On a recent afternoon, the classroom at BJ's Quilt Basket on the south side of Bend was full of energy. It was time for the Sew Teach Me program to begin. On the tables lay bags of brightly colored fabrics and sewing notions as well as four sewing machines awaiting the hands of four excited and focused sewing students.
The students, aged 8-12, were choosing fabrics. With the encouragement of their instructors, students prepared their projects and began to sew seams, snip threads, and press their creations. The buzz increased as the projects began to take shape and the patterned fabrics became, in this two-hour session, brightly colored backpacks.
- Megan Baker
- A volunteer mentor offers support and guidance.
Learning to sew is a valuable life skill for your child. In the future, they may wish to mend a favorite item or replace a button, sew to make their own clothing or to express their creativity, or just experience the satisfaction of making something from scratch. Sewing can improve your child's hand-eye coordination, provide a concrete way to use their math skills and give them experience in planning and completing a project. Additionally, sewing is an exercise in patience, something many kids don't practice in this quickly moving world.
But none of that was on the mind of Oscar Wilkinson, 12, who was working one- on-one with a mentor to cut and sew a stuffed animal. Oscar thought it "looked like fun" when his sister Stella, 10, started the program. Stella was at another table, working on her backpack alongside other students who were working on more advanced projects. Oscar had seen the projects his sister was completing and wanted to get involved. With both learning to sew, they enjoyed using the skills they had learned from Sew Teach Me to make gifts for their family over the holidays.
Sew Teach Me
The Sew Teach Me program was founded in Bend by former quilt shop owner Marilyn Forestell in 2017. With very few schools offering sewing as part of the curriculum, Marilyn and a group of enthusiastic sewists formed the non-profit to share their love of sewing with the next generation. While Marilyn has since closed her shop and is currently traveling and helping other communities begin their own Sew Teach Me chapters, local volunteers keep the program thriving in Central Oregon. Classes currently meet at BJ's Quilt Basket on Third Street in Bend.
To date, over 155 youth have completed the basic program. Sew Teach Me is offered at no cost to students through donations and the dedication of trained and screened mentors. These volunteers are enthusiastic about sharing their love of sewing with chilren ages 8-18! Students begin to learn hand and machine sewing skills through completing projects in the four sessions that make up the Sew Teach Me One classes. It is not necessary to bring (or even to have) a sewing machine — students learn on the machines provided as part of the program.
Around half of the students who complete the basic program progress to Sew Teach Me Two, where they continue to work on a series of projects provided by the program. At this level, students have the option of bringing their own machines (or can continue to use a machine belonging to the program), and, while still working under the watchful eyes of sewing mentors, begin to use their skills more independently.
For more information or to register for the program, visit www.sewteachme.org. If you are experienced with sewing, you can also apply to be a mentor or to cut and prepare projects (a background check and training is required to work with kids). To keep the program no-cost to students, donations are also welcome.
- Megan Baker
- Sewing helps improve hand-eye coordination.
Sewing at home
Local seamstress Alison Murphy of Utilitu Sewing and Design (www.utilitu.com) also teaches children how to sew, and shared some tips for setting your child up for success when sewing at home:
Start on a basic sewing machine – it's easier to operate, and kids don't need all the stitches that are offered on a computerized machine. Just be sure that the machine is in good working order to reduce frustration.
Look for sharp but smaller sized scissors for kids to cut fabric with. When their hands aren't big enough to use adult sewing shears, it can be frustrating – and less safe.
Set up the sewing machine on a table where they can sit comfortably and still reach the foot pedal. Straining to reach the pedal makes it harder to control the machine, and kids will fatigue (physically, and of the activity) more easily.
Along with lots of other hands on activities, many 4-H clubs around our region offer sewing as part of their curriculum. Members of these volunteer run groups can learn basic sewing skills as well as how to make clothing, quilts and other household items.