recently ella made her first dress, pretty much all by herself. many people have commented to me that they were astonished at her accomplishment. but honestly, although i am certainly proud, i am not at all surprised, nor would i be surprised if any other six-year-old did the same thing.
the secret is in putting together the correct project with the correct tools.
for example, many people believe that children should start on small projects, such as doll clothes. however, anybody who has ever actually made doll clothes knows that they are fiddly--the seam allowances are very small, the pieces are very small, and the notions are very small. doll clothes are hard enough to manage when you have some experience, much less when you have NO experience.
likewise, many people believe that hand sewing is easier than machine sewing but in fact i have found over and over, with adults as well as children, that sewing by machine is really easier. it takes very well-developed fine motor skills to make a strong, even seam by hand, whereas sewing by machine only requires the operator to be able to press a foot pedal and to guide some fabric.
along with all of this, it is important to choose a project that really interests the child. most teachers start out with things like pillow cases or tote bags--which are perfectly fine projects that teach a lot of good basic skills but let's face it: wearing something you've made is infinitely more rewarding than sleeping on something you've made. and if you pick the right project, it has no more pieces nor more complicated construction than an ordinary tote bag does anyway.
the dress ella sewed has only four pattern pieces: a front, a back, and a front and back neck facing. the sleeve is incorporated into the design, and the only sewing i had to do for her was finish the neck placket in the back.
i did do the cutting, using rotary cutters, but she could definitely have done it herself if i had a pair of dressmakers sheers for her to use. :D i haven't cut anything with sheers in so long--at least 12 years--that i don't even own any. i'm thinking they might be on the list for our next shopping trip. if i find a pink pair, she will be in dressmaker heaven.
now--if you could make a first project all over again, what would it be? dare to dream big. :)