Tag Archives: Self-Directed Learning

Inspired Sewing Projects and Project-Based Learning

Our seven year old daughter has been very interested in learning to sew.  She has watched me sew over the years and would often ask for her own cloth, needle, and thread and I would set her and her older brother up with their own piece for stitching. Recently, she has wanted to work on more complex projects.

She wanted to make a pillow which I could have easily taught her but I sensed she wanted something she could self-direct. I remember enjoying looking through my mother’s sewing books as a kid and teaching myself different stitches.  I liked the idea of her being able to have more freedom in choosing her projects.

Phia pin cushion

For her last birthday I found a really sweet sewing book for kids called Sewing School. I specifically chose a book geared towards kids so the projects would be inspirational and accessible. I pretty much gifted her this book and said, “Go at it kid!” I had her make up a list and we gathered the supplies she would need from the local cloth store.

Her first project was the little apple pin cushion. I know my stitches as a beginning sewer were not near as even.  She worked really hard cutting out all the pieces and did such a wonderful job with her stitches. It turned out beautifully.

Winter 2013

Winter 2013

After gaining some confidence and skills from the pin cushion she moved on to the little huggable project above. I really enjoy her choice of buttons.

Of course, all this activity with sewing was enough to inspire our 9 year old son to make a wallet from the book. He, and his sister collaborated on the design and embellishments. If I can find it I will get pictures up. It is amazing how quickly things disappear in this house! Anywho, he did a really great job on the stitches and picked out an awesome button for the clasp.

It has been a lot of fun watching them learn through doing it on their own. Sometimes I have a tendency to “teach” by taking over and doing, rather than, showing then stepping back and supporting.  When it comes to skills that are more complex to explain or acquire, (because they just need to be practiced more than anything) if the child expresses a lot of frustration I fight the urge to rescue rather than hold back and let them work at it.

I have gotten much better over the years and have expanded the ways in which I approach providing support. A couple of years ago I read Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert. I also visit her website here for resources and support. Ideally, we would have a much bigger studio or workshop for the kids but for now, the craft closet, kitchen table, and garage work bench (and outside during warmer months) will have to suffice.

Usually, our 3 and 5 year old kiddos keep me plenty busy. Otherwise, busying myself within earshot with all the things I need or want to get done while they are working on their projects is enough to keep from rescuing or meddling by giving unsolicited suggestions.

Now, she is moving on to a pillow case and larger throw pillows for her bed. She has let me know she would like a sewing machine for her 8th birthday this year (among a list of other items-hehe). Hmmm.

I went hunting for some reasonably priced machines on the smaller side and was referred to the Janome SewMini but Brother has some pretty reasonable options as well. I will be doing some more research before I plunk down any money. It may make more sense to just gift her my current machine and get myself an upgrade!

Her birthday is in June! Suggestions are welcome!