Monday, September 5, 2011

Teaching your child to embroider

My daughter has been itching to learn to embroider since she was very young.  The other day, at age 6, she completed her first "real" embroidered piece and I couldn't be more proud.  Nor can she.  I'm amazed at the fine works she's done.  Her stitches are even and there are no knots in the back of the piece.  I know many people feel that she might be too young to do embroidery, so I wanted to show you my process for allowing her to move forward with this interest with safety and developmental ability in mind.

My daughter's first introduction to embroidery has always been watching me.  As a young child, she would sit next to me and watch me stitch.  I would allow her to choose colors for my piece on occassion and I would also use her drawings as embroidery patterns from time to time to make her feel like she was part of the process.  In fact, my daughter and I appeared on an episode of When Creativity Knocks to share our technique for transferring her artwork onto fabric.  You can watch it here.

Once she was a wee bit older, I made some cupcake sewing cards for her.  She was about 3 or 4 when she started to sew the cards.  It was great practice for her hand-eye coordination.  You can see how I made them here.

At about five, I bought her some plastic canvas and plastic yarn needles.  She used yarn to stitch designs into the plastic canvas.  We had some knots and tears and frustration, but she practiced and practiced.  The plastic yarn needles aren't too sharp and the canvas already holes, so it helped her further her skills.  I think this step was also very helpful in impressing the need to start from the underside of the fabric and to consistently stitch in the same direction.  Once there were fewer knots and she got a little holder, we moved to the next step.

This was the biggest step.  The one my daughter was really waiting for.  I purchased some loose weave, thick fabric and some plastic canvas needles (metal ones this time!).  I drew a design onto the fabric using a marker so that she could see the thick lines and had room to stitch onto them without going outside the lines.  I was really amazed by how successful she was.  The flower piece in this post is the first project she did within this step and I'm amazed by her success.  We are using real embroidery floss and learning how to split the the threads, thread needles, keep the tail in place, and prevent knots.  She does have a tendency to put the work down on her lap when she's working, so the dull needles prevent injury, but, because they are metal, she feels more like they are the real thing.  The plastic ones still seemed like toys to her.  She can also use an embroidery hoop now which also makes her very happy.

Once we learn a bit more about needle safety, I will graduate her to the materials I use.  I'm so excited for her and I'm pleased that we found a system that allowed her to safely learn this traditional craft.  As she mastered each step her confidence has grown. 

So, if you have a little one who wants to embroider, you may want to try this step-up system.  There are no specific age guidelines for going through the steps, simply keep watch your child and their abilities and enjoy the process.  Stitch safely!