What’s the Best Way to Pass on Sewing/Quilting to Children?

by Nicole

Sometimes I take for granted that I know how to sew and quilt.

The other day I was reminded about how rare it is to sew and quilt these days. I was talking to the director at my younger daughter’s preschool. She knows I sew because I made some nap mat covers for the preschool last year. While we were chatting she mentioned that the teachers would love for me to make some doll clothes for the dramatic play room (I’ve been meaning to make doll clothes for my girls so I’m thrilled at the chance to make some for the preschool. I ran out later that day and picked up these patterns).

The director went on to say that the teachers get excited when they find out a parent sews since it’s so rare these days. I thought, “Really? I know lots of people who sew.” But then when I thought about it, I realized that outside of the online community and my quilt guild, I only know of 2 people that use a sewing machine.

Would you believe that no one in my family sews? I don’t know where I got this sewing/quilting bug from, but I do hope to pass it on to my girls.

Yesterday as we were driving home from summer camp, my almost 5-year old daughter said to me, “Mommy, when I turn 8, can I go to quilting camp?” to which I responded, “Absolutely, my love! Absolutely!”

She knows that eight-years old is how old kids have to be to attend the summer quilting camp at our local quilt shop. Of course, she doesn’t have to wait until she is 8 years old to learn how to quilt when she’s got a quilting mama. She may learn sooner than that.

My chat with the preschool director got me thinking about passing on my love of sewing and quilting to my daughters and the best ways to do that.

What do you think is the best way to pass on the love of sewing/quilting to children?

If sewing/quilting runs in your family, how is it passed on from one generation to the next?

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Ellyn June 23, 2013 - 3:08 am

I was very lucky to have a mom who sews/quilts & I learned it all from her. My younger daughter has picked up a love for sewing from me. I hope she will continue the legacy! For my part, I have begun teaching the junior high girls from our church to sew. They love to come over to my house and make things! So far they have made backsacks, pillowcases, pin cushions, pajama pants & a simple quilt. We have a blast together!

Debbie June 23, 2013 - 4:51 am

My grandma taught me to sew and embroider also. And though my mom didn't do either, she encouraged it by making sure I had supplies when I needed them. With my own children, when they were interested in something I was doing and asked to do it too (every my son!) I always said YES! *in kid-safe ways of course!* And if they wanted me to make something for them, I tried to do that too – they both have a strong appreciation for hand made items. Thankfully, daughter is an avid quilter now and trying her hand at garment sewing, and make sure her own daughter knows what a quilt is and has plenty for her dollies. Son doesn't sew, but loves his quilts. When he moved out of the house, he said, "I do get to take my quilts with me, don't I?" Well YES!

Lisa Lisa June 23, 2013 - 6:22 am

Wow. Did your heart just melt when your daughter asked you that? I think just asking them if they want to try to sew or even do any type of hand sewing. When my son was little, I was way into cross-stitching, and he wanted to do what I was doing. So I bought him a plastic needle and some plastic canvas and yarn, and he would sit beside me and do the same thing. L.O.V.E. Sewing runs in my family. My mom was a seamstress. When she sewed, it was for someone else and she was trying to make money. She also sewed clothes for me and my three sisters. I never learned to sew from my mom. And it wasn't until I started posting my blog posts on Facebook that I found out from my uncle that my grandmother used to quilt!! So, it was never intentionally passed on, but it DID pass on. šŸ™‚

wish2stitch June 23, 2013 - 6:25 am

My mother and grandmothers and a favourite Aunt would always sew, knit or crochet and would show me how to do this. My mum now does a little bit of patchwork, so now I teach her. I have three wonderful sons and they have always enjoyed sewing at school and have shown an interest in projects when they were young…but not now they are older. They do appreciate any quilts I make for them,or costumes they wear to parties. They also understand my need to spend time in fabric stores when on holidays.So that's nice even though they don't share the passion to make them. At least I have fostered an understanding of the need to create. Maybe I'll have creative daughters-in-law one day.

Lisa in Port Hope June 23, 2013 - 11:04 am

I made a lot of clothes as a teen, because I had a hard body shape to fit from the stores. And like any teen, I was fearless about doing so. Nowadays, few schools seem to be maintaining a sewing classroom, and teens of my acquaintance can't even hem pants or sew on a button–which is very sad. My daughter thinks it's normal to have a "snewing" machine, and I give her opportunities to help whenever possible.

Gemma@prettybobbins June 23, 2013 - 12:59 pm

I don't remember when I learnt to sew, my Mum trained as a dressmaker (but fell in love and never graduated!) so she was always sewing and I was always nearby. I didn't sew much in my 20s and only made my first quilt a few years ago. My kids always see me sewing, my 4 year old is really keen and we've had a few sewing lessons. I find it hard to find projects that we can achieve in a timeframe that they don't lose interest but can achieve something. I also worry about sewing fingers so when sewing with Mr 4 he sits on my knee, I do the pedal, we start off with my hands on his and over the lesson I let him guide the fabric himself. It gets a bit scary when he does the pedal lol bit of a speed demon! I am confident that my kids will learn to sew and enjoy it as a hobby, but time will tell whether they get the quilting bug or just make the occasional project šŸ™‚

CitricSugar June 23, 2013 - 5:03 pm

My mum and grandmother were always sewing when I was a kid. I remember summer afternoons wandering the fabric store, knowing not to use "those" scissors for anything but fabric, and spending hours sorting out mum's notions and button jar. I asked her to teach me before the age of ten. My younger sister didn't learn until she was in her early twenties when she decided she wanted to make a baby quilt and had mum teach her to how to use the machine one afternoon. She's made a couple things now but doesn't find the time very often and instead asks me with giant pleases and eyelash battings. Her son often asks to sit on my lap when I sew, and gets to press the needle and scissor buttons. He knows that this is how auntie makes a lot of things for him so I hope that as he gets older, he'll ask me to teach him how to do it himself (though at 2 1/2, he thinks he IS doing it by himself).

I think constant exposure is how I got into it. I took costume classes in university (theatre degree) and have seen young people (even young men) take sewing classes in home ec. As a teacher, I see this often and try to encourage them as much as possible. A fellow teacher once invited me to speak to her class since they had decided to do quilts as their final projects and she'd never sewn a day in her life! She certainly had motivation to learn after that – you can't disappoint young people! šŸ™‚ There are so many resources now that we didn't have growing up, I think it's easier for someone who's had no previous exposure to pick up sewing and quilting. Project Runway didn't hurt sewists, either. But I think the more little ones see us engaging in the activity, the more they think of it a necessary skill.

Valerie June 23, 2013 - 6:57 pm

Oh friend, I miss you! I meant to text you the other day and tell you as much :). You know, I have the same thoughts. Because of how much time I spend in the online sewing community, and with guild people, it is sometimes surprising to me when people have no clue about fabric. How could you not have heard of AMH?? Or it surprises me when people really could care less about sewing. At the same time, I am still very self conscious when I talk about sewing stuff with my non-sewing friends. And for teaching the kids…I let my daughter and her friend make a very simple doll quilt-this was probably when whe was 3 1/2. I had precut the fabric-basically a simple strip quilt, and turned the machine way down and let them step on the presser foot while I fed the fabric into the machine. Of course, all my kids makes "quilts" on the design wall with my scraps, but I don't usually sew any of these. They know they are just playing. But recently, while at the beach, I had a bunch of extra charm squares with me and my daughter started laying some out. I asked if she wanted me to sew it together for a throw size quilt for her bed. Of course, she was all in, and it was very simple to construct. It was a great tool to teach her about stepping back and looking at the placement of colors and fabrics and making sure our colors were well balanced and scale of fabrics flowed nicely. I feel like these are the kinds of things she will remember even if she doesn't use it for quilting! I miss you! Lets get together soon-maybe we can sew with our girls:)

Heidi Staples June 23, 2013 - 9:00 pm

I think it helps a lot that they see us sewing. It's always going to be a part of their childhood for that reason only. I've done a little bit of sewing my girls (i.e. letting them pick out some fabric and help me steady the pieces while I work the machine). It's a start anyway. In a few years, I'm hoping to take it further…

beachiesews June 23, 2013 - 9:11 pm

Sewing has always been in my life. My grandmother was a whiz on her treadle machine…I never could figure that monster out! She bought an electric machine and gave it to my cousin…she used her trusty treadle until she stopped sewing. She made square dance clothing for her and my grandfather…she had a closet full of those…oh how I wish I had them to make into a quilt! My mom sewed because money was scarce and she had 3 daughters. She tried to teach all of us…2 did okay, not the oldest! I started making my own clothes in high school. Then I had 2 little girls and a closet full of maxi dresses past their prime and out of fashion. They were cut up and made into toddler dresses. I made my own clothes and one daughters jeans (she was allergic to the zippers!) for many years. Then could finally afford to buy clothing and stopped making clothes. I turned to quilting and baby blanket making. My 2 daughters cannot sew on a button!

I recently met a girl who teaches sewing in middle school (bless her heart!!!). It is nice to know some schools still offer these types of classes. None of my friends outside of quilting/sewing communities sew! I love to make aprons and my friends always appreciate it when they get one. I am teaching my granddaughters to sew…so far they love it, but I think I really need to teach them how to sew on a button and hem pants! One more thing…when I used to go shopping with my grandmother and mom I hated going in the fabric store! I told them it makes me sick to my stomach!!! LOL…who knew!!!

M-R Charbonneau June 23, 2013 - 10:01 pm

I'm not from a sewing/quilting family, but I've done a couple of projects with my kids that worked well. I described the first in this post: http://quiltmatters.blogspot.ca/2011/09/quilting-with-my-boys-part-i.html and the second in this post: http://quiltmatters.blogspot.ca/2011/09/thank-goodness-its-finished-friday.html. Both worked really well. Overall, I suggest hooking them in with the easy and fun parts. šŸ™‚ Good luck!

pandchintz June 23, 2013 - 10:40 pm

My Nanna taught me to dressmake, knit and anything else I wanted to know. Sadly she'd died before I discovered quilting, but I know she would have participated in this journey with me. We encourage the little ones who visit on our sewing days by letting them "help" – passing pins, tracing around templates, stacking cut pieces, playing with fabrics – and we've even helped them make a 4-patch block in answer to their plea to stitch like us. This started when the children were pre- school and the girls still love helping out and playing with their own fabrics when they come home from school and see us still at sewing group. Never too early to start!

Paige June 24, 2013 - 3:16 am

I am a self-taught knitter and quilter with two boys. I'm hoping the older one (8 years old) wants to try it soon but I'm not pushing it. I teach my students to knit in third grade if they choose to try. It's fun working with kids! I find them much more tolerant of their own mistakes. šŸ˜‰

Tamie June 24, 2013 - 4:32 am

I didn't know any quilters growing up although my great grandmother quilted. My mother had a sewing machine and all I remember her sewing were clothes for my barbies and dolls. I started quilting in my late twenties and my daughters have an interest but are not actively sewing. I always encourage but am careful not to push. I think it is sad that all the basics are not taught any more. Everyone should know how to sew a button and do a quick repair.

Stash Avalanche June 24, 2013 - 9:56 pm

I can't remember not being able to sew and one of my memories from when I was very young (maybe 5 or 6) was making knickers for my Tiny Tears doll on my mum's crazy fast Singer. I was very lucky – all the women in my family sewed, or knitted, or did some kind of craft so I just absorbed crafting knowledge without even realising it. it was just a 'normal' skill to learn as I was growing up.

I think the best method is learning by example – you see your mother/aunt/whoever sewing, you feel confident to ask "can I have a go?" and that sets the seed. Two important things though, always be positive about what the child does and trust them! I am sure that a lot of my sewing confidence comes from the trust my mother put in me not to sew my finger off making those Tiny Tears clothes, and I already see with my 2 year old son that you can trust children to understand and be careful more than you would expect (although he's not sewing by himself just yet!).

Sarah June 25, 2013 - 8:32 am

When they are little letting them play with fabric, be in the sewing with you and "help" like passing pins etc. when my daughter was 7 I taught her how to use my machine and she has remembered how to since. Supervising closely at first, but now she's ten she can use on her own. Also, when I'm sewing sometimes I will let them guide the fabric with the hands and I'll pedal, or vice versa. That's how I learned from my Mum and Grandma too.

Katie, Julep and Derby's Mom June 27, 2013 - 7:21 pm

I make American girl doll clothing all the time. I would be happy to make a few dresses for your daughter and/or school. I'm also learning to quilt. To see my work I have two blogs. http://Www.westiejulep.blogspot.com is my "you never know what you'll find blog" and this us the blog that accepts comments. The other blog is my digital photo record of everything i have made. http://Www.katiesews4fun.blogspot.com

Or you can contact me via facebook Katie.wyatt.391

All the best Katie

Mary June 30, 2013 - 8:41 am

It was interesting to see in the comments how many people learned from their grandmothers. I have seen that sewing tends to skip a generation — Mom sews, the kids don't need to; they ask Mom to do it. The grandkids then see Grandma making things and want to try it out. Kids are naturally creative. My 6 year old grandson sews with me when he's at my house visiting. He draws a design for a quilt, or chooses a pattern from my library. I let him "shop" in my stash, then help him sew the project. I am self taught,, didn't know anyone who sewed when I started, 35 years ago. I was the only person I knew who quilted, when I made my first quilt 33 years ago. Look at the explosion in interest since then.

Katy Cameron July 7, 2013 - 9:03 am

Alas, I have no sharing experience with kids, as my mum didn't teach me, and I have no kids, but for the dolls' clothes, I would say it's easiest to make them for dolls with soft bodies, then you can stick pins in them ;o)

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