Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Elementary Stitchery

A few weeks ago, several folks asked me for more information about teaching stitchery to kids. Finally I am getting around to posting that information.


This photo is of my granddaughter when she was four and a half. She is stitching a little foam purse that I bought at the craft store. It has pre-punched holes and you just stitch from hole to hole. She was fully engaged doing this.

At school the kids use burlap and the fat plastic needles. Normally we tape the edges of the burlap so they do not unravel. You can see in the pieces that are not taped what a mess the edges become.

I'm still experimenting with teaching preschool stitchery. Usually I give them a small piece of burlap and let them experiment with the running stitch. If anyone has any suggestions for preschool stitchery, please pass them along!



Kindergarten stitchery involves the running stitch and following a line. If I had a 5 year old alone, I'd teach threading and knotting. Teaching these en masse was a slow trudge with frustration and tears. (After a few of those experiences I got my fifth graders to thread and knot hundreds of needles in preparation for kindergarten.) The students draw on the cloth and use a running stitch around the sides of the cloth and the outline of their drawing. The year they were studying insects, I had kids trace a butterfly shape. They were observing the hatching of chicks the year they drew and stitched chicks.

First graders are studying plants during stitchery time, so they draw and stitch flowers. First graders try to perfect the running stitch and add on the threaded and double threaded running stitch. Sometimes I have them color their designs with non-toxic markers.

Second graders study animals during stitchery time. They continue with the running stitch and its variations plus add the couching stitch.

I do not have images of third grade stitchery, as usually I have them weaving. When we do have time for stitchery, they learn the running stitch, couching stitch, cross stitch, satin stitch. They can often master any other stitch I introduce to them.


Fourth grade students paint designs on their burlap with tempera paint. I prefer the liquid tempera, but we have used block tempera as well. I haven't tried watercolor, but I would guess it would be fine. I have lots of samples of stitches out for this age, and they are game to try any of them. These are the most used: running stitch and threaded running stitch, cross stitch and double cross stitch, couching stitch, chain stitch, french knot, satin stitch, and back stitch.

Once the kids get the painted (or drawn ) images on the cloth, they are motivated to stitch for hours on end.

I love teaching elementary stitchery. They seem to find great satisfaction in using their hands and creativity in a way they are not used to.

12 comments:

Miss 376 said...

I love looking at what they are able to accomplish. Keep up the good work

Crystal said...

This is so great! I love seeing their work - it's so adorable! I think your methods are really awesome. I wish I had you around when I was a kid. I still can't sew very well and I would love to do it.

Patty said...

It's so great that you're teaching the kids to stitch. Thank you for sharing their work!

Jackie said...

Thank you so much Jan for posting this information along with all of the pictures. We will definitely be doing this at our house this summer. I can't wait to get the kids started - well at least Nate, but I'm sure once Everett sees what he is up to he'll want to do it too.

shellyfish said...

I'm over from Crafy Crow. This is a very cool idea- I didn't think kids so young could do so much. I'm looking for classroom (8 to 10 kids) ideas for 4-10 year olds, I hadn't thought of this- thanks!

Anonymous said...

In working with my preschooler on stitchery, I've used the plastic needlepoint canvas sheets found at the craft store instead of fabric. I cut it into smaller pieces and the stiffness seems to make it easier for young children to use. My daughter likes to embellish them with scraps of fabric, beads, bells and such.

crazedparent/charlene from yahoo! shine said...

My 6 yr old is wildly interested in learning to stitch, thanks for the tips!

So the preschoolers are using plastic needles, are the bigger kids as well? Can you find them at any fabric/craft store?

dottycookie said...

This is amazing - thank you for the tips. My little ones enjoy those prepunched kits but it would be great to move them on to more of their own designs.

Lynn said...

Those samples are beautiful!

Plastic canvas has been very successful for me, too. As young as three my daughter got the hang of "up from the bottom, down from the top" and was soon adding pony beads of her own volition.

When she was ready to follow a line, I would trace simple, cookie cutter (hearts and such) shapes for her to stitch.

I understand the challenges of doing this with a group. In a Montessori classroom, it would be demonstrated once for the whole class (in its simplest form) and then left on the shelf as a work for a single child. If only one child at a time is attempting it, it's much easier to assist if necessary.

jan in nagasaki said...

hello, i found you through Joanne, she visited my blog and I followed through and got here. I am very impressed with what 4th graders can do. My fifth grade daughter started sewing at school and they are doing basic straight stitch on white cloth. I am going to show her these creations and see if she can make something great for her summer homework...thanks for the inspiration!!!!!!!

jan in nagasaki

Shannah said...

Hello there!
I am a first year elementary art teacher and love the work here! I have always been told not to underestimate the power of stitching with younger students and now I am a believer:) Thank you for the inspiration. If you ever want to say hello, my email is in my contact info.
Lots of good wishes your way,
Shannah

Kayli said...

I use a 1/16" or 1/8" hole punch into felt for ages 3-6 to sew with plastic yarn needles. It works great! They can sew things together like puppets or do stitched patterns.