Thank you everyone for taking the time to weigh in with additional comments and suggestions regarding teaching children handwork, in particular embroidery, knitting and quilting. There are so many ways we can reach out and share our knowledge to ensure that these skills will not be forgotten.
Sunday’s post concluded with ideas for children in Grade 4, the ever curious and motivated 10 year old. As children move on to Grade 5 knitting socks is appropriate, provided the foundation was laid with the projects discussed on Sunday. Sock yarns today come in variegated and “self-patterned” versions. These are perfect to hold the youngster’s attention to ensure the completion of two socks… Hats are also a great way to re-enforce earlier knitting-in-the-round skills, and may lend themselves to practicing simple Fair Isle stitches with multiple colors.
More complex embroidery stitches may also be introduced at this time if interest continues. Satin stitch can be mastered at this age, and if a child’s own artwork is used for the pattern or cartoon the challenge is met with more enthusiasm and commitment. Dyeing fabric and T-shirts are a fun activity – which child does not like to add color to a plain piece of fabric or threads?
Grade 6 is a great time of discovery. Children at age 12 are challenging themselves and those working with them. One way to continue to capture their attention is to delve into the school curriculum and see what is being taught. Cross-stitch is an embroidery technique that provides enough of a challenge and interest. It correlating with certain math principles. Simple weaving requires much concentration and is quite often the activity that captures both girls’ and boys’ attention for years to come.It is a great time to introduce bead looms to weave a watchband, bracelet, simple belt or hat band. Creating moccasins from moose or cowhide with sinew or waxed linen is another project that will speak to boys and girls alike. Patterns for moccasins can be found in books and online.
Let’s move on to Grades 7 and 8. Designing and knitting a sweater is not an impossible task for the youth that has pursued and developed their knitting skills. Cable patterns or lace may be incorporated into the overall design. If the sweater is too much of a challenge, a vest is a great alternative when it comes to creating a shaped garment. And, since I am touching on shaped or fitted garments, sewing can be reintroduced at this time as well. Involve the youth in choosing the pattern and fabric. Make yourself available while the young person is delving into their first major sewing project. Demonstrate how to measure and select the appropriate size drawn on the pattern. Assist, if necessary, with the layout and cutting of the pattern pieces, and set up the machine for the first seam.
By age 14 the young person is able to work quite independently, provided the groundwork was laid in early childhood and ongoing support was made available. At this time the youth does not need firm guidance when it comes to the next handwork project. Let her/him know that support is always available and encourage them to seek projects on their own.
If sewing has become a strong interest it may be a good idea to find a good second hand sewing machine to foster independence. Knitters will welcome a collection of needles, patterns and yarns for continued creative expression. The young embroiderer will enjoy a needle case, collections of threads and fabrics for stitching. The possibilities are endless and without limitations.
Grandmothers, mothers, friends of the family, godparents, neighbors unite! Begin to watch for signs of interest in the young child – gentle guidance and fostering early interest in handwork can lead to great outcomes.
My grandmother took me shopping at age 4. I was fascinated by the colors of wool embroidery threads. She gave me a small rectangle of canvas, some left-over threads and a needle. She patiently showed me how to make a needlepoint stitch, and I set out to create my first small rug for my doll house. I didn’t play with dolls – I decorated the doll house… Within weeks I was stitching with silk on linen. My favorite embroidery projects involved metal threads. Imagine how proud I was when she told me that I was much better handling metallic threads than her. My memories of spending afternoons huddled close to my grandmother, watching her demonstrate a new stitch, are as vivid as if it happened yesterday. Let’s continue to create memories and encourage the young generation to explore creativity through handwork.