Charlie's sister, Jacquie, asked me what Roxanne would like for Hanukkah this year. Roxanne has been asking for a new backpack, so we chose one from Land's End and had it monogrammed. It was deeply discounted so we got to choose something else to go with it. Books are always a huge hit with Roxanne and I picked several that I knew she would love including My Milk Toof (she's read the entire web comic thus far) and Sewing School.
She also got some money for Hanukkah and last week she decided to buy some pink variegated wool yarn and a pair of sewing scissors with her own money and that launched us into quite a spree of making.
Roxanne has sewn a little bit and took a pillow making class at summer camp. She is always asking for some kind of project to work on beyond weaving potholders on her loom.
We recently did some finger knitting (I used to finger knit as a kid, but watched this video to be reminded how). Finger knitting creates long knitted strands with an open weave. We felted one strand in the washing machine. It felts great! We sewed some elastic to the ends and made it into a headband.
And now she is determined to sew her way through all the projects in Sewing School. Before we started I read the whole book and it is fantastic. This book is written by two women who have taught sewing to children for many, many years and it shows. Kids can pull out the full-sized pattern pieces from the envelope in the back of the book, cut them out, and get started right away. Each pattern piece is labeled with a photo of the project for easy identification.
Step-by-step photos show kids exactly how to proceed. And the finished projects shown in the book are clearly sewn by actual children. They aren't beautifully finished, and therefore impossible to recreate. I love that!
There is a great page with a series of photos showing common mistakes and how to correct them including what to do when your thread gets tangled, your pieces aren't exacty the same size as one another, you make a whipstitch when you meant to make a straight stitch, or you ran out of thread and don't have enough left to tie a knot. If you've ever sewn with children (and I've rececently been teaching area Brownie troops to sew so I speak from experience beyond just teaching Roxanne) these are the problems every child has when they begin.
I've been really trying, and mostly succeeding, in keeping my hands off her projects. Her cutting could be neater, her stitching is imperfect, her stuffing lumpy, but it is all hers and she is so proud!
At the end of each project there is a bulleted list of ways to "make it your own." Once you make the apple pincushion, the author's suggest making it in orange felt so that it becomes an orange, or drawing your own fruit. As we made the four projects we've done so far, we've talked about how we could create our own designs. I think this gives kids to confidence to make their own ideas come to life in fabric if they want to, and not just depend on the patterns in a book, once they've learned the basics.
Sewing School is a great book for me, as a teacher of sewing, too. I love how the author's have you first create a needlebook and a pincushion so that you have a well-appointed sewing kit with handmade items that you can use right away. Every project is well-designed. If you wanted to start a sewing school of your own, this is your textbook.
Stella has gotten in on some of the sewing action, but sewing is still really challenging for her at 5. Roxanne isn't a typical kid in many ways and she struggles daily with managing her frustration, slowing down, being okay with making mistakes and forging ahead despite uncertainty. Sewing is a terrific way to work on all of these skills. Her fine motor skills have never been great, but at 7 she is able to hand sew mostly without help, and that is wonderful for her (and for me!).
If you are looking to sew with children, or you know a child who would like to learn to sewn, this is the book I would choose.
*Please note that I did not receive a review copy of this book. I chose to review it because I love it and that's it! The links above are affiliate links.