Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Six Year-Old Seamstress

Today’s lesson is as follows: Never underestimate a six year-old. Oh, and this is a long post.

Three days earlier…

The pillowcase project was off to an auspicious start. All the fabric was chosen, all the pieces cut. We were on our way. A whole long weekend stretched before us, full of promise.

As it turns out, it was too much time. The three days provided just enough time to lure us away from our project. The 65-70 degree temperatures didn’t hurt (I mean, it’s January!)

I guess even creative pursuits and blogs need their holiday breaks. We spent our time as we should have on a long weekend: we saw movies and concerts, spent time with family and friends, ate out and tried new dishes at home (shockingly, the braised kale and French onion soup succeeded where split peas did not).

Present day…

This morning arrived with a cold front and a return to our semi-regular schedules. After bustling through the work, school, gymnastics, homework, dinner, angst (I can’t wait for sixth grade if fifth is this fun) of a normal Tuesday, I determined that this project was going to be finished easier if we went one-on-one. The youngest child had the least homework so she was elected the winner of “Finish My Case Today” day.

Giddy may not describe how excited she was to sit down in front of the sewing machine. Our first exchange went something like this:

“I get to actually sit here?”
“And do the sewing?”
“And push the foot pedal?”
“Heeheeeeee!!!” (Or something like that)

I have been naturally nervous about introducing the girls to “the machine” because they have small fingers. Small fingers that look like they would fit really, really well under the needle of a sewing machine.  So, I was a little apprehensive today.

“There are so many feet for this machine,” she said. “Why are they called feet?”

“Why is it called a bobbin?”

“What does that button do?

“Can we use all of those feet?”


After the fiftieth time saying things like “watch your fingers,” and “don’t push the pedal too fast,” and “watch your fingers,” I got a stare back that was a mix of pity and irritation. I decided we were ready.

She started sewing the long strips of fabric together first. Slowly and methodically, she pushed the pedal. It took her about three tries before she hit her stride. At first, I guided the fabric as she used the pedal. Soon, she started to guide the fabric as well. Impressed. That’s the best word I can use. Even when she started to veer off track a little or push the pedal a bit too fast, she auto-corrected pretty quickly.

You forget how many things are involved with sewing a simple, straight seam. Foot pedal speed, lining up the fabric, watching for pins, feeding the fabric evenly-everything seemed magnified as I tried to show this kindergartener how to do it all at once. I was in control of pins, so every time we came close to one she would yell, “Pin!” and stop the machine so I could pull it out of the fabric.

At the end of the first seam, she faced her next challenge: what fabric to use next. She chose and started sewing again. After she finished sewing the last strip onto he rest, she laid the whole piece out on the table.

“I got it perfect because those two flower fabrics were on my skirt and they are together, and those two have dots and they are together!”

One of her favorite things about this project was using fabric remnants from other projects we have done before.

I had to step in fully at this point to iron all of the seams and square up the fabric. She was very sage, “I had a feeling that you wouldn’t let me do the ironing,” she said. “I mean, who would let their six year-old child iron? If I heard of someone doing that I would just freak out.”

So, please don’t tell her if you know of someone who lets their six year-old iron. I do not need the extra drama…unless you have a video camera and get the freak out recorded. That could be useful later.

I digress.

During the dangerous ironing process, she went up to change for bed. She danced downstairs in a nightgown and pajama pants I made her.

“Guess why I’m wearing this?” she asked. “Because you made it with your sewing machine and I am sewing with your sewing machine!”

You can’t argue with that logic.

After the pajamas went on, we started sewing, cutting and ironing like clockwork. She rotary cut (with help) and stitched and I ironed and pinned. I estimate she did about 70% of the sewing. There were some tough spots once the layers got thicker and the machine snagged a bit.

Finally, one last backstitch and we were, “Finished!!!! Daddy, look, I finished my pillowcase!

She put it on a pillow to make sure it fit and observed “I really hope a girl gets this because of all the flowers and pink.”

One down, two to go. I must confess, though. The time, joy, effort, attention to detail and pride of this six year-old child is inspiring. The time we spent together was priceless. The ability to talk to my child about sewing with my grandmother at that same machine when it belonged to her was amazing. The fact that my child was learning to sew and making something for someone else was rewarding. I will not underestimate her and am just so excited to see what she will come up with each new day!


Grandma to 16 Chickasaws said...

THANKS for taking the time to share this beautiful work of art ....amazingly created by an obviously proud daughter! Just a friend of Barbara P's...Jan G. in Little Rock ...

Emily said...

Thank you so much! It really was so much fun to do this project with her, a d to see her face when she realized she did it!

Lauren said...

Emily, I am so loving having a glimpse into your daily life and the incredible things your girls say. You are four bright and beautiful ladies. BTW, can you teach me how to use my sewing machine next time you visit??

Emily said...


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