The Inspirational Educators Series

Meet Trixi from Coloured Buttons

Trixi Symonds. I live in Sydney Australia. Mum of 4 adult kids and a cat.. I’m a softie designer, the author of Sew Together Grow Together: Sewing Projects For Parents and Children and have been teaching children to sew for over 25 years. And I’m always working on my next softie tutorial!

Trixi, thank you so much for taking time out to participate in this interview series. Your ‘Sew a Softie’ initiative has been a huge success worldwide, how did it all come
about?

Sew a Softie began as one of those crazy ideas. I had been teaching kids to sew for quite a few years and could see what a positive experience it was. They had a chance to excel in a fun, friendly environment where everyone
could succeed and where sharing ideas was encouraged. They were so engrossed in their sewing that they thought breaking to have lunch and relax was an interruption. Those workshops reminded me of the sewing groups of yesteryear when women would get together to chat about their lives, make new friends and simply enjoy each other’s company. I was always impressed by how much kids loved sewing, Mums kept telling me, “this is the only workshop my kids want to come to”. At other times I’d be stopped in the street by young women in their 20’s who would introduce themselves as old students of mine and tell me they still had every project they had ever made in my class. I often thought about the amazing effect learning to sew had on these students. I decided I wanted to reach kids all over the world so that they could benefit from learning to sew…and
Sew a Softie was born.

Some of Trixi’s ‘softies.’


Can anyone learn to sew? What skills need to be developed first?

Absolutely anyone can learn to sew. I sometimes hear mums saying, ”I can’t sew!” I tell
them, “Yes you can.” In some cases, people avoid sewing because of horrible sewing experiences at school. I
fully understand how nightmare Home Economics classes can turn you off sewing. I’ve been through that too. But here I am, living proof that a bad sewing experience at school can be overcome.


In other cases, people have a fixed idea of what a sewing project should look like: it must have perfect, even, tiny stitches…it’s an ideal that makes them feel that they will fail before they even start. And some don’t want to teach their kids to sew because they are concerned about giving kids needles … they’re sharp and dangerous.


In my 25 years of teaching kids to sew, there has NEVER been a child who didn’t act carefully with their needle and pins. And as for perfect…every stitch a child sews is a good stitch. Certainly, their stitches might be big and wonky but they’re the stitches your child has done, and there is nothing more rewarding to a child than being able to make the decisions on a project that is theirs.

I think the real skill that needs to be developed is something adults need to learn when teaching kids to sew. Trust is vital. Trust your kids and let them sew their project in whatever way they want. You’ll find you not only teach your kids to sew but you’ll be paving the way for your kids to become independent, self-confident, creative thinkers.

Schools are often accused of killing creativity, so I’m really curious to hear more about your own background. Did your school foster your creative spirit?

There really wasn’t anything creative about my school experience. We sat in a big classroom and copied endless notes off the blackboard into our books. We had sewing classes but …they were my nightmare experiences. I was always in trouble for failing to do things exactly as the teacher expected.


Lots of creative things happening at home though. My mum who had grown up in Vienna was always knitting or crocheting or embroidering or learning some new crafty skill. Being crafty was just as natural to her as breathing and she loved trying new skills.

A lot of parents shy away from sewing activities with their children, perhaps because they find it tricky themselves. What advice would you give to them?

I think you’re absolutely right. It’s very hard to teach your kids a skill you don’t feel confident in. And I think kids will feel your anxiety. As a result, sewing won’t be a positive experience for them.


If you are a parent who does find sewing a bit challenging there are still things you can do to help your children have positive sewing experiences. You can look for a kid-friendly sewing workshop in your area. You may even find a family sewing workshop that you can attend with your child.


Also, these days you can find some really simple sewing tutorials online. Just make sure that you try them out yourself first. Check that the project is in fact simple to sew and ask any questions if you can. Remember if something’s going wrong there often is a very simple solution.Finally, you might also find a simple sewing kit that your child might like and try it out.

Do you have a ‘go to’ starter sewing project? (it would be great to have links here)

Absolutely. That would be Zenki. He was designed specifically as the simplest softie you could ever make. All you need is two squares of felt, a needle and thread, stuffing and you’re ready to sew. And if anyone has any problems with this project I’m always happy to answer questions.

Zenki the softie

Is there a particular quote or motto that you live by?

I wrote a post called The 7 Golden Rules of Teaching Kids to Sew. One of the rules is: every stitch is a good stitch. On a simple level, it’s just a way of explaining to parents, that even if your child is sewing over-sized, odd looking stitches it doesn’t matter. What matters is that your child has actually done the stitch by themselves. In the larger scheme of the things, it’s a reminder to me that sometimes things happen that aren’t what you expected but you
accept them.

Everyone has a favourite teacher, who was yours?

My favourite teacher was my high school history teacher. She knew all the historical gossip about what everyone was doing and often should not have been doing in every historical era we studied. She made history classes really fun and interesting. A few decades after I left school, I was at a yoga class and I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned and asked the lady with the familiar voice if she had ever been a teacher at Sydney Girls High…she replied, “Oh sh*t”…yep, that was her.

Finally, how can we find out more about Coloured Buttons and Sew a Softie?

If you’d like to find some really simple sewing projects and tips for teaching kids to sew you can find them on my blog Coloured Buttons: https://www.colouredbuttons.com

If you’d like to find out about Sew a Softie go to http://sewasoftie.com.

If you’re interested in joining the Global Kids Sewing Party in February 2020 with your child or with a group or club and would like to sew a softie to gift to someone in your community then you can find more info at: http://bit.ly/globalkidssewingpartyAnd of course I’m on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/colouredbuttons/

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British primary school teacher and mum of 2.

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