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Sunki Dress by Figgy’s Patterns // Teaching a Child to Sew

Poppet loved helping me tape together the .pdf pattern for my recent Mesa Dress. Since then, she has been cutting and taping any pieces of paper she can get her hands on.

So when I asked if she would like to sew herself a new dress, her eyes lit up and she jumped and down saying “yes, yes yes!”. A girl after my own heart.

In hindsight, I should have started her on a simple elasticated skirt. It really would have been the most logical approach. But what can I say … the excitement of teaching her stifled all rational thinking. There’s nothing like throwing a zip insertion, facing and sleeve easing at a first time sewer. *head slap*

Sunki Dress by Figgy Patterns | Offsquare.wordpress.com

I’ve had this Sunki Dress pattern (by Figgy’s patterns) for longer than I care to admit, but how gorgeous is that shape? In fact, Figgy’s have a stellar range of sewing patterns for kids and all with delicious styling.

The Sunki Dress is not a tough sew either. The instructions may be a bit lacking in places for beginner sewers (and illustrations are rather sparse), so I’d pitch this as an intermediate level project, but really the zip and facings are the only potential hazards.

The Making

While I traced off her pattern size, Poppet dove into my fabric stash and emerged enthusiastically with an ikat scuba knit. A great choice and one that doesn’t need seam finishing … an extra bonus.

She cut the paper pattern herself over a couple of days, as her attention span allowed, and together we chose the fabric placement and pinned the pattern in place (I may have snuck in a little pattern matching too). Poppet drove the machine herself while I guided the fabric and offered instruction, but on the whole she achieved a lot herself.

Tips for Teaching Kids to Sew

  • I recommend working in small bursts as their interest and enthusiasm lasts. We took many breaks, working over a few days and this kept the project fun and light.
  • You want them to have a healthy respect for the moving parts on the sewing machine, so discuss this with them when you first sit down at the machine and make sure you supervise them well.
  • I found it useful to turn the machine off whenever I had to rethread the needle or fix a jam. You don’t want them inadvertently pressing on the peddle and running the machine while your fingers are under a needle!
  • If pins are too “stabby” for their little fingers, you can use clothes pegs to hold seams in place instead. Opt for spring loaded ones which will provide good grip and you can encourage them to “sew to the next peg” before they stop and remove one.

Teaching kids to sew | Offsquare.wordpress.com

While Poppet slept, I whipped through the tricky parts (zip, facings and sleeves), leaving the hems for later. But she loves the dress so much that she’s banned me from touching it again!

“No mummy, I love it like this.”

So the dress is unhemmed and too long in the sleeves, but meh, it’s knit fabric. No fraying, no biggie.Sunki Dress by Figgy Patterns | Offsquare.wordpress.com

It was such a fun project to do together and it’s a great feeling when you can pass skills like this onto your kids.

Next up with Poppet will be a simple elastic waisted skirt and I’ll try to get her doing the whole thing. Wonky seams and inaccurate cutting won’t be a big deal and it’ll be a good boost for her sewing confidence.

My boy also wants to make something, so I’m looking at a t-shirt or some trousers for him. I just need to decide which will be an easier make, now that my rational thinking is back in action.

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Filed under: children

About the Author

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Freelance writer, sewing enthusiast, and coffee appreciator living in NZ

6 Comments

  1. Angie

    My son loved making pillows when he was young. He made about 10 in a period of two days, all on his own once I showed him how. More recently, he made a series of drawstring bags. Lots of mistakes, but he did it himself. Just thought I’d share that in case you’re looking for something even easier.

  2. Such a gift you’ve given your daughter, to teach her how to sew. And the dress is amazing. Love the fabric and I can’t wait to see what else she makes. 🙂

    • I love that she’s showing an interest. I hope my overt enthusiasm doesn’t scare her off! I’m off to teach her classmates some sewing tomorrow with the aim of putting together some elastic skirts. Hope all goes well!

    • I know the feeling! I’ve been counting down until she seemed ready, but at 4 years old she’s ready for some basics, so hopefully you won’t have much longer to wait. Now she curls up in my lap and ogles Pinterest with me for inspiration. I fear we’ll be fighting over the machine in a few years!

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