Lawyer Alena Amir Hamzah had an inkling that her stepdaughter Alana Mohd Zaini would benefit from learning how to sew. She signed her up for classes as she knew the eight-year-old girl is into crafting. Alana has mild dyslexia and this affects her confidence, and Alena wanted to boost her self-esteem.
“Instead of focusing on her learning disabilities, I chose to nurture her talents instead. I chose sewing because she is creative and it best suits her needs. Plus, she enjoys handwork like origami, arts and craft, and colouring,” says Alena, who also signed up for the sewing course at Maker’s Habitat in Kuala Lumpur to keep Alana company.
“Alana is a timid girl. She hardly mixes around with her school friends. During recess and after school, she usually hangs out with her elder sister. I felt it was important to get her out of her shell.”
Together, mother and daughter set out to learn a new skill. In the two months since then, they have learnt to sew bookmarks and reversible tote bags. More importantly, Alana enjoyed learning to sew and thrived on being able to make things with her hands.
“I love the sewing lessons. I’ve attended three lessons and I have stitched several hand-made items like custom bookmarks and a small bag. It is so much fun. I hope to improve in sewing and show my friends that I can make special items for them,” says Alana excitedly.
Now armed with skills and passion, Alana looks forward to taking on more projects, such as making zippered pouch bags, drawstring bags and gathered skirts. “Sewing is not as difficult as it seems. My teacher has taught me how to use the computerised electric machine and how to thread a sewing machine. Anyone can learn how to sew,” shares the Year Two student of SK Taman Maluri in Kuala Lumpur.
Even happier than Alana is her stepmother. She says the sewing course has improved Alana’s self-esteem by leaps and bounds. Usually the timid child in the family, she is now brimming with confidence.
“The sewing instructor was not aware of Alana’s learning difficulty. However the simplicity of the class, and their instructors’ willingness to customise a special session for us made a difference.”
Alena says beginners’ lessons were easy to follow as they were taught the basics and given step-by-step instructions.
“This has helped improve Alana’s motor and problem solving skills. The instructors were very patient and allowed her to work at her own pace. Having me beside her gave her the added boost to work on each project,” says Alena, adding that learning a new skill together was a great bonding experience.
She also notices that having a new skill is exciting for her daughter.
“Alana is so happy to speak to her schoolmates about her sewing projects. She feels happy being praised for her sewing pieces. She’s even more excited knowing some of her friends want to order her tote bags,” adds Alena.
She believes it is never too late for anyone to pick up a new skill.
“Initially, Alana found it a challenge to learn how to sew. She had some minor hiccups following instructions and operating the electric machine. But, in just a few sessions, her skills began to improve. I am so proud of her sewing skills and newly-boosted confidence level. Children are quick learners. All they need is a bit of encouragement from their parents.”
As for Alana, she has learnt to believe in herself, to not let her struggles with dyslexia be an obstacle to keep learning. Now, she can confidently stitch and talk about her sewing projects to her friends.