|Sew Much More!|
By JoAnn Gagnon
In the current age of instant gratification, sewing is fast becoming a lost art, something that children talk about their grandparents doing long ago. Unfortunately, with the loss of the skill of sewing, not only do we lose something that is an asset to the family; we also lose a tool that can be a means to develop numerous abilities in our young children. When one thinks of all the skills that come from learning to sew, it is definitely an advantageous subject choice for a homeschooling family. It is one of those few wonderful subjects that teaches multiple skills as you do a single activity.
Right from the beginning, when God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skins, sewing has been part of the Bible: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Scattered throughout the Word are references to spinning, sewing, weaving, and making clothing and tapestries. The wife of noble character described in Proverbs 31 is one who provides for her family in all ways, not the least of which is clothing her family in scarlet, making coverings for the beds, and making linen garments to sell. “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” (Proverbs 31:13) A busy and productive wife is one who is pleasing to the Lord and to her husband. “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27) The satisfaction of a productive life and creative work is something that boys and girls can be taught at a young age.
Jesus used many parables, analogies, and stories in His teaching, and sewing instruction is a perfect opportunity to use Biblical parables, analogies, and stories that can be applied to both the task at hand and to life. For example, in Acts a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds” (see Acts 9:36) is described. Her name was Dorcas, and when she suddenly became sick and died, the disciple Peter was called to come. When Peter arrived, mourning widows surrounded him, and they showed Peter the garments that Dorcas had sewn for them while she was alive.
Dorcas is an example of a woman who lived what she believed. She didn’t just talk about helping those in need; she made it a part of her life, and because of that she was deeply loved by those around her. She used her God-given talent of sewing to do God’s will.
Of the many talents that are acquired by a young tailor or seamstress, one of the most basic and fundamental of these is small and large muscle coordination: eye, hand, and foot. Through age-appropriate tasks, you can continually fine-tune these abilities and improve your child’s dexterity as he learns to tackle more and more difficult sewing projects.
Some of the fine motor skills that are exercised with the hands are cutting, pinning, pressing, and measuring, as well as hand sewing. All of these skills require both dexterity and diligence, and as with everything, these skills are perfected the more they are practiced. When using the sewing machine, you utilize hand-eye coordination, both in threading your machine and feeding your material through. Another skill that is acquired and exercised is hand-eye-foot coordination, as the seamstress uses the pressure of her foot on the pedal to control the speed of the sewing machine.
Sewing provides an opportunity to apply math and measurement skills. Mastery begins with learning to read a ruler (or measuring tape) when taking body measurements to determine pattern sizes. Your child will utilize monetary math as he purchases patterns and fabric—reading pattern charts and purchasing enough fabric for the correct pattern size. The child must use measuring skills when laying out the pattern on the fabric, following the pattern guide, making pattern alterations, and cutting the correct amount of fabric. He will learn to calculate seam allowances and hemlines, work with fractions, multiply, and use a basic knowledge of angles. From beginning addition and measuring units for a preschooler to geometry and budget planning for a teen, sewing is a fun and satisfying way to apply math skills to daily life.
One of the benefits that homeschool families are able to enjoy is the freedom to pursue subjects of interest and learn additional skills along the way! Children will develop character as they learn to sew. Self-affirmation is a by-product of learning to complete a task or activity, as is the delight of “creating something.” Following directions is an essential component of sewing, and assembling a garment for yourself or as a gift provides motivation to finish the entire project.
Other character-building traits that can be developed through sewing projects include attentiveness to details (all seams must match; cutting must be accurate; pieces must be sewn together in the proper order), perseverance (seeing a project through to completion), discernment (selection of modest and age-appropriate patterns), and creativity (experimenting with color and styles). As budding tailors and seamstresses gain competence, sewing gives them the freedom and ability to produce their preferred styles of clothing, because their choices are no longer determined by the availability of what is sold in clothing stores. Sewing also encourages the individual to increase his or her knowledge of design and line concepts and color coordination, as each develops the license to alter patterns and choose fabrics.
Another advantage that sewing instruction can offer is the freedom to cater the instruction to suit your children’s different learning styles. All kids will function somewhat in all three areas, but most will be stronger in one area (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). I am a big believer in sewing with your child(ren). This allows you to work creatively with all of the learning styles, and you can provide immediate encouragement and praise for each child.
• Auditory—You, the parent, can “talk through” the process as you show the child how to carry out the instructions. Directions can be read out loud; if the child hears the instructions, he will then more likely be able to successfully carry them out.
• Visual—Using the pattern guide or other printed instructions, the child can visualize what is needed in order to learn a new technique. Give your child a chance to practice before applying the technique to his sewing project.
• Kinesthetic—Sewing really appeals to this type of learner. He probably will delight in this hands-on assignment, beg for more, devise his own creative shortcuts, and be a joy to teach!
Sewing is an ability that lays the foundation for more advanced skills. A young man who learns to read patterns and sew as a child will have no problem reading charts or plans later on in his life. He will have acquired many foundational skills that can be put to work in his adult trade. Many workplace skills can be introduced and developed through sewing. They are marketable skills that he will be able to use in almost any job that he pursues as an adult.
From the surgeon to the fisherman, sewing is a foundational skill that can be built upon in order to excel in life and in the workplace. Sewing is even a survival skill! There is a reason that a needle and thread are included in wilderness survival kits—not only in case they are needed for clothing or shelter emergencies, but also because they are sometimes needed to stitch up a cut that results from an accident.
Sewing provides a means to build hands-on skills that will continue to be an asset throughout your child’s lifetime and yours as well. In the future, there will be many opportunities to develop this skill as you repair, redesign, and/or remake ready-made articles of clothing. It is important to learn basic life skills such as sewing on a button, mending, and ironing. As a child grows older he will be able to use his sewing skills to save money by altering or redesigning clothing that he or she already owns. Purchasing usable secondhand clothing that can be repaired is another excellent way to practice good stewardship.
There are many opportunities to employ the abilities that are gained from learning to sew. You can move on to home decorating, quilting, and gift giving. You could even start a home-based business that involves sewing by creating your own patterns, activities, and E-books or by selling items that you have sewn at home. There is no end to the business potential, not to mention the bond that will develop between parent and child as they learn and grow and sew together.
Sewing is an important life skill that will contribute positively to many other areas of one’s life. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
JoAnn Gagnon homeschooled her son and daughter and taught both of them to sew. She now spends her time creating patterns and writing sewing instruction manuals for all ages and skill levels. She has devotional study booklets that go along with the projects and technique lessons in her manuals. You can find out more information about her and get a full list of her books at www.bunkhousesewing.com.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The
Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2009.
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