The challenge of preparing for a needlework class that meets every day for only 45 minutes at a time can be rather daunting. But I have to admit, teaching Needle Arts at the high school level is FUN! Despite the prep work, despite the glorious mess taking over my studio, I find that I’m enjoying the heck out of teaching the class. It almost seems… well… mercenary that I actually get paid for it!
When I bring up the Needle Arts class here on Needle ‘n Thread (which I promise won’t be every day!), I hope to make whatever I write about useful for you, too. Rather than just a journal of what I’m up to with the class, I’d like to share with you what I’m learning along the way. That’s the funny thing about teaching: it’s a learning experience for all parties concerned, not just the students.
One thing I learned last week: flexibility in planning is essential. This is true in any classroom, of course, but after eighteen years of teaching academic subjects, I’m learning that, with hands-on work, it is even more pertinent. For example, my plan was initially to have every project we do worked from start to finish completely by the student, including all prep work and all finish work. Yet, as you can see above, I’ve been cutting out pieces of linen myself…
… and neatening all the edges (very un-neatly!) on the sewing machine.
The students are geared up and ready to stitch on something “real.” They’ve been working on samples last week for their stitch journals, and they’re already itching to begin their spot samplers. I decided to take advantage of the momentum and excitement of the first week and put them to work as soon as possible on their spot samplers. We could slow down and use class time to cut out the fabric, whip stitch the edges by hand, and so forth, but I’d rather get them stitching right away on the sampler. I want them to have the excitement of seeing something develop on that piece of blank cloth!
It’s alway important to catch that “learning window” with youth – when they’re really excited about something, take advantage of their excitement. They learn best when their attention is focused and their motivation is high.
So, each evening I’ve been cutting out linen and sewing edges, so that I can hand out the linen to the students today. Did I mention that I also soaked and ironed the linen, to remove any sizing? Yes. Well. Ok. The truth is, I’m not a lover of ironing! Especially en masse! And in my haste to get everything together for today, I did not follow that Wise Universal Axiom: Clean as You Go. My studio is a wreck. As soon as I have a chance this week, I’ll put it all back in order and forever follow my new resolution, to clean as I go. It is so inefficient to let a mess like this build up!
The first quarter of the year is devoted to counted thread techniques. The first technique the students conquered was cross stitch over one and over two. Here’s one of the samples. They are stitching their samples on 25 count Lugana because I had it on hand and because the count corresponds to the count of the linen for their samplers, which is Legacy Round Yarn Linen. It’s an even weave linen, suitable not just for counted work, but for surface stitches as well.
While it may seem easy enough to teach the basic cross stitch, the concepts of centering, counting, graphing, and stitch direction all had to be covered as well. Not as easy as I thought it would be! After instruction, the students work the sample for the lesson, and I go around and see how they’re doing… and re-instruct one-on-one several times over! But their samples look good, and they’ve got the hang of it, and they’re excited to get going on the real sampler. So…. I prepped the fabric myself.
They’ll have the opportunity to cut their own fabric a bit later. During the first semester, besides learning stitches and working the spot sampler, I want them to make a small finished something-or-other, so they’ll be making a little needlebook from start to finish. That’s doesn’t come until a bit later, though (thank goodness!).
It’s fun keeping up. I’m looking forward to Labor Day weekend, when I can actually “get ahead”!
I’m open for tips and suggestions, ideas, and so forth! Feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions or leave your suggestions or ideas.
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