My daughter is four “-AND-A-HALF,” which is apparently old enough to show some curiosity about sewing and quilting. Her responses to my presence in the craft room range from “[insert judgmental tone] Mom, why do you like quilting so much?” to “Can you make me a She-Ra costume?” to “When I get older, I’m going to sew too!” I love that she’s starting to get interested in what I love to do, but I also know the limitations of her age and personality; she’s easily bored and incredibly strong-willed, so sitting on my lap while I sew just isn’t a feasible option. I commend other moms who get their kids to do this; my only explanations are a) that you are far better parents than I or b) that you have pliable Gumby children.
Even though C is not old enough to sew yet, I’ve found some ways to pique her interest over the past few years and encourage her participation in my quilting life. If you are looking for ways to get your toddlers and preschoolers interested in sewing, you might want to give some of these a try; I’ve had success with all of them.
Make stuff for your kids
(We’ll get the obvious out of the way first!) Having C was what made me get back into sewing in the first place, because what is the point of having children if you can’t dress them up and accessorize them as you see fit? I always include C in my sewing process, even though she’s not interested in participating. I cut out the fabric for her clothing right in front of her, and show her the different steps as I’m assembling the top or dress. A scrappy doll quilt I whipped up in about an hour a couple of years ago is still one of her prized possessions; her “baby” sleeps with it every night.
Take them shopping for fabric
I take C to the fabric store with me. Yup, I do. She’s of the age now where she loves to be a helper, and she has a WICKED sensibility for color and design already. I use the fabric store as a teaching experience. What are the different substrates and what are they good for? What sort of garment or project could we use this fabric in? What solids would match this print? Those super simple girls’ elastic-waist skirts are a go-to in our house, so she usually gets to pick out a few prints (within reason) before we leave.
Take them to quilting events
It cracks me up when I get the chance to take C to places where there are other quilts and, more importantly, other quilters. Look, child! Your mother is not alone in her freakish obsessions! I’ve had quilts in a couple of local shows, and she’s always part of my fan club, which is great. Last night, due to a babysitting conflict, she ended up accompanying me to a guild meeting. She played with another kid most of the time, but she was very interested in the show-and-tell portion of the program. She even wore one of her skirts and brought her doll quilt so that she could participate. Showing our kids the social side of sewing and quilting is important; it lets them know some of the important reasons why we do what we do, and exposes them to more projects overall.
Incorporate sewing into play
I often give C my scraps (particularly in the pink-and-purple color stories); it’s fun to see how she uses them in her pretend play. They’ve been blankets for stuffed animals and scarves and capes for her. I also really recommend those lacing cards; they develop the hand-eye coordination that she’ll need down the road, and she loves to pretend that she’s sewing.
Toy sewing machines are also an option; they don’t make them as much as they used to, but I’m currently perusing eBay and Craigslist to see if I can scrounge one up. Some of them actually sew (and I would remove the needle at this point because it could only lead to disaster) but others are just pretend. In the next year or so, I’m planning on introducing some of those needlepoint projects for kids, but I fully accept that she does not have the attention span to deal with those yet.
I’m really excited to introduce C to the sewing machine, but it’s not going to happen for a while. I think that’s okay; I want her to be genuinely interested in it in her own time. In the meantime, these approaches have helped me make sewing relevant to her. In what ways have you encouraged sewing appreciation for kids?
P. S. If you liked this post, you'll love the Wordcraft + Right Sides Together newsletter. Get weekly blog posts and craft writing tips delivered right to your inbox! Sign up here.