My brother showed me how to use a treadle sewing machine when I was seven years old. Before that, I am sure my mom and sisters showed me how to use a needle, thread, and scissors. I made doll clothes and toys for myself. As I got older, I learned to make simple things on my own and I learned the "right" way to do things when I was in home-ec in 7th grade.
I can't remember my teacher's name but I can see her in my mind and I can remember the classroom, her instructions, and the things that I made. I made myself a pair of brown, wide wale corduroy, bell bottom trousers. They had a cuff, a zipper, a fly, waistband, and flat-felled seams.
Nowadays, fewer and fewer schools offer sewing and fewer people are taking it. With all the demands on young people's time (music lessons, sports, dance, and homework), there isn't much time for fun, let alone "old-fashioned" home economic skills. So, I do my best to champion this craft/skill whenever I get the chance.
I have offered afternoon classes in my daughters' elementary school and I had a group of 6-8 students. I also taught summer camp classes on fabric and fiber-arts to children from age 5-13. These lasted 5 years until I decided to move on to spend time on more of my own artwork.
I was glad to have influenced so many of the next generation with regards to the fun and usefulness of sewing. I often hear from parents how much their child gained from the classes and how they have since developed a strong interest in sewing.
I just started a private sewing class with one 11 year old pupil. We sat down the first day and talked about what she needed to gain from the classes in order to make her a skilled and independent designer, seamstress and fabric artist. Here is the list we came up with:
.5 understanding and using the machine.
1. cutting a smooth even line of fabric
2. putting on buttons, snaps, and hook and eye
3. putting in a zipper
4. making different kinds of seams, hems, and edges
5. understanding different kinds of fabrics
6. reading a pattern and adjusting it to your measurements
7. altering patterns and creating your own looks
8. quilting, making home dec, toys, and accessories
We have 8 weeks and I hope we can end with a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm for many future years of happy sewing.