Embroidery with Kids: Getting Started

I've been working on a top secret embroidery project with my kindergarten class (yes, that would be mother's day gifts!) and it's led me to think about embroidering with kids.  This week, I thought I'd share my ideas on the topic.  This is the first part of several posts on the subject. 

Andria and I chose not to include embroidery in the Sewing School book, but we always include embroidery in our camp.  The kids love it and it offers a new outlet for creativity.

Today, the focus will be on philosophy and supplies.  So, here we go!
My Philosophy:
When I talk about embroidery, I approach it as "drawing with your needle."  Just as kids use markers and crayons to express themselves and bring color to their artwork, embroidery is another extension of that.  This is why I always start kids out by drawing and embroidering their own designs.  I've found that if I use a pre-made design, the kids will get caught up on making it look exactly like the example or can't decide what color to use to sew.  Because they didn't initiate the design, they don't seem to execute it as well.  The wonderful creative freedom that children still hold onto so dear is somewhat lost.  By drawing their own designs directly onto the muslin with a pencil and then tracing the lines with colorful thread, kids embrace embroidery and get excited about it.  I also showed my class the Flicker:  Children's Embroidery Pool to give them some inspiration and help them to visualize what I meant by "embroidery."

Another thing I've noticed through the years is that embroidery should not be a child's first experience at sewing.  Kids who have made a few pillows and are confident sewers, have a much easier time at embroidery.  Embroidery is much more exact than simply stitching around a stuffie or pillow.  Start there and then move into embroidery.  This will ease a lot of frustration, believe me!
Supplies I Use:
I use the standard Sewing School supplies - craft thread, Chenille 22 needles, LoRan needle threader as well as a 6-inch embroidery hoop and muslin.  If you use embroidery thread, divide it into strands of 3 for kids to use.

The 6-inch hoop size seems to fit well into a child's hand and is big enough for creating a good design. You don't want the project to take all year!

For our small pillows, I pre-cut the muslin in 8-inch squares.  This fits just right on the hoop and makes into a cute, decorative pillow.  If there is a lot of hang-over on the hoop the edges will get sewn too - this is not good.

To begin, go ahead and place the muslin on the hoop nice and tight - kids are fascinated by how the hoop works.  Be prepared to have them hit it like a drum.  Many of mine students wanted to try putting on the fabric themselves.  Next, give them a sharp pencil to draw their design directly onto the fabric.  For a first timer, simple is best.  Just a good outline of a shape or some words written in their neatest handwriting is best.
Now we are ready to thread our needles!  Next time, we'll talk about sewing.


Renata said...

Thank you so much! I've had your blog bookmarked for a while and I finally came back to it so I can introduce my kids to embroidery. Your tips are invaluable. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts about starting with their own design as well as starting with a stuffie or pillow before moving on to embroidery.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I volunteer teaching sewing at my kids school, for ages 5 through 13. I'm browsing for what size hoop works well fir the youngest kids, as embroidery is becomg quite the rage.

A great trick to keep them from sewing through the extra fabric is to fold the edges under and catch them in the loop. You can also turn the whole thing over so the excess is on top.