At the beginning of the year I started teaching an after school sewing club at the school my children attend. Teaching children is something I have wanted to do for sometime (though sometimes I think I must be crazy!). My kids actually came up with the idea of running an after school club and the school agreed.
I was about 7 years old when I first used a sewing machine and still absolutely remember the euphoric feeling of watching the stitches form as I turned the handle on an old hand crank machine. I was allowed to use my mums electric sewing machine soon after which lead me to a life long love of sewing and now a career in my favourite pastime. So to now have the opportunity to potentially unleash a new sewing passion within a child feels really quite special.
These days there are lots of rules and regulations for working with kids and machinery, so much so it has unfortunately put me off teaching private classes to young children. However I completed all appropriate paperwork and managed to get the school to agree to me bringing a sewing machine in for the children to use.
Teaching the children has inspired this new section of my blog, a place where I can share ideas and projects aimed at complete beginners. This is the first project I did with the children in sewing club. I was keen to teach them some simple hand stitch skills as well as the basics on the sewing machine. Though I developed this idea very much for children it could easily be adapted to a differently embellished or basic un-embellished shopping bag for older first time sewers.
Part of my plan with this project was also to inspire a bit of creativity by letting the children decorate the majority of the bag in which ever way they liked, using the basic stitches I had taught them. I think the freedom of design is a really important part of the sewing process.
Denim – I used denim as it is robust and easy to sew with and on to. Cotton drill would also make a good base. 50cm/19.5″
Cotton webbing – for the handles.
Fabric glue/glue stick (optional)
Basic equipment list:
Wide eyed sharp needles – chenille
Standard sewing needles
Right angle ruler
Standard sewing thread
Tailors chalk or other fabric marker
For the bag cut 2 rectangles approximately 46cm x 37cm. You can draw this directly on to the fabric with tailors chalk, or make a paper pattern first. Its best to use a ruler with right angles so you can check you have equal sides and even angles. Draw your first line parallel with the selvedge of the fabric.
Felt letter templates:
How to make:
- Cut out your chosen initial pattern piece using paper scissors, (always keep a pair of scissors for using on paper separate to ones for fabric, paper will blunt scissors more quickly making them difficult to cut fabric). Place the pattern on the craft felt, holding in place draw around it with tailors chalk, remove the pattern and carefully cut around the shape. You can place it anywhere on one of the bag pieces, its best not to go to close to the edges as 1.5cm will be used as a seam allowance, if you sew it to close to the edge it will end up being stitched into the seam. You can stick the letter to the bag using a glue stick or fabric glue or pin in place. With embroidery thread sew the felt letter to the bag using a simple running stitch.
2. I found some of the children made very large stitches. Rather than unpicking I encouraged them to stitch another row to secure the shape and get used to making smaller stitches. Other children were keen to learn more stitches, for these children I introduced blanket stitch for a further line of stitching around the letter shape. At this stage I think its good to just get used to using a needle and thread.
Once these first stitches are learned its fun to practice them on other shapes. I encouraged the children to cut freehand shapes and shapes from simple templates to embellish the rest of the area around the initial.
3. Colourful buttons make great decorations and a very useful sewing skill to learn from the start. Its best to sew these on with standard sewing thread and a sharp needle.
4. To make the bag, turn and press the top edges down 4cm/1.5″.Use a tape measure to check the measurements before pressing. Cut two pieces of webbing 90cm/35.5″ long for the straps.
5. Measure from the side of the bag along the folded edge 10cm/4″ draw a mark at this point with tailors chalk. Do this on both bag pieces.
6. Place the straps under the folded edge and inside the marks, if you have clips these can be quite useful to hold the straps in place or you can use pins. Ensure the straps are not twisted before you start to sew.
7. Using a wide zig zag stitch sew from one side to the other as close to the raw edge as you can, catching the straps as you sew.
8. Stitch a second row of zig zag stitching at the upper folded edge of the bag, this time catching the straps in the upward position as you sew.
9. To complete the bag place right sides together, matching upper edges and corners. Sew around the 3 sides using a 1.5cm/5/8″ seam allowance. Most sewing machines will have grids to follow to help you get straight seams. At the top edge when you begin sewing stitch backwards and forwards a few times to make the stitching strong. Using a zig zag stitch sew around all 3 edges this time very close to the raw edge. This will help prevent fraying occurring when the bag is used or washed.
These are some of the bags made by the children in class, for most of them it was there first time sewing. Their ages range from 5 years old to 10 years old.