My Eight Year Old Sewed New Pillows, And You Can Too

Lee, super proud of the two pillows he just sewed!

Today was a busy, busy, busy day in my house- the Penniless full home makeover on a budget is well underway and today most of the work and transformation was done. As I was sewing things for the house, my 8 year old, Lee, asked me what I was doing, and why I was doing those, and I explained to him the various steps involved. He wanted to know how a sewing machine works, what the different parts were called, why we needed thread on the top and the bottom, etc...

He saw me pinning down hems, and then ironing, and asked me if he could do those, so I guided him how to do that and he loved it- "Mommy, can I iron things all the time? This is fun!" Haha, I hate ironing.

When the ironing was finished, he wanted to know if he could sew. He'd never sewn before on a machine, and I'm not sure I ever taught him to sew by hand either, but he has good hand eye coordination and a good eye for detail and he's very responsible, so I figured- why not teach him how to use the sewing machine.

One of the simplest projects to make on a sewing machine is a pillow, and just our luck- pillows were some of the things I anyhow wanted to get made today. I tested out Lee to see how he managed to sew on a piece of scrap fabric, if he managed to go at a reasonable pace (and not push down the pedal to the metal) and go in a straight line, and when I saw that he was able to do that very well, I decided to entrust the fabric that I bought to make our new pillows, to him. It was a gamble, letting my son make them, but I was hoping it would pay off. Worst comes to worst, I would just have to buy new fabric if he managed to botch it up really badly.

First we measured the fabric to make sure it was big enough. We put the pillow we already had onto the fabric, then folded the fabric over both sides of it, to wrap the pillow, and left some extra room for seams, then cut the fabric.

I showed him how to fold the fabric in half so the edges were straight and the nice side was inside and then pin together the edges, but only 2 sides- one was already connected because we were using a piece of folded fabric, and the last side needed to be left open to insert the pillow.

Lee then sewed down along the two pinned sides, and he did it perfectly, straight lines! At first I helped a drop with feeding the fabric into the machine, but once I saw he got the hang of it, he did the rest.

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Once those the two sides were sewn, he took out the pins and then flipped the fabric so it would be right side out.

Of the pillows he sewed, one he stuffed with a whole pillow, and the other one he stuffed with the stuffing of a larger pillow that had gone flat, and therefore had the perfect amount of stuffing for this smaller one.

Then came the hard part- tucking in the edges of the open side, so that the raw edges were hidden inside the pillow, lining up the sides perfectly, and then pinning them together precisely. I helped with this part- Lee did the pinning, but I did the preparations for the pinning.

He then sewed down this last side, as close to the edge as possible, and as straight as possible, because this stitching would be visible, unlike the previous stitching.

Voila! Extra strings trimmed, and the pillow is ready for use!

He did the first so well that he barely needed any help for the second one!

Lee is so proud of himself and so excited- sewing is his new favorite hobby. He didn't want to go to bed since he just wanted to stay up sewing. I told him we'd try to think of a project for him to sew tomorrow. 

I'll tell you one thing- he certainly didn't botch it up, and he probably did as good of a job as I would have on these pillows. They look terrific.

And to think that I almost ended up buying pillows from AliExpress... which would have taken longer to arrive, cost more money, and then Lee wouldn't have had the great fun of learning how to sew!

If you've never sewn pillows before, I hope these instructions were easy enough for you to follow. And if you don't have a machine, the same instructions would apply to sewing by hand, they just will take longer.

If you like this, you'll like my other home makeover posts as well:

Any suggestions for easy sewing projects for Lee? (My first big sewing project I made was a skirt for myself, when I wasn't much older than Lee, but I don't think he's appreciate a new skirt as much as I did, and pants aren't nearly as easy to sew.)

Do you know how to sew? How old were you when you learned how to sew and who taught you? What was the first sewing project you remember making? Ever make pillows? What method did you use? Did you make them like these, or with pockets so the pillows are removable?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Pillowcase(out of flannel)for his bed? Pajama pants(harder,but no zips/buttons and waist can be elastic or draw string,whatever is easier.

    Those are what my kids made first, around that age. I think someone made a tank top too, but for some reason that was super expensive.

  2. Oh awesome! I love sewing!

    Maybe Lee would like to make himself a tshirt? Or even simpler, a drawstring bag to keep something special to him in?

  3. Those are lovely pillows! They remind me of sari fabric. He did an awesome job, at 26 mine would resemble distressed sacks -_-. On a random note I just realized how long I've been following your blog. Lee looks so healthy,happy, and not so little anymore.

  4. Way to go Lee! Those look great - and I love the colors!

    A pillowcase for his bed pillow is something easy. So is t-shirt or tank-top type top (two pieces, straight seems on the sides and shoulders) that pulls over the head. A tote bag (there are some great online tutorials out there!). A simple patchwork quilt. I made shorts for my first Home-Ec project in junior high - not terribly hard but not super easy either but I did have a pattern for that.

    My mom taught me to sew and I entered my first 4-H project when I was about 8 or 9 or 10 (I don't remember exactly now). It was a circle skirt with the worst hem ever! I did keep sewing after that and the hems got much better. Didn't stay in 4-H long but at least I learned to sew!

    Lots of ideas online for teaching sewing too!

    Aren't we spoiled? :)

  5. How about a quilt? He can learn how to cut from a pattern, how to make shapes with precision, how to use colors to make different effects.

  6. I am really not good at sewing. lee did a terriffic job! I wish I could have learned a little about sewing when I was his age. now most things by us go to the seemstress. good for you for having patience and teaching lee a great hobby. rochel.

  7. Have him make shopping bags! You can do it pillowcase style with handles. Or even just cut the sleeves off old tshirts and cut the neck wider and sew up the bottom for an even easier shopping bag!

  8. Lee can make some of these bags
    He can make an apron to help you in the kitchen or costumes for playing dress up

  9. Lovely pillows, the orange and light blue look great together. Lee did a great job!

    I sew a lot, taught myself at my aunt's house 30 years ago and she let me use her machine for ages till the skirt was done. It wanted tucks which were tricky but luckily there was a sewing book there too.

    Now I do a lot of sewing too but mostly by hand. Not-very-good-yet versions of Alabama Chanin dresses.

  10. How about a scaled-down man apron? Something to hold hobbie stuff or tools in? I grew up sewing in 4-H. It was mostly girls, but there was a boy or two that did a fantastic job with camoflauge hunting clothes and stuff like that. I second the drawstring bag and PJs idea... fantastic!

  11. Oh my gosh! I had the exact same thought! Then realized my 'baby' was growing too! Because I think it was when my six year old was a newborn that I started reading her blog! Time flies, doesn't it?

  12. Bean bags for playing games with his brother. I second the shpping bag idea, and suggest simple purse for his sister and messenger bag for himself. If he's motivated, and ready try toys from old socks. There are various patterns for animals (bunny, dog, cat) to be found online to cut from socks beyond the sock monkey. Only the turnings can be tricky for new sewists.

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