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Reason being, is because I have two very eager helpers that can’t resist being glued at my hip when they know I have a sewing project up my sleeve. It’s often the simplest of plans that allow me and my little helpers to arrive at a result we could have never conjured up before we started, by using our creative expression and infusing a bit of personal style. It’s creative play at it’s finest, with fabric as our medium, mixed in with a healthy dose of trial and error---and lots of seam ripping if I’m being completely honest.
You see, I have this little problem I like to call the ‘instant gratification’ disease. Many of the paper crafting projects I create are ones that can be finished in just one sitting—instantly gratifying—and usually without little helpers. Sewing projects are a different story, and for the most part, are void of that instant gratification ‘high’. Having young children in the house turns most of my sewing projects into somewhat of a family affair, which makes them challenging to finish in just one sitting, but that doesn’t give me an excuse to avoid them all together.
So, what have I done to keep myself from avoiding any and all sewing projects, you might ask? Well, silly as it may sound, I have allowed them to help direct and guide my creative sewing adventures. I know these days are numbered, so instead of it being a project I do alone, I use the time to challenge myself to some character building skills (mainly: patience) and also challenge myself to drench every project I create with my own personal style—which is highly influenced by these eager helpers of mine.
Let’s talk about ways in which this happens as I walk you through my latest sewing project---a pair of fun and funky stockings just waiting to be filled.
First things first, I came up with an idea and gathered supplies, and the tools I needed. For this project, that meant gathering a cutting mat, quilting ruler, rotary cutter, scissors, thread snips, and my tool taxi.
Then, I set to work to get the foundation of my project underway. Cutting fabric is made easier with the help of an assistant. While she’s too little to use a rotary cutter proficiently, she’s perfect at counting inches and holding my cutting ruler steady while I make each pass—most of the time.
Once we decided that alternating pattern and solid stripes was the look we were wanting, I boosted her confidence in decision-making by allowing her to choose the stitching order of the fabrics. When working on a sewing project such as this—one that is used only once a year—it’s easy to look beyond a perfectly coordinated end result and just enjoy the process of encouraging helpers along the way.
Every moment becomes a teachable one, answering their inquisitive questions and explaining why it will or will not work the way in which they are imagining. While learning to sew, she is also exercising and reinforcing other educational lessons learned at school, such as AB pattern making, fractions, critical thinking and problem solving skills. Of course the lessons being reinforced change depending on the age of the child helping.
Sometimes I’m left alone to do the creating as other interest capture her attention, and other times I have both children huddled around me asking dozens of questions and giving their opinion on how they think the finished project should look, completely captivated by the entire process.
I never hesitate to allow them to do some of the actual sewing. My heavens, the worse that could happen is a broken needle—which can be replaced—or a wonky seam that can be ripped. I’m sure to keep my Tool Taxi close by, giving my seam ripper a workout. Come on! There’s nothing more exciting to a child than having permission to ‘undo’ work that has just been done. Am I right?
One of the lessons that ring true in our conversations over and over again is ways in which we can reuse and recycle materials. For no cost at all, we were able to take traditional, boring red stockings that didn’t resemble our personal style at all and make use of them in our projects not only once, but twice. The first time we traced a stocking onto a recycled grocery sack to create our pattern and the second time was to recycle the entire cuff.
For a project such as this, I also recommend using any marking tool easily found around your home (i.e. a permanent marker) to trace your pattern piece instead of spending well-earned dollars on a pricey vanishing ink pen made especially for fabric. Then cut out the pattern leaving a ¼” gap between your cutting and the traced lines for the seam allowance.
You can save money on other sewing projects, such as clothing, by using a well-loved article of clothing as a pattern in much the same way as I’ve done here, instead of purchasing a pattern. Again, another lesson on how best to spend your crafting budget. I can hear the words I heard as a child ring loud and clear that went something along the lines of “make do or do without.” Words I probably first heard as a child sitting next to my grandmother at her sewing machine.
The best part of these projects is listening to the conversations and seeing how they help morph the project into the final result. These conversations include anything and everything from talking about fabric choices, to the tools I’m using, to how they can help with the next step, to ways in which we can cut out-of-pocket expenses and even plans for our upcoming holiday that have nothing to do with sewing at all. I make it a point while sewing with helpers to have a small notebook beside me at all times. Jotting down their ideas or funny things they say along the way, as these thoughts and words other help spark future creative ideas just waiting to be explored.
For this project specifically she was not only obsessed with learning how moving the dials (stitch length and stitch selector), but also with seeing how these adjustments affected the appearance of the stitch. That obsession alone helped spark the idea of letting her do some artsy-style stitching in the white strips, with a bright color thread, to allow for some infusion of her personal style and some practice along the way. Fun, funky and wonky is the way we roll.
If you’re in much the same boat as I with extra help, I encourage you to stop using the extra hands as an excuse not to sew at all, but instead, look at it as time to unwind from all time crunches and just let the project morph and flow into a better version of an end result you might have otherwise aimed for. With the right tools you’ll find even ripping seams to be enjoyable. After all, no one is going remember a wonky stitch or two, but everyone will delight in seeing your finished project and hearing each of you talk about the process. Not to mention, they’ll be amazed at the fact that you could even get a sewing project completed with children by your side.