Teaching embroidery to kids is a rewarding and fun experience. This summer, I’m teaching a children’s embroidery class to ages 10-14, and I have 20 students, once a week, for two hours at a time. The number seems rather daunting, but I’ve figured out some ways to make the classes run smoothly.
The first point in teaching any embroidery class, but especially to kids, whose attention spans can be rather short, is to be prepared. These are the supplies we use:
- 100% white cotton twill – a little bit lighter than “denim” or “jean” twill. This fabric is good for the beginner. It’s easy to pass a needle through, and the “twill” lines can help the beginner learn to gauge stitch length. I cut the pieces in 15-inch squares.
- A design to stitch – for this age group, I used a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter for the primary “design.” I traced it onto the fabric with a wash-out blue transfer pen. Then I drew either a circle or a box around it. I put a wavy line on the outside of the circle or box. Inside the circle or box, I drew wide, straight vertical lines with a ruler, leaving the area inside the butterfly either blank or filled with closer parallel diagonal lines. This type of design is suitable for beginning with the most basic stitches.
- Thread – we use DMC #5 cotton perle, and I pre-cut the lengths and lay them out in groups of color on a large table. The kids can then select their own colors – two strands of at least four colors, so that they have a variety.
- Needles – each child gets two needles. They are instructed to always secure their needles in the corner of their fabric when they are finished with them. They decide which color they are going to work with, picking two. They thread both needles, each with a different color. Then they keep the extra threaded needle on their table, so that they don’t have to re-thread between every color. This saves time, and it keeps them stitching.
- Basic stitches – decide on which very basic stitches you’re going to start with. I begin with the running stitch, and they lay a running stitch foundation over every line in their design. Then, we move on to the whipped running stitch, selecting every-other-line in the parallel groups to whip. They also whip any edges of the design – so, the butterfly gets a whipped edge, and the outside of the whole design gets a whipped edge, as well as the wavy lines. But on the inside, they do leave every other line a plain running stitch, and, if they want, inside the butterfly remains plain running stitches. This way, they can see what it is like to combine two different stitches to achieve a varied effect.
When the students enter the classroom, they wash their hands (each student brings a small package of baby-type wipes in her sewing box). Then they thread their needles. They begin working on the last stitches they learned in the previous class. Then I go around to groups of five and instruct on a new stitch. When they finish their butterfly designs, they pick a flower design or a heart design, set up the same way as the butterfly, and they work new stitches on it – stem stitch, chain stitch, etc.
After they have practiced the basic line stitches in this manner – on these very cute little colorful projects – they apply them to their basic stitches sampler (you can see an image of it here).
In the next stage of the class – after about three weeks – we go on to detached stitches, especially the “lazy daisy” stitch, which kids just love. They use French knots in the middle of their lazy daisies. They practice these on yet another cookie cutter design, and then move to that section of the sampler.
If you’re a pretty good stitcher – you don’t have to be a “pro” – and you want to do something very satisfying and fun, get together a group of youngsters in your neighborhood or at your church or local school, and teach them some basic embroidery. They’ll love it, and you will, too!
If you have any neat ideas for teaching children how to embroider, PLEASE SHARE! It would be great to hear how other people go about it, so that we can all incorporate good ideas to help teach children the art of embroidery!