My daughter, who recently turned five, has been cutting fabric with real fabric scissors for two-and-a-half years now. She has a box that holds her scraps, scissors, and a few pins, because when she cuts the fabric, she wants to pin pieces together. Naturally, she recently asked how to sew the pieces together, so I taught her the running stitch, using a large needle, the full six strands of bright embroidery floss, and some white felt.
“I can’t believe you’re letting me use your materials!” she exclaimed, even though, of course, we share materials in the art room all the time. But up to this point, hand-sewing and embroidery is something she has watched me do, and I took needle and floss for her to use out of the zippered pouch that holds my embroidery scissors and needle case. Kids notice what supplies they’re given, and handing over the “real” supplies for her use demonstrated that I was taking her interest seriously.
After she sewed around all the edges of her practice piece, she decided she knew enough to embroider, so I taught her how to back stitch. After practicing that, she decided she wanted to embroider the first initial of her name. I drew it onto the felt to her specifications, and she set to work.
Those are careful, attentive, small stitches right there–she was working quite earnestly, and she can’t wait to start another project. This piece is now hanging up on her bulletin board in her room. She has always had excellent fine-motor coordination, so I’m not surprised she was able to do this. I also started her with a full thickness of embroidery floss, which is less likely to tangle than sewing thread, and a larger needle, which is easier for smaller fingers to hold. Felt is stiffer than regular cotton and doesn’t require a hoop (although you can certainly use one). Contrasting floss shows up well on the felt, so she can see where she’s sewing or stitching. And I was on hand to quickly help with confusion or mistakes.
I’m pretty impressed with her first embroidery, but more importantly, she is delighted to have learned something new that she wanted to do.