Hand Sewing: Nine Patch Pillow

For our last co-op Sewing Club project for the older students we chose a simple nine patch quilt square that they will make into a pillow.

To introduce/aid the students in laying out their design, I made these miniature “quilt boards”.  I cut numerous 1 1/2″ squares of the three fabrics we would be using and then cut 4″ squares of off-white felt for each student to use as their pattern board. We talked a little about patterns and color value and then gave them 5 squares of each color and let them experiment. (Side note: This is an addictive activity and I can see me turning it into a “quiet book” page in the near future. I would need to stabilize the squares with iron on interfacing, so they could stand up to frequent handling.)

After they settled on a design, they “copied” it onto a 14″ piece of felt with the actual squares they would be sewing.  This will keep their pattern in order as they sew piece to piece and row to row.

With the fabric/pattern selection done, we then reviewed the running stitch, focusing particularly on how to achieve the smaller-sized stitches they would need to make strong seams. So in addition to helping them draw a 1/4″ seam allowance stitching line, we also directed them to divide that line into inches with a short perpendicular line. The goal was to get 5-6 stitches per inch and then one back stitch before continuing on. They caught on quickly to this and could consistently achieve the “goal”. We also directed them to “weave” 2-3 stitches on their needle, before pulling the thread through to keep their stitching line straight. (One of the girls liked when I said “take several bites of your fabric, before pulling your thread through.” 🙂 )


All in all, it was a good start and we are all looking forward to next week.











Hand Sewing with Preschoolers

When I started my Little Stitches Hand Sewing class, my first students were newly 4 years old.  As with any class, structure is needed.  The challenge here was for our time to appear ‘organic’ and fun.

We would start each 60 minute class time with our sewing song. ( I love making up thematic songs to familiar tunes; the following song is to the nursery tune “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) First, I told them story of Dorcas in Acts 9:36-41, then taught them this song.

Dorcas used her [hands to sew] (x 3)

Dorcas used her hands to sew                                      cropped-photo1.jpg

To cloth and help the poor.

I can use my [hands to sew] (x 3)

I can use my hands to sew

Just like Dorcas did.

Once we had learned it (easy), I would use it to help them focus or to give them a brain break. (see more ideas below)

Then we would go over our class “rules” before starting our activities.

Watch. Listen. Try. Share.


Here is the list of sewing-themed brain breaks that I came up with.

  • “Button, Button” or “Hide the Button” ( We would hide 5″ card stock circles with holes punched in the center to look like buttons.)
  • Preposition Play Obstacle Course: to reinforce positional words we will use in class – around, over, under, through, on.
  • “Follow the Leader”: a visual for when I say, “The thread always follows where the needle leads.”
  • Sewing Objects in Mystery Box: I would put sewing objects in the box and another set in plain view. We would play two ways. First, they would feel the object and show us the matching one on the table. Then we would take turns pointing to an object in plain view, and the finder would need to find it by touch only.
  • Gluing fabric squares on card stock with one inch grids, using a glue stick. This can be laminated and turned into a place mat.
  • “I’m going to grandma’s and I’m taking…”: each student repeats all the items that have been said before her current turn, and adds one more. You know the game. 🙂
  • (This one is better for older students, but could be made to work for ages 4-6.) I think it was called “Railroad Word Game”; I changed it to “Stitch a Word”. The first person says a sewing related word and the next person has to say a sewing related word that starts with the last letter of the word just given.  It is easiest to have the words written on individual cards that you can read to them, and even color coded for success. Example – ButtoN, NeedlE, Embroidery hooP, PinS, StitcH, Hand sewinG, GatheR, Running stitcH, Hide knoT, ThreaD, DorcaS, Scissors.

Future posts will cover the goals for each week and the projects we completed.

Stay tuned!

Happy stitching. 😉





Machine Sewing with Children: Free Printable

Printable Basic Sewing Guidelines and Terms –  a helpful reference/checklist for both teacher and student.

Sewing Guidelines/Terms

Good Sewing Habits:                                                                                001

  • Wash hands before sewing.
  • Organize work area.
  • Adjust lighting.
  • Set up machine.
  • Put items away promptly.
  • Clean up your sewing area after each session.

Good Safety Habits:

  • Pins – Keep in pincushion or in your fabric – No loose pins!
  • Needles – Keep in your needle book or in your project.
  • Shears and scissors – Keep closed and on the table when not in use.
  • Seam ripper– Cut away from yourself when using – keep away from your eyes!
  • Iron – Hold by handle only; keep face and fingers away from steam. Rest iron on its heel, not flat down on its sole plate. Turn off iron when you leave the sewing area.
  • Sewing Machine -Use slow speed when first learning to operate. Keep your fingers away from the needle. Follow cleaning and maintenance schedules as noted in owner’s manual.

Good Terms to Know:

  • Back stitch- the reverse stitch on the sewing machine used at the beginning and ending of a seam to secure it.
  • Baste – a long temporary stitch done by hand or machine.
  • Grain – the lengthwise and crosswise threads of a fabric.
  • Guide sheet – the instruction sheet that explains how a sewing project is constructed.
  • Marking – transferring pattern details to fabric from the pattern pieces.
  • Notions – small items used in sewing, such as thread, buttons, elastic, snaps, etc.
  • Pivot – to change the direction of the machine stitching by turning the fabric while the needle is still in the fabric.
  • Seam allowance – the amount of fabric from the cut edge to the seam line.
  • Seam line – the line on which the seam is stitched.
  • Selvage – the finished edge of woven fabrics that runs parallel to the lengthwise grain.

Sewing Guidelines

Machine and Hand Sewing Students and Their February Projects


One of the pillowcases she made for her brothers for Christmas.

One of the pillowcases she made for her brothers for Christmas.

E was one of Learning Home’s first sewing students.  We worked on Christmas gifts for her family in 2015 and then birthday and Valentine presents in early 2016.

We enjoyed scrolling through dozens of images of hand crafted owls, and then set out to create our own owl patterns. She made the large one and I made the baby.

“They’re sooo cute!” was our go-to response for each detail added to our little friends.

E showed impressive design sense as she intentionally chose which colors to put where, in order to create a cohesive pattern.

And once she was done, she managed to keep the owls and Love Bugs hidden at her house for a week, so she could give the owls to her mom and the Love Bugs to her friends on Valentine’s Day. (I didn’t get a separate picture of the Love Bugs, but if you look closely you can see one in its various stages in the pictures below. 🙂 )





I was privileged to do the love bug activity with a large group of homeschoolers in Huntington, WV, ages 4-11, and they did a fabulous job.

I made this hand out so the older ones could practice following written instructions.

love-bug-directionsI was especially impressed with their patience and carefulness at the rice station. 🙂




Hand Sewing with Young Children



The Hand Sewing Progression chart below, was the organized result of teaching sewing skills to various ages of children at various stages of fine motor skills.

Toddlers love stringing large beads, tube pasta, even Cheerios!  Stringing is great for developing their eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Some children, as young as four, desire to leave the stringing behind and move on to “real sewing”. Hand sewing is the logical place to start.

Last fall, I started Little Stitches, a hand sewing class for children ages 4 – 6.  As I prepared the curriculum, I wanted to be sure it was incremental, taking them gently from larger motor to finer motor sewing skills. This led me to organizing those skills in the following chart. Though this chart is not unique in its content, I think it is unique in visualizing the progression of these sewing skills. The first two columns are technically pre-sewing skills, but are still part of the overall process.

I continue to be amazed at the concentration and accuracy this age group exhibits in their handwork. Creating with needle, thread, and fabric is refreshing and rewarding for both the teacher and the student. : )

Hand Sewing Progression Chart



Huntington CO-OP Hand Sewing Club 2015

Busy hands/happy hearts.

Busy hands/happy hearts.

When preparing for the first Sewing Club (at a homeschool co-op in Huntington, instead of in my workshop) I knew I would need to prepare some visual aids to help the teachers AND the students see what we would be doing. ( And, I also just love making visual aids!)

We would start with the running stitch; this is the display I came up with.


The next month, we moved on to the overcast stitch, so I used a similar format for this display.


Another part of the preparation, was to make cute little fabric baskets to hold their sewing supplies (and double as a “trash holder”).  I remembered – too late- that if you want to talk to people, of any age, and have their undivided attention, don’t put something brand new and interesting right in front of them, and expect them to “hang on your every word”.  So, I removed the baskets and tried again to give them instruction. 🙂


This (see below) is part of the instruction I was wanting to give. Again, I made these for teacher AND student to keep us on task and keep important information before us. My goal was for us to read it together each week, til it was basically memorized. Reality was half of the kids were just learning to read AND we just didn’t have time to spare, since we only had them for 30 minutes. 🙂 So, at the end of the year, I included the laminated Check List/Sewing Rules in the little summer project bag each student received.

The encouraging part is we did cover everything on here, as we worked on each project, so I hope the skills will remain.

p1040166Hand Sewing Mini Checklist for students (printable)


It was a good learning experience for us all; can’t wait til the fall for the next round of Co-op Sewing Club.