Category Archives: Sewing

Elementary Electronics – Sewn LED bracelet

As part of our homeschool elementary electronics class, the kids wanted to finish up the class by making soft circuits, especially a sewn LED bracelet.

And I do mean kids because I specifically asked them – after the sewn flashlight difficulties if they were up to another round of sewing. They said yes. In fact, one fifth grader (who struggled a little with the sewing) said, “Well – I don’t know how to do it and that’s the point of learning, right? To try stuff you aren’t good at?” Oh, you could have melted my growth mindset heart!

A picture of three electronic bracelets.

Our family’s collection of hand-sewn LED bracelets.

After the success of the Chibitronics paper LED project, I knew this sewing design had to be more concrete and guided. A couple of hours (and one failed prototype) later), I had a structured lesson to present to the kids the next day.

Sewn LED Bracelet – Paper Prototype

I started by making a paper prototype. This way they could cut it out and see how their bracelet would fit together. The components would have to be placed a certain way so the bracelet could close and you could still see the LED. I also wanted to make it so that when they snapped it closed, the circuit closed and the LED lit up.

Hand-drawn paper prototype to give the kids a guide.

It was definitely helpful to have a paper guide for the students. So many of them wanted to jump ahead and try and figure it out – and that was okay. It was okay when we had to pull out their conductive thread because the circuit wouldn’t make any sense. Hopefully, those were learning moments for them. Mistakes always force us to look at the structure a little more carefully.

Hot glue guns help to move the project along.

Sewn LED bracelet – Process

My younger son and I had made his LED bracelet the night before class – for two reasons. First, I knew that I would need to help the other students and since he’s seven, he would need a lot of help. Second, I wanted to have a simple, finished product so the students could see how the circuits connected.

After everyone chose their LED and figured out how their battery pack worked, I brought them over – one-by-one-  to the hot gluing station. I glued their battery holder and snaps to the felt. This made it much easier for these elementary students to focus on sewing – without having to worry about pins keeping those components in place.

The hardest part was understanding how the battery would be connected to the LED. Since LEDs have be positioned a certain way (positive to positive), I went around to each student and made sure they would line up their LED correctly. They eventually figured it out and even though this class took an hour and a half – every single bracelet connected correctly. And they were so proud (and relieved?) that it lit up after all of their hard work.

Here’s the PDF Sewn LED bracelet (PDF) handout that I created for my students. If you are teacher, please feel free to use it, but do not reproduce or sell it without gaining permission. Thanks!

 

 

Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids

I’ve missed blogging. It’s been a busy August and I’ve been occupied with other pursuits, but I am ready to get back to writing. (We’ll see if my schedule agrees with me). In the meantime, I wanted to call attention to my new Udemy class, “Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids.

Udemy Course: Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids

Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids

I created this course hoping that other teachers (and parents) will find a single starting point with regards to children’s “maker education.” So much of being a maker is a willingness to tinker, to explore and to learn on your own.  However, there’s a lot of information out there and it can be overwhelming.

In this course, I focus on three main areas: simple electronics, sewing and coding using MIT’s icon-based programming language, Scratch. Each section starts with a “take-apart” lesson, followed by some hands-on activities, and includes a follow up for teachers to integrate these lessons into the curriculum. There’s even a link to some of the research being done on maker education.

Simple Electronics

A year ago, I took a course from the Tinkering Studio. It satisfied the “missing link” of my maker education. I’ve been teaching computer programming concepts to elementary and middle school students for a few years, but was a little nervous about dismantling and building with electronics. Thankfully, after a year of tinkering – and acquiring a soldering iron – I now feel more comfortable introducing simple electronics to kids.*

At summer camp, my students used the circuit blocks to learn about electricity (and short circuited batteries by accident). They made marker bots and messed around with design principles. “Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids” adds to these projects by introducing a take-apart lesson which is then re-purposed into a sewn LED flashlight. I’ve also included an experiment for conductors and insulators, videos on how to make a simple flashlight, and my favorite way to make circuit art.

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Sewing with Kids

I’ve been sewing for many years; it was one of the first things I had to learn completely on my own. I had to design my own curriculum, find mentors, make mistakes and practice deliberately.  This was my first (unknown) foray into the “maker movement.” These days – with kids, work and homemade dinners – I don’t sew nearly as much as I did fifteen years ago.

Instead, I’ve been sewing with my own children. In a Montessori primary curriculum, we introduce sewing at age three. These activities are broken down into steps (stringing, making a knot, sewing with burlap, etc). As my children grow, we continue to sew, but the projects are more advanced. This past summer, I also taught sewing at our local “college for kids” camp.

I think sewing is a key component of maker education and I’m excited that it’s part of the course, “Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids.” Hand-sewing topics include: taking apart a t-shirt, making a wristband, making a LED flashlight and incorporating sewing into a classroom.

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With an ink pen, I draw out dashes and dots to teach two simple stitches.

Code to Learn with Scratch

Although I’ve been sewing for a number of years, I came to computer programming and robotics through my oldest son. At the age of six, he said he wanted to be a robot engineer. I set out to find hands-on materials that broke down advanced concepts. I stumbled on Lego Education kits and the icon-based programming language, Scratch. I started a business for others kids who were interested in robotics. For the past three years, I have been teaching classes and hosting summer camps.

Along the way, I noticed that many kids came to Scratch because they loved video games. They wanted to make their own – so we did. But we also created stories, conversations and short animations. While creating these programs, the students were learning programming concepts – without even trying.

In my Udemy course, I demonstrate how to use Scratch, but I focus on simple, creative projects that you can do with your students. For upper elementary and middle school students, the sky is the limit. They can create all sorts of games, animations and stories that can reflect their learning. They can use Scratch as a paintbrush to demonstrate their knowledge. Learning can be creative and fun.

I had a lot of fun creating the course and I learned a lot. About everything. Especially movie editing and breaking down concepts. If you are interested in taking the course – “Bring the Maker Mindset to Kids” – use this link for 50% off.

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In the computer lab – sharing projects was an important part of the class.

*With regards to electronics – I still have a lot to learn. My soldering is ugly and I need more practice. As my oldest child takes more of an interest in electronics, we’ll learn this stuff together, but in the meantime, we’re happy to stay at the level of batteries and bulbs.

 

 

 

Sewing with Kids

This is the last week of CFK camp.  I don’t want to play favorites with my five classes – sewing, Scratch programming and web design – but the projects coming out of the sewing class definitely carry that “wow” factor. Sewing with kids is always an adventure. Sewing with sixteen kids (rising 5th – 9th graders) for only an hour at a time? Well…that requires an organized teacher and some fabulous assistants.

Thankfully, I have had some wonderful counselors-in-training (CITs). These high school students didn’t know much about sewing, but were more than willing to jump in and help out.

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Gallon-size Ziploc bags are great for storing projects between classes.

Beginning Sewing with Kids

On the first day, we took apart a t-shirt. Sadly, I have no pictures of this – probably because it’s the first day  – and I’m busy helping everyone get started. Afterward, we passed out embroidery hoops, a piece of muslin fabric (that I’ve drawn on), embroidery floss, and a needle. The kids get started and I walked around, gently correcting, and helping students who are stuck.

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With an ink pen, I drew out dashes and dots to teach two simple stitches.

Sewing with Kids – Project Progression

CFK runs for two weeks (Monday – Thursday), and they offer two sessions during the summer. The progression of projects has differed for my classes, but both groups began by making a needle book. The idea for this project came from the book, Sewing School, though I’ve adapted it for an older audience.

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sewing with kids - needle books

The kids can “draw” any design on the front and choose either a running stitch, or a whip stitch to bind their two pieces of fabric.

After making a needle book, my first class went straight to pin cushions, whereas I had my second group jump into card art.

The students can begin their next project as soon as they finish the current one. Since the students choose their own designs, some take longer, while others finish quickly and are ready to move on.

Students can make pin cushions, embroidered card art, a wristband and a simple drawstring bag. For those that finish early and are more advanced in their sewing skills, they can take some of the fabric scraps and create their own pillow or stuffed cutie.

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If we have additional time, students can make wall art – a picture drawn with floss – which can be framed. This example was made by S, age 13.

sewing with kids - a needle book with an embroidered picture of the setting sun.

A very detailed needle book; made by A, age 10. Pokemon wristband; made by M, age 10.

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One of the more experienced campers decided to make her own stuffy. Again, I didn’t get a picture of the finished project…

 

Making :: Hand-Embroidered Card & Pin

A picture of a rocket ship embroidered on felt

R, age 10, made this backpack pin. He chose a design to copy and did most of the work by himself.

Maker Movement – Sewing

I’m prepping for camp and definitely feeling the need to get some samples done.  However, all of this sewing has rekindled my love of embroidery. Thankfully, my kids also love to embroider and they have been more than happy to help with the projects.

There’s something about embroidery that fascinates us. I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in sewing because they have a lot of choice and freedom of expression. Hand-embroidery is a great way to personalize projects and make them your own.

A picture of embroidery designs

A page from Doodle Stitching – the Motif Collection

A picture of a child embroidering

We used the smallest hoop

A pciture of the back of the pin

He used hot glue to fasten the pin back to the wool felt.

Hand-Embroidered Card

As a girl with some minimalist tendencies, I don’t always want to have a lot of small embroidery designs hanging around. What do I do with them when I’m finished? There’s only so many framed embroidery projects that one needs adorning the walls. Thankfully, I recently realized that I could embroider on paper.

A picture of a thank you card

Now I can embroider, but give the project away. Woo!

I lightly wrote out the words ‘thank you’ in pencil and copied the flower designs from my favorite embroidery book, Doodle Stitching – the Motif Collection. This time, I used carbon paper to transfer the design, but in the past I’ve held up fabric to a window and used the sun as a back light.

For this thank you note, I made a card from cardstock (leftover from my scrapbook days) and used my needle to poke holes in the hand-drawn design – before I embroidered. I didn’t want any extra holes in my card from stray needle marks.

A pciture of embroidery threads

The inside of the card…before I covered it with paper.

A pciture of the inside of a card.

When I finished doing the embroidery, I glued another piece of paper to the inside.

A picture of an embroidered thank you card

A finished embroidered project.

Although this project was quite lengthy and probably a bit too complicated for your typical middle schooler, I have high hopes for future paper embroidery projects. Now that the backpack pin has been prototyped, I think it’s time for some more paper embroidering. The kids will be testing some of their own designs, while I have something else in mind. Maybe some paper embroidery combined with circuits? SMD LEDs and conductive ink?  Oh, yes, I see a lot more embroidering in my future.

A pciture of a red backpack

R proudly pinned his work on his backpack.

Maker Camp 2016

A picture of two 4 inch handmade dolls - a boy and a princess standing in front of a night sky.

Boy character made by R, age 10. Princess made by Liz.

I am happy to announce my newest camp, Making in Action! This is a joint venture with another local, family-owned business, WizzBangz. Gwen Thompson and I have been teaching S.T.E.A.M. classes for the last few years (three for me, and four for Gwen) and we are excited to team up to offer this creative camp.

Maker Camp

The final project will be a stop-motion animation movie which will be written by the students. During camp, students will learn a variety of “maker” techniques, such as sewing, painting, using the resources at hand (that means a lot of cardboard) and in doing so, will learn about the engineering design process and the importance of trying, prototyping and making changes to their story and their designs.

A picture of a pipe cleaner 4-inch doll skeleton.

Learn how to make dolls from pipe cleaners with the book, Felt Wee Folk.

Through each step, Gwen and I will act as facilitators to each group of students. We will guide them through the design process and help them to edit and make changes to their story. In addition, we will be helping them to create their own characters and mini-sets. By creating their own characters, students will be utilizing problem-solving skills, as well as learning the value of multiple iterations and working collaboratively.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy's clothing.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy’s clothing.

We will be using a variety of materials and resources with a special emphasis on empowering our students with a maker mindset. We hope you will join us at The Einstein School for this fabulous camp. To register, go to Making in Action 2016.

A picture of half a cereal box painted to look likethe night sky...had two 4-inch dolls as a characters.

The backdrop is hand painted. It’s also made from half a cereal box.

Book Review :: Sewing School

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A fabulous resource for teaching sewing to kids, aged 5 - 12.

A fabulous resource for teaching sewing to kids, ages 5 – 13.

Ages: Adult readers, but projects are directed at kids, ages 5- 13.
Plumley, Amie Petronis & Andria Lisle. Sewing School: 21 Projects Kids Will Love to Make.
Photography by Justin Fox Burks. Storey Publishing: North Adams, MA, 2010.

Sewing School

First, let me say how much I love the books that come from Storey Publishing. They are true to their mission of “serving their customers by publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment.” No, I don’t work for them (and have not been paid by them), but I can always tell that they were the publishers of a book due to how much I like it. And, I really like this book.

I like that the authors specifically mention Montessori and Waldorf influences. I like that the purpose of the book doesn’t focus solely on transferring sewing skills, but rather encourages independence and free choice. It’s about using sewing techniques to increase creative expression and self-sufficiency. There is also a strong focus on having a prepared environment. The authors recommend having stations for fabrics, notions, pattern cutting and adult (or teen) monitors to run these stations so that a child can get help or move on to another project when ready. These are all Montessori principles and I love that they emphasize them in their “sewing school.”

The photography is brilliant – lots of colorful photographs and numerous step-by-step examples for the layers of each project. This is especially useful when trying to help a child learn the steps of tying a knot, which in my opinion, is much harder than getting them to thread the needle. The full-color, step-by-step pictures are spot-on and great for a new sewing teacher, or an expert one, as they figure out how to help the children help themselves. The pages on the various stitches (running and whipstitch) are especially nice.

The first few projects in this book utilize felt (with a special emphasis on wool felt), which does not fray and is very forgiving for a young child. My six-year-old easily made the “needle case” all on his own – from tracing the pattern in chalk to sewing on the button. The only help I gave was to tie the knot at the end of his embroidery floss.

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My six-year-old traced the cardboard pattern and cut the fabric by himself.

In addition to the well-thought out projects, there’s a lot of room for older children to go further and “make it their own.” Without any prompting on my part, my oldest son decided that he wanted to embroider his first initial on the front part of his needle case (he’s been embroidering for years). Then, he decided that he didn’t want to see all of the threads and we brainstormed a way to cover them up (extra felt and hot glue).

My 10-year-old is embroidering his initial on the front of his needle case.

My 10-year-old is embroidering his initial on the front of his needle case. He drew the letter “R” with chalk first.

The book continues with more projects to help a young child develop their sewing skills. Many of these have a creative element and allow for lots of choice. This practical guide has been very useful as it begins with easy projects and moves to more advanced ones, such as sewing cotton fabric right sides together to make a a skirt. While most of the projects are focused on hand-sewing, a few suggest sewing machine use.

In preparation for a kids’ summer class on sewing, I have been poring over numerous sewing books aimed at children. This one is, by far, the best that I have found. These two authors obviously have a lot of experience running a sewing school and I’m grateful they committed their techniques to paper.

Between myself and my two boys, I have lots of example needle cases for my sewing class this summer.

Between myself and my two boys, I have a lot of sample needle cases for my sewing class this summer.

Montessori Sewing for Preschool

This book has projects for children who are at least 5-years-old, but you do not need to wait that long to introduce them to sewing concepts. The practical life area of a 3-6-year-old Montessori classroom should have “sewing” materials on the shelves. These materials can be for the young 3-and-4-year-old, such as large bead stringing and lacing cards. Or, for older children, there may be activities such as simple button sewing, advanced button sewing,and practicing the running stitch.

To see some of my recommended reality-based children’s books on sewing, check out my post on fiber arts in a Montessori classroom.

 

Christmas Crafting

Since I have a squirmy two-year-old in my lap and his favorite words right now happen to be, "No, I do it," this crafty wrap-up will be short and sweet.

The Christmas Eve pajama pants. Handmade by me and fabric picked out by Calum. (Ronan played socer twice this past year…I think it rubbed off on Calum).
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The best present ever from my hubby: a completely suprise "elf" hat – to be worn in subsequent Christmases while working on the presents I make. Showcased by my brother-in-law, Kenny. (No, that's not his real name).

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A barn to accompany all of the horse and tractor related things that my kids got this Christmas. Made by Joey (based vaguely on this tutorial).

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And, finally, the big time-consuming project: quilts for both boys. I made one for Ronan and my sister made one for Calum. The boys share a room and so these quilts are similiar, but different. The pattern was "the end of the day" from More Quilts The Quiltmaker's Gift pattern book.

This is the second quilt I have made with this pattern, though the first for our family.  I absolutely love it. It uses triangles on a roll and makes a beautiful finish. We both had them professionally quilted – that skill is not yet in my abilities and I knew I would need to wash them often.

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Ronan knew I was working on something special for him and Calum. He knew I was using my sewing machine and he was irritated that I wouldn't tell him what it was. I prepped him before he opened it and let him know that this is what I was working on. I was thrilled that he was so excited to see that it was a quilt.

But, the best part of all? A sleepy Ronan waking me up at 2:30 in the morning on December 28, just to tell me how grateful he was that I made him such a warm quilt. He gave me a hug and pattered away, returning to his cozy gift.

addition and sewing

I love that as part of my homeschool "curriculum" for Ronan, I can include both addition and sewing and they both are equally loved by this child. These activities were on the schedule for the week and he chose when and where to do them.

Addition with Objects (red is the preferred color that AMS Montessorians choose for addition work):
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The second time he did this work (on Saturday, no less), he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is boring. I already know this stuff." Ha ha. And, he's right, sort of. Adding numbers to make ten or less is a simple concept for him, But, I told him that once he could look at one of those problems and know the answer, then he would be truly finished with it. (He's done it with the plus 1 problems). However, it was a good thing for him to hear the words: addition and plus and equals. So, after he decided he had mastered addition, he went to work some more on his embroidery work.

Earlier in the week, I had introduced him to the concept of an embroidery hoop — complete with a requested car drawing. He finished it within an hour and only got stuck a few times. (Of course, I did tie a knot so the thread wouldn't slip out and we did talk about making knots – a work for another day, I think).

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And, while I am completely impressed with his skills and interest in this project, it was his next initiative that I think is the most important. Immediately after finishing the car, he wanted to do another one (or make a small pillow). I asked him what he wanted next – maybe a tractor or a fire engine? I would find a line drawing and set it up for him the next day. Well, in the morning, I awoke to him presenting me with his very own drawing of a semi-truck. And, with only some minor alterations, his next project was born.

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So far, we are both liking this homeschool thing.

Christmas creating

It is the season for crafting. Even now, with the Christmas season drawing to a close, I feel the anticipation of working with my hands and some fabric to create something new. There is something about Christmas that gives me permission to spend every waking moment crafting, creating or dreaming. It is all right to be busy with these types of pursuits. The house will be messy for days on end and the bathrooms will only get cleaned on December 24th when relatives will soon be coming for a visit. I made a few things for the boys (a later post, I promise). But, my absolutely-have-to-get it done item? Handmade stockings.

Stockings

When our family number grew to four, I knew the old set of stockings would never do. It was not possible to add just one more and have it be cohesive. So, I set aside this thrifted flannel sheet (last year's Christmas Eve pants) in the hopes of making a set of stockings. Which, I did. It took me more than a year to do it, but this Christmas they were hung and waiting to be filled for Christmas morning. Plus, I have enough leftover to make myself some pajama pants.

I was not the only one "crafting" during these holidays. Ronan and Calum are blessed to have two wonderful sets of grandparents (and two aunties, as well), who shower them with love…and great gifts. They will be playing outside a lot more with their new tower. "Play town" has its official first inhabitant.

BEFORE

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Ronan and Calum's Groppy (my dad) and Joey worked together to assemble their tower a few days after Christmas. (Of course, those happened to be the two coldest days in Florida – the highs were in the low 40s. Brrr…). And, Ronan helped too.

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AFTER

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It's a start. It's a place to drive to pretend fires and race down your firefighter ladder. It's a place to practice your climbing skills (Calum). And, it's a place to cozy up with a good book during those lovely Spring months.

But, that's not the only thing we have been crafting. My eldest child has come into his own with those tiny plastic bricks. LEGOS. Plastic? Yes. Completely amazing and brain-buidling? Yes. An exception to the no-new plastic rule? Definitely. With most purchases, I have been trying to think of the long-term consequences of our products. Where will this end up when we are finished playing with it? Will it hold up to the rough and tumble nature of my two boys? Can I re-sell it or give it away after they are finished with it? Yes. I must admit that I am in love with the tiny LEGOS. We all still play with the Duplos, but five-year-olds can really handle the tiny ones. The skills he learns and then uses with these tiny toys just amaze me. His spatial awareness is awesome and I enjoy watching him create. For now, he follows the directions, but he is gaining confidence and soon will begin creating his own masterpieces. I can't wait.

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Costumes

Last year, we asked Ronan wanted he wanted to be for Halloween. He said a bear. So, I procrastinated and found myself looking for a ready-made bear hat a couple of days before Halloween. (In my defense, Calum was still pretty young). He ended up seeing train conductor overalls and decided that was much cooler. Whew.

This year, we asked again…starting in September. It changed from a lion to a character from the Wizard of Oz (in hope that we would agree to read it to him this year instead of next). And, finally, he settled on a turtle.

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Thank goodness I have an engineer-minded husband who likes to create costumes for his kids. He cut out the shape from cardboard (we still have a ton of moving boxes). Then, he and Ronan taped it, paper-mached it, and painted it. We put the finishing touches on the details the night before his school festival. I made the pants.

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Most importantly, he really liked the costume. And, we think he actually looked like a turtle. Calum was a lion – borrowed from a friend – thank goodness. They are both so adorable. Really.

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And, now I must go and throw away most of the candy…