I. LOVE. TEACHING. KIDS. Love it. I love, love, love teaching kids to sew. Their enthusiasm, their creativity, their lack of self-deprecation and ability to live in the moment is so amazing to me.
The more I teach (both kids and adults) the more I realize the IMPORTANCE of sewing. I obviously always knew it was important to me, and my goal was to help others to find the same satisfaction, but I realize now it's a truly important thing to know how to do, or at least to try.
1. promotes consumer awareness
This may seem like a heavy point to start with, but I think it's very relevant to today's society. We, as adults, like to consume material items, and kids are definitely no different. It's easy to go to a store and purchase clothes, room decor, bags, etc without much thought. And then purchase a new version of the same item when it wears out, or more likely, when we feel like a change. Learning to sew slows that down and makes sewists think about the chain of events that brought that item to life.
In my Kid 101 class I teach that there are two basic types of machine needles: universal and ballpoint. I point out that the students would use a ballpoint needle to sew knit fabric, like the one that was used to make the shirt they are wearing. I swear, you can see a lightbulb go off in their heads. This shirt was made by someone. This shirt started as a piece of fabric. Can I make a shirt? How long would it take to make a shirt? What do I need to make a shirt? Can I learn? (Kids never really ask if they can learn, they always assume that they can and will learn something and I adore that!).
So now a shirt is added to the list of things they want to make. And yes, that's adding to a material want, but it's also slowing things down. Instead of going out to a store to buy a pillow for their room, 5 shirts, a skirt and some doll clothes they know that they have to wait until the pillow is finished to make the shirt and so-on. "Things" mean time and materials-- all of a sudden everything has a greater value.
2. brings math to life
I'm generally terrible at math. Many years ago I studied for and took the GRE test in anticipation of going back to school for my Masters Degree. The thought of the math word problem made me sick. When I finally got to that part of the test, I nearly cried in relief. The question read something like "You have 5 yards of fabric that is 44" wide. If you wanted to make a quilt that is 5' x 5' with --blah blah blah..." In came my real life math and problem solving skills that I used on a daily basis for sewing. As I left the test the moderator said "You must love math. You scored really high." For someone who nearly failed Pre-Algebra in high school it was beyond shocking.
It's geometry and algebra: it's reading a ruler, figuring out how many pieces can fit into a whole, dividing, multiplying, adding, subtracting. It's seeing how those numbers on your homework sheet will have a purpose in real life and putting it into practice. A 9 year old I taught last week measured the width piece of fabric (9"), then I asked her to find the middle by dividing in half (4.5"), then use the ruler to find that 4.5" mark but to also make sure that it was 3.5" up from the bottom. She muttered something about "math class on the weekend", but she rocked it!
3. is a life skill.
When I survey adults on what they would like to learn you may be shocked to hear that the #2 thing is how to mend clothes (#1 is to sew curtains). They want to know how to hem a pair of pants, sew on a button, repair a lining in a coat. (I hear you all, by the way, and I'm working on a class now!) I've heard adults say that they bring clothes to the tailor (or throw them away) when a button pops off. If adults don't know how to do this simple task, who's teaching the kids? I have a Home Ec soapbox that I'll stand on another day, but repairing rips, completing small alterations, fixing buttons-- these are all little things that make you more self-sufficient in daily life.
4. is problem solving.
The machine came unthreaded. Thread is nesting on the back of the project. I have this piece of fabric that I need to turn into that project so how does it need to be cut, what piece do I sew first, where do I put the stitching, etc. etc.. It's all critical thinking and problem solving.
5. is empowering.
They MAKE something when they sew. Kids are creative by nature, we know that. They have a phenomonal, no-holds barred sense of creativity that extends to so many areas of their life. Sewing takes that to the next level. It's taking raw materials, a plan, and a set of skills that they are working hard to develop and creating something functional: a pillow for their room, a bag for their "stuff", clothes that they can wear. It's a self-esteem booster: this item wasn't there before, but because of them and what they did, it now exists. That's powerful stuff at any age.
There's many other reasons sewing is so great for kids: focus, hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, community; but those 5 are my favorite. They, and kids enthusiasm for all of it, are the reasons that I'm so excited to work with my students every class!
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