Stitch by Stitch: We're Learning to Sew

 “The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.” 

Maria Montessori


  1. The end-product should be useful. The children should not “be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like.”
  2. Teach the children “slowly and carefully what they are to do.”
  3. Emphasize the habit of best effort. “Slipshod work should not be allowed.”
  4. Carefully select handicrafts and life skills to challenge but not frustrate. “The children’s work should be kept well within their compass.”

Charlotte Mason from Simply Charlotte Mason



After several poorly-timed efforts to learn to sew and to teach my daughters along with me, I'm finally on a roll. All the girls have sewing lessons written into their "school" plans this year. And the boys, too, are gaining basic skills. We are really rolling right along. As we've happily stitched away this time, I've considered what our stumbling blocks were in the past. There is no doubt that one of the impediments for me was distraction. Try as I might to hit a rhythm and to understand, there were too many other things taking up my time and brain space. And then there was that lemon of a sewing machine. Another detriment, I think, was the wrong books by which to learn. There is a difference between a book full of good projects for beginners and a book which deliberately sets out to teach beginners to sew using good projects. I'm not terribly interested in analyzing the "wrong" books too much, particularly since they weren't bad, just wrong for my needs. Instead, I'm happy to report on the right book.

I've read every word of Stitch by Stitch now and stitched several projects. The book is friendly, conversational, infinitely practical and--so far--it delivers. Written in the warm voice of an experienced sewing instructor who has learned a great deal from books on hand and who has clearly taught and observed countless beginning stitchers, this is the book--the book that has  gotten me going. When I read the story of how the author, Deborah Moebes,  blossomed as a sewist herself, I could understand better the voice of her book. She seeks to be that sewing muse for the rest of us. (Go ahead read her story of Sandra--really cool.) Deborah has obviously carefully noticed the mistakes beginners make and the questions they ask and she addresses them in the book. I hear myself conversing with the author as I work and I think that is the mark of an author who has communicated well. With every project, I feel more confident in the skills I'm learning. I've promised myself to do every project in the book in order (though I am waffling on the curtains). Each project builds on the next.

I'm staying a project or two ahead of my children, sewing them myself first and then stitching them again alongside the girls (and an occasional boy). So, in the end, I will have sewn everything two or three (or maybe four) times--good practice, I do believe.

One of the great joys of home education is learning alongside my children.This summer, that joy has budded in our sewing room and I look forward to it continuing to bloom for many years to come.


Our first project together was fancy napkins with mitered corners. We chose some autumn-themed fabrics (mostly because I didn't know how long finishing this project would take). Everyone got in on the stitching and they were all quite pleased with their successes.


Skills we built:

stitching straight lines

mitering corners


edge finishing with a zigzag stitch

I chatted with Sarah the other day. Remember? It was Sarah who got me into this sewing thing this time around. Anyway, she's promised that any minute--just as soon as the all day long morning sickness isn't all day long any more--she will join us in this endeavor. A Stitch by Stitch sewalong! You want to sew with us, too? It's just us and the book. A casual sewing circle, if you will. No competition and no hurries. Just a friendly gathering and a place for you to brag on small successes and be assured that we will ooh and ahh over your finished objects. Leave a link below after you finish your napkins, or just drop a note in the comments and tell us all about it.


Next up: A Pocket Mat with Bias-Bound Edges