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Sewing with primary age children - can anyone advise?

(22 Posts)
ElderberrySyrup Thu 13-Oct-11 13:15:14

I've already posted this in Arts and Crafts but didn't get many replies so I'm reposting here in the hope there are people who have more experience of primary age children than I have can advise. smile

My dcs' school (dd is Y2 and ds YR) has put out a call for parents to run arts and crafts clubs to help them retain their Artsmark, and now my youngest is in preschool I can volunteer.

I have been a keen quilter for the last 18 months or so and have always sewn, but haven't ever taught it to kids, so I have no idea of what they might be able to achieve. (I was very competent at primary age but then I grew up with my mum doing it around me so I guess most kids won't have that.)

The clubs are going to run over 6 half hour sessions, so virtually no time at all especially if they have never sewn anything before, and will be limited to 6 children.

I'm thinking some kind of very small bit of patchwork ought to be good, because it will allow them to be creative in choosing and arranging materials, then all the bits they make could be sewn together or appliqued into a hanging or onto a cushion cover. I was thinking English patchwork because it means they can do the cutting out (because accuracy isn't so important as long as the templates are good) and it needs to be by hand, not a machine, but would the oversewing in English patchwork be far too difficult for them? If I pressed the papers onto the patches, hopefully even the ones who are totally new to sewing could manage the basting.
I'm thinking the way to manage it would be for each session to have a defined job (eg choosing fabric, cutting out) and then I would finish up their bits in between sessions so they could move onto the next stage.

Does anyone have any experience of sewing with primary age kids and can tell me if this sounds viable? Also, what age should I offer to do? My current thinking is Y3 and above (if only so I don't have to teach dd).


Ghoulwithadragontattoo Thu 13-Oct-11 13:26:37

I'm not really sure on this but remember when I was at primary school we did a mini sampler which folded in two with our initials on the front. We sewed folded felt into it. We then put needles and pins through the felt and some lengths of cotton. It was really lovely to have a little work book and a great way to encourage the children to carry on sewing as they've got some of the basic kit smile I kept mine for years as I loved it.

redskyatnight Thu 13-Oct-11 13:33:02

I've done sewing with brownies (so age 7-10). Most struggled with threading needles - although we used the "easy thread" ones that have large holes.

My experience (though this may depend on the type of intake of your school) is that the children had done no sewing at all at home so we spent a lot of time simply showing them how to thread a needle, tie a knot and how to do 1 single stitch. A lot of helpers were needed (I'd say at least 1:3).

We did some very simple cross stitch pictures (on material with the very big holes). Due to the frustration of needles constantly getting unthreaded we also found that it wasn't something we wanted to do for more than (say) 15-20 minutes at a time (so actually would work ok with your 30 minute sessions). Some children just didn't have the patience/coordiation required and only managed about 4 stitches in that time.

I suspect your patchwork project (though it sounds great) may be over optimistic. As you have a Y2 DD, maybe imagine doing it with just her (so she has lots of support and 1:1 help) to give yourself an idea.

Seeline Thu 13-Oct-11 13:41:59

Agree with redsky. I don't know what age your clubs will be for but I have helped in Reception and Y1 and spent all my time threading needles and undoing knots! That was using easy-thread needles and binca (sp?) canvas. I would definitely recommend this sort of fabric and concentrate on getting the kids used to the up and down movement of sewing. If they are slightly older/more competent move onto cross stitches or herringbone patterns.
Having said that I helped in DSs Y4 class last year on a one off project and they at least could do running stitch on plain fabric. I wouldn't have tried anything more complex such as joining pieces of fabric or patterned stiches (the running stitches were about 1cm long each!!)
Good Luck

gramercy Thu 13-Oct-11 13:50:26

Agree with the others. When I helped with sewing it was really difficult. Each child needed one-to-one attention, particularly as at first they just pulled the thread through the fabric hard and unthreaded their needle - they all did this about twenty times! And of course the thread all got knotted up.

For small children I think those big pieces of tapestry material and thick thread is best. Otherwise it's simply frustrating for them... and the helper!

With the more proficient children I made drawstring bags which they decorated. They all (including boys) liked this as they saw a purpose to their work.

RaisinBoys Thu 13-Oct-11 13:58:08

My son goes to occasional sewing workshops run by a parent at school. He's 8 - been going since 6. They usually do a small project that can be completed in an hour (finish off at home if necessary). He's made a hand puppet, a bat and pumpkin, a monster, a pennant and a sock monkey. Lots of felt used, some of it pre-cut by the tutor beforehand so that they can get straight on, and mainly running stitch. Loads of differenty embellishments available. Need a couple of people on hand to help re-thread needles and get knots out! Enjoy

ElderberrySyrup Thu 13-Oct-11 13:58:42

Thank you everyone!
I think I got over-ambitious as a result of seeing some amazing work done by children at the Northern Quilt Show the other month - full sized quilts by 8 year olds etc - they would be very much the exception, I guess.

The little ones do a little bit of sewing in Reception/Y1 but I guess that won't have been enough to make them into expert needle-threaders or anything.

There will be a teacher supporting me so it will be 1:3.

Is there going to be much difference between their ability at, say, age 6 and age 9?

Takver Thu 13-Oct-11 14:25:10

Yes, I would think there would be a huge difference.

I would imagine that if you ran a club for children age 9, and restricted it to 6 children, you would quite likely get 6 keen crafty types who would be very able to do the project you're suggesting. Certainly dd and some of her friends would be fine with it.

At 6, I think you would much more likely be in the learning how to thread a needle type territory with most children.

Thzumbiewitch Thu 13-Oct-11 14:31:39

When I was at junior school the first thing we did was a cross stitch sampler using this aida fabric and probably crochet wool, it wasn't embroidery silk, I'm pretty certain. I'm also pretty sure we used darning needles to do it (less dangerous and fine to use because of the open weave on the fabric).
The next thing we did was make a bag for our marbles - proper sewing with brocade detail.
Then a traycloth.

This was aged 7-9 though. We didn't do any sewing in Infant School that I remember.

That was it, I think.

Thzumbiewitch Thu 13-Oct-11 14:37:41

Another thing that was an of-the-time fashionable hobby was French knitting - not that we did much with the huge long knitted snakey things, but you could actually make worms/snakes out of them with stick-on googly eyes, or sew-on button eyes.

I made a few felt animals, and my mum was very into making felt needle-cases which would be very simple to do, as someone else said; ditto felt finger/hand puppets.

Aha! just remembered what we did in Infant School. Cardboard shapes with holes in, thread the wool through the holes - ok, now why... um, can't remember, possibly just decoration? But I remember poking the wool through pre-made holes in the cardboard animal shapes...

Thzumbiewitch Thu 13-Oct-11 14:41:11

If you only have to do arts and crafts, as opposed to actually needing to do sewing, I'd start with gluing things together, tbh. Felt shapes that glue together, patchwork pieces glued to something like a hessian/cotton bag, or just a back cloth, so they get the creative idea without the angst of the needles.

Idontknowhowtohelpher Thu 13-Oct-11 15:00:02

I did French knitting with my daughters class when they were in Yr2 - they loved it! We made the spools ourselves - cut a kitchen roll cardboard roll into 3 so you have 3 short rolls. Sellotape 4 lolly (craft) sticks regularly round the outside of the roll so that they stick out at one end. Then wind the wool round as shown in Thzumbiewitch's link to do the French knitting. It is easier for little hands to cope with and cheaper than buying spools or making them from cottonreels.

timetosmile Thu 13-Oct-11 15:09:16

Our school did some lovely work with 6-strands-together embroidery thread, felt and sparkly beads for applique work. They made 15x15cm-ish square of felt, with a kind of running stitch border and then some abstract design of stitches and beads in the centre, mounted it on card and popped a mini-calendar on the bottom - ideal for this time of year.

Snowflakes with sparkly wool on thick tapestry cloth which wouldn't fray?

Our recep/yr1 childten also had a good stab(!) at a small stuffed felt ladybird and sewed shiny black beads on.

Also have a look at the felt crafts in Yellow Moon/ baker Ross to have a idea of what you could do.

my final advice? BODKINS only!!

Thzumbiewitch Thu 13-Oct-11 15:23:37

Another thing that my Nan used to do - make woolly balls. Take 2 ringdoughnut-bits of cardboard and wind wool round and round and round and round (ok you get the picture) the cardboard rings (obviously going through the hole in the middle), until you have a nice thick wodge of wool. Then carefully snip the outer edges all the way round, ease the two cardboard doughnuts apart so you can get some wool in there to tie all the threads together really tightly, ease the doughnuts off completely and fluff out - ta-dah! woolly balls. Can be done to almost any size, so could be used with sparkly wool to make Christmas decs, or yellow wool to make Easter chick bodies (that could then have beaks, googly eyes and pipecleaner legs added)

ElderberrySyrup Fri 14-Oct-11 09:01:19

Thank you so much everyone.
I remember making pompoms one Christmas holidays, also French knitting with a WOODEN cotton reel before they were all made of plastic.

I will have a think about small and easypeasy felt projects, so I will start as simple as possible and if it turns out there are some with more advanced skills then we can move onto something harder.

Fennel Fri 14-Oct-11 10:07:19

I've helped with primary class sewing, we do it in a youth club I run for 6-10 year olds too, it's always surprisingly popular with this age group - boys too IME. And all my dds have learned to sew quite well in the sewing classes. They start with Binka mats which are very easy, then they progress to things like felt glove puppets - those are very easy and they can do them at different levels. Or you can do felt 2-d teddy bears, with blanket stitch round the edges.

As an adult you spend a ridiculous amount of time rethreading needles. But it's been quite easy really. I agree Yellow Moon has lots of simple ideas and materials, check out ButtonBag too for ideas for simple stuffed toys.

Fennel Fri 14-Oct-11 10:08:12

Another thing we've done is "bring in an old t-shirt" or a teddy's t-shirt, and decorate it - sewing on patches and sequins. Or children can stick things on if they don't want to sew.

efeslight Fri 14-Oct-11 13:43:52

we used to start the process of learning how to 'sew' in reception, i would use a large piece of coloured card cut into a triangle/circle etc and use a hole punch to punch holes around the edge.
the holes are spaced out more so easier to push wool through, and the card is stiff, so it wont flop over as they handle it. this was really just to learn the over/under technique and remembering to turn the card to go through the other side. this might be useful for real beginners in the group. they can then stick or sew things on after to decorate. at first use wool with no needle, then wool with a chunky needle to progress, and make the holes closer together. hope that makes sense!

RueDeWakening Fri 14-Oct-11 19:54:21

If you can get them all to make a couple of pompoms each, you could buy some fleeece, cut into scarf lengths and sew the pompoms on at each end - you don't need to hem the fleece as it doesn't fray.

More advanced sewers could make a fleece hat to match - cut a strip of fleece that goes round their head, sew into a tube, turn up bottom and gather top (maybe with another pompom added).

Might take more time than you've got, though?

Thzumbazombiewitch Fri 14-Oct-11 23:50:29

Actually, just thinking about my cardboard animals with the punched holes - the wool all had plastic ends like shoelaces but you could do that yourself with a bit of sellotape around the end of the wool - saves the need for needles of any kind. smile

yellowkiwi Sat 15-Oct-11 07:40:34

I have done sewing with Y1 and we made puppets from the pre-cut felt with holes already punched. As people have said it is time consuming because of the needle threading (you can tape the thread together to prevent it coming out of the needle). I've done this type of sewing because I am not a competent sewer (I don't even understand what you are talking about in you op blush).

I would love to have someone talented helping me who could do a project like the one you were originally thinking of -it would be so much more interesting. I also think older children would find it easier as they would be able to thread their own needles. I would go for your original idea and see how it works out. You may end up doing quite a bit of it for them but that will probably be the case whatever you do. The children will love it.

PrettyCandles Sat 15-Oct-11 08:33:59

My dc have done a bit of very basic sewing at infants and junior schools, always using binka or similar stuff as a base fabric. They have done appliqué using felt and beads on the base, and made simple fold-over purses. I have also done simple needlepoint work with them, using patterns printed on the canvas.

For primary children with little or no sewing experience, I think binka/aida etc projects are very good because the holes help guide them and the larger needles are easier to thread and handle. Once they've done a few binka projects and manage them comfortably, then they're ready to move on to hand-sewing on ordinary fabric.

In order to appeal to boys as well as girls, how about a project like making a drawstring kitbag for their PE kit? A simple project with masses of potential.

BTW good on you for volunteering! You deserve a thanks

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