How to Teach Hand Sewing to Littles

Do you have a little kid at home that wants to join in the sewing fun???  Even the 5 and under crowd can learn some basic sewing skills with a little help from you and a few modifications!!! 

And I will tell you, the pride they feel after completing a project is just so sweet! When my youngest daughter was 4 and 5, people would ask her if she sewed too, and she would reply, “Well, my big sister can sew on the machine, but I can do hand sewing!” 

There isn’t a particular age for each step but just work with your child at their own pace. I would say the age range for these ideas is ages 2-7, though kids at the older side of that range could probably skip right to Step 2 with the needle and thread, but then again, my 9 yr old will do the sewing cards if they are laying out! šŸ™‚

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Step 1: Start with sewing cards

Sewing cards are a great way to get the five and under crowd interested in sewing!  You can find lots of premade sewing cards for kids like the ones in the picture above, and they are also easy enough to make yourself! See this short tutorial on how to make your own sewing cards.

They are such a great starting point for sewing because they help the child with hand eye coordination and the movement of sewing without any sharp pointy objects! And they are a great activity to pack up and take wherever you go!

Here are a couple of cute ones I like:


Once your child has mastered the sewing cards, it’s time to move on to real needle and thread!


Step 2: Modified Needle and Thread

For this stage, they will be using the same up and down movement from the sewing cards, but with a real needle and thread!

Suggested modifications for Step 2: 

  1. Use an embroidery needle – these are bigger than the tiny hand sewing needles and are easier for little hands to hold. You can also find needles that have a slightly duller point. 
  2. Knot both ends of the thread – normally I teach my students to knot only one of the threads and leave a short tail like this.  But little kids (and even some big kids and adults!) can get really frustrated when their needle keeps coming unthreaded, so knotting both ends together solves this problem.  The only bad thing with knotting the thread like this is if they mess up a stitch and the thread has to be cut, their previous stitches may fall out. But even still, knotting the thread like this helps them to focus on the stitching and not lots of things all at once!       



Project Ideas for Step 2:

Here are a few projects that you can do as many times as you would like and with lots of variations! The projects increase in difficulty, so start with Project 1 and progress through them.

There are so many possibilities for this one! The first one my daughter ever did was her name at age 4.  The main goal when first starting out is just coming up on the line and going down on the line. Don’t worry about even stitches or spaces in between – that comes later!

The next one she did took her much longer, but I display it proudly in my sewing studio!  For this one, she tried her hand at the back stitch. (To see the back stitch demonstrated, here is a short video.)  Once she stitched the front, I helped her to make it into a little pillow.

This is a great little project to learn how to whipstitch two pieces of material together to make a small pillow. Felt is a very easy material to sew with as well!

This project gives more practice on whipstitching felt together and you can sew a button on, a ribbon for a strap to make a purse, or you could even use what you learned in the first project and sew your name or a design onto the pouch before you sew it together!

Here is a fun opportunity to practice sewing buttons!  You can use as few or as many buttons as you like!  You could even color a tree with colored pencils on your fabric and then sew “apples” on to the tree!  Or make your own design with buttons!

Step 3: Hand Sewing Without Modifications

Once your child has mastered hand sewing with the training wheels on šŸ™‚ , it is time to take away the modifications!  If your child has had a lot of practice, you can try knotting just one of the threads as described in this post.  They will need to hold on to the needle at the eye when they pull it up through the fabric so that their thread does not come unthreaded.  The coordination to be able to do this consistently may not come until around age 7 or 8, or maybe even later. But just follow your child’s pace!  Make sure they feel very confident with the modifications and they are ready to move forward in difficulty.  Moving ahead before they are ready may just lead to frustration! If you try sewing without modifications and their needle keeps coming unthreaded and they are getting frustrated, just go back to knotting both threads, and try again at a later date. 

When you are ready to move forward, a good place to start is with the Get Ready For Some Hand Sewing post, which goes step by step on how to cut your embroidery thread, separate it, thread the needle, and knot the thread. 

Once they are able to do the running stitch and the back stitch and the needle is staying threaded šŸ™‚ they can start learning some other basic embroidery stitches, such as the ones in the Basic Embroidery Sampler.

From there, the sky is the limit! They have not only learned a useful skill, but possibly even sprouted a love for sewing and embroidery that can last a lifetime!

Happy sewing!!!

   – Jamie

4 thoughts on “How to Teach Hand Sewing to Littles”

  • Thanks so much for your post! My girls are interested in learning to sew and Iā€™m ready to start with the basics, but I was feeling unsure where to start. The information here is exactly what we need, and laid out so clearly.

  • This is awesome! I just recently started getting into sewing and my children are all wanting to make stuff. My older two will be making pillows here soon, but I know my third (5) and maybe even my youngest (2 1/2) will want to take part as well. this helps tremendously.

  • So, I need an answer to why you would only knot one side? And how exactly you would use this technique? Because I always knot both ends together. Would you mind letting me know how this method works and the reasoning behind it? Thanks.

    • Great question! When kids are first learning, I will knot both sides together, that way they can focus on the sewing and not have to worry about the needle coming off the thread. But once kids (or adults!) get more comfortable sewing, it is best to only knot one side, because if you mess up and have to take out a stitch, if you had knotted both threads together you may have to cut your thread and then you’ll lose everything you had just sewed. But if it is only knotted on the one side, when you mess up, you can just slip the needle off the thread, take out the messed up stitch, and then thread the needle back on and continue right where you left off! I hope that helps!

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