Sunday 3 March 2019

First Sewing Machine Garment Making Project ... all while in Hospital!

Making a scrunchie is easier than you think!  

I recently qualified as a Design and Technology Teacher but I’ve already been teaching Textiles and Art in a range of educational, health and other alternative situations for several years. 

I recently worked as a temporary teacher as part of the Becton Hospital Outreach Team; in this role, I worked as a Teacher at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. 

I worked with students with all sorts of health issues and diagnoses but that’s not what this blog is about; this is about young people’s desire to learn to sew!

While at Sheffield Children’s Hospital I taught a range of subjects including; Maths, English, Science, Art and also Textiles. 

Having access to the Hospital School Teaching Team was a way for students to keep up with school work as set by their usual school teachers. It is also a way to have access to teachers to tutor them one-to-one so they can use this time to get to grips with anything that they have found tricky at school and want to spend some extra time on. Finally, it is also an opportunity to do something completely different from their normal school work. 

C was one patient who was very interested to hear that I had access to the teaching team's sewing machine AND that I was able to use her hospital school lessons to teach her how to use it.

C very quickly picked up the basics of threading up the sewing machine and in our first lesson she also made a small stitch sample ; all this despite having to wear an oxygen mask

We found this cute fabric and matching cord in the classroom stores so I suggested a drawstring bag as a first sewing machine project. C used straight stitch and zig-zag stitch in this project. This cute little bag is a present for her little sister, F.

As soon as she had completed the small drawstring back C asked if she could make  a garment. 

Flexibility is hugely important in hospital teaching and I wasn't sure exactly how many more lessons C and I were going to have together but I was really excited by her enthusiasm and wanted to find a way to do my best to make this hospital stay have some positives in terms of C having some fun and learning new skills.

C suggested a small top for her two year old sister and once I knew that she would be in hospital for a few more days I researched possibilities.

A BIG thanks to for this downloadable pattern for a little girls' Flutter Sleeve Top

What's not to love about mini pompom braid? 

In this first garment making project C learnt:
  • How to thread the sewing machine correctly (top and bottom threads).
  • How to wind thread on the bottom bobbin.
  • How to select appropriate stitch length and width. 
  • How to use reverse button to reinforce at the beginning and end of a line of stitching.  
  • About Warp and Weft threads, Selvedge and Fraying 
  • How to ensure that pieces were pinned on the Straight Grain
  • Some key pattern terminology ('Place on Fold' and 'Cut Two')
  • How to use dressmakers pins to pin out pattern pieces and also to pin garment pieces together Right Sides Together
  • The importance of Tacking before machine sewing; I do always stress this in my lessons, firstly as it is much safer than leaving metal pins in while machine sewing and also because it invariably means that sewing is neater and more accurate and reduces the need for any unpicking.
  • About Bias Binding and how to use it to neaten curved edges such as the arm holes and also to form a Casing to thread the neck edge elastic through. 
  • About snipping Concave Curves to ensure a neater finish (the armhole edges).
  • How to use a safety pin to thread elastic through casing / channel. 
  • How to use zig-zag stitch to neaten the seam edges. 
  • How to Top Stitch (lower edge and sleeve hem edges) to give a neater and more decorative finish.

"Wow! And to think that just a few days ago I had never sewn before and hadn't even threaded a needle... And now I can use a sewing machine and have made this! "
I was delighted that C 'powered on'. She used her positive attitude, enthusiasm for learning and desire to make a fabulous present for her little sister to get her through this project. She worked to a really high standard and finished it JUST BEFORE her hospital transport came to take her home! I am pretty sure that she will have her own sewing machine before the year is out. 

The timing was perfect as this all happened a couple of weeks before series 5 of The Great British Sewing Bee started on BBC TV. 

One book that I suggested that she buy is Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover