One of the most exciting experiences from my class last week was sewing. Yes, with sharp needles.
The class was for 3 – 5 year olds but the youngest was two months shy of his fourth birthday so when I saw the list of children I was pretty confident we could do some sewing. I’ve worked before with sewing by making sewing cards, which I had originally intended to do as well as a warm up activity, but just didn’t seem to fit into the day. I think it could still be worth doing though. We used embroidery hoops, embroidery thread and large pointy needles (I’m not sure exactly what kind they were) .
We sat in a circle on a mat, each child having been assigned their own spot (a coloured square on the mat) to avoid any accidental neighbouring needle pricks. Then I showed them how to sew, focusing on how the needle would go from back to front, then front to back. The embroidering hoops and threaded needles were handed out with much solemn ceremony, which I think encouraged the children to feel very grown up and responsible. Then they started sewing!
They all seemed to really enjoy sewing and were very proud and excited. In a group of nine it requires a fair bit of support to re-thread needles with new colours and to deal with any tangles and I was happy to have a volunteer thereto help! The most common issue was if the needle didn’t go back through the side it had come and the thread went around the hoop. Some children noticed this issue right away and we could solve it, others happily sewed away and I dealt with it afterwards. When they had been sewing for a while I introduced some beads for them to add to their work. They worked for about 45 minutes and had to be persuaded to stop at the end of class. It was lovely to sit in our own little sewing circle with everybody so concentrated on their sewing.
The needlework looked fantastic in the hoops but unfortunately the hoops couldn’t go home. When I took the cloth out of the hoops the results looked a little sad, what with the resulting lack of tension, especially with the rather large stitches. So I improvised and took the pieces home and used a machine to sew them into small round pillow shapes. The next day the kids stuffed them with fabric scraps and then sewed them closed. That last step was a little more tricky but they managed it. I could have stuffed and closed the pillows myself (hmmm….maybe if I had a bit more time!) but the children were so proud and pleased of their work that I’m glad I let them do it. I think another alternative would be to make round cardboard frames and attach the fabric with staples instead of using hoops. This way the “mistake” of sewing round the rim of the hoop would not be a problem, and they could also take it home. Now that I’ve had success with the sewing I know I’ll be thinking of all kinds of ideas to include it in projects! Sewing is so rare these days that many of the children didn’t have much of an understanding of it at all before we started. I found this activity really helped them to appreciate some stories we read about quilting and they were able to identify dashed lines in the illustration as the sewing lines. All very exciting.
Here are some of the funny little pillows:
Oh, and in case you are wondering – over the course of the week there were TWO paper cuts, and nobody got stuck with a needle!