Don't worry readers, I didn't give my just-turned-three-year-old a needle and a pair of sharp shears. But I did let her use toddler-appropriate kiddie scissors, and I was really impressed with how carefully she cut out her pattern pieces!
Let me step back for a moment.
Twenty-three years ago my brother (then seven) and I (10 at the time) got a really fantastic Christmas present from our sewaholic mom -— doll-making kits. We spent a couple of days sitting around the kitchen table carefully dying our doll fabric with tea, cutting out our pattern pieces, embroidering the faces, sewing on hair, and stitching the seams by hand (see photo at top). It was awesome, and I loved every minute!
My mom still has "Annie," one of the finished dolls at her house.
Anyway, when my niece T came to stay with us for a week recently, she asked if I could help her fix a split seam on her travel pillow. Instead of sewing it for her, I handed her a needle and thread and showed her how to use them... and was impressed at how quickly she figured it out and sewed a sturdy little seam on her pillow.
T was so excited by her success, I decided to give her a more fun project. I gave her a little Japanese doll sewing book and she picked a moderately challenging doll pattern. Little Z couldn't be left out, so I promised to let her make the same pattern.
The pattern: "Eyelash Bunny" from the book Aranzi Aronzo Fun Dolls (Let's Make Cute Stuff). It's a fantastic book full of cute, modern-looking little dolls with excellent comic-book-style instructions. The eyelash bunny in the book is sad, but T decided to make her happy and add button eyes:
Fabric & notions: I let the girls choose fabrics from the stash.
- T made her bunny body out of a stretchy white fleece from an old blanket, and the dress from a lovely floral cotton I had picked up a few years ago in Portland at the Bolt modern fabric shop.
- Z chose some yellow cotton flannel left over from diapers my mom made her a few years ago, the same floral for the body, and some red felt for eyes.
- T's bunny (aka "Mini-Me"): T had never sewn before, but took to it very quickly. She cut out all her own pattern pieces and fabric, did all of the stuffing and most of the sewing. She had a few moments of impatience with the hand-embroidery parts...
- Z's bunny (aka "Foo-Foo"): Z obviously couldn't do as much as her big cousin, but she made quite a try. She cut out a few of the paper pattern pieces, cut out the felt eyes and nose and glued them on, and drew a second face (that I embroidered for her):
Her Nana Gail helped her cut out most of the fabric pieces, T stuffed the doll and I sewed it together.
I've taught some adults to knit before but this was so much more fun—the girls were so very excited and enthusiastic and proud of their creations! (And I found it so much easier to be really really patient and helpful with them... I think sometimes when I've taught adults I get frustrated if they don't pick things up quickly.)
I promised T that next time she visited she could sew a ruffly (and sparkly) skirt! I think she's really caught the sewing bug...
Have you ever taught anyone to sew? What was your experience?
P.S. I finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for Polka Dot Overload... will try and cross-post everything there if you prefer to follow me that way!