Sunday, September 22, 2013

The art of teaching

Teaching someone to perform a tactile skill is an interesting undertaking. You often don't realize how much is involved...such as learning how to hold fabric as you sew two pieces to thread a needle and not unthread it again every time a stitch is taken...just exactly how is a knot made...and the list goes on. 

I teach in a public middle school (grades 6, 7 & 8 so students are usually between the ages of 11 and 14 years old.) Along with two other teachers I advise and teach an after school Handworks Club. Our goal is to teach a love of making things by hand to our young students. Last year was our first year and we had no idea what to expect. Most of our students had little to no experience doing handwork projects. 

Class sample made by me.
One of our main projects was hand stitching and quilting 9-patch doll quilts. These little quilts only measure out at 12" square, but it took almost five months for our group of girls to make them. Wow! We learned that there is a lot involved with teaching someone to sew. Maybe making a quilt, even a doll quilt, was a bit much for our beginning sewers.


This year we are working on simpler projects. The first one is a tapestry bookmark. The purpose of this project is learning how to hold fabric (or felt in this case), tie a knot at the beginning and end of a seam, and do the running stitch. The great thing about this bookmark is that it does not matter how big or small the stitches end up as variety adds to the visual interest. 


Our next project will be decorating needle books. Again we are working with felt because it is so easy to hold. I went ahead and used my sewing machine to attach a page inside each book and the girls will practice stitching to decorate the front and back cover. Then, they will put the needle book to use holding their class needles.

Stuffed Owl~Handmade
Pattern and tutorial for this little owl can befound here:
After the needle books we will move on to this sweet little folded owl. It is such an easy pattern with just three seams. The girls will have a lot of fun choosing cute fabrics to make their owls. We have been blessed with fabric donations from members of a local quilt guild and the local quilt shop, The Scrappy Apple

It should be a fun hand sewing unit! 


  1. Debbie, I think it is wonderful that you are offering a club like this for middle school-age kids. I am sure it means a lot to them to have an experience of making things by hand. Keep up the great work!

    Teaching skills like this can be tricky, as you say. There are a lot of little hand movements that go into making things that we take for granted after we have done them for a while but they are very hard at first! Every time I teach beginning crochet, I am reminded how difficult and uncomfortable it is for new students to hold the yarn in their hand and turn the hook the right way, hold the project, etc.

  2. I think that is so awesome!! and I love the samples you are using. The owl is adorable and really easy to make too. They will have so much fun!!

  3. It's wonderful that you are able to pass on skills to children who are interested in learning. I really like your project choices.

  4. These are terrific. What a great club to be able to offer. I love the needle books. I hope you'll take photos of the finished one, love to see what the club members do. - Jen

  5. Debbie, it is great that you are passing the skills to these kids who may not have a mom, or grandmother to teach them. I love the doll quilt, but you are right in choosing smaller projects - especially in this age of instant gratification. I think your projects for this year are wonderful: skill builders that are both cute and fun. Good luck with the handworks club!

  6. I think it's wonderful that you are passing on your skills to these students! I'm sure they will appreciate your efforts. Who knows what they might choose to make one day!

  7. This sounds like great fun. And how great to pass on your love of handcrafts!


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