Two sewing projects for people who can’t sew a button 4



View Profile

Sew Together Grow Together is a selection of hand-sewing projects developed over two decades in classes and workshops for children. The idea for this book was planted by parents who “can’t even sew on a button” but wished they could play a more active role in their child’s hand-sewing adventures and feel for themselves the excitement their children so clearly felt when they created something they loved and were proud to have made.

All the projects involve adults and children working together and are suitable even for adults with absolutely no sewing experience

These projects can easily be made in a single afternoon and because they are wholly handsewn no expensive machines are required.

Gulla’alla the Koala

Gulla’alla might sound like a word hailing from one of Australia’s Aboriginal languages but it’s really just how my youngest daughter, Yiscah, pronounced the word “koala” when she was learning to speak. Gulla’alla is fairly simple to sew. The ears are the hardest. Young sewers may have to concentrate to keep their stitches small and on the line in order to get them to look just right. This is a good project for an adult and child to share the sewing on: the adult can sew the baby koala, which due to its smaller size takes greater care, while the child sews the mother.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.23.17 am

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.23.04 am


  • 11″ x 11″ piece of muslin
  • 11″ x 11″ piece of brown cotton fabric
  • 6″ x 4″ piece of muslin for pouch
  • 6″ x 6″ piece of muslin
  • 6″ x 6″ piece of brown cotton fabric
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Embroidery floss
  • Large koala nose and 4 large koala paws
  • Small koala nose and 4 small koala paws
  • Two large wiggly eyes
  • Two small wiggly eyes
  • Polyester fiberfill
  • Rice grains
  • Hot glue gun
  • Cardboard for templates


1. Photocopy the templates.

2. Make the shapes into cardboard templates.

3. Place the cardboard template of Gulla’alla on the 11″ x 11″ piece of muslin and trace around. The line you are tracing is your sewing line.

4. Now place the pouch template on the 6″ x 4″ piece of muslin. Trace around and cut out.

5. To pin the pouch into position, place the muslin with the outline of Gulla’alla on it face down on a sheet of white paper. This will allow you to see the outline more easily so that you can correctly position and pin the pouch on the untraced side. Alternatively, you can hold the muslin against a window to see the outline and pin her pouch into position.

6. Sew around the bottom curve of the pouch.

7. Attach the koala nose on the same side as the pouch.

8. Place the muslin with the outline of Gulla’alla on it face up on top of the 11″ x 11″ piece of brown cotton fabric. Pin the fabrics together. Sew around Gulla’alla.

9. Trim 1/4 inch from the sewing line.

10. Clip the curves at the places indicated by arrows in the template.

11. Turn right side out.

12. Push small amounts of polyester fiberfill into the ears, head and top half of the body. Now fill the rest of the body with the rice.

13. Overstitch the turning gap closed.

14. Glue on wiggly eyes and paws.

15. Repeat for baby koala using the two 6″ x 6″ pieces of fabric. Note that baby koala has no pouch and is only filled with polyester fiberfill.

Things to think about

1. You can make triangular diapers that fit baby koala by taking a 6″ x 6″ square of terry toweling and cutting it along the diagonal.

2. When I cut out the pouch I like to put the straight line of the pouch on the selvedge, which is the woven edge of the fabric. This prevents the opening of the pouch from fraying. I also like to cut out the bottom curve of the pouch with scallop-edged shears to give a decorative touch.

3. When sewing around the pouch you can thread a seed bead onto the needle every time you do a stitch. This gives a very pretty effect that a lot of my students love.

Three Wise Owls

This project takes a simple simple idea and expands it by repeating the shape in three sizes. At first it might seem that this repetition doesn’t achieve very much, but then you might notice that the diminishing size tells a story. It says that this is a family, and the owls now form a little group that you can play with and arrange in different ways. Even something as simple as changing the order of the plain and patterned fabrics on the littlest wise owl says that he is not going to be exactly like his parents.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.35.36 am


  • 6″ x 5″ piece of plain cotton fabric
  • 6″ x 5″ piece of patterned cotton fabric
  • 5″ x 4″ piece of plain cotton fabric
  • 5″ x 4″ piece of patterned cotton fabric
  • 4″ x 3″ piece of plain cotton fabric
  • 4″ x 3″ piece of patterned cotton fabric
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Embroidery floss
  • Six wiggly eyes
  • Rice grains
  • Hot glue gun
  • Cardboard for templates


1. Photocopy the templates.

2. Make the owl shapes into cardboard templates.

3. To make Papa Owl, take the two 6″ x 5″ pieces of fabric and place their right sides facing together one on top of the other.

4. Place the Papa Owl template on top of the two pieces of fabric and trace around. The line you are tracing is your sewing line. It will be easier to see this line if you trace onto the plain fabric.

5. Pin the pieces of fabric together. Use a small running stitch to sew around the shape.

6. Trim 1/4″ from the sewing line and clip the corners.

7. Turn right side out.

8. Place the tip of Papa Owl’s beak at the point marked by the letter A on the template. Glue his beak into place.

9. Fill with rice.

10. Overstitch the turning gap closed.

11. Pinch each of the two bottom corners into a small triangle. Flatten and hold the tip of each triangle against the bottom seam, then overstitch the tip of each triangle down. This creates a flat rectangular shaped base for Papa Owl to sit on.

12. Glue on large wiggly eyes.

13. Repeat for Mama Owl using the two 5″ x 4″ pieces of fabric and for Baby Owl using the two 4″ x 3″ pieces of fabric.

Things to think about

1. A simple way to make this project easier for young children is to increase the size of the templates and make the owls larger. If filling your larger owls with rice makes them too heavy, you can use polyester fiberfill in the top half of the body and rice grains in the bottom half to give them weight.

2. You can adapt the idea of making a family of owls to reflect the number of people in your own family. You can even try to make your owls reflect the characteristics of different family members or let each family member choose their own owl’s fabric.

3. If you don’t want to make a family of owls you can play with other groupings by making a different number of owls and choosing a different range of sizes for them.

Tell us, will you give these little sewing crafts a go?

Sew Together Grow Together Trixi Symonds

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Use a strong cleanser to remove any fat or yucky cooking remains, then apply steel wire wool such as “jex” or other wire wool to remove rust. Heat the camp oven to dry it and while warm, coat the inside with olive oil. Olive oil does not go gummy like other vege oils. If you look after your cast iron it will be a pleasure to use. Happy cooking. I love all my cast iron utensils for their even cooking capabilities.

  2. I inherited my mother’s Janome in 1965 when she moved over seas. Still have it and do all sorts of things on it.

    I was at my stepdaughters about 4 years ago and her 8 year old daughter needed a sports dress lowered so I got the job and it was done in no time.

    Photo is Lycra finger stalls to protect fingers while fly fishing. Had to buy half a metre so have enough for about 400 stalls @ $7.50 for the cloth compared to $3ea if you buy them. Had to get a special needle. B|

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *