Sewing Mice in the Classroom

The Quiet Mouse project from Sewing School is the perfect classroom sewing project.  It's small, quick, adorable, and is open to interpretation.  Plus, it's easy to fit into the curriculum - there are so many stories that have mouse characters!  We read Aesop's "The Lion and the Mouse" in the beginning of the school year, and I always enjoy stitching up some cute mice to go along with the story.
I had all the supplies ready to go and gave the kids about 30 minutes to stitch their mice.  While I modeled the steps, I also posted the pages from Sewing School so that the kids could refer to the directions as they sewed along.
Here's what I love - a mouse (or maybe a dinosaur/mouse?) with felt legs!
This little guy worked so hard on his mouse and then wanted to sew another one!  
Such pride and a wonderful show of creativity!  

In the classroom, you can take this activity a step further and write a story about your mouse or put on a mouse filled performance.  We also had fun reading other stories with mouse main characters like If You Take a Mouse to School.

Apple Printed Fabric

 During Sewing Club we had fun creating our own fabric designs!  First, we watched this awesome Marimekko video of yards and yards of fabric being printed and talked about design on fabric.

Excited for fall, we decided to print our fabric with apples.  We also read a book about Johnny Appleseed and tasted a variety of apples.  Yum!

After all this inspiration, we were ready to design our fabric!
 The apples were cut into different shapes like halves, rounds, and quarters.
 Some kids used the apples like a paintbrush and made a picture...
 ...while others made a pattern.
 We used acrylic paint in the classic apple colors of red, yellow, and green.
 Yes, it got really, really messy!  So glad we used foam plates for the paint, and covered the table with a plastic tablecloth.  The paints got mixed and the apples were a mess, but everyone was happy.
The next week, we sewed with our one-of-a-kind apple fabric!  The kids were so excited to use their very own fabric to create a project.
 Everyone needs an apple bag!
This was my first time to print fabric with kids and I can't wait to try it again!

Fabric Collage Journals

 Last weekend I had fun stitching up Fabric Collage Journals with some friends at Carpenter Art Garden, an amazing non-profit here in Memphis.
 We brought in bright, fun fabric scrapes and the kids got to work designing their journals.  They used a bit of glue stick to keep the fabric in place until sewn down.
At the sewing machines, they followed the lines of the collage, often getting a little crazy with the stitches.  Most of them choose the zig-zag!
 It was a little tricky figuring out how to sew the fabric down and which direction to go.  The smaller journals were much easier to sew, especially in my small Janomes.
 The room was filled with patient adults waiting to assist and guide since most of the kids were first-time sewers.
Peek at the back of their journal cover!
Super cute, don't you think!?

The kids will be selling their journals at local crafts fairs this coming holiday season.  They will keep what they earn from the sales after donating one journal for the Art Garden to sell as a fundraiser.

Patchwork Bookmarks

Everyone needs a bookmark!  These simple bookmarks are quick to stitch up and use up all those cute scraps you have laying around.  They are cousin to the Scrappy Bookmark, a no-sew project I like to make with kids.
 The beauty of this project is that it may be hand sewn or....
 ...machine sewn!
 Everyone started with 2-inches x 9-inches felt base.  I precut the felt backs, but kids can make them themselves.  Next, they searched through all the wonderful fabric scraps we have from projects past and began to make patchwork-like pattern on the felt.
When they found an image they loved, it was glued down with a little smear of glue stick so that it would stay in place.  When the felt based is covered, you can begin to sew down all the bits of fabric.
In Sewing Club, kids can begin to machine sew in second grade.  This project was a wonderful introduction to machine sewing for them.  You can sew a little crazy and just practice moving the machine.  I sat with the kids as they turned corners, played with stitches, and learned the various parts of the sewing machine.
Happy reading!

He Huffed and Puffed Revisited

Last week I revisited one of my favorite lessons, and most popular posts, The Big Bad Wolf!  I busted out my old hairdryer and taped on some new ears, and we were in business.  

Originally, the lesson was part of a fairy tale unit I did with kindergarteners.  It's an awesome STEAM lesson where you build a pig house using fun materials and then see if the Big Bad Wolf, aka my hairdryer, can blow it down.  

This year, I had fun with my second grade class after reading "Ant and the Three Little Figs" along with a variety of other Three Little Pig stories, our favorite being The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  We also got to talk about force, stability, weight, problem-solving, predictions, and balance.  It's all in there!
 I followed the lesson pretty much true to the original and had similar results.  The changes, however, were due mostly in part to older age of the kids.
Everyone was insanely jealous of the group that got to build with Legos, because they knew without a doubt that the Lego house was the strongest.  I felt that some kids turned it into a contest instead of really seeing what their material could do.
The pipe cleaner and deck of cards groups basically felt defeated before they began and had some trouble working as a team (I had 3 kids per group).  We did get a big laugh when the pipe cleaner house just blew off the table!
The house of recycled boxes did quite well.  I was impressed with their strategy to put boxes inside of boxes to give the structure more weight.  It stood up quite well to the Big Bad Wolf!
Next time, I think I'll allow the kids to choose their materials so that they have more at stake and perhaps take out the Lego option all together.  If you've tried this activity with your students, I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

What can your wolf blow down?!

Back to School Projects Your Kids Will Love

Go back to school with some fun projects from Sewing School.   I had fun sewing with a group of great kids at Sew Memphis this summer and we turned a few yards of fabric into several projects perfect for back to school.

The Zippy Pouch from Sewing School 2 is essential for holding school supplies while the Locker Pocket is a simple, yet perfect decoration for any locker.  The Lunchbox Napkin is a quick project (details below).
We also made the Etc. Backpack from Sewing School 2.  This drawstring tote holds everything you need for sports, P.E., or a playdate.  This is one of those super simple, but satisfying projects that I love making with kids.
How to make a Lunchbox Napkin:
Take two squares of fabric about 10 inches square (we actually just traced the Sewing School book as our pattern!) and sew them together with the good sides facing, leaving a little hole.  Next, turn the napkin right-side out and iron if needed.  Stitch around the entire napkin, closing the hole.  You can make one for every day of the week!

Happy back to school!

An Interview with Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons

Trixi Symonds is the voice behind Coloured Buttons and Sew Together Grow Together.  From Sydney, Australia, Trixi has been sewing and creating with kids for more than 20 years.  As soon as we connected via Instagram, I knew Trixi was a kindred spirit.  She designs fun and colorful kids's sewing projects and is full of inspiration.  

Last week, Trixi interviewed me, and I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on her.  

The most popular sewing project you make with kids?

They love any project that has a baby…projects like Star Mum and Bub or Koala and her baby are always hits…especially with girls but the boys really get into them too…and if they make a project without a baby they often want to make a smaller baby version of it before they go home…they also (especially the boys) love designing their own monsters/aliens and projects like pillows where they can go crazy adding all sorts of odds and ends as decorative features.

One piece of advice you’d give to parents who want to teach their kids to sew?

I think the most important thing for parents to do is to just step back and let their kids do everything …let them choose the project, the fabrics, the colors of the thread, the way they want to adapt the design … let them make mistakes and sew with their own wonky stitches …and never do the sewing for them …just let them have fun and lap up the whole experience …I’m always struck by how proud kids are to have made something all by themselves.

Why should kids learn to sew?

I think it just gives them so much …it’s a low tech low cost really fun activity that kids can take and do wherever they are …I’ve had kids who are lagging behind at school come to my workshops …hand sewing really opens their eyes to their own potential …it’s something they can see their progress in over a short time and shows them they can really succeed at a skill that is not only very useful but also creative …and it’s something that kids can enjoy and express themselves through for the rest of their lives.

How did you get into teaching kids sewing?

I was originally trained as a primary school teacher and started giving after-school craft classes to kids about 20 years ago …then I began quilting and fell in love with hand sewing …I really loved everything about it …so I began designing hand sewing projects for my young craft students and discovered two things: (1) kids love hand sewing …they were just so excited to do the projects and (2) they weren’t getting this anywhere else …after that my fate was sealed …my craft classes became hand sewing classes for kids.

What things have surprised you in teaching kids to sew?

The biggest surprise by far was learning how amazingly well little kids can sew …my youngest daughter was just three years old when I finally caved in to her constant pleading to join in a class and sew one of the projects with the “big kids” …but ”surprised” is probably too mild a word for my reaction …I was really floored by the fact she could do it at all …and of course, but I’ve said this before, I’m always surprised at how much they love sewing.

Why do you like sewing?

It’s hand sewing I really love … I like making things, I have since I was little …and I love the feel of the fabric …and the possibilities you have with using fabrics …I especially love using old fabrics, either because I like the old fashioned colors and designs or because I like recycling old fabrics from things like my kids’ clothing that gives your work this extra depth and meaning as it stirs up all these memories associated with the fabrics history.

Best sewing experience?

There was this one bubbly really lovely girl whose mum brought her to my classes because she thought hand sewing might help her …her daughter had difficulties at school and especially poor manual skills …at first she just couldn’t get her stitches on the line but she improved really quickly …I just remember how happy she was with herself…and she kept coming to classes and workshops for years.

Worst sewing experience?

Mrs. Penglas’ sewing class in primary school …we had to make bloomers …I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever heard of “bloomers” or still knows what they are …but I remember I was always in trouble and being shouted at.

Favorite sewing experience?

When parents come to pick up their kids and look at their work and say “I can’t believe my child made that!”

You can find Trixi's adorable koala project here and purchase her wonderful book Sew Together Grown Together on Etsy and Amazon.  I can't wait to try out some of these clever projects with kids!

Interview on Coloured Buttons

I'm over at Coloured Buttons today talking about sewing with kids.  Stop by and say Hi.  While you're there, take a peek at Trixi's awesome kids' sewing book Sew Together Grow Together.

See you there!

Never Ending Journal

This simple and satisfying journal was inspired by a beautiful leather journal I saw at the Ozark Folk Center.  I love how you can easily add and take away a standard sheet of paper with ease.  A strip of ribbon or yarn holds the paper in place.  Hence, the name "never ending".

To make my version, use a standard felt square and 1/8 inch ribbon, yarn, or craft thread.  You might also want some felt and fabric scraps to decorate the cover.  Don't forget the paper!

*Cut 1 yard (or 1 meter) of ribbon.  Tie a knot 13 inches (32 cm) from each end.
*Fold the felt square in half and lie the ribbon inside the fold.  The knots should lie around both ends of the felt square.

Time to sew!  You will sew each end of the ribbon separately.
*Thread a needle with the ribbon (a regular chenille needle works well).
*Sew through the end of the fold to make a secure edge.  The knots that you made will help make sure you have equal amounts of ribbon on each side and a good length in the middle to hold the paper.
*Now, sew using a running stitch until you get to the middle of the journal's edge.  Sew through both sides of the felt and be careful not to catch the length of ribbon that's in the inside.
*After sewing up both ends to the middle of the journal, tie them together in a bow.

If you are sewing with thin ribbon, young sewers may have trouble sewing through both layers of felt.  For ease, you can simply secure the outer edges with a stitch and then tie a bow in the middle.

To add paper, fold a few sheets of standard paper (8-1/2 x 11inches) in half and slip it under the ribbon along the fold.  It will keep it nice and secure.

After your journal is complete, you can decorate it using felt scraps.

Need more paper?  Add another sheet.  Don't like something?   Take it out.  No worries, it's a Never Ending Journal!