The first time someone is learning to sew, sitting down to the sewing machine, requires them to master controlling the machine. Because you have been sewing for years you tend to forget just how much skill is involved in controlling the machine.
Always start with the machine not threaded and sewing on paper. Mastering operating the machine without the frustration of thread tangles and thread knotting is much easier.
- Mastering speed control - Mastering speed control is one step in mastering full control of the sewing machine. Many machines have a turtle and hare setting to control speed but many do not. Without even sewing paper, allow the student to experiment with how fast or slow they can make the machine go. Let them practice until they can maintain an even speed on the sewing machine.
When someone is unable to control the foot pedal, a small item, such as a thin bobbin or washers, can be placed under the edge of the foot pedal to prevent the pedal from going at "full speed". This is especially helpful with young people who want to sew. If the item "under the foot pedal wants to slip out of the way, place a piece of tape, sticky side up, under the foot pedal and under the item to stop the full depression of the foot pedal to hold the stopper in place.
If someones legs are too short to reach the foot pedal, place the foot pedal on a think book.
- Sewing Paper -- Print out practice sheets. Your goal will be to have them sew an even distance from each line, not on the line. It is important that the student learns to focus on watching a guide, not the sewing machine needle. Start with straight lines, including the edges of the paper, using the edge of the presser foot as a seam guide and then move on to the curved lines. Teach the student that the machine will feed the fabric and their job is to just guide the fabric (or paper in this case) under the needle as it is sewn. Forcing the fabric under the needle can result in bent sewing machine needles and a lot of frustration because of the machine malfunctions that will result from a bent sewing machine needle.
Move on to sewing the paper with squares, teaching them to stop with the machine needle down so they can pivot at the corners.
As a last step in learning to control the sewing machine, thread the sewing machine, teaching the student to thread their machine and explaining about keeping the thread tails behind the needle. Using scraps of fabric, allow the student to experiment with sewing straight and curved seams keeping an even seam allowance as they sew.
- A Sewing License - When you feel the student has mastered controlling the sewing machine reward them with a sewing machine license. (The sewing machine license PDF file offers full size scrap book pages or small licenses.)