16 August, 2011

Little Feet, Pins and Needles (Part 3)

This week on the Little Feet, Pins, and Needles series we're going to talk about getting your kids actually sewing with you. This can be on either their own projects, sewing side by side, or getting them directly involved in what you are working on.

Kid as Paper Bag
The famous paper bag technique for Improv piecing (how Denyse Schmidt teaches) is quite a good method. Without looking, you grab your next piece and sew it. Once you've got things together, then you make it work. Kids work just as well as a paper bag. They will pick and choose for you, taking your thought process and judgements out of the Improv work.

Now, if you've got a kiddo who is obsessed with pink or stripes then expect to get mostly that at first, but it does even out. You can also control what they choose from, limiting the propensity for bubble gum blocks.

Use Their Eyes
It might be because the fabric is stored in their room, but my girls love to pick fabric for a new project. I pull out the bins by colour and we all make a great mess. It isn't that I'll always go with their picks - they would pick every fabric given the choice - it is that they are involved in the process. And, I'll be the first to admit, their take on combinations can be quite refreshing.

You can also ask their opinion on layouts or get them to help you place blocks as your play with layouts.

Yes, this will get messy and you will be required to refold and organize every time you do it. This isn't for the highly anal.

Put Them on Your Lap
With really little ones (toddlers and preschoolers) you can put them on your lap and get them used to the motion of sewing. Feeding the fabric through, keeping it straight (seam guides are great when you do this), and watching their fingers. Soon enough you will have them working on a machine and it will feel natural.

Red Light, Green Light
I'll admit, other than messing up my fabric, this is my girls' favourite way to sew with me. They sit under the table and push the foot pedal for me. I tell them Green Light to GO and Red Light to STOP. Yes, it makes the progress go slow, but I love that they are so excited about it. You do need to think ahead and anticipate that they won't exactly stop when you are needing them to. Don't try this when you are working on Y-seams, but it is great when you are strip piecing.

Needle Pulling Thread
It is one thing to give them their own scraps to start sewing - and that's a great thing - but it is also great to get them helping you with hand sewing your own projects. The girls, especially my younger one, will curl up with me while I handstitch a binding. I place the needle and they pull. It also works with my handquilting and applique. On some projects I should definitely be putting their names on the label because they help so much!

There are two very important things to keep in mind when you decide to pull the kids into your sewing projects.

Number 1, being patient is key. If you expect to burn through your sewing at your normal rate you will be painfully frustrated and disappointed. And the younger ones won't always get what you are trying to get them to do. But be patient and enjoy the process (you've heard that from me before!)

Number 2, keep in mind that they probably won't want to help forever. Take what you can get, when you can get it.

As parents we always hope our kids want to do the things we love to do. It makes our life easier and saves us from driving to hockey practice when you don't know how to skate or spending your sewing time on dance costumes. Taking small steps to bring your children in to the quilting fold can help, but it isn't a guarantee. It is, however, a great way to encourage their creativity, foster your own, and spend some useful time together.


Jessica said...

I love this series. George sits on my lap at the sewing machine a lot, but I never thought to let him push the foot pedal or pull the needle through. I did put his name on the label of one quilt where he was especially helpful..

Rene' said...

Great post! Wish I had thought of some of these ideas when my kids were younger ;-)

Suzanne said...

It is good for me to be reminded to take what I can get when I can get it. Very good. :-)

Miss Lola said...

I wish I had read this when my kids were younger. Thanks for a great series.

Anonymous said...

I always have a child on my lap.

I think when he gets older I'll tell him if he doesn't stop what he's doing I'm going to make him do some seam ripping.

Live a Colorful Life said...

Cheryl, this is such a great series! My granddaughter starts kindergarten next Monday. They have another baby due the end of September, which will leave the middle one, Levi (3+) at kind of loose ends--sister in school, new baby requiring a lot of attention. So my plan is to spend at least one morning with him, one on one. He loves going through my "boy" fabric so I think these suggestions will be fun for the two of us.

Lisa said...

This is a very poignant post. As the mother of four busy people I tend to get frustrated at my lack of productivity. I do tell myself to "hold them while they're little, they won't be little long" Patience is a huge part of it. My two year loves digging into my stash and stacking/smoothing/folding/unfolding/etc. My nine year old girl is starting to piece simple tops, and even the six year old boy begs to sew. On a different note we live up in northern Alberta. Glad to have found you. Our last baby was born at Rockyview General in Calgary on Easter Sunday.

brown robin said...

You are such an awesome mommy and writer! It's fun for me to read this series because I'm reaping the rewards now of doing those things with my two when they were little. My oldest, now 8, has spent the whole summer sewing on her own. She has free reign of my scraps/fabrics, and she's been creating non-stop... bags, pillows, lavendar eye bags, skirts, headbands... It's so exciting to witness. My almost 5 year old is getting just as jazzed. (He still requires a tad bit of supervision though.) Thanks for taking the time to create posts that inspire parents. It's such an amazing gift to share with kids.

Victoria said...

wonderful post!