In the varied interests department, one of the things I got The Dormouse for Christmas was a kids' sewing machine. She's been interested in taking on new skills lately and it seemed kind of a cool, Big Girl Thing for her. When I was a kid, probably younger than The Dormouse is now, I remember getting a play sewing machine that used glue instead of a needle and thread to "stitch" the pieces of fabric together. A cool idea - it's hard to glue your fingers together even if you do run your thumb under the place where the fabric goes - but I also remember that thing, while a cool idea, not being able to "sew" for crap. So when I saw this kids' chain stitch sewing machine (not this exact one, but similar) at a local hobby store, I thought it might be a good introduction to sewing for her.
Save your money.
Honestly, it really was a cool idea and I loved how the needle was encased in a plastic box so you couldn't possibly sew your fingers together. But two things happened: one) it turned out to be really a little more toy than I had hoped. That thing was a bitch to thread because of that plastic box; The Dormouse had a really hard time managing it on her own and I have become too farsighted in my old age to be able to see it without an all out search for my glasses first. Once we finally got it threaded, it did produce a chain stitch, but that came apart really easy, even if you did figure out how to knot it. Even when it was all threaded and working, the whole thing would just randomly seize up if you looked at it sideways. After about the fifteenth time I watched her try to sew something she'd been really excited about and finally throw her hands up in frustration, I decided to look around for better option. The second thing that happened was) I figured out with the crochet project that I sometimes underestimate The Dormouse. She's old enough and capable enough to work a traditional sewing machine.
I stumbled on a list of online reviews of the best kids' sewing machines out there and found a well-reviewed, but relatively inexpensive, alternative and ordered it online. I'm not particularly good at ordering things online. I sometimes assume a certain size or quality and with this one, I didn't really look at the dimensions of the machine or see it in real life; I just figured I was getting the same smaller-than-a-breadbox, toy-style machine, but one that sewed in the traditional way. Imagine my surprise when what arrived wasn't a miniature "kids' machine" but just a regular full-sized sewing machine any adult would use. I may have made certain, unfounded assumptions about an online item, but at least I only ordered one, so I'm still doing better than The KingofHearts.
Ultimately the machine I got was nicer - and cheaper! - than the sewing machine I own, so I decided to just keep it and teach her to use it, with special repeated instructions to not sew over her thumbs.
She took to it handily.
|I'm proud to say no fingers were sewed in the completion of this project.|
|But some fingers were, in fact, ironed. Oops.|
The first thing she made was a very simple halter top-style shirt. One piece of fabric, sew up the side, across the top and bottom, stick in a ribbon... voila.
|I like this picture a whole lot but The Dormouse calls it "ridiculous" because, clearly those pajama pants don't go with that top, "Duh, Mom."|
|She insists this be the photo I use, but this one sucks because I took it on a camera phone in crappy light. "Duh Dormouse." You can see where our respective priorities lie.|
She was so proud of this shirt she could have almost burst. That night, she wore it to a neighbor's dinner party, got a ton of compliments on it, and then while she was goofing around trying to climb a flagpole, she tore a big hole in it. It don't think I've seen that kind of pain on her face in a very long time. (I mended it later and patched up the tear, but she hasn't recovered from the trauma enough to actually wear the shirt again.)
Next, she wanted to make a project for her sister and she was so successful with the first one in the not sewing of fingers together, I just went ahead and bought a pattern for a simple skirt and taught her how to follow a pattern. Except I misread the instructions when explaining it to her and we ended up with one of each piece instead of the required two. She got about halfway through the skirt before I noticed something was off. She had basically been working on a doll-size skirt. Fortunately, we had enough leftover material to re-cut it and she did finish the skirt for her sister, which she dubbed The Caterpillar's Easter outfit.
Then she took the mistake pieces and, with no help from me, played around with them until she figured out how to make a doll dress for The Caterpillar's bear. I am more proud of her for this than the actual skirt.