kids sewing

Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut are the authors of the new book Improv Sewing. They also blog together at Improv DiaryNicole is a freelance crafter and stylist, clothing designer, blogger and obsessed sewist. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she also works at her family’s hard cider business together with her husband and two children. Debra is a writer, magazine editor, and content packager who loves sewing and crafting, even when her creations turns out just a little bit awkwardly. She grew up in the Washington, DC, area and now lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and son. 

Creativity, improvisation, and why it is so darn good to let go and make some stuff

Once, many years ago, I was in the company of a bunch of farmers who were drawing angry vegetables for the side of their farm truck for fun (uh, why else?). They were young farmers from the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden program, not your typical farmer, but still. Egging everyone on was our friend Harrell Fletcher, who has since become a sort of major person in the art world, and he is pretty much the embodiment of creativity (yes, look him up, his work is very worth looking at).

I was in my mid-20s, and I sat on the edge of the group and watched. I still can’t believe my shyness and how I simply missed out on ALL of the fun that day. I didn’t really think I had enough talent to draw an angry vegetable. I could throttle that young woman’s perfect neck for being so silly. I might be a bit of a late bloomer, but I have arrived and there is no stopping creativity once you let go of judgment, comparisons, and self-imposed limitations. I couldn’t be more serious.

First of all, I can draw just fine. So can you. Second, I am of the mind that I can learn to do most anything, if I want (maybe not brain surgery, but I conveniently don’t really want to anyway) and this mindset has been an amazing emancipator. I have gone from staring at a store bought tissue pattern with squinty eyes and a furrowed brow to designing my own clothes in a matter of very few years. I have tweaked mistakes and imperfections into design elements (they are easily persuaded) and then cultivated those ideas into intentionally laid down lines and squiggles, Xs and seed stitches. Layers and appliques have been my cover-ups and the basis for my decorative elements. It has been so satisfying to play around and figure things out, and, it is crazy fun.

Of course, I didn’t just go from timid non-drawing gal to sewing book author in a flash. I was a school teacher and then made the natural (and fortuitous) shift to working as a craft developer for a family and kid magazine for a bunch of years. I think that my commitment to instilling the love of art and creativity in my students and my own children has convinced me to express my ideas without all of the self-judgment. Everyone says that kids are the best teachers, and it really is true. I saw them creating with abandon and it moved me. I had to let go of a lot to be a good role model and that was important to all of us. And, it has served me in so many ways.

First, I get to earn my living making things, which couldn’t be more amazing. Also, I got to meet my co-author Debra who is an editor I have worked on many magazine projects with. She is an excellent writer (funny and thoughtful) and has a
fantastic ability to make directions clear and easy to understand. We were a great team and this book was really her idea.

I guess I am trying to tell you something here. Most likely you already are creative and make things if you look at this amazing WhipUp blog, but if you think that you can’t make your own clothes, or if you think that you can’t put your mark on something so that it is unique and a good expression of you, then I am here to ask you to rethink that. You can make whatever you want and I hope our book is a companion to you in the process of discovery. Improvise if you need to. Let go of your inhibition because it is way more fun that way. Way more fun.


Line Art Lunchbox Napkin (Excerpted from Improv Sewing (c) by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut,  Photo (c) by Alexandra Grablewski, used with permission from Storey Publishing.)

If you’re new to drawing with your sewing machine, hone your skills with this low-stakes, ultracheap project (you don’t even have to buy fabric if you have an old white bedsheet to cut up). This reusable napkin will make its owner proud in two ways: he or she gets to show off artwork and reduce lunchtime trash at the same time.

What you’ll need :: 10″ square of Birdseye cotton, glassware toweling, or other absorbent woven cotton fabric + 1 to 3 spools of contrasting thread

How to :: 

1. Create the drawing :: Tape the fabric taut to the table. With a vanishing ink pen or chalk, draw a simple design, either centered or in one corner, leaving at least a 3/4″ margin on all sides for the hem.

2. Draw with thread :: Before you start drawing, read the techniques intro, page 134, and practice on a scrap of the project fabric. Set your presser foot pressure to 2; this allows you to manipulate your fabric easily but still follow the drawn lines. Using a straight stitch with the stitch length set at 1, stitch along the drawn guidelines.

3. Hem the napkin :: Press the edges of the napkin 1/4″ to the wrong side, and then 1/4″ again to make a 1/2″ double-fold hem. Using contrasting thread and a narrow zigzag (our stitch width was 3 and stitch length 2.5), topstitch the hem in place, leaving the needle down and turning the fabric at the corners.

4. Stitching tip :: It will make it easier for the sewist if the drawing isn’t itty-bitty, so guide the artist accordingly. For a younger child, frame the target area with tape to help him or her understand where and how big to draw the artwork.


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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

November is book month at

Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child By Meg McElwee, Published by Interweave Press (June 14, 2011).

Meg McElwee is a teacher and parent, crafter and blogger and she sure knows her stuff. Her latest book is all about sewing for kids – the practical side and fun stuff too. It’s for parents sewing for babies and up to about size 7 – but the bags, toys and dress-ups are more flexible of course. If you know how to size up your own patterns then you can use some of the clothing patterns as a guide to making bigger sizes for your bigger kids. I am going to have to do that with the sleeping johns and crossover tee – I also really love the pants pattern that is included too.

The kids clothing section is minimal because this book is about sewing all the things that your kid will need – there are a few basic clothing items plus other things a cape for dress-ups, a steiner style doll and that fabulous teepee on the front cover! Also there is quite a few baby essentials – including a baby wearing sling, bigs and baby clothes and some sweet toddler alphabet letters. For older kids there is a marvelous nature explorer bag.

For me this book is a big inspiration to throw away (or donate to charity) all those store bought toys and clothes and get back to basics again.

Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Create a Handmade Wardrobe By Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage, Published by Wiley; 1 edition (September 6, 2011).

I want my little boy to go back in time just a couple of years so I can make him some of these cutie pie duds. The clothing sizes range from babies up to age 7 – so if you have little boys in this age group then you are in very good luck – because these duds are super cute and practical too.

Because the patterns are written by the gals at Figgys – you are in good hands – these girls know how to sew and write a readable pattern. The patterns are not all aimed at the beginner sewist – there are some more difficult projects that require collars, pockets, buttons, interfacing, facing etc (The Henry shirt for example) – so there is plenty here to challenge and inspire the experienced sewist – while the beginner is not left out either. The lovely thing about making clothes for your little kids is that they appreciate it and wear it even if it’s not perfect – so the important thing is to give it a try even if you are unsure about whether your skills are up to the job – how else will you improve anyway.

Because I like my kids to have nice things to wear I don’t often indulge in special occasion sewing, but I love that there are some special occasion outfits for boys in here – lovely jackets and shirts with collars, a super cute pair of suspender shorts. But most of my sewing for kids involves quick, easy and practical sewing because I know they will be wearing them in the mud and climbing trees and playing soccer – and luckily this book has some of these sorts of things too – romper suits and raglan t-shirts and drawstring pants.

I did say earlier that the patterns only go up to size 7? You can always size up the patterns yourself – using your child’s current clothing as a guide. I think I might do that with the raglan t-shirt -and the linen shirt.

Project excerpt: Make the cute hat that appears on the cover.


I want to welcome Caroline and Maryanne, a couple of sisters who live in Sydney, Australia. Together they chat on their blog and run sewing classes – sewtogether – for new and young mothers who want to sew for themselves and their children.

We come from a long line of crafting women, who have all had the desire to create. We hope to continue this family tradition, spark this passion in our children and share it with friends. We run a sewing school where our main focus is to help our students discover the joy of creating beautiful but simple things and the joy that can be found through being part of a crafty community.

Seize the Moment Sewing
Once upon a time, ladies of leisure embroidered delicate tablecloths with matching napkins, they spent years making heirloom quilts and months smocking dresses for their daughters (and their sons!) Hand creating beautiful things has always been seen as an act of love.

As life becomes busier and time becomes more valuable it can sometimes be impossible to find time to craft and to create special things for the people we love the most, but it’s all about seizing the moment. Those moments come thick and fast in families – first steps, wobbly teeth, receiving your first library card, swimming lessons, first sleepovers – why not seize those milestones and make them extra special with treasures and keepsakes that you can make in minutes, not weeks? In this case, less time doesn’t mean less love. First sleep-over pajamas, library bags, birthday badges and tooth fairy pillows can all be made in less than an hour, used and loved and then stowed away in a keepsake box for later so that memories remain tangible.

We like to call it ‘Seize the moment sewing’! and to get you started… a tutorial to make Birthday Brooches.

These running stitch birthday brooches are super quick, super easy and perfect for kids who love to wear their age with pride (unlike their mothers!)

You’ll need:
– Felt scraps in a variety of colours
– Craft glue
– Embroidery thread in a variety of colours
– A safety pin

1. Cut out your top felt layer. If you are feeling confident you can hand draw and cut, but I like to print a template off my computer. A 300 point font is a good size.
2. Get stitching. I love the sashiko effect of just using running stitch, but it’s up to you!
3. Glue the embroidered layer of felt to a square of felt just slightly larger than the top layer. I use spray glue as it stiffens up the felt nicely, but any kind of craft glue will do the trick.
4. Cut around the number you have just glued leaving enough edge (approx. 3mm / 1inch) to stitch around your first border.
5. Repeat steps 2 ,3 and 4
6. If you don’t want your stitching to show on the back of the brooch, attach another piece of felt (the same size as your final layer) to cover it up. Stitch a safety pin (or brooch back if you have one) to your embroidered number and…you’re done!


These animal sewing cards would make an excellent holiday craft project for the kids.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

part of sew mama sew’s summer sewing month is this great tutorial / pattern for a swimming robe for kids.