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How to Teach Your Child to Sew: 66 Tips from Sewing Teachers

I interviewed Katie, a sewing teacher, to discover her best tips on how to teach your child to sew.

Katie runs the Thread Room, a sewing school that teaches 145 students per week! About 50% of them are children. Her kids’ holiday workshops are attended by 120 children. So she’s had lots of experience teaching kids of all ages and personalities. (Note: you can see what her students are making on Instagram @thread_room)

I also gathered tips from other sewing instructors and mums who’ve successfully taught kids to sew.

In particular, Trixi from Sew a Softie. She’s been teaching children’s sewing classes for almost 30 years! She’s also the author of a book about hand-sewing for kids: Sew Together Grow Together.

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how to teach your child to sew
The images are courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

In a nutshell, here’s how to teach your child to sew:

  1. Get kids excited to sew. Create a fun, non-judgemental environment. Show them images or examples of the final project.
  1. Let kids decide what to make and what fabrics and colors to use. The more they do, the more they’ll enjoy it.
  1. Fun and easy sewing project ideas include soft toys, star-shaped pillows, doll clothes, scrunchies, tote bags, pencil cases, and skirts.
  1. Start with projects that can be completed in 1 sewing session. Then incorporate new skills with each project.
  1. Don’t worry about messy projects. Kids will still love them!
  1. To gently encourage kids to make neater stitches, try showing them how, explain why it’s important, and remind them to look at their work while sewing.
  1. There is no correct age to start teaching kids to sew. The most important thing is do they want to sew? You’re the best judge on whether they’re ready or not.
  1. Many teachers like to start with hand sewing and then move onto machine sewing.
  1. Let kids use real tools. Blunt needles are hard to push through fabric and make sewing less enjoyable.
  1. Recommended fabrics include 100% cotton (non-stretch), wool-blend felts, and polyester fiberfill as stuffing.
  1. Explain to your child that scissors and needles are sharp and can be dangerous if used unsensibly.
  1. If machine sewing, remind kids not to let their fingers get too close to the needle. Buying a plastic needle guard will help too.
  1. If machine sewing, remind kids not to sew too fast.

The biggest thing I learned from the experience of sewing teachers is don’t underestimate kids. They’ll surprise you!

My other teacher-approved ideas and tips are below. This post has 66 tips and ideas in total!

This includes more detail on how to structure a sewing lesson, what tools and materials you need, and how to deal with safety issues.

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1) Get kids excited about sewing

Create a fun environment

Trixi’s golden rule is: “sewing has to be fun. You can call this Trixi’s Law. It’s the one absolute that never changes.”

She clarifies “For kids, fun seems to mean, a non-threatening non-judgemental environment in which they feel free to take responsibility as well as to take creative risks and explore.”

3 children in a classroom using sewing machines
Image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

Show the final project

One practical way to get kids pumped about sewing is to show them the final project.

Trixi recommends “showing them a book of projects and letting them choose what they wish to make…”

Katie says “have fun fabrics and examples of the final projects so kids can be inspired and see what they are creating. This really helps to encourage kids to enjoy sewing.”

Also, “make the projects fun! What do kids want to make and what will they actually use? Allow kids to have a part in the decision making process too.”

**One Free Sewing Pattern. Every Thursday. Join the Email List 🙂**

End the sewing session with a treat

Trixi shares “I always make a batch of chocolate crackles as an afternoon snack for students in my workshops.

The ‘chocolate crackle at the end on the workshop’ rule was born and every child knew, even if they had never been to my workshop before, that those chocolate crackles were coming.”


2) Let kids make the decisions

This tip was mentioned by several sewing teachers.

When kids decide what project to make and how, it improves their confidence and interest in sewing.

Katie from the Thread Room says “allow kids to have a part in the decision making process”. It’s more “fun if kids are able to customise the projects a little bit and really make them their own.”

Trixi says “showing them a book of projects and letting them choose what they wish to make is always a good idea … as is letting them choose their fabrics and the colors of their thread.

The basic rule here is simple: the more they do by themselves, the more they’ll enjoy it.”

children using sewing machines
Bottom image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

She adds “If you are teaching your child to sew, then, the best advice I can give is: be patient, stand back as much as you can, let them make the decisions and above all, let them make mistakes.”

“If the kids ask for my advice on a decorative matter I try to get them to work out what they think would look good. I want them to think about the choices and decide what they like.” (source)

**I Find the Best Free Sewing Patterns and Share Them Every Thursday. Don’t miss out. Join the Email List :)**

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get involved at all, especially if they’re very young or they ask for help.

Lisa from Phoebe & Egg shares “initially I would divide the labor, so your child can concentrate on stitching. There is nothing wrong with tying knots and threading needles initially.

Have your child feel confident with their stitching and then add other skills, one at a time.”


3) Fun sewing project ideas to make with kids

If your child doesn’t have a project in mind, here are some suggestions.

Katie suggests “scrunchies, tote bags, soft toys, pencil cases and skirts“. This is what she teaches children in her beginner course for kids aged 8+. “We try to go for projects that are both fun and practical.”

She adds that “for kids it is great to start with projects that can be completed quite quickly and we always try [to] incorporate new skills with each project.”

white sewing machine and 3 scrunchies
Image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

Trixi says “start with a project that has fairly straight lines, that is, avoid projects that involve too many curvy lines”.

Trixi likes to teach kids how to hand-sew a soft toy.

Her favorite design is this simple square softie made from two pieces of felt and stuffing:

The written instructions for this toy are on her blog.

She also has a cool “trick” that kids love.

She shrinks her soft toy templates down so kids can make a matching baby version.

“We were sewing koala softies. I shrunk the template down so that early finishers could sew a baby softie in the time they had left. Well, no-one wanted to leave that workshop without first sewing a baby koala.” (source)

She also likes to start with simple star pillows: “It has straight but interesting lines.” (source)

Here’s a photo of a student with her star pillow and baby star 🙂

Lisa from Phoebe & Egg thinks “doll clothes are a great way to start. When the project is done, the child has something they want.”

Many of the teachers said they pick projects that can be finished in 1 session.

Evangeline Do, an early childhood educator, says “I like to choose projects for my beginner students that I know they can complete within the 1-2 hour time frame of our class.

This allows them [to] take their project home and feel a sense of accomplishment. It also encourages an eagerness to return and create something new next week.”

white sewing machine and grey soft toy
Image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

I suggest sewing templates and tutorials you can use in my other post: Sewing Projects for 7 – 14 Year Old Kids.

**One Free Sewing Pattern. Every Thursday. Join the Email List 🙂**


4) Don’t worry about messy work

Katie says “I think the main thing is letting the kids figure it out, rather than constantly jumping in when it’s not quite how you would do it.

It’s okay if the first few projects are a little messy – kids will still love them!

Trixi from Sew a Softie has a positive “every stitch is a good stitch” rule.

“I don’t get kids to undo big or messy stitches. I’m happy for them to just get the hang of sewing in a positive way.

I show them how to get smaller neater stitches.

I explain why we need to have small stitches (so the stuffing doesn’t fall out) but I just let them stitch away.”

“Sometimes young children’s work becomes messy simply because they forget to look at what they are doing.

A gentle reminder to look at their work while sewing can bring about a miraculous improvement.” (source)


5) What age can you teach kids to sew?

Katie’s classes start from age 8, but other teachers run classes for younger kids.

4 children learning how to sew on a machine
Image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

Trixi accepts students from 5 years old. “My experience…has been that the very best age to [t]each your kids to sew is when they’re ready to sew and want to sew.

The wanting to do it is pretty important.

She talked about her own 3-year-old daughter who wanted to join her sewing classes. Trixi thought she was too young, but after her daughter’s persistence, she let her have a go.

“At last, I caved in. “Ok”, I said, “I’ll let you sew something with me and we’ll see how you go.”

To my unending surprise, perhaps shock is a better word, this little three year old girl went just fine.

It was a revelation: no problems with needles, no problems with learning to running stitch, no problems with nada.” (source)

**I Find the Best Free Sewing Patterns and Share Them Every Thursday. Don’t miss out. Join the Email List :)**

Here’s one mom’s experience of teaching her son to sew:

“In my view the basic skills required for hand sewing is the ability to safely handle a sewing needle, scissor skills and good fine motor ability. A patient temperament comes in handy too!

You are the best judge of when your child is ready.

For Big boy [the author’s eldest son] this age was 7 years and at his young age I’m amazed how his hand stitching improves with every project.

Little boy [the author’s youngest son, aged 5] has not shown any interest in attempting sewing, for now he’s happy to watch his brother; the main thing is to take cues from your child.”


6) Should you teach hand sewing or machine sewing?

Trixi focuses on teaching hand-sewing. You don’t need many tools to get started and it’s cheap.

Katie’s beginner classes for children start with hand sewing and move onto machine sewing.

They’re both good options for kids.


7) How to structure each sewing lesson

Many teachers like to start with how to hand sew.

Trixi has a great blog post that shows you how to teach a child:

  • A running stitch,
  • overcast or whipstitch,
  • backstitch,
  • and how to sew a button.

She included video instructions for each.

Chelsea from Sew Simple Home has shared her lesson plans for teaching kids to sew by hand and machine.

Lisa from Phoebe & the Egg shares her lesson plan for hand sewing and cutting fabric out.

She also has a big tip to stop your lessons becoming boring:

“For children, and often adults, only bring up a rule when necessary.

Too many rules will make sewing boring and daunting.

Right sides of the fabric together is a rule worth mentioning, which type of thread and needle to use [and] when is not.”


8) What safety precautions to take

Trixi says “explain to your child that scissors and needles are sharp and can be dangerous if not used sensibly.

In classes I stress that needles have to be put back in containers and we always do a floor search to check for needles that may have dropped. Scissors are always closed.”

Katie gives some advice on sewing machine safety:

“Frequent safety reminders are really important.

We encourage kids to take responsibility for their own workspace, to know if their machine is on, where the foot pedal is and safe hand positions.

Our main thing that we watch for in safety is not getting fingers too close to the needle and not going to[o] fast. Getting into good habits early is really key.”

**I Find the Best Free Sewing Patterns and Share Them Every Thursday. Don’t miss out. Join the Email List :)**


9) What tools & materials to use when teaching a child

Sewing machines for kids

Katie says “keep it simple with the sewing machines! All you really need is a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch.

We have found that for children the less features the better.

We use the ‘Singer Start’ machines at our studio.

The only extra feature that I wish we had was speed control, I think this would be pretty helpful for kids.”

4 children learning how to sew on a machine
Image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

Are mini sewing machines good for kids?

Mini sewing machines are cheaper, but they’re also less reliable and produce lower quality stitches. Some can’t even backstitch.

Here’s Holly’s experience teaching her child to sew on a mini sewing machine:

“It’s just a cheap little $25 kids machine from the craft store. You can find different versions of it on Amazon if you search ‘kids sewing machine’.

But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It has a plastic guard around the needle, which is what I wanted for her.

But it only does a forward straight stitch (no back stitch), and the tension is horrible to get correct and it’s constantly coming unthreaded.” (source)

Plastic needle guards for sewing machines

You can buy plastic needle guards and attach them to a normal sewing machine.

They stop your fingers from getting too close to the needle. Here’s how they work:

Easy to sew fabrics

100% cotton and cotton blends are easy to sew (I’m talking about woven fabrics, not stretchy ones). Unlike other fabrics, they don’t shift around and slip.

Trixi also likes teaching kids to sew with felt. It’s easy to use and doesn’t fray.

But there are different types of felt, and not all are equal.

Acrylic felts are widely available and cheap. But you can get a wide variety of qualities. Some feel scratchy and are hard to sew, which kids don’t like. But some are soft and easy to sew.

Trixi prefers wool-blend felts. She thinks they’re reasonably priced, soft, and easy to sew with.

Pure wool felts are also an option, but they’re expensive.

Trixi recommends “if you’re not sure if the felt is good, try it out, make a project with it and see how it feels to sew with.”

For soft toys, you can use polyester fiberfill as stuffing. It’s cheap and easy to find.

**One Free Sewing Pattern. Every Thursday. Join the Email List 🙂**

Avoid bargain tools

Trixi warns that “cheap materials tend to break easily and oftentimes are difficult to work with.

Those threads and needles you buy at bargain basement stores are often bargain basement quality too.

ALWAYS check the quality of your materials by giving them a test run.

If it’s difficult for you to pull the needle through the fabric it’s going to be even more difficult for a child.” (source)

Hand sewing needles

Trixi recommends using sharp needles with a large eye.

Blunt needles are harder to push through fabric and make sewing less enjoyable. The large eye makes threading easier.

Trixi uses Chenille 24 needles because they’re small and sharp, but also have a large eye for easy threading.

Maggie from Redtedart agrees: “let them use real tools…real needles, real thread.”

The idea of giving your child a sharp needle is probably a scary suggestion!

Trixi reassures that “little kids can use sharp needles quite responsibly”. She has taught children as young as 5 to sew for almost 30 years.

Pencils for marking fabric

It’s easier for kids to cut fabric if the cutting lines have been drawn. Drawing sewing lines can also help them sew straighter.

Trixi loves white chinagraph for drawing sewing lines for her students.

It draws well on felt and dark colors. They’re available at art supply stores.

She also recommends wax pencils.

Soft 2b or 3b pencils can mark felt, but probably won’t show up on dark fabrics.

**One Free Sewing Pattern. Every Thursday. Join the Email List 🙂**

Good quality thread

Cheap thread tends to break easily.

Trixi recommends getting good quality thread. She uses cotton thread.

If you want something thicker, she recommends “embroidery floss, crochet cotton, perle cotton or wool”. You’ll also need a needle with a large eye for these threads, like chenille 20.

Sewing pins or clips

These hold the fabric together temporarily before they’re stitched. Clips are bulkier, but they have no sharp points.

Fabric scissors

Fun decorations

Trixi likes to have lots of fun decorations on hand for her students to use. This includes buttons, ribbons, and bows.

She says you don’t need to worry so much about quality in this case.

children using sewing machines at a class
Bottom image courtesy of Katie from the Thread Room.

Related posts

Sewing Projects for 7 – 14 Year Old Kids (Teacher Approved)

Free Sewing Patterns Every Thursday

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Sources

Email correspondence with Katie from the Thread Room, 18 Feb 2021.

Thread Room. ‘Classes’. [online] Available at: https://www.threadroom.co.nz/classes [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]

Trixi Symonds. ‘SEWING WITH KIDS’. [online] Available at: https://www.sewasoftie.com/sew-with-kids [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]

Chelsea B. (2020). ‘Teaching Children and Teens to Sew’. [online] Available at: https://www.sewsimplehome.com/2020/03/teaching-children-and-teens-to-sew.html [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]

Lisa Press. ‘Teaching a child to sew’. [online] Available at: http://www.phoebeandegg.com/new-page-1 [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]

Maggy (2016). ‘Teaching Kids To Sew’. [online] Available at: https://www.redtedart.com/teaching-kids-to-sew/ [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]

Evangeline Do (2018). ‘5 BEST Tips to Teach Sewing for Kids (+GIVEAWAY)’. [online] Available at: https://artfulparent.com/sewing-for-kids/ [accessed: 19 Feb 2021]