Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sewing with a Small Human Being = Success!

That is, I sewed with a sewing machine, and a small human being, who was with me at the time, also sewed with said sewing machine. I did not use the small human being as a sewing implement.

Does anyone remember these segments from Animaniacs?
"Good Idea: playing catch with your grandfather. Bad Idea: playing catch WITH your grandfather."

Once again, thank you to all of you who offered such helpful advice! I really appreciate your taking the time to write out such detailed thoughts on sewing with kids. I also enjoyed reading your memories of learning to sew. I, too, have fond memories of my mom helping my brother and I to make little flannel beanbags (filled with adzuki azn!) on her old Singer. Unfortunately, I don't remember any of how that happened; I just know I came out at the end with a truly monstrous beanbag that I loved til it pilled beyond recognition (seriously, it started out baby pink, and eventually died a murky gray). But I digress.

Almost exactly what I was afraid of.
Armed with my bag of fabric scraps, extra thread, scissors, pins, and my own sewing machine, I headed over to Small Human Being's home with very few expectations and my patience cap on. It's a good thing I brought my own machine, as her Christmas gift was this sad thing. I have to admit, I was kind of horrified when I first saw it set up on her little table. No adjusting stitch length, no reverse, only two speeds, and incredibly difficult, non-intuitive threading. Maybe I'm a sewing machine snob (except I really don't think so, as I just have this basic Brother), but I pulled mom aside and explained that IMHO, this little machine was just going to be the cause of frustration and not worth the money she was going to save. Besides, if Small Human Being was serious about sewing, it would be better to learn on a real machine (that I could actually show her how to use!). And it certainly seemed like Small Human Being was serious! I'm not sure what I was expecting, but she was more focused and with it than many sixteen year olds I know. Then again, she Wanted To Learn Sewing, whereas many of my students couldn't care less about stoichiometry. Never underestimate the power of motivation!

So while dad fiddled with the tiny machine, I got mine out and after a brief lesson about parts, purposes, and uses, and Not Sewing Through Your Fingers, Small Human Being practiced sewing with it. I had a piece of cloth drawn with chalk lines for her to practice on. Kindergarten was not that long ago for her, so she totally understood the concept of practicing by following lines. And honestly, she did better than some adults I've taught to sew. You guys were spot on about kids being used to learning new things all the time! She remembered the name of the bobbin, the term "back tacking," and almost the whole sequence of steps for threading the machine after only being shown once! She did have a little trouble threading the needle, claiming that she needed glasses to see it, which really made me want to laugh because she was acting eight going on eighty.

Several practice stitches later, we moved on to the more exciting prospect of choosing a project. Given some choices (I brought along a sample pouch, gathered-waist elastic skirt, and a small stuffed cat plushie), she chose to make a pillow for her one year old friend from church. How priceless is that! No Selfish Seamstressing least not yet, anyway. She picked out some rainbow heart material leftover from my IKEA heart dress. When I started explaining right sides together, she understood immediately that it was so we could turn it inside-out with the seams hidden. She chose thread, pinned, sewed, and pivoted at the corners like a pro. I helped her pink the seam allowances since the shears were too big for her hands, then her little brother took great pleasure in helping her stuff the pillow. Right as she was sewing shut the opening, she managed to veer off to one side and almost off the pillow (granted, there was quite a bit of bulk from the stuffing), which made me cringe inside to think that my sewing luck (messing up right at the last second on an otherwise fine project!) had been inherited by my student. Anyway, she didn't care at all and pronounced that she had done really well for her first project. Oh children, so expressive of exactly how they feel, without adult filters of critical perfectionism! Actually, I was pretty proud of her, too.

Small Human Being smiling at her first finished object! Face and school insignia blurred for obvious reasons.

At this point, we'd been sewing for a good hour and half, and while she had been amazingly focused throughout that time (especially for having already been in school that day!), she was definitely itching to join her brother in watching cartoons. After some talking with mom, and discovering that Amazon currently has a sale on my machine, she decided to purchase a real machine for her and her daughter. Seriously, Brother should give me commission; this is the FIFTH machine of theirs that I've sold to someone!

After all my wibbling about small human beings, it turns out that this particular one was quite nice to work with. We've set up another session next Wednesday afternoon; she's already announced that she wants to make a purse. I told her that her homework assignment (come on, I can't get away from being a teacher) is to make a drawing of her purse design, front and back. We'll see how far this sewing lesson thing goes! Like any teacher, I dream of being able to say "I totally taught so-and-so!" when one of my chemistry students discovers the next element, but my overactive imagination now dreams of being able to say I taught the next Coco Chanel or something...rein it in, dear, rein it in.


  1. Yay! I'm glad it went so well! Very tactful explanation to Mom, too. I really enjoy reading your blog and eagerly look forward to each installment.

  2. Oh, Cindy! I'm so glad that the sewing session with the small human being went well! It sounds like she is very bright and will be very open to all that you have to teach her! I look forward to hearing about how the next session goes:)

  3. i think the best part is that the two of you chose a project she could finish in one sitting...nothing gets the creative juices flowing like successfully finishing a project, especially a first project! if i had a chemistry teacher like you, maybe i wouldn't have failed...

  4. I recently found you blog and I really enjoy it. Anyone who can mix Animaniacs references, Chemistry terms (which I do remember btw), with sewing great a winner in my book. Great job teaching the young 'un. :)

  5. I love how you call her "small human" haha too cute!

  6. Hahaha! I really enjoyed this post. You made it all sound so cute and endearing. I've hope with my little girls yet! They started out being really curious about my machine, and crawling around inspecting me using it, but now they are just used to mummy making stuff, and ask for things to be made for them. I'm waiting for the day they want to learn! (and thanks to you, maybe i'll relent when they're eight :) )

  7. cute! I remember being 8 and figuring out the 'right sides together' thing and being so excited about that.

    She did really good - and so did you!


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