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June 22, 2013
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the next generation of quilters

Hi y’all, Mary Ellen here.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile then you know that I like to listen to Pat Sloan’s podcasts for American Patchwork and Quilting while I walk the dog. One segment of the most recent one was about a new author, Annabel Wrigley, and her book, We Love to Sew, containing projects for teaching tweens to sew and quilt. Great things at her blog too. click here to visit.

I have a little sewing buddy who lives next door. She is the official babysitter for my dog, whenever I need someone to feed him or let him out when I’m at work or gone for long periods. She works for fabric. When she was tiny she asked me if I would teach her to sew. I told her when she turned 9 that we would start. She never let me forget it. We got a later start than she wanted, but she’s been sewing for about a year now. She even got a sewing machine of her own for Christmas. Apparently she tells her cousins all about it, and has let a few of them try out the machine. She has a lap quilt that we made from bits in my scrap bins (you’ve heard about those many times!). We did old time string quilting on telephone book page foundations. She made 9 blocks, each a different color family of scraps, and we attached them with simple straight sashing. The backing is a plush fleece. We tied it instead of quilting it for a faster finish, since once the end was in sight she wanted it done, with a capital D. We’ve made a tote bag for herself with horses on it (another of her loves), a messenger bag for her sister to take with her for her year abroad, an apron for grandma’s birthday, and a pouch for her makeup. Running out of ideas that interest her right now. I’m looking for a few good ideas to have up my sleeve when her sewing mojo returns. Any suggestions? I’m thinking that some time this summer she’ll be bored and looking for a project.

Annabel gives some tips for having a successful experience when sewing with kids. She talks about wanting to make sewers for life, making the experience fun so that the kids will keep returning to it again and again. The first hint she mentioned was giving up on perfect. Many sewers I talk to can relate terrible experiences with tearing out seam after seam in home ec class. Those zipper fiascos have scarred many a stitcher for life! Some of us still are very hard on ourselves when our blocks aren’t quite perfect. Letting go of that a bit makes the quilting experience more fun. Every binding doesn’t have to be hand stitched, every point doesn’t have to be perfect, if the seams don’t match at the corners it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve been sewing since I was quite young, and there was a time in high school when it was not fun for me. I was like every teen girl wanting to have the latest fashions, and dress like all the other girls. With limited funds that meant sewing my own clothes (remember when that was cheaper than buying them?). Of course I wanted lots of clothes so I had to be at the machine for long stretches. Sweat shop sewing took the fun out of it. Similarly through college, although once jeans became acceptable garb for nearly everything, and the relaxed hippy style became some what mainstream, the pressure to crank out clothes on the machine eased up. Eventually I got back to sewing garments for fun and individuality. Then quilting entered the picture! For a long time I rarely sewed a garment. I’m starting to get back to the enjoyment of wearing something I’ve made myself. Still finding it hard to get good fabric (other than quilting cottons) but just bought some 100% linen for a skirt. If you really comb the racks at the big J store there are a few quality fabrics hidden amongst the dreck. Now I’ll try to enjoy the thrill of the hunt!

Back to my original theme. That next generation of sewers and quilters. Have you taught any one to sew or quilt? How was the experience for the two of you? What project(s) did you do together? Do you have a personal nightmare story of sewing that nearly put you over the edge? Do tell please.


  1. Kathy Tomasulo says:

    My niece wanted to try sewing around the age of 10-11. We started with pillow cases then graduated to a tote bag. She loved it when she arrived at pajama pants. She learned that she could pick cotton for summer and even make pajama shorts and fleece for winter.

  2. Debby Finegan says:

    I agree with Kathy about the pillow cases. What about a poncho? There are a number of options for a skirt or a drawstring type backpack?

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