Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Children Should Be Taught To Sew

Just a recently there was an NPR broadcast on the president's daughter taking a "gap year" and the whole gap year program and how it got started. A mother stated that her kids were about to go off to college and she felt they were lacking in important life skills. Well, my thought was that teaching of life skills begins at home, but...

Once upon a time life skills were a given. You did chores at home, by the time you got to junior high school if you were a boy, you took shop class. If you were a girl you took Home Ec and learned to cook and sew (if you didn't already know how).

The article below, previously published in April of 2009 on a now defunct web site, starts off with a an account of another mother, this time with her daughter-in-law, addressing a very important life skill - sewing. There are a number of reasons why children should be taught to sew, and as I have addressed the most important of them below, I'll just add that today I'm no longer teaching and I spend a lot of time interacting with adults, young and not so young, who often leave me shaking my head in disdain. Life skills and literacy are disappearing rapidly and it's pretty sad.

Sewing is not a lost art, as some have claimed. If that were so, we'd all be naked. It's not a quaint, old-fashioned handicraft. It's an important life skill that everyone should be able to do, male or female, at least on a basic level.

Without further ado...

Why to Teach Children Sewing Techniques

I teach enrichment classes part time at a K-8 charter school. Last year the school's business manager stopped me in the hall one afternoon and said she had thought of me over the weekend. Her daughter-in-law been about to discard a throw pillow because of a ripped seam. She said she had taken the young woman by the hand and led her over to the sewing machine and taught her how to repair it, marveling at how it almost ended up in the trash.
Once upon a time sewing was considered a valuable life skill that was actually taught in schools. Thankfully that time is slowly starting to return to classrooms everywhere. My second grade students were thrilled at the opportunity to learn to sew as it meant they could potentially make all sorts of things, including their own unique clothing. A few were even dreaming of sewing up items to sell to make money!
It is an easy thing to teach children to sew and can be incorporated into math lesson plans. Before we started I gave my students a sheet of white copy paper and ruler and instructed them to draw lines that were one inch a part. I then gave them each a needle and colored thread so they could practice stitching in a straight line.
Next came the fabric some rectangular bits of upholstery fabric someone had given me that I really had no other use for. I never said what they were making and they all enjoyed trying to guess. They were shown how to pin the pieces together and then make a basic seam leaving a slight allowance. Almost all of them had to go over their seams a second time to reinforce them because their stitches were uneven and usually too long. Before long they had pinned and stitched three and one half sides of their rectangles at which time we cut up Mardi Gras beads to use as filler for the bean, that is bead, bags.
I ended class a little early so they could take their bags outside and toss them around. They learned the basics of a valuable skill that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives and experienced an increased feeling of self esteem and pride at their accomplishments.
Learning to sew by hand improves hand eye coordination and gives children a marketable skill they can potentially turn into income. It is a great hobby that allows them to create their own gifts and it gives them another avenue for self-expression as they begin to embellish and create their own clothing and accessories. Later, learning to sew with a machine takes all those other things to the next level where they can create more sophisticated projects.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Crafty Gifting: Gift Wrapping Alternatives Found in the Kitchen

It's gift giving time again! When you've put a lot of time and effort into choosing just the right item, and it's time to truss it up and present it to the intended recipient, you don't want to just stick it in a generic gift bag or some ordinary box with a generic bow from a bag. However, there are those times when we just don't have the time to make up pretty packages, or worse, we get home and realize the gift item doesn't fit in a standard box or, there's not enough left of that pretty large-roll paper, or we forgot the tape, or the ribbon or...

So, what's a savvy gift giver to do? Improvise with items on hand from the kitchen, of course! With so many "things" in our lives, there is often an excess of "stuff" around waiting to be used as it is, including reusable items from coffee mugs and egg baskets to tea towels and dinner napkins.

Originally published on Helium in April of 2011.

Gift Wrapping Alternatives from Kitchen Supplies

Whether you are in a pinch for something with which to wrap a gift, looking to be more eco-friendly, or just want to present your gift packages in a unique and creative way, there a number of items in the kitchen that make great gift wrapping alternatives. From cloth options to interesting containers, the kitchen offers a multitude of options beyond the usual printed paper gift wrap.
Paper options
Waxed paper, freezer paper, lunch sacks and paper grocery bags are all good kitchen alternatives for wrapping gifts. With the exception of the waxed paper, each can be custom decorated to make a unique one of a kind gift wrap. Use markers with a ruler to create straight lines or even plaid designs; trace stencils to create pictures or repeating wallpaper style patterns on the papers or bags. Alternatively, you can also use rubber stamps to create a pattern, or get super creative and make your own stamps from carrots or potatoes.
In addition to being used to create custom gift wrap, paper options from the kitchen are also great options for making cards and envelopes, gift tags, flowers, origami and other decorations to use for embellishing presents. Strips of paper can also be cut and used as ribbon in place of cloth ribbon.
Cloth options
Dish towels, tea towels, and cloth napkins are gift wrapping alternatives from the kitchen that are also reusable. Kitchen linens can be wrapped around a gift and bound with kitchen twine for an attractive, eco-friendly presentation that serves a dual purpose since the gift recipient will be able to use the wrapping as well as the gift.
Plastic options
Colored plastic wrap, food storage bags with or without printed decorations, and white kitchen trash bags can also be used as gift wrap. These are especially attractive alternatives when combined with the paper or cloth options for gift wrap from the kitchen.
Containers, baskets and tins
Almost everyone has an abundance of spare storage containers, empty tins, or even baskets on hand that can be used as a gift wrapping alternatives. These are especially useful for wrapping food gift items. The best part about using one of these items to gift wrap something is that they are reusable. They can be used on their own or in combination of one of the other alternative kitchen options listed above to dress things up a bit.
Gift wrapping alternatives from the kitchen are both practical and economic. Reusable items are not only eco-friendly, they make attractive presentations the gift recipients will appreciate as much as the received gift itself.