|Honestly, it's not that scary.|
If your child has never used a sewing machine before give her scrap fabric and let her just sew lines. Don't expect a straight line. What she needs to get used to is not only sewing straight, but getting used to the foot pedal. She needs to learn the speed she finds comfortable. Sewing too quickly can lead to all types of errors, torn fabric, clogged bobbin thread, broken top thread...you name it.
Step One: Making a pattern. I give all of my projects a one in seam allowance (half an inch on each side) so to make a finished square of six inches we made a seven inch square. I made it on regular copy paper. It's thinner and easier to pin to fabric.
Step Two: Pin the pattern to the fabric. In most cases you can fold a piece of fabric in half to cut two pieces. We did that on the pheasant fabric because it was the same. For the deer fabric Maddie pinned and cut out pieces individually so her favorite animal was featured. When you pin a pattern down on fabric make sure the pins run perpendicular to the cutting edge. My mother taught me one of the most important rules of sewing: pin pin pin pin pin. Use your pins. It keeps the fabric still and it makes for better seams and cuts.
Step Three: Cutting out the fabric. Teach your child proper scissor technique. First, purchase good set of fabric scissors (the retail at around $10-20). Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use fabric scissors for anything but fabric and thread. One of my relations once picked up a pair of my sewing scissors to cut paper. Please see the following video for my reaction:
It's important to cut properly. Make sure you cut on a hard surface and keep the bottom of scissors on the table. Don't lift up your fabric and cut it while holding it. Chaos will ensue. Open the scissors completely and cut until they are closed, then open and continue. Cut out two square each of fabric.
|You can trim away extra fabric to make cutting easier|
Step Five: The big white machine. Since this was Maddie's first sewing project I didn't expect or ask her to take care of some of the more difficult aspects of the machine. I threaded the machine myself (this seems to be responsible for the majority of sewing anxiety. New machines actually number the steps on the machine itself). I also loaded the bobbin, threaded the needle, and pulled the bobbin thread up. On my machine I have a piece of black electrical tape that marks off the 1/2 inch seam allowance. It's a handy guide and it was an immeasurable help to Maddie. Lifting the foot (there is a small lever behind the needle) Maddie put the fabric in. Lowering the foot holds it steady. It's important to "lock stitch" the beginning of your stitch.
All this means is going forward a bit and go backward over what you sewed. It prevents the seam from pulling apart at the edge. This involves pressing the pedal, holding down the reverse lever, and moving the fabric all at once. I did this. Once the lock stitch was finished Maddie took over.
Step Six: Once you have sewn the two sets together, open them up and put them one on top of the other to check the pattern. Nothing is worse than sewing a seam, opening it up and realizing the fabric is upside down. Then pin the two sections together along the long seam, right sides together. Sew the long seam together and open.
Step Seven: With right side down, pin the patchwork down onto the solid back fabric (unless there is a specific nap or finished side to the solid, it doesn't matter which side). Sew around leaving one section open. You will use this to reverse the pillow as well as use it as the whole for stuffing. Take this time to press the wrinkles out. Parents: This is your job. Typical cotton fabrics need the highest setting and it is unsafe for kids to use irons at that setting.
|The thread was light to show the portion not sewed.|
Step Eight: Stuff. Use the high tech chopstick to help push down the batting into the corners. Use small tufts of batting as opposed to big chunks. It makes judging the softness easier.
Step Nine: When your pillow is stuffed to your satisfaction sew up the small opening with a needle and thread. You can do it with the sewing machine but it's bulking and will be difficult for small hands. Pin the two pieces of fabric together, thread a needle and knot the end, and use a simple whipstitch.
|Pinning the opening together|
|Whipstitch. Make sure to knot the end|
|Final hand stitch|