Beyond Naps : How do you sew with kids around?


I, like many others, got into sewing as a hobby when my first daughter was a baby. She was one of those majestical creatures who napped daily well into her threes. However, the days of pure unadulterated nap time are far behind me now, and it’s rare to have time during the day when everyone is sleeping.

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my now nearly 7 year old in the first thing I ever sewed her during naps

If you’re just entering this phase in life, or if your kids are home from school for the summer, you might be wondering how on earth to get any sewing done while maintaining some semblance of control. I’m not going to pretend that my house is always pristine with a 5-star dinner in the oven on really productive sewing days. If you aren’t already aware, I’m in the final month or so of pregnancy with three kids at home – on unproductive sewing days it’s rare (like how unicorns are rare) for my house to be pristine with a 5-star dinner in the oven at the moment. However, I can share with you a couple of tips on how to sneak in some sewing.

1) Food Prep

Wait, don’t leave! I love you! I promise I’m not hijacking you! I’m dead serious here. If you follow me on instagram you already know I’m a big fan of this. Whether it’s meals or snacks, I like food prep. Well, I like the results of food prep. Whether you go full on freezer meal mania like I tend to, dump some stuff in the slow cooker, or simply slice apples or pop some popcorn before getting to business, having some sort of a plan as to what to feed the munchkins can do wonders.

2) Simple Activities

You can search Pinterest for ideas, but some of the best ones are the classic things your kids already gravitate towards. Playdough, colouring books (yes, enjoy my Canadian spelling), sorting buttons, putting stickers on paper. Choose things that your kids will do for longer than it takes you to set up and clean up, this is always a stipulation for me on the ‘worth it’ scale. Upon occasion I’ll do something that takes me an hour to their 15 minutes of fun but only if it makes them think I fart glitter and burp rainbows, and I get to watch them enjoy it. For sewing time, stick to what you know your kids love so you can know in advance how long you’ve likely bought yourself.

3) Take it Outside

This is one I haven’t done myself this year, but if you’re blessed with a backyard and have a table available, consider parking it outside. You can do your cutting/prep, your hand stitching, or even haul out an extension cord and your sewing machine.

4) Do What You Can, When You Can

I have a child that I love and adore with all my heart, and I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her. She has on and off days (today she got into nail polish and motor oil both by 9am, and once stuffed our Jack Russell Terrier into the front loading washer and tried to turn it on.) and while she’s getting old enough now that I can upon occasion take my eyes off her, I’ve spent a lot of the last 3.5 years trying to maintain eye contact. So, sometimes I pull my sewing machine to the kitchen table to sew, but I’m not hauling up that and my serger and all my other tools too, so often I just do all my prep work. In fact, my giant cutting mat is stored behind our living room couch, not in my craftroom, and my good rotary cutter is kept in a special little high-up cupboard in the kitchen. I work with pdf patterns a lot, and as many of you know sometimes only 20% of the project is actually done at the sewing machine. I’ll get my pattern pieces together and cut my fabric and have everything ready to go when bedtime rolls around.


In case you thought I was kidding about the motor oil

5) Give Up

What?! Yes. Sometimes. Sometimes, especially during summer holidays, the best thing you can do is give up and go to the park, the splash pad, the beach, or grandma’s house. If it’s just not happening, you’re getting frustrated and the kids are getting into trouble, go have fun with them instead. Wear them right out and come back the next day and your kids might just be in a quieter mood. They’re only going to be little for so long, and if the project is important and has a deadline then you may just have to either hire a sitter or burn the midnight oil, because you committed to them long before you likely committed to that project, and I’m willing to bet they give better hugs.

I would love to hear your tips and tricks for sewing (or getting things done period) with kids around! Please share in the comments below, and if I get enough I’ll do a follow-up post with your tricks. Also please share if you have any tips for removing nail polish or motor oil from clothing.

6 thoughts on “Beyond Naps : How do you sew with kids around?

  1. Mine would be a tall cutting table. I have one that's tall enough that I can leave my project out on it and the littles can't see it to grab anything. It's on wheels, so I can push it wherever it needs to go to be out of the way, and if ever I'm not using it (hardly ever) it has drop-leaf sides so it's smalllll. Changed my sewing/crafting life. So tired of clearing off other surfaces repeatedly.


  2. GREAT post! My tip would be to try to involve them. If they're old enough to hold a pair of scissors, you can hand them scrap fabric and tell them to go to town. It makes a mess, but my kids are thrilled to sit at my feet and shred fabric. (It buys me 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the day.) Just be sure to tell them they can only cut with your permission. (I learned that lesson the hard way. Ha. Not ha, actually.)

    They can also sort buttons, unspool old thread, hand you pieces of tape for pattern assembly … Sometimes these ideas work, and sometimes I just wait until they're in bed.


  3. Oh I love this post! Thanks for keeping it real. My oldest is finally able to entertain herself but the baby cries if I put her down so I'm on number five on your list for the next few months. Wish I had tips on the nail polish. We used pour n restore on our driveway and it worked well.


  4. I love this post! I do some of your tricks. Your “give up” one is very good advice, instead of being frustrated that you can't sew – go wear them out! I am fortunate to have a sewing room. We have toys in there that stay in there and I do have a TV for movies/exercise videos in there too (We don't have TV or channels any where else in our house. I “set-up” for my next project while they are in the room with me so when I can get away I am ready to start. When I have a fussy child that wants to be on my lap that is when I fill bobbins (I can nurse and fill bobbins and sew straight lines). I wear my baby so when she doesn't nap and is sleepy I wrap her on my back and do cutting, organizing or cleaning in my sewing room until she falls asleep. Once she is sleeping I can sit and sew. I have a bag of scrap fabric that they can cut or do whatever they want and at one time I had a second sewing machine set up and my son just sewed right next to me.


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