An Interview with Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons

Trixi Symonds is the voice behind Coloured Buttons and Sew Together Grow Together.  From Sydney, Australia, Trixi has been sewing and creating with kids for more than 20 years.  As soon as we connected via Instagram, I knew Trixi was a kindred spirit.  She designs fun and colorful kids's sewing projects and is full of inspiration.  

Last week, Trixi interviewed me, and I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on her.  

The most popular sewing project you make with kids?

They love any project that has a baby…projects like Star Mum and Bub or Koala and her baby are always hits…especially with girls but the boys really get into them too…and if they make a project without a baby they often want to make a smaller baby version of it before they go home…they also (especially the boys) love designing their own monsters/aliens and projects like pillows where they can go crazy adding all sorts of odds and ends as decorative features.

One piece of advice you’d give to parents who want to teach their kids to sew?

I think the most important thing for parents to do is to just step back and let their kids do everything …let them choose the project, the fabrics, the colors of the thread, the way they want to adapt the design … let them make mistakes and sew with their own wonky stitches …and never do the sewing for them …just let them have fun and lap up the whole experience …I’m always struck by how proud kids are to have made something all by themselves.

Why should kids learn to sew?

I think it just gives them so much …it’s a low tech low cost really fun activity that kids can take and do wherever they are …I’ve had kids who are lagging behind at school come to my workshops …hand sewing really opens their eyes to their own potential …it’s something they can see their progress in over a short time and shows them they can really succeed at a skill that is not only very useful but also creative …and it’s something that kids can enjoy and express themselves through for the rest of their lives.

How did you get into teaching kids sewing?

I was originally trained as a primary school teacher and started giving after-school craft classes to kids about 20 years ago …then I began quilting and fell in love with hand sewing …I really loved everything about it …so I began designing hand sewing projects for my young craft students and discovered two things: (1) kids love hand sewing …they were just so excited to do the projects and (2) they weren’t getting this anywhere else …after that my fate was sealed …my craft classes became hand sewing classes for kids.

What things have surprised you in teaching kids to sew?

The biggest surprise by far was learning how amazingly well little kids can sew …my youngest daughter was just three years old when I finally caved in to her constant pleading to join in a class and sew one of the projects with the “big kids” …but ”surprised” is probably too mild a word for my reaction …I was really floored by the fact she could do it at all …and of course, but I’ve said this before, I’m always surprised at how much they love sewing.

Why do you like sewing?

It’s hand sewing I really love … I like making things, I have since I was little …and I love the feel of the fabric …and the possibilities you have with using fabrics …I especially love using old fabrics, either because I like the old fashioned colors and designs or because I like recycling old fabrics from things like my kids’ clothing that gives your work this extra depth and meaning as it stirs up all these memories associated with the fabrics history.

Best sewing experience?

There was this one bubbly really lovely girl whose mum brought her to my classes because she thought hand sewing might help her …her daughter had difficulties at school and especially poor manual skills …at first she just couldn’t get her stitches on the line but she improved really quickly …I just remember how happy she was with herself…and she kept coming to classes and workshops for years.

Worst sewing experience?

Mrs. Penglas’ sewing class in primary school …we had to make bloomers …I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever heard of “bloomers” or still knows what they are …but I remember I was always in trouble and being shouted at.

Favorite sewing experience?

When parents come to pick up their kids and look at their work and say “I can’t believe my child made that!”

You can find Trixi's adorable koala project here and purchase her wonderful book Sew Together Grown Together on Etsy and Amazon.  I can't wait to try out some of these clever projects with kids!

Interview on Coloured Buttons

I'm over at Coloured Buttons today talking about sewing with kids.  Stop by and say Hi.  While you're there, take a peek at Trixi's awesome kids' sewing book Sew Together Grow Together.

See you there!

Never Ending Journal

This simple and satisfying journal was inspired by a beautiful leather journal I saw at the Ozark Folk Center.  I love how you can easily add and take away a standard sheet of paper with ease.  A strip of ribbon or yarn holds the paper in place.  Hence, the name "never ending".

To make my version, use a standard felt square and 1/8 inch ribbon, yarn, or craft thread.  You might also want some felt and fabric scraps to decorate the cover.  Don't forget the paper!

*Cut 1 yard (or 1 meter) of ribbon.  Tie a knot 13 inches (32 cm) from each end.
*Fold the felt square in half and lie the ribbon inside the fold.  The knots should lie around both ends of the felt square.

Time to sew!  You will sew each end of the ribbon separately.
*Thread a needle with the ribbon (a regular chenille needle works well).
*Sew through the end of the fold to make a secure edge.  The knots that you made will help make sure you have equal amounts of ribbon on each side and a good length in the middle to hold the paper.
*Now, sew using a running stitch until you get to the middle of the journal's edge.  Sew through both sides of the felt and be careful not to catch the length of ribbon that's in the inside.
*After sewing up both ends to the middle of the journal, tie them together in a bow.

If you are sewing with thin ribbon, young sewers may have trouble sewing through both layers of felt.  For ease, you can simply secure the outer edges with a stitch and then tie a bow in the middle.

To add paper, fold a few sheets of standard paper (8-1/2 x 11inches) in half and slip it under the ribbon along the fold.  It will keep it nice and secure.

After your journal is complete, you can decorate it using felt scraps.

Need more paper?  Add another sheet.  Don't like something?   Take it out.  No worries, it's a Never Ending Journal!

Sewing School Camp through Phoebe's Eyes

I just downloaded my daughter Phoebe's camera that she took to sleep-away camp this summer and came across all these pictures from Sewing School Camp.  I forgot that she took it to camp with her to practice taking photos.  It's fun to see what she captured on camera and thought was important.

Selfie of sweet Phoebe!

This summer has been a whirlwind of fun, creativity, and discovery.  I've been away from my computer a lot and hope to play catch up soon!  Hope you're having fun too!

Sewing School Alums

This year for Sewing School camp I had a great group of Sewing School alums helping me.  It was so much fun to watch them share their knowledge and love of sewing with a new group of kids.
The campers loved them soooo much!  They worked hard, too!  

Throughout camp, we had fun laughing at the pictures of them in the Sewing School books.  Now, they have braces and contacts and are much older and wiser.  If you are a Sewing School reader, you'll recognize these cute faces, just a few years older.
Francis is a 7th grader now and enjoyed teaching kids how to make the Etc. Backpack at camp.
Stella is about to enter high school and is still using her tiny little sewing machine.
Annie is going to be a sophomore in high school and has become quite the runner.
Caroline is also a sophomore and excited about learning Mandarin.

I hope that they will come back and help me next year!

Join Urban Scouts

Urban Scout is a shout-out to city-dwelling kids to explore their surroundings and interact creatively in today's modern world.   It is an invitation for children to discover their surroundings on their own terms while learning new skills.
Urban Scout Camp was an enriching and wonderful experience this summer.  You can follow along and find out more on Instagram at urbanscouts.   I'm excited to share more about this experience with you.

Sewing for Dad

Sunday is Father's Day and I'd like to recommend a few fun and easy projects that Dads will love.  At least ours did!

Perfect for sports loving Dads!  Turn sports towels and T-shirts into a one-of-a-kind pillow!  This kid-made pillow is just backed with coordinating cotton fabric, stitched, and stuffed.  The Save My Shirt Pillow from Sewing School will tell you how to make a pillow from a T-shirt.

This luggage tag is so cute and even involves using a hammer!

These Coffee Cozies incorporate embroidery while making sure Dad's coffee cup isn't too hot!

Every dad needs a State Pillow.  While we made these for Mother's Day this year, a quick change of fabrics will make them Dad Cool.

Make Dad a DYI game of Pick Up Sticks ...

...or Tic-Tac-Toe.  Either way, you're a winner!

Happy sewing for Dad!

Luggage Tag for Dad!

During Sewing School Camp we made these great Luggage Tags for Father's Day gifts.  They are pretty quick and I think Dads everywhere need one!  I was inspired by the adorable leaf luggage tag in Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson.

So, get to sewing!

Materials Needed:
*cotton fabric
*sewing supplies
*clear vinyl  (I used lightweight vinyl I found at WalMart)
*eyelet setters and eyelets (We used 1/4 inch)
*thin ribbon

My tag is a rectangle that measures 5 x 3-1/2.  But, you can make it whatever shape you want. You want to cut out a window for the name tag to show through.  Make sure you leave some sewing room along all the edges.  I set mine towards the bottom of the tag to make sure I had room for a slit and an eyelet.

 Directions - Go around the photo...

1.  Trace the tag pattern onto cotton fabric.  You don't have to trace the window.
2.  Trace the tag pattern onto felt.  Trace the window!
3. Cut out both pieces of fabric.  Cut out the window on the felt piece.
4.  Cut a piece of vinyl a little larger than your window.  Handsew the vinyl piece around the window.  Be careful, this can be a bit tricky to get started, especially for younger sewers.  (At camp, I precut the vinyl pieces for the kids)
5. Now, fold the felt piece in half and cut a slit right above the window stitches. This will make a pocket to slide the name tag into.
6.  Put the cotton and felt piece together.  Good sides facing out.
7.  Sew all around the edges of the luggage tag. 
8.  Add an eyelet to the top of the tag.  We used a setter like this one and the kids loved to hammer in the eyelet!

9.  Cut a piece of ribbon 12 inches long and thread it through the eyelet. Tie ends together.

You can slide a cute note into the luggage tag too!  I found that an index card cut in half was a perfect fit.

These would also be super for a kids' bag or a gift for someone else.  I know we'll be making them in Sewing Club next year for sure!

Happy Dad's Day!

Make a Sewing Kit

Sewing School Camp is in session!  It's been a busy and fun week!  We have more than 40 campers ready to sew.

On the first day, we made shoebox sewing kits to hold our supplies and works in progress.  This is the first time I had made boxes like this and it's a keeper idea.  The kids are more organized and know where their projects are.  Plus, they are super cute!
We used vintage sewing patterns and fabric scraps to decorate the boxes. Watered down glue and paintbrushes made everything stick!  The boxes dried overnight and were ready to go the next day.
I love how the boxes reflect the personal style of the campers.
To practice key sewing skills, the kids learned how to thread needles and made a Hold My Needles Book and pincushion from Sewing School.  
 These quick and easy projects were the perfect way to start camp and have the necessary supplies to start sewing.
These kits are so perfect!  I look forward to making them with my next group of young sewers.