When I was designing my cut and sew dolls I couldn't help but think about my own experiences as a child learning how to sew and thought that cut and sew dolls would not only be a good way to teach a young child how to hand sew but also how to teach them how to machine sew as they could be put together either way. Plus, they quickly see the results of their efforts.
My mother and her best friend taught me how to sew when I was about ten years old. First they made me practice sewing two pieces of fabric together by hand until my running stitches were even and I knew the difference between a running stitch, straight stitch, back-stitch, etc. Then they explained the various types of stitches and their use and some of the sewing terminology.
I, of course, was anxious to start with the sewing machine. Just let me make something. They tried to explain that I needed to master the hand stitches before moving on to the sewing machine. I couldn't understand why back then. I can now. I wanted to create something right then and there.
When they were happy with my hand sewing I moved on to the sewing machine. First they explained how the machine worked, the different parts of the machine, the different machine heads, the different stitches, winding bobbins, etc. I couldn't move on until I knew this. I had no idea when I wanted to learn how to sew how much I needed to learn first. I was ready to go. Let me at the sewing machine - now.
Finally, the day came when I was allowed to start my machine sewing - or so I thought. Au contraire!
First my mother and her friend explained all the sewing terms, showed me how to sew a straight line with the machine, how to sew in reverse, etc. Here, too, they had me practicing rows and rows of stitches on single pieces of fabric. I, of course, thought I was ready after sewing two or three rows of stitches.
My mother would look at my rows of stitching and tell me to continue practicing. My rows of stitching were crooked. I wasn't allowed to move on until they were straight. I really think my mother made me practice much more then I needed just to keep me out of her hair. In any event, I practiced sewing straight lines forward and backwards until I could do it with my eyes closed.
When I thought I was done and ready to start my project here, too, I was wrong. I had no idea they had a test in store for me. YIKES! I'm learning to sew not going to school. Needless to say I passed my quiz with flying colors and they decided I was ready to move on to my first pattern.
The first thing I decided to make was a shirt for myself. I set about buying a pattern, buying the material, supplies, etc. My mother wanted me to start with a simple pattern like a pillow. I convinced her I could handle a shirt. Little did I know that here, too, I would need to understand patterns and how they work before moving on. Just put me in front of the sewing machine. I can do this!
So, she showed me how to read the pattern and how to layout the pattern pieces on my material. I never followed the pattern layout instructions, then, and I still don't as I always thought they wasted too much material. She also told me to read the instructions carefully and to follow the pattern step by step. For my first few years I didn't dare go to step 5 before finishing steps 1 through 4. I thought the earth would fall apart if I did. What did I know I was just a kid!
So my mother explained how to read the various instructions on the pattern sheets and what the little black notches meant. I used to cut them off until I realized they could be quite useful. So I set about cutting out my shirt and then attempting to sew it.
I knew what I was doing, or so I told my mother. Let me do my shirt. So she, as mothers always do, sighed and said "fine!" Go ahead!
I sewed the side seams and the shoulders, then the side seams of the arms. Piece of cake. This is easy. Then the instructions said that I needed to sew the arms to the shirt easing the fabric so that it fit. Well, I looked at the shoulders of my arms and the armhole opening of my shirt. No way that was going to fit. The shoulders of my arms were way too big. I figured the pattern must be wrong so I cut the arms of my shirt straight across the top of the side seam so that the armhole opening of my shirt and shoulder of my arms would fit. Hey, no problem now. No more excess material. Oh, was I good. I sewed both of the arms on and then turned the shirt RSO.
I figured this might be a good time to try my shirt on. Of course when it came time to put the shirt on it was difficult at best. Well, you all know what happened. The sleeves were way too short and my armhole opening was a bit too tight. I looked ridiculous. So, when I asked my mother what the problem was she could barely contain her laughter. She didn't want to laugh as I knew she didn't want to discourage me but, I really did look ridiculous.
When she asked me to tell her how I had sewed the sleeves on she gently explained that there was a purpose for the shoulder curve of the sleeve after all. She helped me remove the stitching, cut out new sleeves, and showed me how to ease the shoulder seam of the sleeve to my shirt. Of course, when I tried my new sleeves on they fit.
My mother told me that there were so many things to learn when sewing that you can't master them all at once. She, in fact, was still learning. So, when in doubt the best course of action is to ask.
What else did I learn. Well, I wasn't a superstar and laughter is the best medicine. No matter how old you are or skilled you are sewing is always an adventure. I figured if you don't try something you'll never know if it would have worked. My solution could have worked and the pattern could have been wrong! Right?
So, when I was designing my cut and sew dolls I wanted to create something that would be a great sewing tool for kids as well as something that would give them a more immediate feeling of achievement. Something they could do without have to go to school and pass a final exam! Something that they could be proud of that they had created. Something to inspire them to want to learn more.
I now have hundreds of different cut and sew doll designs. Plenty of inspiration for learning how to sew. They're fast and easy and are a great way to teach kids how to sew. If you'd like to see all my cut and sew designs please CLICK HERE.