Sunday, August 26, 2012

End of Summer Crunch

I received a phone call from a mom who was in town for ten days visiting relatives. She was interested in booking a workshop for her 9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old niece the last week before they returned to school. Having had such a positive experience from teaching my group of 11-year-olds, I agreed. They booked two days of sewing lessons.

The girls arrived bright and early on the first day prepared to work and have fun. I thought it would be a great idea to have them make a pillowcase dress just like the older girls except without the contrasting band on the hemline. I started them off making a simple purse-size tissue paper cover letting them choose the fabric they wanted. They did a pretty good job, but it didn't take long to realize how different their motor skills were compared to the 11-year-olds. They had a bit of difficulty keeping the fabric straight. I found myself using a video game analogy in order to train them to keep the foot even with the fabric's edge. It worked and they completed their projects just before lunch.

As soon as they finished eating, we returned to work. I cut out the fabric blocks to size and had them mark and cut out the armhole openings. They sewed up the side seams and I had them zigzag stitch over both seams to finish them off. So far, so good. Off they went to the ironing boards to press the seams. Yikes! They didn't grasp the idea of standing the iron upward after use and soon, I was literally putting out smoke bombs. I was kicking myself for not supplying iron rests. Lesson learned. They really enjoyed ironing and even managed to scorch a few spots. Oh well. I should have turned the temperature down a bit. Another lesson learned.

We cut out the string ties and they stitched them up. We ended the day on a positive note by using the tube turner on the ties. That was a lot of fun for them and I felt really good about what they had accomplished. The moms were so excited when they saw the completed tissue paper cases.

I spent a good portion of the next day overcast stitching their edges and inserting bias binding in the armhole openings for them. I didn't think stitching-in-the-ditch was something they would be able to do and my goal was to have them wear the dresses home on Day-2. I also turned under all the edges of their pockets and pressed them in place.

The next day, they arrived bouncing off the walls and ready to sew. I had them turn under the neck edges to form the casing and sew them down. Having edge-stitching feet on their machines was a godsend and they performed this task to perfection. They turned under the hemline for a simple hem and stitched them in place. For the pockets, I decided since they were having trouble handling seams with pins, I would glue the pockets in place so they wouldn't slip and the girls could just zip around the edges. That decision was pure genius.

When the dresses were completed, I glanced at the clock in shock to discover we had 2 hours of class time left, so I decided we would make matching purses for their dresses. I had the girls fuse the largest flower with Wet N Gone then had them cut them out. We then applied them to their purse fronts. I decided to zigzag stitch around the flowers for them, as the design was way too tedious for them to handle. I made a long strap from bias binding and they completed their purses in the afternoon.

When the moms arrived, I thought they would start crying at the sight of their daughters. And the girls were so excited they were already making plans to come back during the Christmas holidays when they would be together again. Looks like I'll be busy this December. In November, I'm doing the 11-year-olds during the Thanksgiving break too. These just happen to be my lean months and I can't think of a better way to spend the holidays. I asked the girls what else they had done this summer and among other things, they had participated in a cooking class, which they didn't enjoy because the teacher treated them like little kids, they said. And they had to use plastic knives to cut up veggies, which was a complete drag for them. I was happy I had decided to allow them to iron for themselves and challenged them to work on big kid garments. It made them feel special and made me feel as though I had accomplished my goals this summer. It was a win-win situation all around.


  1. Wendy, those girls are adorable! And good for you for treating them like big girls and letting them have an authentic experience. I'm so glad you're getting to pass on the love of sewing to a new generation! I have a 12 year old who loves to sew. I wish we lived close enough to come for classes. She would love sewing with Miss Wendy! :-)

  2. Gluing the pockets on is a great idea! I will have to remember that trick when I teach kids to sew.