Tips for Sewing with Small Children in the House

tips sewing small children houseThe reality for most is that, with small children in the house, it is very difficult to complete any task, other than the most basic one – and often that is beyond reach. Small children are synonymous with interruptions, distractions, and interferences (as well as being absolutely adorable) and the best tip that I could give anyone planning to sew with children around would be: don't bother!

However, for those who need a regular “fix” of sewing, knitting or any other craft activity, there are some ways to minimize the frustration inherent to any activity that does not center on the children.

The ideal situation would be to sew when small children were either asleep or being fully cared for by another adult, or a much older child. Whether you can structure your day so that the childrenís sleep time is fully at your service for the purpose of sewing or you are able to conserve enough energy and concentration to be able to sew at night when the children are in bed, sleep time may give you a few hours of undivided attention.

If your only option is to sew when the children are awake and active, you could try restraining or blockading them. That may sound dreadful, but in practice, a toddler may be quite happy to sit for a lengthy time in the highchair, eating or playing while you sew. Depending on the design of your home, you may be able to blockade a sewing room or area, denying physical access to your child, but still allowing full visual and verbal contact.

tips sewing small children houseIf you are unable to separate your wakeful child physically from your sewing area, be careful to keep the area safe. If possible, cut out on a table or bench and ensure scissors and pins are well away from the child's reach. Watch to see that electrical cords are not causing a hazard. For your sanity, keep fabric, cotton reels, and other supplies out of reach of children, unless you are happy to have them tampered with.

Try to provide your child with an interesting, absorbing activity whilst you sew. Perhaps they might watch a DVD. (The Wiggles may drive adults crazy, but none can doubt their babysitting value.) Older children may be happy to sit and color-in at the table beside you, or maybe do some “sewing” of their own.

Choose your sewing tasks wisely. Simple, repetitive tasks can be carried out successfully when children are distracting you. Save complex, involved projects for child-free times.

Appeal to your child's selfish side….your daughter may be quite happy to sit and watch you sew her a pretty dress, but if the project is of no immediate value to her, she will quickly lose interest and become annoyed by your preoccupation with the sewing machine.

tips sewing small children house

If sewing is something that you love doing, or need to do, then make it as regular a practice in your home as possible. Although difficulties may occur when you attempt to sew with young children in the house, they will decrease as children become accustomed to your habits and your expectations of their behavior whilst you sew. Young children can learn to amuse themselves for a reasonable period of time and to be happy just being near Mum, without monopolizing her full attention. Having said this, be fair to your children. It is not reasonable to expect to be able to sew for hours every day, while your children are basically ignored. Be sure to spend bursts of quality time with young children throughout your sewing routine, so that perceived neglect does not lead to misbehavior.

Be prepared to be distracted, frustrated and annoyed. That way you won't be disappointed with ineffective sewing sessions and, on the occasions when your small children behave like angels your satisfaction will know no bounds. When people marvel at your super mum qualities….creating such beautiful projects when you must be so busy with your young family…..accept the praise, you have definitely earned it!

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18 Responses to Tips for Sewing with Small Children in the House

  1. Janet says:

    This article brought back happy and challenging memories of when my 3 children were small. I am now a grandmother. I remember wanting to so or otherwise be creative and the difficulties of feeling torn between keeping eyes on the littles and focus on the project. I decided I needed a change of goals. Instead of having my daily goal to be completion of a project, instead my daily goal should be to complete one task. With that in mind, one day I would lay out pattern pieces, the next day pin the pieces to fabric. One day’s goal would be to cut out the pieces, the next thread the sewing machine. With daily small goals, I looked forward to each step, felt accomplishment, and actually did complete a lot of sewing projects during that time. Much less frustration, more enjoyment. I hope this helps someone.

  2. Janet says:

    I am presently a grandmother, but well remember the desire to be creative while my 3 little toddlers were busy and needing me. It was difficult but I decided to re-define success in sewing or crafts from project completion to task completion. I decided that success for me would be completion of 1 task on my project every day: baby steps. One day I would choose the pattern pieces, the next lay them out. One day I would cut out pieces, the next thread the machine: very small steps, but I could see progress, and each step was a joy and a sense of accomplishment. I ended up completing many projects during that time of my life by doing 1 task per day, and it was satisfying.

  3. tmana says:

    A lot depends on the age and maturity level of the young child. Mom got her first sewing machine when I was five, but I had already learned basic running stitch from sewing cards (white cardboard with punched holes running around a central picture, which were sewn with colorful shoelaces), I could help her separate pattern pieces, and when we went pattern shopping I would buy patterns for clothes for my dolls, which Mom would make from the scraps from the clothes she made for us (me, my sister, herself). When she finished with the fabric, we would use the often-connected long-but-unusable cabbage to drape around ourselves as “costumes”.
    Note also that at five years old, I was considered mature enough to use real metal sewing needles and do basic sewing of stuff for my dolls. It took a while before I could thread the needles myself, but there were afternoons when we would both be sewing, or both knitting while watching television. These parental behaviors teach children skills, give them responsibility, and create bonding moments that they remember long after their parents are gone.

  4. Linda says:

    I sewed most of their clothes or mended when the kids were either napping or playing well. I could see and supervise. Of course, there were days when sewing and kids didn’t mix. When the days worked… I accomplished a lot.
    Don’t really remember at lot of problems. And I was the mom.. so mostly we got along really well.

  5. Susan Nastasi says:

    Great to read everyone’s ideas and comments. I don’t have kids but have to be careful with a few cats. Naturally curious and playful, they manage to find notions as the latest toy.

  6. J says:

    I have the best luck with giving the older kids (8 and 11) spare fabric they can create their own things and getting the little ones actively involved where possible. If I have a piece pinned, I will sew and pause at each pin for the 4 year old or even the 2 year old to pull each pin oro as I go along.

  7. Karen Poole says:

    I totally do not agree with the statement that you can’t sew with little ones! I raised six kids and always did sewing, and now my husband and I care for our two youngest grandsons and they have been with me in my sewing room since they were six weeks old!! I would first have them in their infant seats with toys, when they could sit, they would sit on the floor and play with fabrics and items that couldn’t hurt them, eventually I gave them a big box full of buttons that they would play with for hours! They loved sorting and seeing all the great designs, when they could hold scissors, I gave them fabric to practice cutting! Now they are both 11 and 9 and they are excellent sewers in their own right! They have each made quilts, Halloween costumes and many other assorted items! You just have to always interact with them, make sure the area is safe for them, let the interruptions come, let them help you with whatever they can and you can be very successful!!

  8. MaryBeth says:

    When my children were small, I sewed most of our clothes. I would batch tasks during their nap to make the most of the time I had. One day I would pin patterns for several projects, then fold it up and put it away. The next day would be cutting day, the next serving, and finally hemming. Having to only get out and put away a minimal amount of tools and/or equipment made things go very fast. I am thinking of doing this again even though I am retired and have not littles to worry bout getting injured from sewing things.

  9. Dee dee says:

    When my kids were little (they are all adults now) they went to bed early. I would get out my sewing on the kitchen table and sew until the wee hours and then put it all away so there was no mess when they got up with the larks. Those are sweet memories for me ?

  10. Charlene Cairn says:

    The first sewing machine I had was a reconditioned 1957 Elna Supermatic. Its greatest benefit, apart from the fancy stitch cams, was that its power source came through a knee lever that could be folded up when not in use. This meant that small people could play at my feet without risking my fingers under the needle. I was very sorry to lose that benefit when I updated the machine many years later.
    also, I have heard of mothers setting up the sewing table inside a playpen – mum inside and the children outside. I haven’t tried this but I can see how it might work. Happy sewing, whenever and however you can manage it.

  11. Emily says:

    Do what I do, put your sewing area right smack dab in the middle of the playroom. They play. You sew (and keep an eye on them). Everyone is happy.

  12. Mila Kette says:

    I am always surprised at the trouble modern parents seem to have with their children… My daughter is going to be 34 this year; when she was 3 I used to take her to the annual classical music concert in our town. She knew she should be respectful and listen to the music, which she really enjoyed. At that time I stayed at home, because, to me, my first and most important job was to take care of my daughter. Money was excruciatingly short, but we made ends meet somehow. I used to sew and sell my products–at that time I had no Internet. I do not recall ever having any problem with my daughter while sewing or doing house chores. I think it is just a matter of being firm with your child and showing who is in charge. I was the adult and she was the child, simple like that. My nephew was a little monster, who my sister-in-law could not control. When they came to visit us, he always behaved. Same happened with the son of one of one of my cousins; he used to arrive at our home and run to meet me. I guess from the height of my 6’1″ I have this “calming” effect on kids, lol! Seriously, I think modern parents want to be their kids’ friends; yet parents are not friends, but their guardians, the adults, the ones in charge, who have more experience and therefore run the show. I was in awe and respected my parents when I was a child and so did my brothers and sister. Parents should guide their kids, not walk beside them; that’s for their peers, their friends to do. Parents are always the guiding hand. If you keep that in mind, I think a large portion of the problem with misbehaving kids is already solved. (And sorry for this loooong post!)

  13. Dawn Taylor says:

    I really liked your article. I use to sew with grandchildren in highchair. My oldest grandson prefered the broom with his walker, so he could clean up!

  14. Those are some wonderful ideas! Keep up the good work!

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