Top 5 Sewing Projects for Tweens & Teens

It is always useful to have some creative projects ready to go at any time of the year and this post is JAM-PACKED with ideas. These are my top 5 go-to projects for children aged 12-16 years of age. They take a morning or an afternoon to complete and will keep the student engaged in the creativity for all that time and longer. All these projects use easy to find and cheap resources – creativity doesn’t need to be expensive and often finding all the stuff to use can be just as fun as making the item.

If you need a reminder on how to set up your sewing machine? Click here for my latest video on getting you started.

  1. Rope Bowls

These are fun and cheap to make!!  Once you have made one, you will be hooked.

What you need

  • 10-15m of cotton rope (uncoated washing line is perfect – or 6mm piping cord), you will need to get your machine needle through it – so avoid solid plastic cores.
  • Jeans or Leather Sewing machine needle (a size 90 would be great) – These are easy to buy from a fabulous British shop John James.
  • Thread (you will need a couple of spools of thread and two wound bobbins)
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric scraps cut into 1” x 5” rectangles (optional)
  • Glue stick (optional)

How to do it

Watch me demonstrate how to make a rope bowl here.

2. Fantastic Pencil Case

Gather together scraps of fabric, two pieces of wadding (or an old tea towel) and a zip.

What you need

  • Scraps of fabric
  • Two pieces of base material (wadding, tea towel etc) cut to 10” x 8”
  • 12” zip
  • Sewing Machine

How to do it

This is such a popular project that I have written a tutorial for it which is attached below.

3. Reusuable Make Up Wipes

This easy project has gripped my sewing classes for weeks. They have made them for themselves, for family members and wrapped them up as gifts.

What you need

  • Absorbent natural material. I have used bamboo Terry Towelling fabric, but microfibre cloths from the pound shop would work just as well. See what you can find. Good ideas don’t need to be expensive!
  • Wadding or an old tea towel to give the wipe structure.
  • Fabric scraps
  • Paper (A4 sheet or anything to make a pattern with)
  • Circular item (to draw around – a tin of baked beans is good)
  • Sewing machine

How to do it

For each circular wipe you will need a circle of absorbent material, a circle of wadding/tea-towel and two circles of fabric. Now watch this video here to see how easy it is to make these great items.

4. Drawstring Bags

These are really useful, versatile bags to make. You can fill them with toiletries, sweets or presents. You could even get ahead of the game for family birthdays or Mothers Day. They can also be scaled to any size.

What you need

  • Exterior fabric 2 pieces 6” X 8.5” (for bag outer) and 2 pieces 2” x 5” (for ribbon casing)
  • Lining Fabric  2 pieces 6” x 8.5”
  • Ribbon – 2 pieces ribbon  15” long ( ¾” wide ribbon is about right)
  • 2 large wooden beads (optional)

How to do it

Below is my cheat sheet on making these bags. I hope you enjoy making them!

5. Tie-Dyeing

This is not a messy activity any more. Dylon have washing machine dyes that you pour into the drum over your items, shut the door and run the machine on a normal 40’ wash. Afterwards, I run one high temperature wash with an empty machine and wipe around the seal and that is it.  One batch of dye can dye a number of items, so this is a great group activity

What you need

  • 100% cotton items to dye. T-shirts, tea towels, camisole tops, or plain fabric you can make into a scarf or bandana later on.
  • Elastic Bands (lots and lots and more)
  • Dye (from a hardware store)

How to do it

Soak the items in warm water and squeeze the water out as much as possible. Next put as many elastic bands on your item, and wind them as tightly as possible. The more bands you can get onto your item then better. Even when you think you are done – add more!!

Once all the bands are on, pop it in the washing machine with the dye, following the manufacturer’s instructions). When the washing machine is finished, take the item out and remove the bands and give it a good shake … Hey presto – a fabulous tie dye item. You can repeat the process  using a second dye of a different colour the same item and this will produce some great blended patterns and shades.

For more ideas about tie-dye and the shapes you can make, have a look at my Pinterest Board here.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. To keep up to date with all the other projects and tutorials I release, please like and follow my Facebook and Instagram pages.

Liberated Quilting : Finding What You Like

Years ago I bought a book called “Liberated Quiltmaking II” by a lady called Gwen Marsden. I found the whole technique that she used for improvisational piecing very refreshing. I like rules, but I also like to know how far I can bend them and this book showed me a new way to piece patchwork without so many rules or worries. Early on, I made a number of small items using this technique and gifted them away. I wish I had taken more photos of my very early work. Not because it was uber memorable, but so I could have better recorded my journey through quilting and more importantly my journey to find the things I like most in the wide array of techniques and genres that make up the patchwork and quilting world. After a lot of small pieces, I did make a quilt, very loosely based on ideas gleaned from Gwen’s book.

Around the same time as this, I found a blog by Kate Pedersen called Sew Katie Did . Kate’s improvisation technique was more controlled but created the most amazing edgy modern pieces. I remember on our first family holiday in the Lake District, taking my sewing machine and working my way through a number of the pieces in her book Quilting Modern (which funnily enough she wrote with Jacquie Gerring, who also wrote WALK, the book I reviewed for #fridayreads this month). This is a piece I made on that holiday whilst Brian fell walked with the girls.

These two pieces are strikingly different but are linked by the more free approach they take in piecing. I think with quilt making my heart probably rests somewhere between the work of Gwen and Kate. I would be more certain if I felt more confident in working around a blank canvas, the complete opposite of creating a quilt strictly from a pattern. However, I can say with certainty that this is the direction my own personal quilting is most likely to go in the coming years.

I currently teach a class once or twice a year on my own GillyMac version of Liberated Quilting. Last week there were ladies here at the studio, eating cake and challenging themselves with colour and a more relaxed approach to piecing. I am not sure if they were complete converts to throwing away patterns, but I know they all enjoyed the day, as did I in hosting it.