We’ve been doing our best to support and collaborate with Trixi Symonds of Sew of a Softie for a few years now. We absolutely love her passion and her enthusiasm for mindful sewing education is unmatched. She works with children worldwide and has inspired so many to become young sewists!
Creative encouragement from a young age is so very important — it’s catching creativity at it’s finest and most unbridled. We’re delighted to welcome Trixi to Auribuzz today to share a few tips for getting started in addition to a wonderful beginner’s project! Thank you, Trixi!
In this article I want to say something I think every parent, teacher, and lover of sewing should know: You can sew with kids, even young kids. In fact, it’s great for kids to start sewing young. More than 25 years of teaching sewing to kids has proven this to me.
My workshops are generally open to students from 5 – 14 years old but I’ve taught some as young as three and they’ve loved it. In addition to learning a skill and being fun, sewing nurtures young children’s sense of responsibility, their independence, and their self-esteem.
My name is Trixi Symonds. I live in Sydney, Australia, and in 2016, I launched Sew a Softie to encourage kids around the planet to sew through sewing simple softies. Today, Sew a Softie events take place every year in over 30 countries. Sew a Softie also has a growing group of Kid Ambassadors who sew with friends at Sew a Softie parties or create their own softies and post them online.
As parents and teachers, we tend to put sewing with kids on a backburner. We think, “I’ll wait till they’re older.” Well, we don’t need to wait. We only need to know a few simple things to make sewing with young kids enriching, enjoyable and exciting.
The most important thing to know is: What is a suitable first sewing project for kids?
Well, it has to be simple. Now, this doesn’t mean we need a project that uses enormous blunt needles and coarse hessian fabrics. Kids are quite capable of using regular needles and fabrics. In fact, they thrive on knowing that they’re being entrusted with adult things. If they really want to sew, then I’ve found they behave sensibly and carefully.
A suitable first sewing project should use a basic stitch like a running stitch and shouldn’t take too long to complete. Kids do love to sew but they also like to have something they can hold and be proud of fairly quickly. And not everything needs to be sewn. If they are sewing a softie, for example, it might be good to have them glue on the facial features rather than sewing them on. Don’t push kids beyond what they can comfortably do. My golden rule always is: Sewing has to be fun.
Lastly, a good first sewing project should be child-centred. Mums, you have to let go. No choosing the colours for your kids or tidying up stitches. By all means, be a support, but let your kids feel that they’re doing the work, not you. As parents we have to learn to give our kids space and sewing with them can be great way for us to practice the gentle art of non-interference.
Enough general talk.
I’ve asked my friend, Amelia, to come along and act as a model to show you what a good first sewing project should look like. Amelia is a little pink jelly fish softie and she is a zenki.
What’s a zenki? you ask. Well, a zenki is a special kind of softie I designed to be the perfect sewing project for kids.
Zenkis are made from only two pieces of felt, have simple-to-sew shapes, use a basic running stitch, and don’t require kids to insert and pin things like arms, legs, or tentacles into place. In short, zenkis are the simplest, friendliest softies in the known universe. And Amelia is no exception.
From start to finish I don’t think she’ll take a young first-time sewer more than an hour to make. She only needs a single line of running stitches around her body. That’s all.
Slightly older kids can use Aurifil coloured embroidery threads to enrich Amelia’s jelly fish body with decorative rows of running stitches that end in long threads to create a mass of tentacles that fall over her legs. Younger kids can leave this extra sewing out.
The bottom half of Amelia’s body is weighted with rice and she has an elastic string she can bounce on. I was worried she’d miss the rocking of the ocean’s tides. I’m hoping that the bouncing motion makes her feel more at home on the land. Again, the weighting material and elastic are extras. Younger kids can leave them out and simply fill their Amelias with soft stuffing. Either way, she is a soft-hearted gentle companion to play with and confide in. She’s very good at keeping secrets.
If you want to make Amelia you can find her templates and an easy tutorial at Sew a Softie.
Zenkis seem to possess an endless creative potential. They’ve been my companions for six years now and are still introducing me to their friends. My latest book, The Zenki Way: A Guide to Designing and Enjoying Your Own Creative Softies was written to share the unique potential of zenkis with parents, teachers and of course, kids who are searching for the perfect sewing project.
HUGE thanks to Trixi for sharing a bit of her wisdom with us! Personally, I’ll be working on zenkis with my 5 & 7 year olds, this weekend. What will you make with the young ones in your lives?
Trixi Symonds is a sewing teacher, softie designer, founder of the global Sew a Softie initiative and the author of three books on sewing with kids.