At what age can kids learn to sew a quilt? I don't think there's any one answer to that question, as there are many factors to take into consideration. However, Little Miss and Little Mister have both just finished sewing their first quilt tops, so I thought I'd show you how we went about it.
Both kids have done a little machine sewing with me before, but always sitting on my lap, with the foot pedal raised to the correct height on a chair under the table...
Using scrap fabric, I cut a bunch of charm squares to 6½" x 6½" and let the kids choose the ones they wanted. Ever so carefully they chose their squares, positioning them and rearranging them till they were happy with the selection.
In retrospect, I wish I'd put more thought into choosing the fabric for the squares re colours and patterns. More to choose from would have been better, too.
The quilt tops were sewn over a few sessions, so I needed a system to help with organisation. The squares for each row were kept in numbered bundles, so we knew the order of the squares and rows.
This time I set up the machine on a kid height table - their first time not sitting on my lap. At all times, however, I was very close by. I didn't take my eyes off them for a second! I actually sat on a chair right next to them.
For the purposes of photos, I've obviously moved the chair out of the way and I'm standing back. The photos are posed, however, as the kids took their foot off the pedal while I took photos. Yes, they're really good at doing what they're told and following directions, otherwise they wouldn't be using my sewing machine. As soon as photos were taken, I was right by their side again and sewing continued.
- Fingers right away from the needle at all times.
- Stop as soon as I say.
- Take their foot off the pedal when I say stop and when not actually sewing.
- Gently guide the fabric - don't pull it.
I was close enough to quickly move fingers away from the needle if necessary, but I didn't need to.
At no point were any pins used in making the quilt tops. I keep pins right out of the equation when sewing with kids.
They found it easy enough to hold the charm squares in place to sew each row.
The stitching is by no means perfect. Some lines are better than others, but that's all part of the process of learning. They both looked at each line of stitching and commented on how straight they thought it was. It was a sheer delight to look at their excitement as they took pride in sewing straight.
At times I helped them guide the fabric, especially in the beginning, but I didn't redo any crooked or wonky stitching. Some stitching they redid themselves, usually at my suggestion.
Once the charm squares were sewn into rows, I hand basted them together. Basting or tacking - (long stitches that are later removed) - the rows together, means the kids didn't have to match and line up the corners of each square. Basting holds everything so it doesn't move, without the need for pins or clips. It sets the kids up for success, as well as being safer.
Little Mister took off very quickly when sewing the charm squares together. He seemed to be able to sew in a relatively straight line from the word go. Sewing the rows together, however, was another matter. I'm not sure why, but his stitching seemed to become wonkier with the longer lines. He restitched some parts where the stitching came too close to the edges.
As I later ironed the finished quilt top, I was momentarily tempted to restitch a couple of parts, but only for a second. I wanted this to be his quilt, mistakes and all. I did think about getting him to restitch more, but I didn't want to take the fun away. I want him to come back for more sewing at a later date, if he's interested. He won't do that if I make it laborious.
Little Miss, on the other hand, found it harder to sew straight lines at first. By the time she was sewing the long strips together, she had it mastered, and none needed to be restitched.
Little Mister's finished quilt top. In the initial stages of planning his quilt, I suggested that perhaps Little Mister might like to separate some of the blue squares. He explained that the blue at the top and the side was water. I like his reasoning - the two blue and red squares contain sharks.
Little Miss went for diagonal patterns in her design. She decided on the extra row, making her quilt a little larger.
I'm so proud of them both, and so are they. They've done an awesome job making their quilt tops. And they can honestly say they've done the sewing themselves.
Back to my initial question - At what age can kids learn to sew a quilt? - only you can determine when you think your child is ready to safely use a sewing machine. The age will vary greatly and depends on many factors (just a few listed)...
- ability to listen and do what they are told in a quick manner
- ability to follow rules
- interest in sewing
- co-ordination and size
Have you ever done any sewing with a child? I'd love you to share your experiences - any hints or tips.