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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Teaching a young child to sew

Yeah, okay, maybe I'm a little ambitious here, but Lazy Kid has mad skillz when it comes to small motor play, and she's bored with sticking laces through beads, and the laces on her lacing cards are so long they get tangled or so short she pulls them all the way through each hole. Plus, she just sort of laces the cards in a random order from random directions, so they don't look like anything when she's done. She gets really frustrated when she ends up with this tangled ball of nasty yarn with a cute cow lacing card buried in the middle. So what's a crafty mommy to do? Get all DIY with the problem, that's what.

And so, I proudly present a free tutorial on making your own learn-to-sew card for really young kids. Please note that this is a supervised activity - young children should NEVER be left alone with needles, even blunt plastic ones.

Materials:
  • A piece of cardboard (preferably corrugated, but definitely sturdy) about the size of a sheet of notebook paper
  • A pair of scissors sturdy enough to cut through the cardboard
  • A hole punch sturdy enough to cut through the cardboard (mine's a cheapy from Office Max, and it worked fine)
  • A marker/pen/pencil/crayon
  • A scrap of yarn about 2 feet long
  • A button that's larger than the holes the hole punch makes and that has holes large enough for the yarn needle to go through
  • A BLUNT tapestry needle, yarn needle or plastic canvas needle - preferably plastic

Steps:

  1. Punch a series of holes along one side of the cardboard, about 2" apart and as far in from the edge as the hole punch will go. Label the holes with numbers, either from left to right or right to left.
  2. Cut two smaller pieces of cardboard, each about 3-4" square. Punch two holes in each piece of cardboard, at approximately the same distance you used in step 1. Label these holes with two consecutive numbers, as in the photo below.
  3. Thread the yarn scrap through the needle, then even up the ends and tie them so that the needle will not come loose from the yarn. Thread the needle and yarn through one hole on the button, pulling the knot snug against the button. This will keep the child from pulling the thread all the way through the holes.
  4. First show the child how to sew on just the larger piece of cardboard, with the needle coming "up at 1" and "down at 2" and "up at 3" and so forth across the piece.
  5. Next, show the child how to "unsew" the yarn by backing the needle out through the holes, "down through 3" "up through 2" "down through 1" etc.
  6. Finally, show the child how to "sew" the smaller cardboard pieces onto the larger piece by holding them over top while sewing. You may need to make the holes in the smaller pieces a little larger (two hole punches side by side) so the child can easily see to put the needle through both holes at once.
Lazy Kid "sewed" the cards in the photo above with only minimal guidance from me - mostly I just had to remind her that the needle didn't always go in from the same side of the board (which wraps the yarn around the edge of the card instead of making a nice running stitch).

After she completed this she wanted nothing more to do with it that day, and the next day she just wanted to hold the needle and swing the yarn around, which was all fun and games until the button on the other end of the yarn hit her in the face (which is why you NEVER leave a child alone with a needle - did I mention that before?).

So no, my three-year-old won't be entering any embroidery at the state fair this year, but she DID have fun with this the first time, and I think it will be popular in the future once she gets over the button-to-the-face incident. And once she gets good with the cardboard, it's on to more floppy materials like felt (and quilting cotton!).

Let me know how this works for you!

2 comments:

Shannon said...

What a great idea! My 4 year old wants to learn how to make her own clothes, but all we've done so far is cut material with safety scissors. I'm going to give this a try.

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