Finding sewing’s lost generation part 2

To continue yesterday’s post on teaching my daughter to start thinking about sewing and garment construction.

My daughter’s assignment was to dress up a paper doll to represent her heritage, and I decided to use this as an opportunity to teach her some of the basics of planning a garment, using scraps from my stash.  I walked her through the project in about 3 days.

My husband and I are both European mash-ups, but we mostly identify as Russian, Scottish, German, and Irish. My daughter and I headed to the fabric cabinet, and pretty quickly picked out the fabrics to represent each country- a green velvet for Ireland (leftovers from the Ren Fest dress), a plaid for Scotland, and leftovers from the Matryoshka dress for Russia. Germany was definitely the trickiest country to choose a fabric for, but I had picked up some fabric at expo with a fairy tale theme, and we decided that worked since the Brothers Grimm were also from Germany.

UntitledLesson 1: Make a plan. Begin with the end in mind.
I set her off to plan the outfit and how she would incorporate each fabric. Her first idea included using the green velvet as a cape. A cool idea, but I pointed out that her doll was 2 dimensional, and she needed to plan the outfit keeping in mind it would wind up being pinned to a cork board. Is that the best use of the fabric? She agreed, and did a quick redesign that would show all the fabrics from the right side.

Lesson 2: Prepare the pattern
UntitledOnce she had an idea for the design, I set her up at the table with her doll, and a piece of tissue paper. I had her draw out the different elements of the outfit to make sure it would fit the doll once it was done. At first, she didn’t draw the borders along the arms and shoulders- just a line for where the sleeve would end and a curve for the neckline. I explained she would be cutting out the tissue paper as a template for cutting the fabric and poster board, and she needed a line on the paper for every line she was going to cut out of fabric. I always think it’s interesting when I give instructions that I think are pretty obvious (“Draw your outfit on the tissue paper”), and later realize I left out pretty critical information (“Include the outlines. The tissue is a template. It isn’t staying on the doll”). But she got it done, and cut out each piece of tissue paper separately, so she’d be ready for

Lesson 3: Prepare and cut the fabric
For the nesting dolls and fairy tale fabric, I had her play around with different arrangements of the pattern piece so she could get the elements of the print she wanted on the different pieces. I helped her pin it in place (and by helped, I of course mean I did all the pinning while she watched), and then gave her a lesson in cutting.

Cutting fabric is a little different from cutting for your typical 2nd grade art project. I explained that for an accurate cut, she should keep the fabric and the bottom blade of the shears on the table, and slide along while cutting with the top blade. I also taught her the very important tip of cutting with the tips of the scissors and not sticking them farther into the fabric than you want to cut. She almost learned that one the hard way.

I was seriously impressed with how quickly she caught on with the cutting. She is probably better at it than I am since I switched to mainly using the rotary cutter back in December.

Lesson 4: Assemble and Enjoy your work
She used her tissue paper pattern pieces to cut pieces out of poster board, glued the fabric to the poster board, and finally glued the outfit to her paper doll. She said her teacher really liked it, and (somewhat abashedly) the other kids “acted like it was special.”
I told her it absolutely was special, and that was a good thing. She worked hard on it, and learned a lot. I think she learned more than she realized.

This post was part of a blog share with, a wonderful blog about parenting, current events, and everything else. Go check it out!

8 thoughts on “Finding sewing’s lost generation part 2

  1. My first real foray into sewing was sewing clothes for dolls and stuffed animals, too. It really was super satisfying.
    I started with hand sewing, and then moved to machine sewing. It was how I became acquainted with machine sewing actually.
    It never occurred to me to do it with paper dolls, and now I am sort of sad I missed out on that. I’ll be sure to do this with both kids when they’re a teence older so they don’t miss out.

    • I sewed so many sock monkeys by hand when I was a tween.
      I honesty wouldn’t have thought to do this if she hadn’t had the school project. Thank goodness for teachers!

  2. What a beautiful post! I don’t have children yet, but I hope that when I am a Mom, I will be able to teach them the art of sewing like you’re doing for your daughters. This seems like the perfect introduction! She did a beautiful job :)

  3. Don’t be afraid to teach your daughter to sew while she’s young – you’re off to a great start! I started when I was 7 because I begged my mom to show me how. Now it’s what I do for a living, and I love it!

    I would have been in heaven if my mom had had a fabric stash like yours that I could have gone digging through! =)

    • That’s awesome!!!
      She hasn’t bugged me too much yet, but she has asked. I hesitate to go ahead and teach her because I’m terrified she’ll injure herself or the machine. Also, what if she gets as hooked I am!? I have just the one machine! What will *I* sew on!? LOL

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