From The Workroom / Personal & Faith / Tips & Tutorials

sewing with kids

Friends often ask me for tips on how to sew with your kids around, so much so, that i figure it’s time to post about it.

Here’s the thing. I don’t.

Actually, I”m pretty strict about it.

For a couple of reasons:

  1. Sewing is a job for me. As much as i prefer not to admit it, my brand/business whatever you’d like to call it is no longer a hobby on the side thing. It’s a 40+ hour a week job. The thing is, I stopped working full time so i could be home with my kids – so i made a rule that I don’t work when they are awake. Otherwise I don’t feel like I would be giving them my real attention. What that means is, no sewing when they are around. Period. Obviously, if sewing were still just a hobby the rules may be different. When Bunny was a tiny baby I used to sew a lot when she was awake and she just played in her playyard.
  2. Sewing equipment is dangerous. I very quickly realised when Bunny started crawling that my sewing was going to be a problem. There are so many dangerous sewing tools that could injure a child. Scissors, pins, awls, even rulers and tape measures – not to mention the sewing machines and overlockers themselves. That’s why i keep all my equipment packed away, up high where they can’t get to it, and only pull it out when they’re asleep or out the house, so theres no chance of injury. How paranoid other people choose to be is up to them – but I’d rather be super paranoid and know they have no chance of hurting themselves.
That being said, if you do choose to sew with your kids around, here are a few tips/ideas I’ve gleaned from my own experience and from friends
  • Instead of leaving the pressure foot on the floor where its in the reach of children, try putting it on your sewing table and use your elbow. This isn’t something i’ve personally tried, but one of my best friends sews like this and says its changed her life.
  • When you’re done sewing, don’t just turn off your machine – unplug it, and put the cables away. You may think this is over the top, but it’s what i do every single time, even though my sewing gear is in a room my kids don’t have access to. Just in case.
  • Have something interesting for the kids to play with. Though my sewing things aren’t in the general area, my computer desk is in the kids playroom. I keep a few drawers of fabric i don’t care about in there for Bunny to “discover”. She likes to tuck her toy animals to sleep in the drawers and pull some yardage out to make a tent. It’s kind of planned exploration i guess.
Anyone else have some tips for sewing with kids in the house? I ‘d love to hear them!
About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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11 years ago

My mom likes to tell the story of how she had two pincushions when I was about a year old and I would sit on the floor while she sewed and carefully move all the pins from one cushion to the other, then back again. I wouldn’t recommend this method of entertaining children, but I did eventually learn to sew and as far as I know, I’ve never swallowed any pins.
My kids are old enough now to either stay out of my things or tattle on a younger sibling who is getting into mischief. I didn’t sew very much when they were tiny. I was too tired to stay up past their bedtime, and it is too difficult to sew when very young ones are underfoot. They always wanted to be up on my lap/nursing, and there is no way to safely sew while nursing.

Rachel W.
11 years ago

Oh dear– has some cautionary tales about why your approach, ie, keeping kids out and locking the studio door when you’re done, is best. She had a particularly frightening story about watching a little kid nearly knock a heavy roll of pattern paper onto himself. Horrors.

My mom trained me to never leave a pot handle protruding over the stove where a kid could grab it– have to rig up something similar with the iron’s cord once we have little ones!

11 years ago

My two-yr-old son is fantastically obedient and listens and communicates well, so my situation may be an exception. However, my sewing space is the kitchen table and floor, which is right next to his play area. He loves to sit near my cutting mat to wait for some fabric scraps that he takes into his play area to use in his own creative ways. I also don’t leave any dangerous tools or heavy things laying unattended. He gets to push the floor pedal to wind the bobbin. Everything gets put into bins and boxes and covered as soon as I am finished. These may seem like crazy practices to some, but I think you really have to gauge by your own child’s development and maturity, and educate (!) constantly about the dangerous things not to touch or do. But my biggest tip: *Spend at least 30min of focused time with your kid playing w them how they want before sewing!* This keeps my son from begging for my attention the whole time I’m sewing.

11 years ago

Nicole Mallalieu is a designer in Northcote (?) AU, and her daughter (maybe 5 or 6?) sews with her all the time. I don’t know what her process was for teaching, but I know her daughter now has fairly frequent playdates where she teaches her own friends to sew on a little beginner machine. Here’s Nicole’s blog.

11 years ago

I manage to find a fair bit of time sewing whilst still caring for my nearly 3y.o son, but it does need to be on days when I feel patient. My sewing room also has a portacot set up in there, due to frequent naps for small visiting friends. I leave it set up because my little boy loves to get a bunch of toys or books, and we make a cubby in the cot by putting fabric or sheets over the top once he is inside. He can read or play with cars or teddy bears etc (and regularly throw various things out!) and tell me all about what he is doing while I sew. He asks me lots of questions about what I am doing and is often interested in what I am making (he also thinks I can make anything – so not true!). We also have a quite old hand operated kids toy sewing machine that I got from my grandmother (no needle in there currently!), and my son knows how to push fabric through from watching me. He often uses my box of scraps to sew himself a car or a building site and many other hilarious objects. Jigsaws and drawing are other great activities while I sew, but I often have to stop a task to play with him when he is demanding attention.

11 years ago

My mom sewed quite a bit when my sister and I were little, and although my memory is a bit fuzzy, I don’t really remember anything being set up in a special way to keep us away. She just always kept the machine cover firmly latched on, and supplies put away in her sewing basket (which we knew we weren’t allowed to go through without permission). None of it was under lock and key or really hidden–it was just there, but there were rules. I think the most trouble I ever got in using her sewing tools was using the shears for cutting paper. lol. And I wasn’t a particularly well-behaved child either, lest you think I was an angel. ;)

I, however, have a lot more sewing equipment than she ever did, so I haven’t quite worked out how to handle things when I have kids. Most likely just keep the more dangerous implements (scissors, needles, etc.) on high shelves and that sort of common sense stuff. I certainly plan to teach them how to properly respect my things and the tools as well as they grow older. I honestly think I’m more worried they’ll get into my vintage patterns and wreck all my sorting! lol.

Trudy Callan
11 years ago

With little ones, I sew when they are asleep. I like to do some sewing when the older ones are awake so they can be in that creative environment. Emily, almost 12, loves to sew; and we sew together. I keep my serger packed away and pull it out when I need it. I keep my sewing machine out at all times with a cover over it and in the main room where I can keep an eye on it and the children. I unplug the cables from the machine and put them away in a drawer up high when not in use. My sewing box with needles, scissors and such is kept up high on top a cabinet. Fabric, of course, is accessible.

Trudy Callan
11 years ago

I would like to add that I keep the iron and ironing board put away as well and pull it out as needed. When my children are between 5 and 8, I usually start exposing them to sewing, by sewing around them, doing little projects with them and letting play with pins in the pin cushion with me right there watching; so by the time they are 8 and 9 they are making real projects and are ready for the machine. All of my children learn to sew, boys and girls. The other day my 9 year old son mended a hole in his pants. He did this in secret, put away all of his tools, then came to show me. I was pleasantly surprised.

creative mind
11 years ago

i wish i could get myself fo sew when my daughter is sleeping, but i always get caught up in something else! lol