“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”Maria Montessori
Welcome! Thanks so much for joining us!
If you are just tuning in, you can catch up on our first three weeks of Summer Skill School here: Our 🍳6 WEEK SUMMER SKILL SCHOOL🧵 ~little hands at work~
If you are just tuning in for Sewing Week, you can check out why sewing matters in our intro post here: Skill School Week Four: 🧶SEWING🧵 from seamster to . . . surgeon?
10 Sewing Skills Every Child Should Learn
For the past three weeks, we’ve been taking on one new skill set a week at one or two specific skills per day. Sewing Week, however, we are tackling a little differently. While our previous Skill School days have been adaptable for varying age groups, sewing skills really need to be built upon each other gradually and systematically. And so, we are covering sewing week today in one post: ten sewing skills we think every child should learn, outlined from easiest to most difficult, with age recommendations for each. If your child is much older than the recommended starting age for a specific sewing skill but has yet to master it (or even try it), by all means start at the beginning and progress forward (omitting skill #1 which is only for babies/toddlers).
Let’s get sewing!
Sewing Skill #1: THREAD IT!
Think your baby or toddler is too young to sew? Think again! While a needle and thread may very well still be a ways off for our chubby-fingered little friends, our babies and toddlers can start with the prerequisite sewing skill of “posting” or “threading” . . . nothing sharp or hazardous required. Any toy or activity that requires your child to “post” or “thread” one object onto another is actually acting as early sewing skill school! When I first began pouring over Montessori literature when our first child was born, I was amused to discover that the old-faithful of baby toys, the humble ring stacker, is actually considered preparation for sewing! The dowel acts as the giant needle or thread, and the disks or rings act as giant buttons or swatches of fabric. And all these years I just though it was cute!
*The lovely little ring-stacker pictured above we purchased handmade on Etsy, in case you were wondering.
Sewing Skill #2: STRING IT!
Ages: 2 and up
Beading is simply the next level up of “threading” as described above. For younger kids, use big, chunky beads with pipe cleaners or stiff, wide threading. As your child’s beading skills improve, you can gradually supply him with smaller and smaller beads, and thinner and more finnicky threading.
What to bead?
- suncatchers (our fav!)
- a beaded “portière” (you know, one of those crazy beaded doorway curtains)
Sewing Skill #3: LACE IT!
Ages: 3 and up
Learning to “lace” is a great all-around practical life-skill as well as a fabulous pre-requisite sewing skill for little kids! The most common application for “lacing” is of course found in a sneaker or boot, but lacing cards may also be used to help young kids learn this skill.
Lacing a Shoe Instructions:
1.) Remove the laces from a shoe, or use a “surrogate shoe” / Montessori lacing shoe toy.
2.) Demonstrate in slow motion how to lace it up. Say as few words as possible and move so slowly that it hurts.
3.) Let your child try it out, helping only when absolutely necessary (like if your child throws the shoe to the ground in frustration 😆 ).
Lacing Cards Instructions:
1.) Assemble a lacing tray with a sampler card as shown above, and a lace wound and placed to the right.
2.) Help your child knot the end of the string, or knot it for him.
3.) Show your child how to pull the string all the way through the first hole until the knot is reached.
4.) Demonstrate the pattern of lacing to your child: UP through the first hole, pull through all the way until tight, DOWN through the next hole, pull all the way until tight, UP through the next hole . . . etc. And teach your child to say “UP! Down! UP! Down!” as she laces a card.
5.) Let your child try lacing independently, and watch patiently until a mistake is made in the pattern so you can explain why the lacing doesn’t look right. “Uh oh, we went up again, we were supposed to go down that time.” Then teach your child how to “backtrack” or undo the lacing error.
Sewing Skill #4: STITCH IT!
Ages: 4 and up
Stitching fabric with needle and thread is a next-level stitching school activity, in my opinion, and certainly not one to begin at age four. Kids over the age of seven may be able to jump right in to real stitching, but for kids four to six and possibly until age eight, I recommend beginning with a stitching board as pictured above. But whatever you choose, a board or fabric, the methods and instructions are mostly the same.
1.) Assemble a tray with stitching board/fabric and lacing/needle and thread. If using a board, you may thread sample stitches as shown above, leaving space next to each for your child to copy.
2.) Demonstrate first how your child can make a knot at the end of the lacing/thread, and assist as needed.
3.) Teach one type of stitch at a time, allowing your child plenty of time following each demonstration to practice the stitch for as long as he desires before moving on to the next stitch.
Six stitches to teach your child:
*tutorials for each readily found on google or youtube
- running stitch
- basting stitch
- hemming stitch / whip stitch
- catch stitch
Sewing Skill #5: RIP IT!
Ages: 5 and up
All you need for this sewing task is a seam ripper and an old shirt! I personally also recommend a pair of safety goggles 😆 . Seam rippers are sharp!
1.) Assemble a small tray with an old shirt and seam ripper.
2.) Put on safety goggles!
3.) Show your child how to carefully pluck out the stitching with the seam ripper by inserting the sharp point underneath a stitch and then pushing the seam ripper out toward the left (for right-handed) and then slightly pulling up to easily cut the seam.
Sewing Skill #6: BUTTON, BUTTON, WHO’S GOT THE BUTTON?
Ages: 6 and up
I believe learning to sew on a button may be the most immediately useful sewing skill we can teach our kids. It’s so quick and easy to sew on a button, and the opportunity presents itself often! Plus, kids love buttons. Whenever my mom sat down at her sewing machine when I was growing up, I instantly gravitated to that old mason jar full to bursting with a treasure trove of colorful buttons! A jar of buttons can afford little ones hours of fun spent sorting or just experiencing different shapes and textures.
1.) For kids over the age of seven, you may begin with an actual garment if you wish. For kids under the age of seven, or if needles make you nervous, you may begin with a felt sewing frame like we did. Felt is a great material for a child to learn to sew with because a blunt needle can be used.
2.) Help your child first thread her needle and knot the end of the thread. Assist as much or as little as needed by your child.
3.) Show your child how to pull her needle from the back side of the board or garment where the button will affix to, then thread the first hole of the button, pulling all the way through to the knot, then going back down through the adjacent hole to sew parallel thread lines, or to the diagonal hole to sew a cross stich pattern onto the button.
4.) Allow your child to continue sewing the button on as above, doubling up each stitch at least twice for a secure button.
5.) Knot the thread on the backside when finished, or assist your child in doing, and then pull the needle under and through a few of the stitches on the underside of the button before knotting once more and snipping off the tail.
*If you require additional help learning to sew a button, please refer to youtube where there a quite literally hundreds of button sewing tutorials.
Sewing Skill #7: DARN THAT SOCK!
Ages: 6 and up
I know what you’re thinking: “darning socks? Seriously? What is this, Little House on the Prairie?” Let me be clear: I do not darn socks. My mom, who is an avid seamstress and extraordinary quilter does not darn socks. In fact, I ‘ve never met anyone who actually darns socks. If you do, please give us a shout out; this darn world needs to meet you! But seriously, we all know exactly what do do when a sock gets a hole in it: throw it away and buy new socks. Right? So why do I include darning socks in my list of ten sewing skills for kids? Well, it just so happens that the sock is actually the perfect sewing medium for budding little seamsters and seamstresses to practice on.
Why a sock is sew darn great for Skill School:
- socks are always getting holes in them, so they provide lots of opportunity for sewing practice!
- a blunt needle can be used to darn a sock
- almost any stitch can be used to darn a sock
- it’s just a sock! If your kid messes it all up, guess what? It’s on his feet! Or, if it’s really that bad, you can throw it away just like you would have anyways!
Instructions: refer to Sewing Skill #4 for basic stitching instructions.
Sewing Skill #8: BRAID IT!
Ages: 6 and up
Braiding may not at first seem like a sewing skill, but it is in truth a simple kind of weaving, and a great prerequisite skill for many other sewing tasks. Besides, when else do we teach braiding to our kids? It’s one of those things that you either learn because you had long hair, or your little sister did . . . and if not then you really never come across it.
1.) Assemble a tray with three cords or thick strands of twine or yarn secured to one handle of the tray.
2.) For first-time braiders, young children, or kids who get frustrated easily, you may want to tie a different colored bead to the bottom of each strand to help your child keep track of which comes next in the pattern.
3.) Show your child how to braid always working over whatever strand is in the middle and saying aloud as he weaves: “left over, right over, left over, right over . . .”
Sewing Skill #9: LOOM UP!
Ages: 7 and up
If you’ve got a kid who is “too cool” for sewing school, he may just warm to trying out a lap loom! There’s just something about a loom with all its old-world charm that is irresistible to a child.
Our son was first bit by the loom bug when I read aloud Farmer Boy and he laid his eyes on Garth William’s enchanting sketch of Almanzo’s Mother at the bench of her loom. And so, we put a lap loom under the Christmas tree this year, and it’s been a big hit despite the fact that it is yet still too difficult for him to do independently. I think when he is seven he will have the dexterity to really take off weaving all on his own. As for the Lap Loom we purchased, I give it our highest recommendation. It’s beautifully made, and handcrafted in the USA which just really makes this mama happy. Plus, the Lap Loom set comes with everything you need to get started, no additional book or tutorial purchase necessary!
Sewing Skill #10: QUILTING BEE!
Ages: 8 and up
I can’t write a tutorial for quilting in a single post, let alone a portion of one! Besides, I’m really not qualified to give such a tutorial anyhow. I can, however, vouch for quilting not only as an incredible skill to bestow on a child, but a beautiful tradition to pass on as well. I am so fortunate to have been raised and homeschooled by a master quilter, and although I did not inherit her thimble thumb, I am so thankful for the skills I acquired in making quilts with my mom.
I think it would be an incredible thing for every child to get to make just one quilt in his or her formative years; an activity that is as much for the soul as it is for the hands.
Get started with a quilting book:
Continuing Sewing Skill School with CROCHET, KNITTING, EMBROIDERY, or CROSS-STITCH!
Ages: 6 and up
If your child takes a liking to sewing week, keep his stitch fix going! Get supplies and a book at a local craft store for one of these lovely, repetitive sewing hobbies: crochet, knitting, embroidery, or cross-stitch. These sewing hobbies are relatively inexpensive, and many children take to them with gusto! Plus, they can be picked up whenever your child is bored; in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, while you make dinner, maybe even in the car (depending on the type of needle involved)! Show your child a few youtube videos of each to help her decide which to give a try!
Embroidery was the favorite sewing activity of my own childhood. I recall sitting on the couch, sampler in hand, with that certain warmth only to be found in the simple, slow moments of childhood.
Cheers to a Skill-Filled Summer!
Thanks ever so much for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~