|No matter what your passion is in life, I bet the seed was planted when you were young. One summer, when I was probably 10i-sh, my grandmother taught me how to embroider. And I've loved creating stuff with fabric and thread since.|
This year, I decided to open up my art room to the folks I work with for a Sewing Group. Some of my 4th grade students caught wind of this and wanted to know if they could join. I kinda put the idea on the back burner as I had no freakin' idea how I'd use sewing machines with the youngins...and I kinda thought the kids would forget about it. But, as you know if you work with children, they never forget anything. When one of them started pricing sewing machines at the local thrift store and another petitioned her friends to enquire about a class, I started to toy with the idea of making it happen. When I accidentally said, "I'll think about it," the kids cheered and asked, "Yay, can we start TODAY?!"
There is a wonderful enrichment program at my school called Gentry's Educational Foundation founded by Evelyn Hickerson, a teacher. I approached her about teaching a sewing class and she agreed to purchase some sewing machines. Because she's seriously that awesome. This woman is so dedicated to the education of all students that she'll stop at nothing to make it happen. We are so fortunate to have her enriching all of our lives.
In my after school sewing class, I had almost 20 students (3rd and 4th grade) and two adult helpers. I was a little nervous having that many children sewing on machines at once...and I also felt like the kids should have some basic sewing and embroidery skills first. So I decided to start by having the kids create an embroidered sampler using this book as my guide.
I picked up this book years ago when I wanted to teach sewing in my art classes. I've since had to let go of that notion (30 minutes just seemed impossible to teach sewing to the under 10 set) but was thrilled to give it a go with this group. My after school classes were a lovely 60 minutes in length and that felt like absolute heaven. No rush, plenty of time to explain, chat and sew.
Interested in giving this a go? Here's what we used:
- Gingham fabric
- Patterned fabric
- Embroidery floss, 24" in length, split into three strands
- Bees wax. This isn't necessary but it does come in handy. We ran our embroidery floss over the wax to prevent it from tangling.
- Large eyed, sharp needles
- Embroidery hoops
- Graph paper
- Sewing machine
- Our first of business was writing out our names. We first did this on graph paper using the guide found in the book. This was then rewritten onto the kids' chosen piece of gingham in pencil.
- Next we learned how to split our embroidery floss. I had the kids work with a partner to prevent the floss from tangling. This was then threaded into the needle, doubled over and knotted.
- After that, we hooped our fabric.
- We didn't embroider our name first. We chatted about what a sampler was and how this would showcase a sample of embroidery stitches we learned. Our first stitches to learn were the running stitches seen under the name.
- Once those were complete, we moved onto cross-stitching our name. Some students sewed buttons onto their sampler while others learned how to create a satin stitched heart.
All that took a couple of sewing classes to complete. Once they were finished, the kids chose a piece of fabric for the back of their pillow. Thankfully I'd just been donated a huge stash of fabric (which included some coveted Scooby Doo fabric). The kids laid their samplers on the fabric, cut it to the same size and pinned it right sides together on the top and sides. We left the bottom open for adding the stuffing.
Now I wasn't at all comfortable with the idea of the kids sewing for the first time without adult supervision. This is where my two super adult sewers came into the picture. They called each child one at a time to a machine and gave them a private sewing lesson. Perhaps in the future I'll be more comfortable leaving the kids less supervised...but until then, I'm all about the one-on-one.
So what were the others doing in the meantime? Well, they set their pillows aside and began creating mini-stuffed animals! In My First Sewing Book, the author gives a ton of animal patterns for the kids to chose from. I simply enlarged them and laid them out for the kids to pick from. Of course, I gave them the option of creating their own stuffies too (see last photo, ya'll. Too cute). With that sampler under their sewing belt, this proved to be the perfect project for them to work independently on while they waited for their turn at the machine.
For a Stuffie, you'd need the following:
- Two pieces of felt per student
- Embroidery floss
- Patterns (or paper for creating their own)
- After picking their pattern, the kids pinned the pattern and two pieces together. This was then cut out.
- After removing the pins, the kids were told they had to use a satin stitch to create a face. Buttons were available for eyes.
- Once that was complete, the two felt pieces were pinned together and stitched almost all the way around with a whip stitch.
- Stuffing was added and the stuffie was stitched closed. Most kids were able to create more than one.
When their turn was up at the sewing machine, they stitched those three pinned sides. Stuffing was added to the pillow and they had the option of hand-stitching the pillow closed or using the machine again. I was surprised that not all of the kids picked the machines. I think some of them really enjoyed the control of stitching by hand.
|Since completing these stuffies, the kids have started bringing in things they've sewn at home. They've independently created purses, pin cushions and stuffies for their buddies and siblings. Which makes me so super happy.|
And excited. I've already started my yearly process of begging for longer art classes next year so I can do this with all my students, not just an after school class. I know how much I loved creating like this when I was a kid...and I want all of my students to have this very same experience.
Do ya'll sew in your art room? Would you mind sharing with me the projects you do? I'd love to have more ideas and share them with my sewing group! Thanks, ya'll!