Antique Sewing Machines
June 18, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

A first simple project for children to learn how to sew using an antique sewing machine…

Those who follow my blog will know that Hubbie bought me a fabulous little 1916 Singer sewing machine a couple of weeks ago. Being nearly 100 hundred years old I was very excited to see that it still worked and after researching how to thread it, load a bobbin and how to use it (click on this link for my blog showing how to thread the machine) I sewed the most fabulously neat and even straight stitch. We named the machine ‘Daphne’ and the boys were itching to use her to make their own things.

I know, as an ex Primary School teacher, that it’s very important that new things are introduced in a step by step way to children with each step building on the one before. Effective teachers start at the end (the skill/knowledge/concept) and work backwards creating these steps so there is a very clear starting and finishing point. If I apply this to the boys and their sewing I want them to be able to use a sewing machine like I can but at 3, 5 and 9 that could take some time. I don’t want to put them off but like learning to read, write or other such huge childhood goals getting them to work a little to get to where you want them to be whilst not putting them off because they realise that they aren’t just going to pick up a book and read or write down a cracking story is the difficulty.

My starting point was to ask them whether they wanted to make something together. The idea that they would make anything at all on Daphne really appealed so the ‘together’ bit really wasn’t a problem! We decided a cushion would be great as they could then use them on their beds. I gave them a range of felts to choose 2 pieces of and using my templates they chose a shape to applique in a contrasting fabric on the top of their cushion.

Henry chose a brown felt (because it ‘matches the colour of Dexter’s eyes and it would remind me of him’ Dexter being our beloved dog who passed away 2 years ago) and an alien shape which he wanted to be a camouflage fabric.

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I drew around the template for him as he finds drawing round them difficult. My thought on this is that he is learning how to use templates, seeing how to use them so when he has the coordination he can then use this experience to do it for himself. This first project was about success and if he couldn’t manage what I asked then I would just say ‘do you need help with that or are you okay?’ giving him the choice and another chance if he needed it.

Henry cut out the top of his alien (his scissor skills are great) and I did the wavy line at the bottom. I showed him how to pin and he wanted to have a go so he did. He managed to pin by himself and was very pleased with himself!

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Tobes (3) wanted to make a cushion too but wanted me to cut his heart out as he tried but found it difficult. He was more than happy to have a go at pinning though!

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Hen really got the hang of pinning.

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Henry put his cushion top with the pinned applique ready to sew. I gave them jobs so they felt involved but weren’t yet using the whole machine by themselves. Tobes’ job was to lift and drop the presser foot and Henry turned the hand crank for his cushion. Henry wanted to see how fast he could sew meaning I had to move the cushion top very quickly!

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Here is Daphne all threaded. I still find it amazing…

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The stitching wasn’t exactly straight and wasn’t exactly accurate but the boys didn’t care. They LOVED turning the wheel and seeing their stitches being made.

Here’s Tobes making the stitches for his cushion.

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Here is Henry pinning the top of his cushion to the bottom. We talked about how we needed to leave a gap so we could put the stuffing in otherwise the cushion would be flat.

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The boys then had the same jobs as before with Tobes raising and lowering the presser foot whilst Henry sewed his cushion and then they swapped jobs to make Tobes’ cushion.

Here’s Tobes stuffing his cushion…

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All done!

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I asked the boys if their cushions were finished and they said no that there was a hole in their cushions. I asked them what this would mean and they said the stuffing would come out. I showed them how to pin the hole and they sewed whilst I guided where they needed to go. Henry still thought that sewing fast was the way to go so it did make it a little difficult!

Once finished they were very pleased!

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Here are the finished cushions.

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This was a quick project – we were done and dusted in 1/2 hour which was long enough to keep them both interested. It only had a few steps and they could easily see each step as they worked their way through them. It had a good success rate – they had their jobs and they could see themselves when they were doing their jobs right, they didn’t need me to tell them. The cushions still look very child made – Henry did a lot of his cutting, there are lots of overshot seams as both boys experimented with seeing how fast they could go (!) but it was a good first project and both boys have their cushion in their rooms as pride of place. Henry’s is on his bed and Tobes has decided his makes a fab pillow for his Teddy to match the patchwork quilt I’d made his Teddy last week.

Here’s a quick step by step guide to making the cushion.

1. Cut 2 pieces of felt the size of the cushion you’d like to make.

2. Use a template (or let them make their own by doing a shape on a piece of paper and cutting it out) to cut the applique shape you’d like.

3. Pin the shape on the cushion top.

4. Sew the appliqued shape.

5. Pin the top of the cushion to the bottom leaving a hole to stuff the filling in.

6. Sew the two pieces together leaving the hole.

7. Stuff the cushion.

8. Pin the hole.

9. Sew the hole.

10. You can finish off the cushion by cutting round the edges with pinking shears (zig zag scissors) but it’s finished with this extra.

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