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Have you lost your love of sewing?
I still remember my first ever sewing basket. It was given to me by a family friend (Thank you Aunty Jean), for my 8th birthday. It was one of those square wicker type baskets with a cushioned lid featuring Holly Hobbie, a popular ragdoll character from the 1970's. Best of all my basket was full to the brim of little sewing tools and objects - a grown up pair of scissors, sewing needles, thread, thimble, coloured pins and more - and to me it was the best present ever.
Yet somehow, in the decades since my 8th birthday, I seem to have lost my love of sewing. These days a button can wait weeks to be reunited with its former fabric, a safety pin is the closest I get to hemming and the local seamstress is an essential contact for all of the sewing repairs us Mums used to do ourselves. It's a sad fact that in 2016 many of us have lost the useful and creative skills of hand sewing.
Luckily we now have Sew a Softie Day to remind us of the fun and creativity in hand sewing. Whether you are a dedicated sewer, or like me, someone who has lost their skills, Sew a Softie Day is for all of us. The inaugural Sew a Softie Day will be held on 16th July 2016.
The creator and organiser of Sew a Softie Day is Trixi Symonds, from Coloured Buttons. She is passionate about teaching sewing skills to children and I asked her to tell us more about Sew a Softie Day.
What prompted you to create Sew a Softie Day?
There were a few prompts really. Firstly, I've always been amazed at just how much kids, both girls and boys, loved hand sewing. This has been a constant over twenty years in my classes and workshops and it started me thinking about why sewing isn't more a part of our kids' early experiences. Their interest and enthusiasm were so palpable and the benefits of learning to sew were so obvious. It helped develop their fine motor skills, their ability to trust and value their own choices, it helped them build their self-confidence, and gave them an activity that was simultaneously highly practical and highly creative which they could return to throughout their lives.
The main obstacle seemed to be that many mums no longer sew. I began to think: if I could somehow get these mums learning to sew then a whole generation of kids wouldn't have to miss out and that is basically how the idea for Sew a Softie Day was born into this world.
At what age do you think children are capable of learning to sew?
It really depends, but I think if a kid really wants to sew then that motivation and interest will make a big difference to the age at which he or she can start. When my youngest daughter was 3 years old, she used to watch the older kids in my classes and wanted to join in. My initial attempts to convince her to wait till she was just a bit older failed miserably, so I did what all parents do, I gave in and that was a turning point: I was genuinely shocked when I discovered that she could sew a whole project by herself. So my answer is: I now know that kids can learn to sew as young as three.
To help them, however, there are a few things you can do. When teaching young kids I never start off with blunt plastic needles or cheap fabrics because they are actually quite hard to use. These poor quality tools just set the kids up to fail. I use ordinary sharp needles and good quality fabric. I've found that a few simple safety instructions are all they need. As long as they really want to learn they will act responsibly. Finally, it's important to let kids sew their own largish wonky stitches if you let them enjoy themselves you'll be surprised at how quickly their skills improve.
What benefits do you think children get from sewing?
In one sentence I would say that hand sewing offers our kids something real and tactile, something they can hold and keep, that builds up feelings of pride and self-esteem, that naturally strengthens their powers of concentration, that teaches them the value of creative shared consultative relationships and that is heaps of fun. I've had twenty year olds stop me in the street to tell me that they still have the hand sewing projects they made in my workshops.
How many people & countries are involved in Sew a Softie Day so far?
There are over 110 people from Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland, United States, Canada, Israel and France who have joined the Sew a Softie Day Facebook group and others on Instagram are also joining in.
How can people get involved in Sew a Softie Day?
Sew a Softie Day is officially on 16th July 2016. In the lead up to Sew a Softie Day easy-to-sew softie tutorials will be posted daily online from the 1st - 16th July. To find out what's being posted, you can go to the Coloured Buttons website or join the Sew a Softie Day Facebook group.
If you're a sewer, you can get involved by teaching a friend, neighbour or family member how to sew a simple softie. If you don't know how to sew, you can get involved by going to one of the softie making tutorials and making a softie. Everyone is invited to post a picture of their softie on instagram with the hashtag #sasday2016.
You are also holding a hand-sewing workshop at the Art Gallery of NSW on July 8 - tell us about that.
That workshop is running in conjunction with the Gallery's Frida Kahlo Exhibition. It's a family hand-sewing workshop for mums and dads to come to with their kids and is a great opportunity for them to learn how to sew together. It's great for parents to see what their kids can do. The most common reaction I get from parents at these workshops is total surprise at what their kids are able to create. For more information or to book tickets for this workshop click here.
So there are lots of great ways you can join in the fun of Sew a Softie Day. With my own daughter now becoming interested in sewing after receiving a sewing basket for her 10th birthday, I think Sew a Softie Day is a fantastic and fun way of refreshing your own sewing skills whilst sharing some creative time with your children or grandchildren. I will be getting my sewing basket out of retirement in order to make some softies with my daughter. And I might even stretch myself by sewing on a few of those missing buttons.
"All images have been supplied by Trixi Symonds from Coloured Buttons
You're right about lost skills. When I was young Mum's routinely taught their daughters to knit and sew and handy skills they are too. I still do minor repairs but most of the time I go to the local seamstress. I did love it when I was young and it's a great fun experience for the kids. I believe we should expose children to as many experieinces as possible so they have the opportunity to find their own interest.