Sunday, November 30, 2014

Learning to use a sewing machine

I started to teach my little girls (age 6 and 7) how to sew with a machine today. They have done quite a bit of hand sewing before and I will try to do some catch up posts about that soon, but I'll start with machine sewing so that I can post about it as we go.  I have followed a similar process for my older two. 

Before I go on, considering my last post, also from today, you may wonder at us doing this on a day that we have designated as a rest day. Remember that I said I wasn't making lots of rules about it.  To us, sewing lessons together were a fun thing. Once sewing lessons become work, rather then fun, relaxing, together time, I will avoid them on a Sunday. For now though, I think they are very appropriate, especially as the other kids had gone out so they weren't being left out.

We have a little sewing machine - a Janome "sew mini". It is simple, with only a few stitches, and it is nice and slow. I have found it to be a perfect machine to start on. Over the years I have bought downloads of a few "learn to sew" books, so I pick and chose pages from those. I'll list the books and which pages I'm using in a later post (at the moment I'm sitting by the pool watching the kids swim and typing this on my phone, so I can't look it up).

I print off a page with the parts of the sewing machine labelled, some pages with lines to practice sewing over, and because I had two of them learning at once, I also had a couple of other sheets they could do when it wasn't their turn at the machine. I'm not a huge fan of lots if worksheets, and in future I may have activities for them, like helping me by cutting loose threads from sewing or something, but for now, I wanted some "busy work" for them. One worksheet that was very helpful was an unlabelled diagram of a sewing machine - but a different machine. They looked at the first diagram and tried to work out the names of the parts in the second diagram and write them on. They have a scrapbook each to stick in any info pages, worksheets, stitching samples, project photos and instructions, etc.

So today, I showed them the parts of the machine and how they work (just what they needed to know for today). Then they were to start by sewing straight lines on paper. I demonstrated first, then they had turns. A little rhyme that I learnt when teaching at technical college years ago which I still find helpful for teaching practical skills is:
"I do it quickly
I do it slow
You do it with me
Then off you go."

I sort of followed that procedure, with variations as necessary. 
1) I demonstrated, explaining what I was doing. (Then they thought they were ready to start, but I didn't let them.)
2) I demonstrated again, getting them to tell me what to do as I went.
3) I let them start, but got them to explain what they were doing as they went and gently reminded them of things they forgot, so I was right there with them.
4) I stepped back and watched as they did the next row of stitching. 

At this point, it was sometimes necessary to go back over something, like resting gands gently on the paper to let the machine feed it through.

Each girl sewed about five lines of stitching. Remember that at this stage we are just stitching on paper tracing lines, and there us no thread in the machine.  While one sewed, the other could work on the worksheet, which I helped with.

After they finished the page of straight lines I showed them how to turn corners, leaving the needle down while raising the presser foot. They had another sheet of lines to sew over that had corners - first just 90 degrees then stars.

They were keen to keep going after the straight lines, but in hindsight it might have been better to leave corners for another day as they were getting tired. 

Next time they will finish their page of corners and work on a page of curves.

Just to finish for today, I will briefly tell you the difference when I started teaching my son a few months ago. He is older, so it was quicker for him to learn. He did all the sewing on paper in one day. The second session I showed him how to make basic shorts out of calico (which he could use for pajama shorts). The third session he made himself a pair of shorts with pockets out of blue pin corduroy - they were the same pattern but with pockets added - which he wears around a lot. I'll get him to make more shorts, adding different pockets and trying different fabrics, and he can also make himself flannelette pajama pants fir winter pajamas. Then we'll move onto something else - perhaps a t-shirt or a bag.

Perhaps the shorts aren't clear in this photo as they are dark, but they look great

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