Tinker Tailer Soldier Sailer…Doctor: Get kids sewing!

My friend related a story to me once of her husband returning from a trip abroad to find his three children sewing. His youngest, a boy and the apple of his eye, had begged his mother to be allowed to join his elder sisters in sewing their own pencil cases, to which she agreed. Upon the father’s arrival, mayhem and madness broke out as devastated, he swiftly removed the needle and thread from his son’s hands and then turned enraged upon his wife.

‘Why is my son sewing?’ he demanded, adding something along the lines of ‘sewing is for girls’!

My friend then gently and respectfully reminded him that if he wanted his son to be a surgeon then sewing skills would come in quite handy. As they would for a sailor mending the sails of his ship, an army officer sewing the badge of his latest promotion onto his uniform and a cobbler mending antique leather goods.

Needless to say the half finished pencil case was quietly returned at a later date when father’s ego felt a little less bruised, and is now a fully functional pencil case to this day.

Sewing is actually a very practical and useful skill that all children regardless of gender should practice not only for the reasons above but also to improve those fine motor skills and hand eye coordination that all help towards good writing. It also extends concentration skills, and teaches children to think practically. It is a transferable skill which can be used to help reduce reuse and recycle-how often have you thrown away a pair of trousers, shirt or socks because of a missing button or a little hole?

Here are some ideas to try of varying degrees of difficulty and adult supervision.

  • Make a P.E. bag for your son/daughter’s school p.e. kit. You could use an old pillow case, cut it down a little and decorate it with fabric paints/pens. Add a simple draw string at the top to keep it closed. Here are some easy tutorials. Alternatively make it from a bit of old cloth, bed sheet, recycled t shirt, pin it together so it is easier for your child and start them off with not too long a bit of thread as they’ll annoy you by getting it into a tangle. Add simple patch pockets, add beads, buttons, poppers, sequins if you like. Felt is very easy to sew and you can pick it up in fabric/craft shops for less than a pound for a little bag-sized square of it. Image
  • Here’s a bag my son is working on. He was so proud of it, especially as his sketch book fits inside perfectly.Image
  • Here he’s sewing on a long pocket for pencils and pens.
  • Keep it simple and decorate a little square of felt with different colour embroidery thread. Use a simple running stitch. My boys started with this and were so so proud of it.
  • Make a glasses case or pencil case. You could fasten it with a little zip if you ‘re feeling brave or else what about some velcro-I’m sure you can find velcro in super stores from the little sewing sections.
  • Try some cross stitch-you’ll have to get the squared cross stitch fabric and some embroidery thread though. (You may find that some cross stitch magazines from WHSmiths may actually have a free sample when you buy the magazine). It’s fun to decorate a little piece of fabric or write a name/message and then cut it out and stick it onto a card for Gran maybe.
  • If you want to go fancy then get t-shirt or skirt and sew on decorations such as ribbons, bows, home made buttons out of fimo, sequins, roses etc. If your in Oxford then here’s the place to get all this haberdashery. This is also a great way to customize a gift for a baby, toddler or anyone really.
  • Make a teddy, for those feeling brave. First cut out the shape of the teddy in felt, then find something soft to stuff inside it-old pillow stuffing, feathers,dry beans/peas. Sew round the outside not too close to the edges with thinned embroidery thread (take out some threads so its only two or three strands thick), but leave a gap to stuff the stuffing into the teddy and then sew up the hole. Decorate teddy and give him bead/googley eyes, a little bow tie out or spotty ribbon and sew his paw pads. Cute idea huh?
  • Easy sock caterpillar. Stuff sock with plastic bags/stuffing and tie the end with rubber band or string. Sew or glue eyes on, sew on felt spots/sequins. Make little felt feet if you want. Embellish as you desire.
  • Sew an easy cape. Obviously this could be a Little Red Riding Hood cape a halloween beast’s cape or what you will. Get a piece of square cloth long enough for a cape and a bit of ribbon (1m). Sew the ribbon on the inside of the cloth about an inch and a half from the top of one of the edges of the square cloth making sure the ribbon sticks out either end so you can tie it round your shoulders. Decorate your cape with fabric pens, paint, sequins, glow in dark paint, plastic spiders etc.ImageImage
  • Here’s a cape we made and decorated.
  • Sew an easy bean bag. Bean bags have gone out of fashion a bit but they’re great for toddlers to learn how to throw and catch (before the frustrating move to a ball where you spend more time fetching the ball than actually playing with it). All you need are squares of scrap cloth. even flannels,    so you need two matching sized squares per bean bag, some dry beans, and sewing materials. sew four sides of the bean bag, turn it inside out (so think about the colours of the fabric so your nicest colours will be on the outside) stuff it with beans-not too many as it should be floppy, and sew up your last side of the square. This lady has an excellent tutorial if you’re still confused. For some good bean bag games visit here.
  • Sew some felt flowers, cut out the petals and the central bit out of different colour felt cloth and sew them together. Make wire stems and arrange them into a little bouquet. (You can find ways of sewing the base of the petals so that they hold in their positions). Or sew them to a bag you’ve made. Or sew them to a piece of backing felt, add a ribbon and tie as a necklace.
  • Sew a felt necklace pendent. Cut out a bib shaped pendent that is the correct size for your child and decorate it with anything you want, beads, sequins, painted pasta, fimo shapes, varnished card shapes. Then sew ribbon to either end of the bib part and tie round the neck.

Hope this article provides some exciting ideas, please feel free to drop me a line.


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