The first two projects with my sewing student were fairly small but both were quilted. I decided the next projects should be more basic sewing projects and asked her mom to bring with them either one yard of fabric or an old sheet for the next session.

What the mom brought was a new flat sheet she had in the house. High thread count. Kind of sateen finish. Hmm, can we work with this? Fortunately I had an extra week to prepare for this session. I was planning on making pillowcases, and wanted to be sure that my student could work with such a fabric without a) getting really frustrated and b) having the whole thing unravel the first time it was washed (or even whilst being sewn!).

I used the basic pillowcase pattern from AllPeopleQuilt’s page for the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. I’ve made this pattern before, so was familiar with the technique and knew in general my student could do it. However, the fine sheet fabric might make things more difficult. My solution was to stitch the seams as directed, then zigzag stitch every edge. (I don’t own a serger, so zigzag on my basic sewing machine was the next best thing.) Threw my sample in the wash and closely inspected what came out of the dryer. Success! I had a plan, and was ready for my student.

Funny enough, she asked me if we would be zigzagging (she had a few sessions of sewing in her middle school home ec class, just enough to know she wanted to learn more). Hey, this girl’s brain is working, yay!!  🙂  So much easier to have a thinking student. Anyway, mom decided to join us for this session, too. 

These are the pillowcases made by me (blue) and the mom (purple-ish):

The student kept hers, but the mom and I decided to donate our pillowcases to charity. So, if you know of a group that is collecting pillowcases, please let me know! I haven’t had a chance to start my search yet, so I’m open to ideas. Note that the main fabric is a cream color, so maybe not appropriate for kids.  🙂

The zigzagging was good practice for all of us. Now it was time to find a project that was more age appropriate for an 11 year old girl. I decided to try making a drawstring bag, and found a great pattern at Christina Sherrod’s Craft and Fabric Links site. The pattern called for nylon waterproof fabric, but my mom (who was visiting at the time and has much more fabric know-how than I do) and I agreed that might be a bit tough for a beginning sewist. We also thought we needed something that wasn’t prone to ripping, as there are two corners that may or may not get stitched and could be weak points in the construction. So I ended up buying pants-weight cotton twill, plus some interfacing that could reinforce those weak spots. For the drawstrings, I bought half inch cotton twill tape by the spool (basically, one spool per bag!).

My student loved this project, until we got to feeding the drawstring through the top. First, I found out she had never seen or used a safety pin before. Huh? Is that possible? Her mom confirmed later that she didn’t use them, but assumed her daughter knew what they were. So, I’m learning to check my assumptions at the door about what is “basic knowledge”, as it may not be for everyone! Second, I found out that feeding a drawstring through a one-inch sleeve isn’t as easy as it looks when you have never done it before. My student struggled at first to understand what I was describing, and once she did it took her a long time to get the tape through. However, she did it all by herself, not asking me once to help her. Good girl! 

She was asking questions about the project near the end, concerned we were going to sew it shut. I promised her it would make more sense when we were done. And when we sewed those last seams across the bottom, and I showed her how to turn it right side out, her eyes lit up. A big smile crossed her face, as if she had performed magic. Maybe, in her opinion, she did. But that moment was priceless for me.

Here’s the bag I made:

The finished bags were about 13″ wide by 18″ long.

Our next project is to learn hand quilting. I may not be able to work with her for a month and a half, and I wanted to come up with something she could do during that time without a sewing machine. So, I have a couple of 20″ square pieces that are perfect for practicing hand quilting. I’ll probably have her do stab-stitch, rather than running stitch, for dexterity reasons. We’ll see how that goes!



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