Wednesday 26 April 2017

Quilt Sewing with Children ~ Scrap Busting Project

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.

Before we started sewing, we reinforced rules and talked about safety. The kids know the sewing machine is not a toy, and they must do as they are told.
  • 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.

Make a charm square quilt with children. Great scrap busting project. Tips at Threading My Way.

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.

... Pam


  1. Well done!! It brought back memories of me having my children do the same thing about the same age!

  2. My Grandchildren sew with me every Thursday after school. They put their items in the local show last year and at the age of 6,7,9 they all won a first second and third for three items. They do all the sewing themselves pins and all. They handle the pins very well, they can adjust the speed well and it is really quite hard to sew your fingers. They all love it. They also use the overlocker, this one I keep a close watch on more than the sewing machine.

    1. Well done on the awards at the local show. The kids must have been so pleased and proud - and you, too. Think I'll wait for a while to let them near my overlocker.

  3. how good to see the kids have taken to quilting and what a good job they both did. Unfortunately neither of my daughters or my granddaughter showed any interest in stitching though Sal who is now 19 thinks maybe granny can show her how to make some clothes, hoping she will come a stay for a few days in summer break from uni to have a play, have a spare machine she can learn on and if she really takes to it maybe get her one of her own.

  4. These are brilliant Pam! I love Little Mister' s fabric placement and the reasons behind it :)

  5. I have an entire series on teaching children to sew. I first taught my daughter in the form of a camp, then started teaching others children. Read the series here:

  6. How cool to see the sewing skills passed on to the new generation! I, too, like the little guys reasoning for the blues being together. That makes perfect sense.

  7. They've done such a good job! My boys like to use my sewing machine occasionally as a treat. My eldest made some drawstring bags and my second one made himself some trackie bottoms. I agree that you need to know that they will do as they are told and their coordination needs to be good enough too xx

  8. This is brilliant, your children are better than me with a sewing machine. I love their duvets. I do hope you can keep them interested and build their skill, I wish I had learned at their age.

  9. Oh wow these are great. They did a great job here Pam :):) Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

  10. They turned out great, I wouldn't have done better. I've had my daughter sewing on my lap before but, to be honest, I'm not yet ready to let her do it on her own. I'm saving your tips, though, because I know they'll be helpful in the future. Thank you for joining The Really Crafty Link Party this week. Pinned!

  11. What a fab job they did, they must feel so pleased with what they have been able to make. I think I was about 8 when I was allowed to use the sewing machine. I remember stitching on lined paper with no thread to get the hang of straight lines. (then learning how important it was to change the needle after that!)

  12. Last year my mother-in-law gave all the granddaughters inexpensive sewing machines for Christmas, and I promised them a quilting class this summer. There were some great tips here to prepare me. I don't normally use pins myself unless I'm matching points, but the kids are all teens and I'll probably give them the choice. Thanks for giving me some things to think about before we get started!

    I'd love for you to share with us at

  13. They did great jobs!
    I tried to introduce sewing to my kid last year, but she was scared of the sewing machine. I might try again this summer if she wants to try. My machine is loud and must control the speed with foot pedal, so it's not ideal for kids'use. Maybe I will start with basic hand stitching!

  14. They all did a great job! I've just been helping my daughter make a quilt... finally! (she's 38yrs old now!)

  15. You are doing a wonderful thing teaching them a skill that they will be able to use all of their lives. Even if they don't become quilters, the ability to sew is something so many don't have, but your kid will.

  16. What a fun project for your kids! Pinned. Thanks for sharing at To Grandma's House We Go!

    1. The three of us had lots of fun, Stephanie. Thanks for pinning.

  17. what foot did you have on your machine when your children did the quilting?

    great job your children have your talents :)

  18. Thanks, Helen. When sewing the charm squares together (this post), we used the standard presser foot I use when sewing bags or clothes. For the actual quilting (straight and curved lines as in the next post) we used a walking foot.

    1. thank you so much Pam, I have the walking foot but have not tried it yet. Looks like now is the time. :)


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