Sewing for STEM

 

When Josepha and Rebecca went to the Maker Faire in Paris, they were surprised to discover that one of the exhibitors specialized in making sewing machines available to the children of Paris.

“Don’t they have them at home?” Rebecca asked. No, actually. Their grandmothers own sewing machines, but the current generation hasn’t had the pleasure of making things with a sewing machine.

Rebecca’s mother wasn’t very domestic, but she knew how to sew because she took Home Ec as a kid. However, schools teaching sewing are now in the minority. Between 2006 and 2013, the number of students in Consumer Sciences or Family Studies (nobody calls it Home Ec anymore) fell by 38%. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine have shown us that knowing how to sew is a useful skill. If you know how to sew and have the basic equipment (a sewing machine and/or a sewing basket) , you can jump right in and make a personal protective equipment (PPE) face mask as a great learn-to-sew project. Download the pattern and instructions from the link below, or follow instructions from the Centers for Disease Control. Or use a child’s face mask pattern.

How to sew a PPE mask

Other easy sewing patterns:

Once you’re sewing, bring in the cross-curricular connections.

Science

  • Learn about the fibers used to sew different items. National Agriculture in the Classroom has a great lesson
  • Check out our lesson on wool.
  • Read about an experiment designed to test the strength of seams sewn in different ways. Discuss what makes this a good experiment. Be inspired to design your own experiments. 
  • Step off on an interesting tangent with a lesson about fibers and forensic science

Technology

  • Add the invention and development of the sewing machine to your classroom timeline.
  • Learn to use a sewing machine. Skip to My Lou has basic lessons with practice paper downloads and easy projects. The assumption is that the adult knows how to use a sewing machine already.
  • Need more basic instruction? Check out Sewing School and How to Use Your Sewing Machine.

Engineering

  • Style Engineers is a fashion resource for kids. It has lots of awesome activities — get yourself a cup of coffee before you click through, because you’ll be there for a while, exploring. 
  • Fashion design companies often employ engineers. Think about engineering and clothes with shoes. Challenge students to design and create a shoe that can be sewn together. Make sure the shoe is safe and comfortable. Think about the situations in which the shoe will be used, the materials needed to make the shoe, and the style of shoe you want. Since a shoe is a three-dimensional object, you will have to do some serious thinking. Instructables has step-by-step instructions. A Happy Stitch has lots of photos showing traditional espadrilles shoes being sewn.

Math

  • Measuring is unavoidable when you sew. Grab your measuring tape and use it! You’ll need to get to know inches and fractions of inches. Use basic calculations and measurements to create a skirt
  • Sewing involves pieces of cloth. You usually measure them or use a pattern to cut them. Either way, you’ll need to think about how many pieces to use. When you make a tin can footstool, you’ll need 7 cans. You’ll need fabric to cover your seven cans, plus pieces for the complete shape created by the seven cans. Let kids figure out how many of each shape they need to cut. 
  • Geometry is key to sewing bias tape in the best possible way.
  • Ms. Armstrong makes some great points about sewing and number sense.

Books

Tie in folktales and fairy tales with these:

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