Cuttin’ It Up – Teaching Children

Why learn to sew and quilt? Why teach your children?

Learning how to sew is a valuable skill and there are plenty of reasons why you and every child should learn how to sew. Let me enlighten you.

  1. Sewing helps in developing Hand-Eye Coordination: From cutting to threading a needle and operating a sewing machine these simple exercises aid dramatically in this development.
  2. Mathematical and Geometry skills: Math and measuring is an integral part of sewing, especially quilting. Practical application of math and geometry is in all parts of sewing and quilting. This is such a solid way to teach these skills and a child particularly will love to use and show these skills they learn.
  3. Planning and Preparation Skills: Sewing and quilting require advanced planning and preparation, kids will use their problem-solving skills to prepare their sewing and quilting projects. They have to plan their pattern, figure out how much and what materials they will need to complete their project. This is something I focus on with my second year students and is a skill that will take them through all aspects of their lives and careers, even the corporate world.
  4. Creativity and Accomplishment: When a child completes a sewing or quilting project, they will have a physical reminder of their accomplishment. They can show their work by using it in a very practical way either for themselves, to help others as a donation or as a gift.
  5. Mending their clothes: When a child learns to replace a button, mend their clothes, patch a hole or fix a hem they have a skill set that will follow them into adulthood and provide a solid independence and confidence that too many people today seem to lack.
  6. Sewing provide defined stages in their life: From sewing doll clothes to their own clothes, as a child, allows them to express their individuality. Each sewing machine marks a mile stone in our lives and helps us to strengthen our coping mechanism in today’s crazy world. Imagine what this does for a child?
  7. Sewing can save you money: Oh yes it can! Have you ever gone into a store and looked at a garment that was just too expensive for what you are looking at?  Well enter sewing – go home and make it!  Only you get to choose exactly the color and cloth you like and make it really fit just you.

Before you verbally eviscerate me for such a strong opinion, let me explain. Sewing has so many layers. Sewing by hand, home decor sewing, sewing for children/grandchildren, fashion/garment sewing, quilting (ohhh – especially quilting!), crafts, and a lot of other sewing areas I can’t even begin to recount. Saying that, sewing is a useful skill that is worth learning.

When it comes to sewing tasks like winding a bobbin or threading a machine it can bring a person to a screeching halt, just too much for them to master. The thought of inserting a zipper or a buttonhole can cause overwhelming trouble with breathing! Enter teaching, especially as a child, learning through a teacher can be invaluable. This takes much of the stress away since you are relying on someone else’s experience, past mistakes and patience to guild you through this new world.  Part of why I feel so strongly in teaching children is due to their ability to not limit themselves.  I don’t hear ‘I can’t do that’ with young students, they haven’t yet learned that they ‘can’t do something’ and plow right through a project. Sewing does something else most don’t consider; it can reduce your environmental impact; no sweatshops, no cheap – fall apart cloths that you replace every few month and fill up our landfills with so many synthetic materials which take around a thousand year to fully decompose.  Even producing cotton takes a tremendous amount of water, water that many 2nd and 3rd world countries do not have in abundance.  One bolt of material can produce up to 25 garment, depending on what is being made. By sewing your own clothes, you’re reducing your impact on the environment and creating something that will last for years – I could go on but you get the picture.

Sewing also connects us to history, to our parents, our grandparents.  It is a bit of nostalgia, love and memories.  Those who sew have a wonderful tale about who and how they were taught, most involve a loved one. A button box, an embroidery hoop, a thimble – these are some of my most treasured possessions – this gives me a connection to the past and slows down my mind allowing me to escape from the busy-ness of modern life.  With each stitch, each garment, each quilt block I am sewing in my love, and my prayers for those who are so very dear to me.


Cuttin’ It Up – Paper Piecing

Foundation Paper Piecing, (FPP) commonly called paper piecing, is a method of piecing quilt blocks using a printed paper for stitch lines. Foundation piecing is the technique of sewing fabric to a foundation in order to achieve very precise results. The foundation can be fabric and left in place or paper to be removed later. It allows a quilter to make blocks with small sized pieces or complex angles that would be difficult to cut and piece otherwise and make your process a breeze!

English Paper Piecing is a historical quilting technique that traces back to the 1770s. The earliest hexagon template that quilt researchers have found was made in England in 1770. Hexagons and English Paper Piecing became one of the most popular patterns and styles in England by the early 1800’s. Foundation piecing is very old indeed.  At the Virginia Quilt Museum there is a quilt top on exhibit that was dated January 1889 and the papers had been left on.

Fast forward:

FPP’s new popularity is due in large part to Lesly-Claire Greenberg. “Guilty as charged,” was her answer when asked to confirm a persistent rumor that she is the “mother of modern day foundation piecing.” Her development of the foundation/paper piecing technique began as early as 1976 because she couldn’t sew log cabin blocks straight. She tried everything possible but she still couldn’t do it! So she traced the sewing lines onto a piece of muslin and sewed on the lines. At the same time she was producing a line of patterns and to help her students’ complete the designs as close to the original design as possible, she had them trace the patterns onto a muslin foundation and then lay out the fabric patches on top of the patterns. It was just a matter of time before they were turning the paper over and sewing right on the line!

Many people who quilt but are intimidated by the labor-intensive cutting and fitting process that makes a quilt or quilt block.  Paper Piecing takes all the hassle out of cutting and sewing your quilt block.  You can use pre-cut shapes or…use up you’re oddly shaped scrap pieces of fabric without extra cutting.

Learning to paper piece is like learning ballroom dancing. You have to perform all your steps in a certain order while dancing backward in high heels and checking your progress in a mirror! 

It sounds harder than it is.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll breeze through it without giving it a second thought – it is a wonderful new technique if you have never tried it. There are superb tutorials on line that demonstrate this technique, you can take a class or learn on your own. I would recommend a class for a beginner, this will save time, money and frustration…mostly frustration… down the road and you will glean great tips.  Every spring here at BellyAcres Twisted Stitchery we have a paper piecing course that takes all the uncertainty and confusion out of this process and you have a great time learning as well we carry all the things you need to complete your first paper piecing project.

The paper you choose will make a difference on whether you enjoy this technique or not. And there are significant price differences on the various options. You can use copy machine paper, vellum, newspaper print, tracing paper, wash away paper, or freezer paper. Pretty much any paper can work, however, those that can be run through a copy machine are best. Some perform better than others. Two of my favorites are ‘Papers For Foundation Piecing’ by That Patchwork Place’ and ‘Foundation Paper, and Simple Foundations Translucent Vellum’ by Carol Doak. 


Happy Piecing!

Cuttin’ It Up – Local Services

Local Quilt Stores and Longarm Arm Services add great value to a small community.  A few years ago our quilting community experienced a loss, to some a great loss.  Quilts and Beyond in Prairie City closed their doors in December 2018 as the owners chose to retire, this not only left this community with one less business but the wisdom and helpful experience these talented ladies provided to us. A lot of quilters go to Bend, Pendleton, Baker City and Portland to shop or they shop on line. But these locations add to the cost because of travel and the on line shopping leaves little to actual color choices that you can see, touch and compare to your pattern and/or other pieces of cloth you already have due to the colors not being completely true in pictures. So where does that leave us – the quilters in Eastern Oregon’s Grant County?

Experience shows us that whenever there is a void something will fill it. There are several established and a couple new places for quilters and sewers, that as a community I urge you to support and help grow these local business. We have The Shiny Thimble in Mount Vernon and now Chester’s is carrying fabrics and starting to focus a little more on supplying quilters, both have some knowledgeable staff. BellyAcres Twisted Stitchery in Mount Vernon, Oregon opened our doors in 2018 with years of knowledge and experience with a wide variety of fabrics, tools and accessories.  The longarm service in the John Day Valley is also growing to support the need for quality longarm service, each longarm business can provide you with their own unique talent to turn something you created into something stunning. Here at the Twisted Stitchery we offer show quality Longarming along with our friendly knowledgeable staff to help you turn your beautiful quilt into a stunning quilt. Those of us who provide quilters with classes and longarm service want to see the quilters in the John Day Valley grow and flourish, to bring the recognition long overdue to the talented folks who are quilters and artists – and to create a warm and experienced environment for new quilters.

At the Twisted Stitchery we also added a Homeschool program in 2020 that teaches sewing, quilting and life skills.  Math and Geometry is taught since it is an integral part of sewing and quilting.  Our youngest student (7 YOA) just took grand campion, youth division, in the local county fair for her applique pillow and we are so proud of her!