Posts Tagged ‘Sewing Magic’

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I grew up in a crafty/make do and mend kind of family. I like that we teach our girls how to manage basic mending – and maybe in the future a few of them will pick up a needle and thread and think of us fondly. Snowy Owl, on the other hand, hates sewing. Does not like it. Not. One. Little. Bit. But that’s the beauty of working with a team. I don’t ever have to go to the ballet or Ray’s Reptiles, and she doesn’t have to sew.

But teaching one person to sew is very different from teaching a group. Preparation and having lots of willing helpers on hand is the key in this case. And neat projects that the girls will love.

I saw this Felt Fox Brooch that I think could be adapted to a group on http://www.dosmallthingswithlove.com.  I first saw the Felt Owl Pouch template that might work for older girls.  Super cute!

And now I can’t get “What the Fox Says” out of my head (for your ear worm pleasure).  =)

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During a weekend visit with my nephew (representing Brownies at age 8) and niece (who is 5 and represents Spark age), I continued my plans to make needlework a part of their daily lives.   As I explained to Nephew, it teaches patience, makes you think about what you’re doing, and lets you try something new.

This weekend was “Operation Embroidery”.

5yo Niece's handiwork

5yo Niece’s handiwork

I started with Niece.  As you can see, her project was a little lumpy, but she was completely engaged in the process and proved that a Spark could do this (she was very concerned that the needle was not sharp and we had a big discussion about that).  She loved to use the needle threader.  The only thing she needed help with was to put a knot at the end of the yarn.  She repeated the common kid error – she kept sewing into the wrong side  and the loops kept going around the back – but she figured out how to rescue it – and she incorporated it into the design at the end.

8yo Nephew's project

8yo Nephew’s project

Later, I moved on to Nephew. He’d done a project like this before so I didn’t really need to show him much.  You can see that his stitches are neater.  He also loved the project.

I know that this is a fairly easy project to do one-on-one, but it is a different story in a unit or at camp with 20 or so girls to teach at the same time.  The key to that though is preparation and making sure that the Guiders/ Helpers know what they are doing.

I would split the unit into small groups with one knowledgeable helper assigned to each.  In advance, prepare a box or tray (photocopy paper trays are perfect for this) for each group with these supplies:

  • Plastic Canvas Circles – I chose the circles specifically because I didn’t want any corners for yarn to catch on.
  • Yarn in small balls (one ball per two girls)
  • Blunt yarn needles
  • a Magnet (to put the needles on when girls put them down and to help you pick them up when they hit the floor)
  • Scissors
  • Needle threaders – I made my own (see below details)


  1. Select and cut a piece of yarn that is as long as your wingspan – hand to hand.  Put the scissors and spare yarn back in the basket.
  2. Insert the metal loop of the needle threader through the hole in the yarn needle.  Then put the yarn through the needle threader loop.  Pull (hard).  Once your yarn is through the hole in the needle, put the needle threader back in the basket (notice a theme?).
  3. Now, fold the yarn in half so the needle is hanging down between your feet and the ends of the yarn are in your hand.  Tie an overhand knot.
  4. Take your plastic circle and start stitching up and down.  Make a design of your choice.
  5. Demonstrate what happens if you sew from the wrong side (you make a loop around the work)- and how to recover (gently reverse the needle through the hole).  It is easy and even Niece was able to fix her own mistakes.

And that’s it.   I think I’ll set this up as independent craft work at a camp next year.  The teaching at the start is a bit of a crush, but my kiddos were pretty much independent once they got the hang of it.needlethreader  And once everyone is started, I’d amalgamate all the trays into one basket so they can keep going back to get more yarn as they need it.

And the needle threaders!  I made mine out of a rectangle of plastic canvas with some jewelry wire woven into it and some duct tape to cover and anchor the wire.  The loops are bigger than most needle threaders – they’re yellow so easy to find when dropped, and extra sturdy – it can stand up to a 5 year old yanking yarn through a needle.

Happy Brownie Free Tuesday.  I hope you’re enjoying a nice summer break.

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Tonight is the Brownie Sewing Magic meeting and I think we’re prepared.  We have lots of helpers ready to go and I’m hopeful for a good meeting.

In my own dorky kind of way, I look at this as our big Contribution (with a capital C).  In 30 years when these kids are replacing a button on a shirt, at least one of them may remember that the Owls taught them how to thread a needle and sew a button (assuming, you know, that buttons aren’t obsolete by then).  We have lots to offer in Guiding, but we’re kind of the last holdouts in the practical homey things.  It is called Key to I CAN for a reason and girls can do a lot of things – even if they’re simple.  It’s a big deal to me.

Brownies are going camping at the end of the month (and again with Sparks at the end of April) and I’m kind of getting excited about the whole thing.  I updated the Camping Page over the weekend…this is just a record of how we do things, so not the be-all and end-all of things, but a good place to start.  And if you have any great ideas, please share them!

And last, but not least on my list of things to tell you, we’re doing a low-key kind of Thinking Day – just Brownies and Sparks – but maybe with the Rangers as our leaders.  Not sure yet.  I’ll let you know.

Happy February.  =)

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I spent a lot of time (and had a lot of fun!) preparing for the Guide Needlework Meeting and now I’ve modified the plan to cover Key to I Can: Sewing Magic for Brownies. (See the after meeting report at the bottom of this post).

What Sewing Magic says..Sewing books Brownie VersionThink about what tools and materials are needed in sewing.   Try to (a) Make a gift that includes sewing for a special occasion, such as Mother’s Day; (b) Make your own wrapping out of old calendars, magazines, dishcloths, or fabric remnants; and (c) Wrap your gift.  We’ll do the discussion and part (a) here.  We’ve done gift wrap as part of other program so – because of time – this meeting won’t cover (b) and (c).

How we’ll complete Sewing Magic… We’ll make a simpler version of the Guide Sewing Book (page 1 was an embroidered cover, page 2 was 2-3 buttons sewn on, and page 3 was prepared needles and safety pins – done by the girls).   The Brownie one will be like the original needle matchbook from Make it Do – but the girls will sew one button on the first felt page as an embellishment.  Page 2 will be pre-threaded sewing needles and safety pins (prepared in advance), and page 3 will be a small zip bag of spare buttons.

Supplies Required:

  • Sewing needles (I like big embroidery needles with big holes for threading) – enough for everyone.
  • Needle threaders for your sanity
  • Thread in a few colours
  • Suggest that leaders bring their own snips or scissors (adults don’t always like kid sized scissors)
  • Big magnet for picking up spilled pins (it’ll happen)
  • Pin cushions or a couple of clean kitchen sponges.  (Rule is that you’re either using a needle to sew, or it is in the pin cushion!  No putting it on the floor!!)
  • Decorative buttons for inside front page – 1 per girl (plus a few for leaders to demo)
  • Card stock (or card – I used File Folders for the Guide Meeting) cut into covers – as shown on Make it Do
  • Felt – pre-cut into squares that fit into your card stock covers above.  2 per matchbook.  I have 18 girls and 5 leaders so I’ll make 23 x 2 felt “pages”
    • page 1 – left blank (that’s where buttons will go)
    • page 2 – Guiders to pre-assemble a page with pre-threaded needles and some safety pins.
  • Jewellery Sized baggies (close to the same size as the felt squares) with 3-4 shirt buttons inside.
  • Bandages (2-3 per girl) for putting inside the sewing kits (to be prepared)
  • First Aid kit – girls will get poked.
  • EVERYONE bring a stapler!
  • Sewing badges (if you want to have the girls sew them on their badge sash)

Here’s the plan:

6:30 – Arrival gameThread the needle.  Girls line up in two rows with hands up to create an arch.  The last couple joins hands and goes through the arch and re-form hands at the front of the line.

6:40 – Circle Time

6:50 – Brownie Circle

7:00 Program – Brownies make a needle book decorated with a button on the inside cover.

Description of Activities

  • In smaller groups, girls will be lead through the different stages of the book assembly.  (1) Thread Needles, (2) Sew a button, (3) Assemble the books, and (4) Sew a badge on sash if there’s time (and if we’ve done the shopping).

Describing it to the girls:

  • We are making sewing kits (can be used as a gift – or a keepsake – covers (a) of the program requirement) that will have some buttons, a few safety pins and some sewing needles that you can use to help mend things.  Tonight you’ll learn how to thread a needle and sew a button.  It is important to listen and go slowly. (Covers discussion of what tools are necessary)
  • First Aid Station – The sewing meeting is a good time to talk about how to apply a bandaid.
  • In three or four groups… Get as many adult helpers as you can for this meeting!  The smaller the groups are, the more successful this will be.  (We’re hoping to get four or five).Sewing books Brownie version 2
    • Step 1 – Show girls how to thread needles.   The hardest part is putting a knot at the end.  (needle threaders are our friend)
    • Step 2 – Make page 1: Show girls how to sew a button onto a piece of felt.  Just one in the middle.  This is a decoration.
    • Step 3 – Page 2 – put the needle page (pre-assembled by a Guider) behind the button page.  Get a bag of buttons from the pile too.  It goes behind page 2.
    • Step 4 – put a cover over the pages, and staple together like a matchbook.  Guider Help should be offered.
  • And that’s it – OK , it isn’t going to be an easy meeting – lots of sitting and being quiet. But that’s a skill too.  If necessary, have the girls run around in between steps (you can use the time to transition too).

7:30 – Begin assembling any kits that aren’t done.  Start an active game to get the sillies out – and to reward their patience.

7:45 – Campfire

7:55 – Close

I’ve really simplified this one… and I’m not sure if I’ve overdone it.  But button sewing took sooooo long for Guides.  I’m worried that Brownies will take even longer.  What do you think?  Help!

UPDATE – Tuesday’s meeting went really well.  I have to say that sewing is not everyone’s cup of tea (the wigglers are not going to like this meeting – at All.

What worked:

  • We had lots of helpers (ratio was 1:3) and with something as fiddly as sewing, that’s important. (Jen, Shawnna, Tracy, Chan, Caitlin… you’re all awesome!)
  • Everything was ready in advance.  This is a very hands on meeting and there was NO time for cutting or prepping the next step.
  • Some groups got it faster than the others… and had time to sew two buttons on.
  • I made my own needle threaders.  These are the key to this operation. (I made my own because I could make super durable ones with really big wire loops).  I will add photos later.  =)
  • Each group had their own tray of stuff – scissors, needles, thread, felt, covers, etc.  There was no need to walk away.  We kept most of the girls’ focus (most, not all).  I also gave each set of leaders a tour of their tray – and a quick lesson on how I mean for them to show the girls how to thread… so we had a sort of uniformity.
  • I remembered later that evening to let parents know that we sent their girls home with needles and sewing kits  (especially if there are younger kids in the house).  E-mail is my friend!

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Snowy Owl and the girls in my Unit have, from time to time, heard about Brown Owl’s mother.  My Mom (she’s a retired Kindergarten teacher and I attribute most of my crafty abilities – and lots of other skills – to her) often swoops in to rescue me from sewing projects (of both the Girl Guide and real life varieties).  Last time it was Ditty Bags.  This time she has come to the rescue for the sewing kit project.

Here’s the revised schedule (Sewing Books for Brownies and Guides – Part One) with the new project.  It is still pretty close to the one I posted earlier but revised with a better emphasis on teachability and time available.

  • 6:30 – Guide Unit Business & Opening Activities
  • 7:00 –Needlework Program Work:
    • Intro our task.  Show group examples of what we’re making.
    • Our Sewing Book project has been modified to be more like the Matchbook Needle Book idea from Make it Do.  We’ll do each task on a separate square of felt and staple it at the end.  The cool thing is that each goal can be accomplished in any order.
      • Matchbook Sewing book closed up

    • Break into 4 patrols
    • Demonstrate Active Transition Activity: Guider Shawnna suggested Thread the Needle – girls line up in two rows with hands up to create an arch.  The last couple joins hands and goes through the arch and re-form hands at the front of the line.
  • 7:05 Station 1 – Embroider Page 1 –  On one square of felt, blanket stitch around three edges, make a lazy daisy in the middle, and back stitch a stem on the daisy.
    Supplies – Embroidery Floss, embroidery needles, scissors, and patience.  A helper would be nice too.  And a big magnet (you know someone is going to knock over the needle bin, right?).  Also, you’ll need a stapler for the last session.
    New tip: I just found this neat Tissue paper transfer tutorial from Carina’s Craftblog.

  • 7:25 Station 2 – Sew a couple of spare buttons on a square of felt for page 2  (to be picked off for sewing on to thing you’re repairing – suggest you get two holed buttons.  Or if you have four holed buttons, instruct girls to just sew two holes (any holes are fine).
    In addition for page 3,  thread a couple of needles and pin a couple of safety pins to another piece of felt (pictured below)
    Supplies: Easy thread needles, some thread, scissors.  Some “spare needles” to go in the book, black and white thread for pre-threading needles, some safety pins and bandages (see below).  A big magnet.  And a heavy stapler (a regular stapler, but one that you know is reliable)
  • To finish off, tuck a couple of bandages in the back (Be Prepared!), staple the “pages” together, and seal the matchbook.  Pretty cool.
  • 7:45 Station 3 – Sew your sewing badge to your badge sash.  The badge task is to hem and mend, but this has actual immediate value.  We’ll also try to have some pants on hand to mend.
    Supplies – Badges, Easy thread needles, blue thread, thread snips, old pair of pants with fallen hem and maybe a split seam or two, pants hanger with clips that hang from waist.  Maybe some thimbles, hand wipes, and band aids.  And a magnet.
  • 8:05 Station 4– Demonstrate the knit and purl stitches.
    • New I’ll cast on six hat projects that each of the four patrols will knit and purl on (if you’re a knitter – you’re probably familiar with a community project where every knitter contributes a couple of rows – that’s the idea here).  After the meeting, I’ll finish the projects myself and we can donate the hats to a homeless shelter as a service project.
      Supplies: 6 cast on hats with super chunky yarn.  6MM Circular needles (16″ or 24″circulars).  I cast on 52 stitches, did about an inch of K2 P2 hat band, and then another inch of knit stitch.  Hopefully the girls can get in a few inches on each hat.  I’ll finish it off.
  • 8:25 – closing and wrap up. 

Prepared Kits in a zip bag.

  • Card cut into matchbook shape.  Buy pretty card OR I used an old coloured file folder.  Straight sides are kind of important, but not completely so you decide if your group can handle it.
    For Brownies: I’d pre-cut and pre-fold the cardboard.
    For Guides or older: I’d probably pre-cut the cardboard with the paper cutter at work and give them a template for the folding.  Or if you know someone who is in to scrapbooking, they may have a straight edge cutter that you could use (or that the girls – depending on their abilities – could use).
  • Three pieces of felt just smaller than the middle section of the cardboard.
  • A couple of spare buttons – IMPORTANT – these should be two-holed buttons.  OR if you have four-holed buttons, instruct the girls to only sew two of the holes.

I’ve been thinking about this quite  a lot so it is nice to get it down on a post.  Guide Guiders – please review.  I’m good at thinking through the plan, but I’m not used to this age group.  How do you think this will go??

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I’ve been preparing to lead a sewing meeting for Guides and the plan is to make sewing kits.  While there are plenty of really cute patterns for sewing books and needle books, there aren’t many that a Guide age girl can do without a sewing machine – or that are suitable for me to teach (and that’s key) to a group.   I’m also looking for projects that we can do with Brownies in January or February.

UPDATE – see what we actually did in Sewing Books Part 2

The Guide Needlework Badge requires: Sew a button, sew a hem, mend a seam, demonstrate the knit and purl stitch, and embroider three stitches.  All by hand.  My two inspirations for this are:

  • Matchbook Needle Book from Make it Do.  As presented it is a good project for Brownies to do, but it could be souped up with a jewelry sized baggie with some buttons, maybe some thread in it.
  • Martha Stewart Sewing Book – We did something like this (using this idea as our starting point) two years ago.  We’ll do it again.

Here’s the plan for Guides:

6:30 Arrival and regular meeting actvities

7:00 – Needleworker Badge with Brown Owl Cara.  Round Robin: 24 Girls split into 4 teams – Rotate through the stations

  • 7:00 – Intro our task – Break into 4 teams (Patrols?), demonstrate Active Transition Activity (not sure what that is yet, but an active transition activity is going to help the girls focus – any suggestions?).  Distribute pre-made kits (contents TBD)
  • 7:05 Station 1 – Sew a button on the cover of the sewing book.  Assemble envelope/baggie of spare buttons.  Pre-thread a few sewing needles with common colours for your needle book.
  • 7:25 Station 2 – Embroider – Blanket stitch to bind the sewing book.  Decorate the cover – lazy daisy with a french knot in the middle??  (The last time I embroidered I think I was 8 and I remember sewing my hoop to my skirt).  Someone else will be leading this part.
    Supplies – Embroidery Floss, embroidery needles, Big Bulldog Clips to keep the fold in place, scissors, and patience.
  • 7:45 Station 3 – Sew your sewing badge to your badge sash.  The badge task is to hem and mend, but this has actual immediate value.  We’ll also have some pants on hand to mend.
    Supplies: Badges, Easy thread needles, blue thread, thread snips, old pair of pants with fallen hem and maybe a split seam or two, pants hanger with clips that hang from waiste.  Maybe some thimbles, hand wipes, and band aids.
  • 8:05 Station 4 – Demonstrate the knit and purl stitches.  I’m either going to suggest using Knitting Forks OR I will pre-cast on 24 small bracelet sized projects.  I both LOVE and am TERRIFIED of the prospect of teaching Knitting to Guides.  Maybe Crochet will be better.  I’m conflicted.

8:25 – Closing

To you Guide Guiders out there, how do you think this will go?  We’ll have four Guiders on hand and each station can be done in any order without getting in the way of another task.  And how “letter of the law” do Guides get in their meetings?  We’ll adapt this meeting for Brownies in January/February.  I haven’t forgotten about Brownies.

Your feedback is welcome.  I lead the session on November 14.  (and I’ll be updating this as we adjust our plans – and after the 14th, I’ll tell you how it actually went).

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I’m looking forward to seeing what the people at Skip to My Lou (Sept 18/11 updated with new link) come up with.  They’re promising 30 days of 30 crafts for kids.  The first one (by Zakka Life) looks like a sewing craft that Brownies could do (Key to I Can – Sewing Magic, or Key to the Arts – Art by Hand).

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Some meetings don’t have one single objective and tonight’s meeting is definitely one of them.  We’ve got four things to accomplish…

  • Finish Key to I Can Sewing Magic.  We were working on sewing books in early January and, what with a meeting cancelled and a lot of other stuff to do, we haven’t been back to finish.
  • Welcome Back Starry Owl!  One of our Guiders has been travelling and volunteering abroad and we’re finally going to hear about her stories.  We’ll tie it into a Thinking Day activity.
  • We are welcoming a new girl this week and will commence an individual “Key to Brownies” program.  Tonight we’ll play a welcome game.

The Plan:

6:30 Arrival Game ideas from different WAGGGS countries (Thank you Snowy Owl)  What Time is it Mr. Wolf?  OR Regina, Regina Bella

6:40 – Circle Time

6:50 – Brownie Circle – Include an intro/getting to know you game for new Brownie.  And Welcome back Starry Owl!

7:00 – Program – Finish Sewing Magic

7:20 – Action game to get out the sillies
Options from Snowy Owl (who, while she hates sewing, is an absolute dream about handling my most hated job – badges… and is great with finding games!) : Sharks (from Greece), Sticky Tree-Stump Game (from Kazakhstan) and something called Sail Posts from Latvia.

7:40 – A Game from Starry Owl – Or Campfire.

And then Close.
Next week is Thinking Day.

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I love passing on handcrafting to kids.  My Grandmothers and Aunts and Mom are/were great crafters – sewers, quilters, and knitters (lots of other things too).  I remember being TRUSTED with a sewing needle  – I also remember embroidering my work to my skirt, but that is another story. 

The thing is, it is really tough to squish in something like sewing into a 90 minute meeting.  What we’ve learned:

  • Preparation is the key.  Set up kits for each girl in advance with all non-sharp peices.
  • Needle Threaders!  Get them!  Yes, it is important to show them how to thread a needle without one, but with 15 girls in our unit, it was just not feasable.  Needle threaders are wonderful!
  • Get lots of help.  Find friends who are patient and crafty.  Our first sewing meeting had a ratio of 1:3.  Really worth it. 

This year we are working on a sewing book modified from a bunch of these.  I will post instructions when I can.  We’re not done yet.

Look at these!  From Just Something I Made – Animal Sewing Cards for Kids

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