This section is from the "Hand Sewing Lessons" book, by Sarah Ewell Krolik. Also available from Amazon: Hand Sewing Lessons: A Graded Course For Schools And For The Home.
Sewing should become a part of every girl's education, from childhood to womanhood; not only as a useful art to be practiced at home, but for its educational value. By this means skill and attention are developed, habits of industry are acquired, and a love is cultivated for other domestic arts, which are irksome only to those who have not had any kind of manual training. A prominent educator said that one of the future dangers of our country lies in the habit of idleness resulting from the one-sided education of the present day. As a child can be taught to be generous by teaching it to give, it can be taught to be industrious by teaching it to work, if the teaching is begun early, and if the work is made attractive.
The small boy is quite as much helped by this training as his sister. The needle is used first to string beads. Children draw simple things on white cardboard, four or five inches square, and make pin holes on the lines about one-quarter inch apart. They can easily sew through these with a needle which should be threaded with bright cotton for first work, and later with silk or wool.
A girl of three or four years of age is pleased to sew daily. Give her a needle with a double thread, or a coarse needle, so that it can pass through the cloth easily when the thread is tied to it. The cloth should be thin, with some dressing in it, or coarse and loosely woven. At first she will take a few stitches over and over, the thread will tangle, and she will soon tire. Do not be discouraged by her failures. Daily efforts will soon make her more skilful and she will be able to sew a seam if a line is marked along the edge for the stitches. They will be of uneven length, but do not rip them. Draw another line near the first and let her try again. Allow her to sew often, but not more than fifteen minutes at a time. It may be a year before she can sew a seam well, but all the while she is learning to concentrate her mind. Develop self-reliance by encouraging her to make her own choice of colors and to decorate her doll's gowns with bits of ribbon, according to her own fancy.
By the time she is four years old she will be able to join strips of cloth and wind them into balls to be made into a rag carpet rug for the nursery. Cut the rags of bright pieces of cotton or silk which can be saved in a box for that purpose. Give her a covered basket for her work and teach her to keep it in order. She should have a pair of blunt scissors and be allowed to cut paper over a box or open newspaper, and should put away the scraps. She will make what she imagines to be familiar figures of all sorts and will soon learn to cut by a line on paper or on pieces of striped gingham or calico, and to cut strips for weaving dolls' rugs.
She will enjoy cutting flowers from wall paper for decorations, and pictures of children from advertisements, for paper dolls, and it will be fine practice.
Keep the work basket handy for a spare moment and her box of supplies well filled. Make the sewing a part of every day's routine to be taken in hand several times, if possible. As she grows older a regular time may be set.
When she is eight years old, or perhaps before, she can cut doll's clothes of paper and fit them on a paper doll with library paste. She can also design and make them of cloth for her dolls.
By this time she may be able to make the first models, and she will have skill and application that will be of use to her. If her needle is a rival of her books, so much the better. Books will have their time a little later and she will be better prepared to devote herself to them then, for idleness will be irksome. She will bring to them that concentration of mind so lacking in many girls of to-day, whose hands were not educated with their brains.
For variety and to develop thought and skill, interest the child in the useful occupations of making household articles and furniture by encouraging her to manufacture them in miniature form. The dry goods box or doll-house, with its three floors and garret under a Gothic roof, may be furnished with the work of little hands, and with care and perseverance it will put on an attractive appearance. Rugs may be woven for it, and by the exercise of ingenuity in the use of cloth, clay, wood, and paper, articles for ornament and use in corresponding size may be provided.
Young girls who are being taught to sew in school should receive the careful attention of the mother, as the time allowed in most schools is too short for the necessary training. The teacher is greatly helped by her co-operation. Girls enjoy taking this course at home. An older member of the family, with some knowledge of hand sewing, can easily qualify herself to give it. Mothers are amply repaid for their efforts, by the benefits which their daughters derive from domestic training in all the arts of home making, and sewing is a very important one.