>> Saturday, January 12, 2008
Alan and I aren't the only ones sewing here at Gratz Industries. Jo's got her own machine and she's been working on a twin-sized quilt since last year. She's more than halfway done now and she's eager to finish before the school year ends so that she can bring it in for show & tell. Here it is so far - enough to cover her!
There was a bit of a problem a couple of months ago when her cheap, plastic toy machine went kaput - but Dot came to the rescue and gave Jo her old Singer - a real machine.
The theme at Whip Up this month is crafting with kids, so I thought I'd post a few notes about how I "help" Jo sew. She's five now and she got her first machine when she was four.
She started out sewing on paper. First I just drew straight lines for her to follow, then we moved on to gentle curves. Sewing on paper was not so much fun for her after the first few sheets, so it didn't last very long, but it was a good way for her to get a feel for how the machine would pull things through, without also dealing with floppy fabric right off the bat.
The first machine was technically a toy (i.e. cheap and all-plastic parts) but it actually worked and there were a couple of features I liked in it. It had two speed settings (I always kept it on slow) and it had a safety presser foot that made it absolutely impossible for Jo to get a finger under the needle.
The new Singer sews pretty fast, so I put a little stop in the foot pedal so that she couldn't floor it. It's just a fat piece of felt with adhesive on one side. You can buy packs of them to put under your furniture so it will slide and not scratch your floors. I just stuck it in the pedal so it wouldn't go all the way down. Easy peasy.
I didn't search for a special presser foot, but I do have the walking foot on there. Everything works better with a walking foot so I use it all the time. I just told Jo to be careful with her fingers and she is.
The other thing I do is draw her stitching line on the fabric and pin it for her. She could MAYBE learn to use the seam allowance lines now, but I'd rather have her eyes glued on that moving needle so I draw the stitch line for her to sew on. Here's a batch of squares from today - all marked, pinned, and ready to sew.
I get it started for her under the presser foot and then she's on her own - though I'm usually in the same room working at my machine. She sews up to a pin, takes it out and puts it in HER pincushion (an important detail), checks to make sure it's still all lined up right, and then sews up to the next pin and repeats. And here's one are all sewn up.
You can see that her stitching is right on the line. Her first seams were REALLY wavy but she's got it down now. She always checks her seam when she finishes a block and if she's off my drawn line at all she gets pretty frustrated.
I also always iron for her. I've never stitched my finger with the machine, but I burn myself on the iron almost weekly, so that's the sewing room hazard I'm really concerned about.
And that's it. Slow the machine down with a bumper in the pedal, draw on the stitch line, pin it, remind her about the needle, and let her go. She's really proud of how big this quilt is getting.
Note added 1/31: Thanks to the many people who visited from WhipUp and Love Shak, Baby! I love hearing that so many kids have been asking to learn to sew and that so many of you are going to be teaching them! A few of you had specific questions that I'll try to answer here.
I drew on the markings with a regular ball point pen. The water-soluble didn't make a dark enough line on the darker fabrics, chalk rubbed off too easily, and air soluble is no good because sometimes Jo will set this aside for a few weeks and the marks will go away. Since every other block is black I didn't worry too much about the pen bleeding a bit.
Jo's first machine was a Bratz machine that we bought at Toys R Us. I don't know if they still make them (I think they said something about it being discontinued when we bought Jo's) but they may have others too. Jo's was about $40 and it made it through a couple of pairs of jammie pants and half a quilt before dying. And the bobbin winding and machine threading was NOT FUN.
Not a question, but someone mentioned "the right table and chair" on the comments at WhipUp. I didn't mention that, but it's pretty important. Jo could never do this at the "big" table. I've got her set up at a kid-sized table with a kid-sized chair and it makes a huge difference. You can see it in one of the pictures but I didn't mention it specifically and it's worth a mention.