Posts Tagged ‘sewing’

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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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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Key to I Can: Sewing Magic

Do you sew with Brownies?

The Purl Bee posted a pattern for a universal adjustable apron that might be a little tough for seven and eight year old Brownies but might be great for Guides or older – or as a one-on-one project.  http://www.purlbee.com/unisex-apron/

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