Sewing with Kids – Hand Embroidery

Welcome to the second post in a series of tips on how to help your kids build some basic sewing skills while developing a love for stitching and growing a deeper connection with you in the process.

There’s a lot to cover, so the series is split into four segments:

  1. Setting the Stage
  2. Hand Embroidery
  3. Machine Sewing
  4. Sewing Projects for Beginners

Today we’ll be chatting about hand embroidery, which is both my favorite way to start a kid sewing and something I enjoy doing myself. There are endless possibilities with embroidery.

I’m so glad you’re interested in teaching a kiddo how to sew. It takes a bit of time and a lot of patience, but seeing a child’s eyes light up with joy as they build a life skill makes it worth the effort!

Hand Embroidery with Kids

#10 – Let the Child be the Designer

When teaching hand embroidery, let your child draw his or her own design on a piece of fabric and then stitch over it. You can use a pen or marker (also, see the tools suggested for hand embroidery in Tip #4).

A great simple “design” to start with is a letter or a name. You can then teach a running stitch or a backstitch using a thread color contrasting with the fabric.

Need to brush up on your embroidery skills before teaching your kiddo? Here’s a great tutorial for basic stitches.

#11 – Start on Cardboard

For very young children, have them draw a letter on a cereal box, then use a nail (or other sharp tool) to poke holes through every half inch or so.  They can use a large plastic needle with yarn or a shoelace to practice “sewing” on the cardboard before moving on to fabric.

Kids can also learn basic stitches on cardboard, plastic canvas, or even holes punched in felt or cardstock.

#12 – Lend a Helping Hand

Two ways to gently help your child when they’re struggling, without completely taking over:  

  1. Put your hand over theirs or place a guiding hand on their elbow  while they find the right place to poke the needle through the front or back of the fabric.
  2. Hold the hoop for them, leaving both of their hands free for handling the needle and thread.

#13 – Add a Knot

Does your child’s thread keep coming out of the needle’s eye?  Tie a small knot in the thread tail, leaving the needle in a loop of thread (see photo).  Once your kiddo has figured out the stitching process, he or she can focus on the dexterity needed to keep the thread from pulling out of the eye.

#14 – Try a Wash Away Pattern

When you’re both ready to move to something more complex, check out Sulky Stick ‘n Stitch.  You can print or draw designs on the paper, stick it on fabric, then soak the fabric after stitching and the paper dissolves, leaving just your embroidery behind.  Here are some other ways to transfer a pattern onto fabric.

Also, for the kid who enjoys freehand or abstract work, it can be fun to stitch without a design at all!  I always love seeing improv embroidery :).

#15 – Resources, Resources, Resources

Check out your resources.  There are tons of ideas and tutorials for how to teach hand embroidery to kids.  I’ve gathered my favorites below so you don’t have to spend precious time sifting through your favorite search engine.

Even better, find a friend who knows how to stitch and ask him/her to give you some pointers when you feel stuck!

Together we can find more ways to reclaim fabric
and breathe meaning, joy, and life into our sewing.

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