Before I had children, my sewing space was tucked into a quiet corner of our guest room. A space where I could shut the door, and not be concerned by small people and their needs. After our daughter was born, we eventually turned that guest room into her own bedroom, and my sewing space moved to a family room that is open to the rest of the second floor.
It suddenly became a lot harder to pursue creative fulfillment. I’m sure that the shift in my creative outlet had more to do with the new addition to our family than the change in venue. But over time I began to learn that as a mother, I could not count on hours of uninterrupted sewing bliss. I could no longer count on an end result. I had to seek balance and learn how to incorporate one, and then two young children into that world. I have even grown to embrace the unique qualities of sharing my creative space with my children, and enjoying the process above the outcome.
As our children have grown, I have found a little niche for each of them in my creative space. My daughter, at nearly four, is happy now to engage in quiet craft projects of her own while I work beside her. More than anything else she wishes to be included, and it is easy to give her small tasks which will keep her occupied.
My son, on the other hand, is not quite two, and needs more supervision and interactive play. I find it necessary to prepare myself ahead of time with work that I can give to him when I don’t wish to stop sewing mid-seam. Our family room, in addition to my sewing space, has a large table which the children can use for playing with vehicles or setting up little houses with blocks. We also have our playstands and play kitchen in the area. This is an exceptional occupation for my son while I am sewing; he can be sent off to make bobbin soup while I finish a step in a project.
I have also learned to maximize the time I have at the sewing machine by taking handwork elsewhere. Although I am not skilled at embroidery, I find myself seeking out projects which might have a bit of hand-sewing or embroidery work in them. These projects can be taken outside as the children play in the yard, or even to the park on a quiet day. Cutting out, and sometimes tracing, new patterns is also work that can be mobile.
One useful tool when sharing creative space with your children is to make each child a sewing work basket. The baskets can be individualized to meet their developmental needs and interests. Let the items contained within be related to sewing, but in a way that allows them to build upon their own favorite pursuits. The following items are just a few which can be included.
Children’s Sewing Baskets
Simple tools which can be used in many ways
Thread spools and bobbins with containers for sorting or organizing
Fabric scraps for folding
Partially-sewn critters which are ready for stuffing with wool
A box of buttons with compartments for sorting and counting
Pins (for the older child)
Any items which give your child the opportunity to emulate your current work
I feel that the most important aspect of having a creative space which is shared by your children is to be concerned with safety, above all else. The hazards present in my sewing space are numerous. Below I have outlined a few basic safety precautions to take, whether you have an existing shared space or you are considering it for the future. Truly, for any sewing space which is not padlocked, safety should be a priority.
Find a location for your cutting tools which is inaccessible to your children. Make a habit of keeping them in this location when they are not in use.
Invest in cutting tools with locking or safety mechanisms. Not only will this prevent accidents to your children, consistent use may preserve your own fingers as well.
Consider wearing your snips around your neck to prevent them being taken by curious hands. You may tuck the ends in a pocket or protective sleeve when you are not in front of your machine.
Reflect on the positioning of your sewing machine cords, particularly those for your presser feet. Children could easily trip over these cords, or pull on them, bringing a heavy sewing machine down upon them. You may be able to find other clever solutions for this, but I have found that a little c-clamp on the edge of my sewing table, with the cord run through it, will help to prevent these kinds of accidents. My son has a habit of pulling on the presser foot cord, and the c-clamp helps to prevent the machine from following.
Be cognizant of the placement of your ironing board. Cords should always hang towards the wall, and irons should have a safe, sturdy location to rest when you are not ironing.
Be aware of your young child’s development, and their need for mouthing choking hazards. Do not provide access to these items until you are certain that your child will not experiment with swallowing them.
Don’t be afraid to let your older child experiment with scrap fabric, or things that you think may not hold interest. I was amused to discover my daughter’s early fascination with pins, pincushions, and inserting pins into fabric. While I think others might be appalled that I let a three-year-old amuse herself with a bowl of pins, she has never injured herself.
Your craft space, when you share it with your children, may not be what you see in the pages of craft magazines. But with a little effort and negotiation, you may find that you are able to fulfill your creative needs while still cultivating a deep sense of connection with your children.
Bernadette Emerson is a founding co-editor of Rhythm of the Home. A former birth professional, she now is a parent to two young children.