Tips for Teaching Virtually

I recently joined forces with Liz Phillips from Kids Cook Memphis to lead a Bake Shop, a virtual camp for kids ages 8-14 that combined baking and sewing. Liz and I spent a lot of time planning, talking, and working behind the scenes to get ready for the week long camp. We knew that besides engaging and teaching kids new skills that we were also providing parenting relief, so we set up the camp to last all day from 9-4.
Throughout the week, I was constantly reflecting on how the camp was going from both the teacher and student perspective. What was working (and not working!), how could I use the experience in my classroom teaching, and what tips could I share with other educators? So, here is my take on the week. I hope that you find it useful and will share your own experiences or ask questions in the comments.

Keep the Zoom Open
After a quick morning meeting, I taught my first lesson then had the kids get to work independently while still on Zoom. By keeping the video chat open, students were able to ask questions as needed, held responsible for work, created a virtual classroom community. We were functioning much like a traditional classroom setting where students worked independently while a teacher roamed the classroom or did a quick grading of papers. When campers had questions, they just unmuted themselves and asked. During this independent work time, I was prepping for the next lesson, helping my own children, and answering emails. There was something very comforting seeing each other working.
Having the Zoom open helped me manage camper progress guide as needed. At a scheduled time, I got everyone back together, we shared our work, learned something new, and repeated the process. The Zoom was on all morning from 9-11:30 am and then again in the afternoon from 1-4pm. While we used Zoom for camp, the same concept applies for any video chat application.

Use a Combination of Live Lesson and Recorded Lessons
While creating Google Slides and recording close-ups of hands-on activities takes time, it pays off in the end. The combination of live and recorded lessons also means that the written lessons don't have to be super detailed because you can help to fill in the blanks and answer any questions. When teaching a lesson, I went through the slides with campers and we watched the videos together. They were then able to immediately ask questions and I could check for understanding before I set them off to work. During independent work time, they could go back and watch videos as needed.
Recording hands-on activities allows students to see teaching clearly and close-up. Another idea is to use a document camera or your phone to show close-up work during a live lesson. You can record these lessons to be used later for students who missed class or to use as review.

Have Extensions for Early Finishers
This is always a problem, right? What do you do with those who work quickly? Both Liz and I had extensions for campers who had extra time on their hands. These lessons were placed at the end of the Google Slides for the day.
I was thinking about how in a traditional classroom, students could also have independent studies on topics of their choice that they could start to work on when they finished the core curriculum. 

Daily Schedules are Important
Having a predictable daily schedule will help both you and families stay on task. While you'll need to be flexible, it's really nice to know that you're going to do the same things every day like morning meetings, check-ins, breaks, and finish times. The day "zoomed" by and everyone was happy and felt successful.
We also got feedback from students about what they needed in terms of time and instruction. If the majority of campers needed more time for a task, it was given. If there was a group that was ready for the next step, I taught it and was also there to support those that were struggling. Because were were using Zoom and there were 2 instructors, breakout rooms were super helpful.
Yes, there were some bumps in the road, and not everyone completed every project, but for the most part the camp was a big success. Campers were engaged, busy, and making.

Hand Sewn Mask

I never imagined that I'd be adapting a mask pattern for kids, especially one like this, but here I am. Like everyone around the world, we are doing our part to keep each other and ourselves safe and healthy during these uncertain times. I've been watching so many sewists around the world take action and stitch up masks for health professionals and other essential workers during this time. Now citizens, children included, are being asked to wear masks as a precaution.  This is scary stuff for both adults and children. 


While sewing masks with my daughter last weekend, I began to think of all my little Sewing School kids who have the power to sew and keep themselves safe. It feels good to use your skills to help yourself and others. So, I began to reimagine the tutorial from Made Everyday into a simpler, hand sewn version that both beginner sewists and children could make.

Materials: woven cotton fabric (quilting fabric, sheets, old woven clothing), a T-shirt, scissors, basic sewing supplies, paper for pattern making, chalk or marking pen

Pattern: You'll want to use a ruler to create a pattern that will fit your face. 
basic - 8x5 inches, kid-sized (under 10 years old) - 7x4 inches, large - 9x6

After preparing your pattern, trace it onto your woven fabric 2 times. I am using 2 different kinds of fabric, but you don't have to do that.
Cut out both pieces of fabric.
Put the fabric together with the good sides facing out.
To make a pleat, fold the fabric in half and then fold the bottom portion in half again. You may have to try this a few times to get it right. Hopefully the photo will help you understand this step. The simplest version is to make 1 big pleat. After you have some experience making masks, you may want to make 2 or 3 pleats.
Pin the pleat in place on both sides. You want to make sure that the bottom edge is hanging over the bottom of the pleat just a little.
Time to make your ties. Cut strips about 1 inch wide from the bottom of a T-shirt. The strips should be at least 15 inches long. Stretch out the strips a bit. They may curl and that's what you want! You can use elastic if you have it.
Sandwich the ties between the 2 layers of fabric and pin in place. I find it easier to pin down 1 side and then sew it and then do the other side.
This is what the side should look like before you start to sew. The pleat is pinned and the ties are sandwiched and pinned in place.  TIP: If you are having trouble with the ties, you can always go back at sew them on after stitching all the way around the mask.
Start sewing! Starting at the top, stitch several times to make sure the tie is sewn tight. Give it a little tug to make sure. Using a whipstitch, sew along the edges of the side, being sure to sew through all the layers of the pleat.
One side is sewn. Now, whipstitch along the long edge of the mask. When you get about halfway to the other side, stop and pin the ties in place.
Keep sewing all the way around the mask until you are finished, then knot off. After trying on your mask, you may need to trim your ties or resew any areas that aren't sewn down tight.

Here is a little strawberry mask with 2 pleats. This is a nice way to use up some favorite fabrics. I mean, if you have to wear a mask, you might as well look cute!

Keep safe and healthy! Please note that this tutorial is for personal use only. Here are some tips for wearing masks in public that I found useful. 

Selfie Pillow

The favorite project at In Stitches! camp this year was the Selfie Pillow. Each pillow is unique as the camper who made it! My favorite part of the project is the hair and I even dedicated an entire page in Sewing School Quilts to different hairstyles. We discovered a new technique for wavy hair this year - ric-rack!

Not only does the Selfie introduce a variety of embroidery stitches, turning it into a quick pillow teaches simple patchwork. In Sewing School Quilts, the project is made into a quilt, but for camp, we thought a pillow would be a fun and quick project. 
 It's me, on a pillow! Follow along with Maddy to make your own selfie pillow.

First, using the directions in Sewing School Quilts, make a selfie square. We used 8x8 squares of muslin for our selfies. This size seems to be a good beginner size.
Next, decide on the pillow fabric and make a quick pattern for the panels that will go around your selfie. Our finished pillows are about 12 inch square.

To make this size, you'll need patterns that are:
2-1/2 x 8 inches (cut 2)
2-1/2 x 12 inches (cut 2)
*Note that you you can just measure and cut the fabric.
 Lay the 8 inch pieces along the sides of your selfie.
Flip over the sides, so that the good sides of the fabric are covering the face. Pin in place so that the edges are even. Using a sewing machine, stitch the fabric strips to the selfie. 
 I see you! Now, Open up the sides and do the same to the top and bottom of the selfie.
 Open up the entire panel and iron the seams on the back flat to one side.
 Using your selfie panel as a pattern, cut out the backing fabric. See how the good sides are facing? This will make it easier to sew and ensure that the back and front are the same size.
Leaving a hole along the bottom for stuffing, sew around the selfie. Stuff until it's soft and then hand sew the hole closed.

Squidget! for Sew a Softie 2019

Happy Sew a Softie Month! I'm excited to join in with other kid-friendly makers across the globe to share original stuffie patterns that you can make with and for children. For more information and a list of tutorials, visit the amazing Sew a Softie organizer Trixi at Coloured Buttons. 


What's a Squidget you ask? A squishy fidget of course! Last school year I had some students who needed fidgets to help them focus and remain relaxed during whole group learning times. After a few trials and errors and some input from my students, the Squidget was born. They worked like a charm and kept the kids focused, calm, and engaged.


These little guys pack a big punch. Taking a cue from taggie blankets for babies and toddlers, these hand-sized pillows have a variety of ribbons and textures built in for sensory play. The bonus is a marble tucked into the middle of the Squidget for the ultimate squishy fidget experience. We stitched up some Squidgets at camp and the kids loved them and enjoyed finding the trims and ribbons that felt best to them.


OK, let's make a Squidget! Materials needed:
*fleece or other soft fabric
*a variety of ribbons, lace, elastic, and trims
*a marble
*poly-fil for stuffing
* hand sewing supplies (yes, you can machine sew them if you want)


Cut two pieces of fabric into the same sized squares that will fit into the palm of your hand. Ours were about 3 inches. Start sewing along one side. Lay the first ribbon between the two layers of fabric.


Keep sewing, taking care to sew the ribbon down tight. After you sew on a ribbon, it's best to give it a little tug to make sure it's stitched well.  Keep sewing around the Squidget and adding more ribbons and trims until you get to the last side.

After sewing up three sides, stuff the Squidget halfway then add a marble. Add more stuffing until you like the way it feels. Stitch up the last side adding a final ribbon.


Squish and fidget away!


In true Sewing School fashion, you can make it your own by adding a face, stringing a few beads along one of the trims, changing the shape, or adding additional marbles.


Happy Sew a Softie Month!

Stitched: Family Crest Workshop


Come sew with me! I'm super excited to be leading a Family Crest Workshop as part of the Stitched Quilt Festival at Crosstown Arts.  It's this Saturday, May 18 at Crosstown Arts.

Free to families of all shapes and sizes, participants will have the opportunity to work together to create a unique wall hanging that represents their special family.

No sewing experience needed. All materials will be provided. Register so that we'll make sure we have room for your family!

While you're at Crosstown, you can visit the Stitched Quilt Festival and even see the adorable BLUE quilt embroidered by my 2nd grade class.

REGISTER HERE!  Hope to see you there.


Sewing School Camps 2019

 

Are you ready for the summer?!  We are!  Sewing School camps will be held at SummerFest hosted by Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. We have 4 great camps ready for your crafty kids!


For the past 15 years, summer camp has been where ideas, techniques, and projects have been developed for the Sewing School book series. While we have fun making quick projects during our weekly Sewing Club, camp allows sewists the time to build upon new skills while stitching up creative and meaningful projects. We hope your child can join us this year!

Below is a quick snippet about each camp. For registration details, please follow this link.


Sewing School Camp Week 2 (June 10-14)
8am-12pm, Sewing School Jr. for boys and girls rising in SK and 1st grade
1pm-5pm, Sewing School camp for boys and girls in rising 2nd - 8th grade

This is where everything began!  Open to both boys and girls, campers will learn the basics of sewing both by hand and on machine. Projects include stuffies, pillows, bags, and wearables. Campers will also have the opportunity to work on projects of their choice. No sewing experience necessary. Students with their own sewing machine may bring them to camp for the week.



Craft Challenge Week 5 (July 8-12)
8am-12pm for boys and girls in rising 2nd - 8th grade

Take the craft challenge! Each day, the campers' creativity will be challenged with a variety of unique materials and crafty skills.  We can't wait to see what everyone makes with a lost sock or if they can create a unique pencil holder for their desk. Who will be named the Craft Champion?!




In Stitches! Week 5 (July 8-12)
1pm-5pm for boys and girls in rising 2nd - 8th grade

You'll be in stitches at this crafty camp! Campers will learn a variety of hand-sewing techniques such as cross-stitch, embroidery, and weaving. New skills will be used to create fun projects like pillows and bags. Bonus - campers will go home with their very own hand-sewing kit.