Sewing was a familiar and practical skill in our house when I was a girl growing up in the 60’s. My paternal grandmother was a seamstress for the furrier department of Eaton’s department store; my maternal grandmother embellished linens and clothing with colourful cross-stitched needlework; my mom sewed beautiful dresses for herself and her four daughters. Today, as a teacher and a mother, I now find pleasure in passing along the art of sewing to children.
A Calming Influence
There is a peaceful, meditative state experienced in the quiet and repetitive motions that come with guiding a needle and thread through fabric. The ability to slow down and still both the body and the mind is significant and transformative for young children. For a child of three or four years old, there is a visible change in the posture and visage: soft, open and tranquil.
A Fine Art
Sewing requires precision: In the measuring, cutting, threading, knotting, and patterning. Ones hands need to be both strong and supple to manipulate the slim needle and fine thread; the development of fine motor skills assist in the refinement of movement required.
A Skill for Boys and Girls
The first attempt to thread a needle and learning how to stitch in an up and down motion can be challenging. I often find myself suppressing a chuckle when I see one of the children, their little pink tongue poking out, intently focused on trying to get the thread through the tiny hole of an embroidery needle. Persistence and perseverance allow for the practice necessary, then one day, the thread finally goes through the eye of the needle.
At the moment of success with a new skill, the child’s eyes beam with pride and accomplishment. With time, sewing becomes familiar, bringing ease and joy to the process, and a new outlet for creativity has begun with another generation.
Here are some Montessori sewing activities you can do at home:
(in order of difficulty for ages 3 to 6)
Threading beads: shoe lace, beads
Safety pins: felt shapes, various sizes of safety pins
File Sewing: hole puncher, clips, yarn, scissors, large blunt tapestry needle, coloured construction paper
Plastic Lacing: plastic lacing cut into small shapes, embroidery thread or fine yarn, small blunt needle (small enough to go through holes in plastic), scissors
Button Sewing: buttons (dollar store has various colours and sizes), embroidery hoop (4” diameter is good size), fabric squares (cut a little larger than hoop), thread, scissors, long sharp needle with large eyehole
Bead/Sequin Sewing: coloured felt cut into shapes, coloured beads and sequins (not too small), long sharp needle (thin enough to go through holes in beads), thread, scissors