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Cross-Stitching For Kids

I have two children, a boy and a girl, and both at different times have "given cross-stitch a try". My daughter picked out a nice easy ladybug picture to do. I helped her get started, showed her what to do, and off she went. I believe there is a ladybug project floating around in her room somewhere, incomplete. My son often asks to 'sew' when I am stitching. What he technically means is "put a piece of fabric in a hoop-any kind of fabric will do-and give me the no-name floss and a needle." He makes up his own pictures and has some very original stitches. That is quite fine with me; he asks questions along the way and uses up lots of floss, but the main thing is he enjoys it.

If your child expresses an interest in learning to cross-stitch, start right at the very beginning with him or her. Let your young stitcher pick out the project from a choice of very easy patterns. If the child has a favourite animal that might be a good pattern to start with, so long as it is easy to stitch and contains few colours. A pattern sewn on 14-count fabric or lower is best for children to learn on. The squares are easy to see and the X concept easy to understand.

Once the pattern is chosen, teach your child every step of the way, using simple terms, and perhaps sewing the same pattern along with your child. That way if problems arise, you are showing how to solve them on your pattern, and not taking over your child's project. The most important thing to remember is patience. The second most important is make it fun.

Your first stitching session might involve just getting the project ready and perhaps a few stitches. Most children have short attention spans, so if your child is starting to squirm, it may be best to put the project away for the day…remember, stitching is supposed to be relaxing, not like homework.

So once you are ready to stitch, remember the first step is to wash the hands. Remind them that Aida cloth is not the towel. Teach your child right from the start all the proper ways to do things, they will become second nature should they decide to stick with cross-stitching.

Show your young stitcher how the pattern matches up with the chart, and how to find the middle of the fabric. It might be easier for him or her to follow the chart if you lightly colour the chart symbols to match the floss colour. It may also be easier if you put the fabric on the hoop, but let your child try it a couple of times if she/he wants. Keep the size of the hoop manageable for your child's hands; a good indicator is if those little fingers will be able to hold the hoop while holding a floss tail to be secured. One thing my son learned quickly---watch where the edges of the fabric are! Sewing them to the back of your project makes it very hard to get the hoop out.

If you are using 11-count fabric, you won't need to separate any floss strands and the stitching will go faster. If you are using 14 count, demonstrate how to separate the strands and let your protégé give it a try. Don't forget to rinse those dark colours and let them dry-explain the why's and wherefores of rinsing the floss. Remember not to worry if there are tangles, this is fun quality time with your child.

Once the project is finished, it will most likely need to be washed. Set up a project bath for your child, and let the washing begin. Demonstrate how to roll it in a clean towel and then leave it to air dry.

Let your child decide what is to be done with the finished project-should it be framed, made into a pillow, keep or give as a special gift to someone. Whatever the decision, be sure to take a photo of it. If the child decides to keep it or give it to you, and your area has a County Fair, consider entering your child's project in the appropriate age category-perhaps it will become a prize winning family heirloom.

If after all this work, your child still likes stitching, hide your floss =)