I run, I craft, I write, and I make your favorite clothes.

I have written books about sewing for children and adults and I'm the indie designer’s patternmaking secret weapon. I've taught video and in-person classes to anyone who would listen since 2008. I believe that sewing clothes is a radical act of self-love that increases your sense of self-worth. I'm basically your sewing fairy godmother.

Ella’s First Garment

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I started buying How To sewing books as soon as I knew I was pregnant with Ella.  It’s not only because I failed miserably at teaching Peter to sew when he was younger, oh no, it was simply an excuse to indulge my obsession with and addiction to craft books.

One such purchase from a couple of years ago has become the Very Best Sewing Book for Kids Ever,  in my household at least:”Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make”

I loved it so much I even reviewed it on Amazon  (something I admittedly rarely take time to do, despite wishing I had more reviews of my book!)

As you can see, I let Ella have free reign over my stash.  In this case, she chose a yard of the out-of-print Mendocino by Heather Ross to make herself a skirt.  I helped with the hem, but I only had to rethread her machine once.  (Ella has a habit on starting the sewing with the presser foot up, so we practice the Mantra: Down, then Sew on our way to the machine from the pressing board or pattern cutting area.  The skirt took us the greater part of an afternoon this summer.  That reminds me: Must Make Time For Sewing With Kids

She was (and is) so proud of her seahorse skirt!  I made a scrappy flower to tack onto a top so she would have an “outfit.”

Do you let your kids into your fabric stash, or do you tightly control their access for projects?  Did you start them with hand sewing?  When did they start on the machine?  Does the thought of a little one near a sewing machine scare you to death?

I’d love to know!

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  • Lauren October 6, 2012, 2:15 am

    Your comments were broken, but I’ve hopefully fixed them! Gorgeous photos!!

  • Caila October 9, 2012, 4:54 pm

    What a great idea! I need to get that book. My oldest son’s first project was a pillow. He has now worn it down into a little square of cloth, but he loves it more than anything. Isn’t it sweet how proud they are of creating something themselves?? Your daughter looks so sweet in her skirt. And I completely approve of her fabric choice. :)

    • Karen October 9, 2012, 4:58 pm

      Thanks, Caila. I’ll have to post a photo of the unicorn stuffie she made as well. We used the crayon/iron into cotton/technique for the stuffie project for library bags for my students.

  • Leila October 11, 2012, 12:30 am

    My mom got a kid toy machine for my 5yo but it really doesn’t work. We still made a nook for her in my sewing room for her own little table, machine, and work in progress. I tend to give her full access to the quilting cottons I have unless they’re for a client. She likes make what she calls pockets. She sews them by hand and is super proud of them. She sewed a hat for her 4yo brother a couple of weeks ago. :)

  • Betsy July 19, 2013, 9:22 pm

    This is a subject near to my heart that I’ve thought a lot about.

    When my oldest was five I started her sewing felt shapes together on my sewing machine in a long garland. She’d been watching me sew since she was little, so I think she saw it as normal and not intimidating. She then graduated to other projects like sewing a simple elastic waist skirt, a dolly apron, a star shaped pillow toy, and she’s now finishing a quilt for her doll. I think she’ll do a dress for herself next. She can thread my machine and use the iron too. Of course, this is all with my close supervision (read: sitting in a chair watching and forcing myself not to jump in and take over for her). Her younger sister also started at age five and is learning too. I’m all in favor of letting them work with real tools to make real projects. I didn’t start with hand sewing (okay, maybe helping with a button when they were 3 and 4) because I foresaw my girls getting really bored with how long it would take to finish something. They were more encouraged to be able to finish a usable project in a few hours. I tried to plan their projects around teaching them a particular skill with each one: The felt garland taught them how to steer, control the foot pedal and presser foot; the quilt taught them about seam allowances; The skirt taught them about backtacking and ironing seams open; etc. etc. It’s also been a great way to reinforce in a concrete way a lot of math concepts such as measuring, comparing quantities, understanding inches, feet, and yards, and spacial reasoning. I haven’t worried too much about damaging my machine because it’s this old sturdy metal machine that I paid $100 for that I’ve sewed on for 8 years or so. I also just bought another old Kenmore for $30 at a thrift store that they can sew on as well. Both sew a nice straight stitch and zig-zag and that’s all they’ve needed so far. If some damage happened to the machines I wouldn’t be out much. I think a solid old machine works much better for them than a children’s cheap machine that doesn’t actually sew a decent stitch–that sounds like it would frustrate a child and discourage them from learning. I also bought some smaller scissors for them to cut with. My big Gingher shears didn’t go over so well. I think they’ve seen me poke, burn, and jab myself enough times that they are pretty wary of the sharp and hot parts of their tools. I know at some point they will probably get some sort of ouchie in the sewing room, but I see it as no different then the bumps and bruises that come when learning to walk. As I’m carefully supervising, I think the damage will be minimal (I have corrected a hot iron left flat on the ironing board a few times). I let them choose their fabrics from my stash within reason (not ready for satin yet!) and wow!, do we have some interesting color/pattern combinations come out of their selections. But when else can you wear outrageous combinations of prints and colors and still have people praise you when you announce, “I made it myself!”?? I think a lot of us have so much fabric stashed that we couldn’t sew it up in one lifetime anyway, so if they tear into a favorite of mine and use it up I still have a lot of other fabric I love as well. I think the loss is worth if for the benefit of seeing them learn and enjoy the creative sewing process. It’s been a special bonding time sewing with my girls. Wonderful learning for them, and great exercise in patience for me.

    Good for you mom for working with your little girl!

    • Karen July 19, 2013, 10:25 pm

      Betsy, I loved reading about your girls’ sewing and I can truly appreciate the “exercise in patience” aspect of hands-off supervising!


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