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Stitches and Pins and Buckles and Bobbins

Designed and Written by JoAnn Gagnon and Corrie Gagnon Berneking
Bunkhouse Books

607 Lower Hogeye Road
Waitsburg, WA 99361

I have found the answer to teaching my children to sew! I am so excited about this, you can't even believe it! When I found a curriculum on teaching our daughters to be homemakers (see review for Future Christian Homemakers on our website) I was intrigued by the sewing curriculum the author recommended. I contacted Mrs. Gagnon, and asked if I could review her sewing curriculum so that readers could see of what the homemaker book was talking. Am I ever glad I asked!

This is the cream of the crop for teaching young children (girls AND boys) to sew. The book for girls is called Stitches and Pins and the book for boys is called Buckles and Bobbins. My mother-in-law had taught her son to sew and bake and I was so happy to marry someone so self-sufficient that I promised myself I would teach our sons and daughters the same way. There was only one problem; I hadn't been taught how to sew! I knew enough to get by, but teaching it is entirely different. These books will help! They are written to teach children aged eight to 16, and are written in a very easy to understand format, with step-by-step instructions. Both books come with 14 projects, and while the books contain the patterns, the supplies needed are to be purchased separately. Kits for all projects can be purchased from the website,, and include all fabrics, notions, and thread to complete the projects found in the books. This is an excellent way to know that you have exactly what you need, especially if the thought of entering a fabric store sends you into a panic attack! These are great kits, and you have a choice of fabric from which to choose. Now, back to the books themselves!

The books start out very basically, and step you through all parts of the basic sewing machine, along with the basic sewing supplies with which you should be familiar. There are simple, clear black and white drawings to accompany the explanations. The books go on to describe everything you need to know about fabric, including fiber content, grain lines and preshrinking! Patterns are discussed and clearly explained, as is the directions on how to pin the pattern to the fabric. All this before you are ready to sew, but it is presented in such a clear manner, that I wasn't stressed or afraid that I would never "get it." Mrs. Gagnon and her daughter are obviously very talented seamstresses and are also very articulate and able to explain concepts clearly and simply. It is evident throughout the books that they love what they do! Each project is clearly laid out and easily followed with the step-by-step approach. The projects start out very simply with a pillowcase, and progress to more difficult concepts and techniques.

You will be making pajamas, potholders, vests, skirts, etc. The differences between the boys and girls books are small, but important. The projects in the boy's books are geared for boys! Most young boys don't want to make a doll quilt, like the girls do in project number six, but they would get interested in making a patchwork quilt for using at night to watch TV or read a book! Most boys probably wouldn't be interested in making a skirt or purse either, but I don't know any boy who wouldn't be interested in making a fisherman's vest and a pair of cargo pants! The authors have addressed the gender needs of their students very well, and I am excited about teaching my son how to sew these projects. I know the satisfaction it will bring him when he realizes that he can do this himself! The book for boys also includes a few pages of basic sewing that they will need for life skills, such as ironing a shirt properly (they will have to have a job someday!), as well as mending rips and holes and sewing on buttons.

Both of these books are just so well written and illustrated that I feel confident in using them to teach my children these very important skills. In today's world we often think of the more "hi-tech" skills our kids need to learn, but sewing is very important and a needed skill, for both our sons and daughters. Now I know why these books were recommended so highly by the other author I was working with, and I recommend them just as highly!

There are also other kits available on the bunkhouse books website, including doll patterns for 18" dolls that are designed to make use of the leftover material you will have when you finish a project in Stitches and Pins. This way, your daughter will be able to make coordinating outfits for her dolls. What little girl wouldn't want to do that? There is also a coordinating doll pattern book for the projects in Buckles and Bobbins, and plans are in the works for an intermediate book for girls called Pins and Needles. Also, on the website you will find a downloadable curriculum outline written to go along with Stitches and Pins. The outline contains extra projects available on the website, and when used with the book, the projects work out to be 110 or more school hours that you can use to document your work. There is also a downloadable award certificate available on the website. The authors are very excited to help with the homeschool movement and have made an effort to help you with your planning! You won't be disappointed with your decision to go with these books, I for one am very glad I found them!

-- Product Review by: Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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