In the "9 Secrets to Successfully Teach Your Child to Sew", I discussed knowing your child's personality. The 4 questions were:
1. Is your child a perfectionist?
2. Do they get frustrated easily?
3. Do they like following specific directions, or do they like to invent things on their own?
4. Are they able to stay on task for a block of time, or do they learn in spurts?

Before we delve into the answers to these questions, it is important to remind you of the crucial point of our teaching. We are wanting to instill a desire for sewing, not just another thing that our child needs to learn how to do.
So many times before we start something we think we need to know everything there is to know about it. Think about how our children learn the most important things in life. Did you sit your child down and explain to them the mechanics of crawling and walking prior to them doing it?
If you do not know how to sew, the best way to give your children a desire to learn is for them to see you learning to sew. Another way, is for your child to see things that other kids have made. We have many friends who have expressed an interest in learning how to sew after they have seen something that our girls have made.
So, no more saying "I just don't know how, or I don't think I can teach them myself". JUST GO FOR IT!

NOW, back to the questions. Maturity level is an essential ingredient when considering how to work with the answers to these questions.
I will use my own children, and a few other kids from families I have worked with, to show how the answers to these questions determine your initial approach to teaching. All of these girls had never sewn before.
A. 3 yr. old
B. 6 yr. old
C. 8 yr.old
D. 9 yr. old
E. 14 yr. old

1. Is your child a perfectionist?
A. Absolutely not
B. No, but could lean that way
C. Yes
D. Absolutely not
E. Not extreme, but wanted her work to look professional from the start

2. Do they get frustrated easily?
A. No, enjoyed a challenge, and would conquer whether done correctly or not
B. She enjoyed trying new things but if it got too difficult she would choose to stop instead of conquer
C. Yes, if something is too difficult
D. Not when working on own creation. Yes, when what she was doing was not her choice.
E. No, would follow through until correctly resolved

3. Do they like following specific directions, or do they like to invent things on their own?
A. Always liked to create her own things
B. She preferred following an example if she knew that one was available. If specific directions were on hand she would follow these. Always found great satisfaction in accomplishing the steps to instructions.
C. Very diligent to follow specific directions
D. Extremely creative. Preferred to invent her own creations.
E. Wanted to sew clothes with a goal of creating her own patterns.

4. Are they able to stay on task for a block of time, or do they learn in spurts?
A. If creating own thing, could stay on task for long periods of time. If following specific pattern, only in spurts.
B. Could stay on task
C. Could stay on task
D. Only worked in spurts
E. Could stay on task

Based on each of these precious personalities, and their maturity level, this is how they started their journey of sewing.

A. Was given a box of fabric and some stuffing. Was taught the basics of how to make the machine sew straight lines, putting the foot up and down, and pressure on the pedal. She was allowed to create whatever she wanted for 3 months before I asked her to follow a pattern. Her first pattern was for a quilt. She only worked on this project once or twice a month. All other times in the month were spent on her own creations. Because of the freedom given to her, she mastered straight lines and foot pressure very quickly.
When creating on her own, she would spend blocks of time working diligently. During the times that we worked on specific patterns, she would sew and then would play or draw while I pinned the next step. Some days she worked for 15 minutes, other days she would last a couple of hours. Time was based on her interest. *Reminder: due to her age she was never allowed to use the sewing machine without me in the room with her. By age 5 she made her first dress. She continued to sew her own creations but at this time they actually looked like quilts and pillows. She just completed her first dress on her own (a little help from me with cutting and following the pattern), at the age of 8.

B. Started with practicing straight lines and foot pressure on the pedal. She decided that she wanted to sew a teddy bear first. I was concerned about this because of all the curves and the fact that I had no idea how to make one. I drew the outline on some fabric, cut out the bear and she sewed around it. I told her repeatedly how difficult of a project this was which gave her a lot of confidence when we were done. After this I gave suggestions on some easier projects. She devoured them. Because of her desire to sew clothes, we literally learned to understand patterns together. The amazing thing was how easily we understood them due to the projects we did prior. (More about this in the next article: How To Choose Patterns) She would spend a minimum of 1 hour working on her projects.
By the time she was 8, she was making her own dresses and sewing costumes. At 9, she was branching out into creating her own doll clothes without patterns. We practiced cutting off and on, but it was very difficult for her to get a good straight line. By age 10, she was doing all of it: cutting, marking, pinning, reading the patterns, and sewing.

C. Started with practicing straight lines and foot pressure on the pedal. She wanted to follow whatever pattern I thought would be best for her. I picked something that was very simple and wouldn't be easy to mess up. We spent a lot of time encouraging her, and the lines had to be really really bad in order to rip them out. After several completed projects, her lines corrected themselves.
She continued to follow a progression of patterns that built skills one at a time. Now she has the confidence to try harder patterns and isn't as concerned with perfection. She has also created some of her own designs.

D. Started with teaching the basics: straight lines and foot pressure. Then gave her a box of fabric and let her go. She needed quite a bit of supervision, with gentle reminders about not sewing when there was nothing under the foot. She had no desire to follow a pattern; instead she made her own. She spent approximately 1 1/2 years sewing her own things. Her skills naturally improved and progressed in difficulty. Afterwards, she decided she wanted to try store bought patterns. Once she learned some of the basics for constructing these patterns, she was on her own again however, her projects became more involved and had a more finished look.

E. Started with all of the steps. She wanted to learn everything in order, from laying out the pattern, cutting it out, marking, pinning, and sewing. She wanted to start with clothes, so I gave her several choices for easy dress patterns that would build skills one at a time.

As you can see, each girl started with the basics of learning to sew straight lines and work the foot pedal but how they progressed in their learning was based on their unique personality. After they mastered these steps and were confident in their ability, the projects increased in difficulty in order to introduce new skills. This reduces the pressure to learn everything at once.

Author's Bio: 

Kristi learned to sew right along with her daughters. The girls were age 3 and 6, at the time! Because it was such an enjoyable experience she wants to encourage others to pursue this endeavor.

Kristi experienced the woes of feeling very ignorant just trying to read a pattern and was discouraged from trying to teach her girls on her own. After receiving a new sewing machine from her husband for her birthday, she became bound and determined to fulfill her desire to learn to sew.

Kristi's plan was to learn everything before she tried to teach her kids. But as she was learning, her girls caught her enthusiasm and in amazement she watched them flourish in learning to sew right along with her. Kristi says that, "quite honestly, because we knew nothing I experienced a real freedom in my own education".

Now, at age 8 yrs. Old, her daughter can sew her own dresses, and the 11 yr. old has a passion for sewing, and is a better seamstress than her.

What Kristi wants to do, is share her journey in sewing; to help others know (with hind sight being 20/20) that the best way to learn is by doing. She has spent the last 3 years sharing with friends and family their way of learning to sew, as well as, the projects and patterns that built their skills. She has seen it not only work for others, but truly bring a delight into the sewing experience.

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