Tuesday 5 June 2012

Tips on Teaching children to cross stitch

Tips on Teaching children to cross stitch

I spent many years volunteering for a local Brownie group, one of the most wonderful things I got to do was teach the kids how to cross stitch (and of course a varity of other crafts) I picked up a couple of tips along the way I thought I would share.

- Answer any questions they may ask.
If you sew around your children (or while around other children) they may ask you about it. So why not satisfy their curiosity and tell them about what you are doing. For a very young child you don't need to go into lots of detail but enough so they know what you are up to.

- Let them pick their own project. 

One great thing about cross stitch is that you can have a good idea what the finished piece will look like from a picture on the front of the kit or even a coloured chart.
For younger children you may need to show them a few appropriate charts (nothing too hard to start with) and let them pick from the selection. If the child gets to pick they are normally much more enthusiastic about seeing the finished thing.

- Don't do it for them. 

This is quite important. If you are teaching a child how to sew and they get stuck with a knot or threading the needle only help with the problem. Don't start doing stitches for them. Imagine how demoralising it would be for a child. They can easily think there is no point in them learning how to stitch if you can do it so much easier and quicker than they can.

- Make something of the finished piece.
 When the child has finished their very first piece make something of it. Ask them what they want to do with it. You can put it in a frame, on a card or give it as a present to a family member or friend.

- Let them know how sewing skills can be practical.
 Sometimes you can be asked why stitching is a good thing to learn. Remember its not just pretty pictures but learning to sew can help with clothing repair or making presents and cards.

- Let them sew for as long as they feel like it. 
If you are forced to do something it becomes a chore. So if they only want to sew for a half hour don't force them to stay and do more. If they are interested they will come back again and sew some more.

 - For first time stitchers find a project with whole stitches only and a blunt needle. 
I don't count any more how many times I prick my finger on my needle each day. I have been sewing for years now and  remember pricking my finger many times when I first learnt to sew. A design with whole stitches only allows the person you are teaching to learn only one stitch to complete a picture and to use blunt needles (because sharper needles are needed for half stitches.) A blunt needle doesn't prick you so much if you accidentally catch yourself with it. For younger children you may consider using very large plastic needles on 11 (or 6) count Aida

- Show them how you do it
This sounds like an odd tip but some people I have worked with used to teach the kids how to start sewing with one method but started her own threads with another. A few of the girls we were teaching got confused by this and instead tried to copy the way she was actually using having seen the teacher do it a few times and quite fast too.
So unless you are teaching them something which is much easier than the way you use why not just teach them the way you do it. Kids will always watch the way you sew and try to copy it

Don't forget to explain why you are doing things which are particular to you. One evening one of our adult helpers had a bandage on their finger and while sewing held their finger out to stop the bandage catching on the thread. A few of the kids copied this pose with their own hands until we explained that she was only doing it because of the bandage.

- Thread length should be as long as the child's fore arm.
When teaching children I found that some were very worried about the length of the thread. Some even got out rulers and measured the length. Others who were not so hung up on the details would cut without measurement leading to very long or very short thread lengths. Both of which are quite problematic.
To solve this problem get them to hold the thread in-between their thumb and finger.
Secondly stretch the thread along the arm with the free hand until you reach your elbow.
With your free hand again hold the thread where it meets the inside of your elbow.
Finally cut the thread near your fingers or get someone to cut it there for you
This is really handy while teaching a varied group of kids. In the Brownies
there were kids who had already had their growth spurt and those who had not. By measuring against their own bodies the taller kids got a thread long enough for them while those who had not yet grown taller could use a smaller piece (without this being obviously pointed out)

- Let them design their own chart
For kids who have had a go at stitching try getting them a pad of graph paper (larger squares for younger children)  and a whole bunch of colouring pencils. Tell them to colour in each square of the graph paper to create the pattern they would like. Don't forget to tell them than one square of the graph paper equals one stitch.
When the girls I taught did not know what to sew this was a simple way for them to try out ideas because colouring is far less time consuming than stitches themselves. If the children you are teaching like to be on computers try letting them use a cross stitch design program to design their own charts.

- Tell them why
Of course you will have several nuggets of wisdom to impart, but one of the most important is why. If you explain how to do something like securing the end of a thread don't forget to explain why you do this. i.e. To stop all your lovely stitches coming undone. Saying why things are the way they are or why stitches are done in a certain manner helps with understanding that they need to do it.

Good luck in Teaching a child to sew. Crafts are wonderful chances to be creative, some can be relaxing and can make great presents. Probably the most important of all is to have fun with it and you never know you may start them on a lifelong interest in sewing and crafts

Here are some links for other Crafty Musings:
Using paint for cross stitch design
Cross stitch kit review: Camper vans by Fido Stitch Studio
Things to consider when choosing a cross stitch design
Upcycling worn out Christmas baubles
My Stitching New Years Resolutions

For the Buzy Bobbins Index page Click here.

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