Learning to Sew

Basic sewing skills are appropriate for everyone.  Start easy so that sewing is fun and there’s a quick sense of accomplishment.

Most kids (and a fair number of adults) consider pinning and cutting tedious.  My kids did 4-H sewing a few years ago, and what should have been lots of fun was not a good experience.  This year we’ll do some sewing, and it will be fun.  Choosing fabric is fun.  Sewing is fun.  Having a finished product is fun.

I will do much of the cutting and marking ahead of time so that my kids can develop their sewing  skills before we expand and work on pattern-development.  Once they are proficient at sewing, they’ll add pattern layout and cutting skills.

I’ll eventually write up a formal course description and syllabus, and post it here.  In general, things I want my kids to be able to do include:

  • sew a straight seam
  • sew a curved seam
  • insert elastic
    • thread through a casing
    • sew elastic in while stitching casing
    • stitch directly to fabric
  • insert a zipper
  • set snaps
  • make button holes
  • sew on buttons
  • sew in hooks and eyes
  • finish openings with ribbing
  • finish edges with bias tape
  • gathers
  • work with different types of fabrics
  • know when to use different types/sizes of needles
  • hems
    • top-stitched
    • blind
  • identify basic designs
    • necklines
    • collars
    • sleeves
    • pockets
  • use these basic techniques to sew basic garments:
    • shorts
    • slacks
    • t-shirt
    • sweatshirt
    • button-front shirt
    • dress
    • baby’s onesie
    • preemie/micro-preemie shirt
    • swimsuit or lingerie
  • make a customized body-double or dress form
  • alter a store-bought pattern to fit
  • follow pattern directions

Assuming that you already own an iron, ironing board, and sewing machine, you should be able to get all the beginning supplies for under $25 – allowing young sewers to start collecting their own tools.  If you don’t already own a sewing machine, check estate sales or craigslist; there are many decent machines available for less than $50.  Also put the word out that you’re looking for a sewing machine.  We were given two sewing machines a few years ago when people heard that my kids were learning to sew, so don’t think that the price of a machine will be prohibitive.

Basic Supplies
  • scissors
  • sewing tape measure
  • seam ripper
  • tracing wheel
  • tracing paper
  • seam gauge
  • needles
  • pin cushion
  • straight pins
  • storage container for above supplies (any plain box will work, or something like this)
  • sewing machine (great finds at estate sales)
  • bobbins for sewing machine (there are different types)
  • iron & ironing board

The first eight items can be purchased in a kit (with a few bonus items, too) for $8 at WalMart or $20 at Joann’s, last time I checked (yes, for the identical item).  If you’re opposed to WalMart, I’d suggest watching for a 50% off coupon at Joann’s.  Don’t go for the more expensive kit that includes thread, because it doesn’t include some of the things you’ll want, and much of that thread is unlikely to match anything you will ever sew.

Nice to add eventually if you get serious about sewing

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