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Is it Still Important to Teach Children to Sew?

3 ¼ min

When I was 10 years old, the opportunity to attend a living history program one summer day left me in a tizzy of anticipation. There was only one problem. I had outgrown all of my historically accurate costumes and had nothing to wear to the event.

My mom assessed the situation, pulled out her sewing machine, and decided it was time for me to learn how to use it.

After picking out a pattern and material, she took me home and taught me the ins and outs of sewing which she herself had learned in junior high: how to pin on a pattern, how to baste, how to backstitch, and so on.

I still have that dress. Occasionally the need arises for me to pull it out for another little girl to wear. Whenever I do, the recipients kindly overlook the slightly crooked ruffle on one sleeve and marvel, “You made that? At age 10?!” 

Such marveling undoubtedly stems from the fact that sewing of any kind, done by any age, has pretty much disappeared from the culture.

But such a disappearance does not mean that there isn’t an interest. On the contrary, young children are still fascinated with learning to sew, as evidenced recently recently at the American Sewing Guild booth at a Florida County Fair:

“Sewing machines line the booth’s tables, enabling multiple children to try their hand at sewing and take home their newest creations.

Last year, the booth helped 400 children operate a sewing machine, said Sarasota/Gulf Coast chapter president Paulette Braga. So far this year, more than 270 children have stopped by. She said those who stop are inquisitive.

“’They’re pretty fascinated by the taking two pieces of material and they stick together,’ Braga said. ‘They love to create something. ... They’re very proud of what they do.’”

But if children like these are so enamored with sewing their own creations, then why don’t more do it? Braga explains her theory:

“‘I think the disconnection comes from schools. They don’t have life-learning events in schools anymore,’ Braga said noting that she and her daughters learned to sew, balance a checkbook and cook while in school. ‘With both parents working today, it’s so difficult to find time (to teach).’”

Many might say that in the heavily modernized society we live in today, crafts such as sewing really are unnecessary to teach in schools, particularly since one can go to the store and slap down a few bucks for a piece of clothing.

But putting the economics of sewing aside for a moment, consider the other benefits that handicraft instruction can offer today’s kids. The precision work of sewing enhances eye-hand coordination skills. Problem-solving often comes into play when a project is short on material or a few wrong stitches have jammed the machine. Perseverance is often needed in order to see the project through to the end. And anyone who has ever tried their hand at some type of manual labor knows that it often takes more mental energy and critical thinking than is sometimes required from sitting at a desk working on homework problems.

Is it time we recognized the value handicrafts offer to children? Furthermore, is it possible that their reinstatement in the nation’s schools would rekindle creativity, inspire thought, and provoke greater enthusiasm for learning of all kinds? 

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Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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GidgSr
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I don't believe the schools are just there to teach the three R's but should also include life skills and introduce the children to other experiences that their parent may not be capable of or have the knowledge. These subjects include music, the arts, cooking and planning and budgeting for the family meals. Proper nutrition, sewing, home repairs, woodworking, auto mechanics, balancing a checkbook, LIFE Skills. My son had all his "college prep" courses done by December of his senior year but being a baseball player he did not want to graduate in December. He took a auto mechanics class as a fill in the spring of his senior year and even as a college graduate, and a math teacher, he as used the auto mechanics class and his woodworking classes in his everyday adult life more than some of his "college prep" classes. I believe every child should be exposed to a great variety of classes to not only teach but enrich their lives so they can make informed decisions about their future. This is not possible with all parents. as many of them have never been exposed to these lessons.
 
 

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Mgflanag
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I learned to sew in my 4H Club many moons ago. While I still sew today, weaving and knitting are my passion. I am always amazed that the textile arts are often treated as superfluous curiosities when in fact they actively engage all of the academic disciplines in their construction. Knit a pair of socks and tell me that turning the heel is not engineering in miniature! The same goes for the construction of a man or woman’s suit or the creation of a tiny smocked baby dress. Why does one like the fit and style of clothes from one brand and not another? The math and science involved is amazing! The textile arts are worth teaching, but more important, they need to be taught in the light of all the other disciplines that contribute to the final project.
 
 

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Joy Branham
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Don't blame the schools! You notice that the author says her mother taught her how to sew. That isn't happening nowadays, partly because we're all inundated with other demands, and partly because of exactly what you said--readymades are cheap. Teachers are overwhelmed trying to teach all the myriad of technical stuff mandated by the state, federal, and local schools that anything like this has definitely been gone for years. Hand skills like sewing, cooking, woodworking, gardening, and generally managing a life always came from the parents anyway. Why castigate the schools because the parents have reneged on their jobs?
 
 

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Stacy Louis
I believe we should teach sewing to the schools. Think about it, we have jobs in the medical degrees such as surgery. If the kids who came in academically brilliant, but unable to sew, our medical industry would collapse. Not to mention that we need those sewing skills because of our eye to eye performance. So, don't blame it on the author!
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