-aware and will improve at avoiding the pins.

But, if your new sewing super star is always forgetting to watch out for pins and getting poked, he might not be ready to use them.

This does not mean he can’t learn to sew. It just means thinking outside the sewing basket. Luckily, there is a safe alternative to using straight pins.

Can you guess what it is?

Hairclips! That’s right, hairclips.

Simply line up the 2 pieces of felt as you would for straight pins, but slip on hairclips to hold them together instead.

Hairclips can easily be moved around the perimeter of the sewing project as needed just like a straight pin! And will be safer for little, inexperienced fingers.

Happy stitching J 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Sew a Whip Stitch

A whip stitch is the first stitch I teach my students. It is an easy stitch to learn. And, it is useful.  

There is a rhyme I learned to help children remember how to make a whip stitch. It goes like this. 

Come up through the dot, pull all the way through.
Now, what is the next thing that you do?

Come up through the dot, pull all the way through.
Now, what is the next thing that you do?

Come up through the dot, pull all the way through.
Now, what is the next thing that you do?

And so on, repeating until the sewist remembers what to do.

When teaching small people to sew I cut felt into familiar shapes which they sew together and stuff. I draw dots around each perimeter to show the children where to sew each stitch. It’s like the old, pre-school sewing card idea. You can read about why I do this here.  

Now, let me explain the above verse. When the rhyme says, come up through the dot, it means poke a threaded needle through a pre-drawn dot from the back of the project toward the front.

Pull all the way through reminds children that they need to tug on the needle until the thread pulls tightly. They should check to see that there are no extra loops, twists or knots in the thread.

Using quality thread helps reduce the chance of twists and knots. I use a 30 weight crochet thread called Cebelia by DMC.

What is the next thing that you do? This alerts the sewist that the whip stitch process is about to start over again. She needs to whip the thread around the outside edge of the fabric in order to be able to be ready to do what the verse says next which is to poke the needle from the back of her project up through a dot again – the next dot in the line of dots.

Continue sewing stitches by directing the thread over the fabric's edge each time. It begins to look like this...

Each new stitch is made by coming up through the next new dot always from back to front.

This stitch is called a whip stitch. 

Happy sewing till next time!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Child’s Sewing Personality

Do you know the answers to these questions?

Is your sewist a Little Miss Perfectionist, or does she enjoy using the "good enough" method of sewing?

Does he get frustrated easily when things aren't working out, or is he able to understand and correct a mistake after you quietly talk about why it happened?
Does she like following specific directions, or does she like to invent her own rules?

Is he able to stay on task for a long periods of time, or does he learn in spurts?

What does she want to sew?


These questions have accumulated over my years working with kids and they are great ones to ask. Some things you can ask directly while others require your quiet observation. 

The answers will determine your role as a guide. The answers will help you know how to proceed with sewing lessons.

First, teach basic sewing safety and techniques until your youngster feels comfy with the tools and techniques (and you know she’s not going to hurt herself). Then, ask yourself the above mentioned questions to know how to proceed.

Expect her responses to change over time. 

Expect yourself as a guide to make a few blunders.   

Follow your child’s lead, and above all and have fun together! 
Till we meet again!

© Sue Frelick, August 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Sewing Pocket Pals: Cookie Cutter Templates

Are you looking for inspiration for shapes for your child to sew? It may be time for a pocket pal. A pocket pal is a tiny stuffed softie that fits in a pocket.

You and your child can make a pocket pal using cookie cutters as templates. Visit the cookie cutter section at your favourite kitchen supply store. Look for large, simple shapes and pick out his or her favourites.  

There is just about every shape a child could want in a cookie cutter; fruit, water animals, celestial shapes, zoo animals, seasonal, people shapes, pet shapes, farm animals ... even more, I'm sure.

If you've been following me for a while, you know that my method of teaching hand sewing makes use of felt, pre-cut shapes with dots around the perimeter, big needles, quality thread, stuffing and a happy spirit.

If this is your first visit, browse the titles in the side bar to learn more about teaching hand sewing. 

To learn more about using cookie cutters as templates, read on. 

How to choose a shape for hand sewing

J Consider how adept your little one is at sewing.  Beginners can sew super simple shapes with straight lines and gently rounded parts while more experienced children will be able to negotiate something a little more intricate.

You don't have to avoid cookie cutters that have tight curves, simply round them gently when cutting them out.

A simple cookie cutter on the left. A bumpy one on the right.
The bumps can be rounded out more gently when cutting the felt.

J Consider size.  Sometimes a favourite silhouette may be difficult to sew if it’s small, but try a bigger version, and wow! (s)he’s able to stitch circles around it!

J There is almost always a bump somewhere on the perimeter of the cookie cutter - either the seam on a stainless steel one, or a hanger on a plastic one. Skip drawing over the bump and fill in later freehand, or fix it up when you cut it out.

 J Speaking of cutting – make sure the cookie cutter is going to be easy for you to cut around. 

Steps for cutting a shape from felt 

1.  Pin 2 pieces of felt together.

2.  Trace cookie cutter onto felt with a fading fabric marker. I used a Sharpie marker for this in the past, but it left a line of marker around the shape's perimeter. Some children do not like seeing a tracing line on their finished piece.

3.  Make sure there is at least one pin completely inside the shape to hold the 2 pieces of felt together.

4. Decide if you want to cut inside the line or outside the line.  You may be surprised. It does change the final size.  If there are intricate parts like the stem on a pumpkin it will matter.

5. Use dedicated felt cutting scissors to cut out the shape.  Try to keep the blades vertical. 

By that I mean, try not to let them slant when you cut because the two pieces of felt will not end up the same size. They won’t fit together nicely.

Now that you have cut out your pocket pal visit this page to see how to prepare it for sewing.

Good luck making your pocket pals together!

Till we meet again! 


© Sue Frelick, August 2011

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Living 3 Feet Tall in a 6 Foot World

Think for a moment how it would feel to learn a new skill that required intense concentration while sitting at a table made for someone twice your size - in a chair twice your size! 

montessori school where children are given a choice where to work, on 
small furniture or the floor - whichever is most comfortable to each child

When very young children use adult furniture they often cannot get comfortable.  Their feet don’t reach the floor; their arms are propped up at uncomfortable angles.

a mom sets up a machine sewing space using child size furniture

In my experience they squirm and wiggle throughout even a 1 hour long sewing session trying to find a comfortable position for their arms and legs; they try kneeling on the chair or sitting on one folded leg while the other dangles, both positions can put little legs to sleep pretty quickly – not very conducive to a fun learning experience is it?

a children's painting space that could easily be made over for hand sewing

When all else fails many will end up standing at the table to work, or try to sew in their laps.  Think about making your child as comfortable as possible when you sew together.

Where does your child sew?

Till we meet again!
© Sue Frelick, August 2011