Sewing is a wonderful fine motor skill craft. It can easily be adapted for all ages. Students 18 months to 4 years worked on burlap which I purchased at our local fabric store. Burlap now comes in a multitude of beautiful colors. I chose white so embroidery thread of any color would show nicely. My older students (5 to 9 years) used curtain fabric I found at a thrift store. This was also a loose weave and easy to poke needles through. We used plastic needles purchased through Discount School Supply. They have a large eye and are easy to thread, very pointy, but not sharp, thus safe for little hands. I pre-threaded all the needles before class to save time since children are eager to keep going when they get to the end of their thread and it takes time to tie off.
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To have maximum control over the emroidery hoop, needle and thread we sat together on the floor in a sewing circle. With the table out of our way we were able to hold the hoops down in our lap and stretch our arms to pull the thread through. Some children sat in their caregivers lap, some knelt on the floor, and some stood.
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I used some nontraditional techniques like tying a single not at the eye of the needle so the thread didn’t come off as the students tugged their stitches tight. I also tied the thread directly onto the burlap at the start since almost any knot would slip through the holes.
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For most of my students this was their first exposure to sewing. My goal was to let them figure out the mechanics and enjoy the calming rhythm of stitching. Each student used three to four colors of thread about two feet in length each. As a student neared the end of a thread we made sure they ended on the back of the fabric and tied a new color onto the old one so they could keep stitching.
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On the third or fourth thread I offered pony beads as embellishments. This helped keep less engaged students present with the project, increased the fine motor skill quality of the project, and added more texture and color to the finished piece.
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I recommended four beads or less per stitch since the thread sags under the weight of the beads.
Every child excitedly picked through their beads, some of them became so engrossed with the options they laid down, poured them out, and picked through them.
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After each student was finished sewing we moved to the table to back our fabric with cardboard. Each child was given a cardboard square, a flat brush, and a cup of glue. Using liberal amounts of glue is important since the fabric is so porous.
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After gluing the fabric to the cardboard backing students and caregivers worked together to trim off the extra fabric.
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The final step was to mount the cardboard on a piece of construction paper. I pre-cut to squares larger than the cardboard. Adding this frame of color really made the sewing work pop!
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