Category Archives: Sewing

Handmade Minecraft Creeper Quilt

Last month, I may have boasted  – just a little bit – about my kids’ 4-H non-livestock fair submissions.  I tried to include a wide variety of their projects, but I omitted one project: my older son’s handmade Minecraft creeper quilt.

Minecraft Creeper Quilt

In fill disclosure, I left it out because I didn’t have a good picture. Plus, the quilt was hung sideways at the fair…probably by someone without kids. It didn’t look right.

However, I also wanted to highlight his progress and effort. This was a HUGE project. It took determination and motivation to finish such a large quilt. He’s only twelve, though he made most of it when he was eleven. It took months to complete.

Quilting for Kids

Let me back up just a bit. I’ve always had sewing projects for the kids to try.  It’s part of Montessori’s early childhood curriculum, and it was one of the first “maker” skills I taught myself after college.

So my older son knew how to use the sewing machine and I trusted him with the rotary cutters.  When he said he wanted to make a big quilt…well, I tried to talk him out of it.

I know!

But it’s a lot of work and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him. However, he was determined and we sat down and made some preliminary sketches (after a bit of idea-gathering via the Internet).

Minecraft Blocks = Quilt Blocks

Thank goodness Minecraft is built on blocks. It makes creating a square-based quilt much easier. After a few explanations of the technique required for certain designs, we settled on a five-inch squares. He could easily cut those out and he liked the look of the creeper.

We went shopping at our local fabric store, picked up some supplies and he started cutting that day. I can’t say the entire project went that smoothly, but he did all of the work by himself. I helped occasionally, but this was his project.

Quilting Logistics

Since he was homeschooled last year, it was easy to incorporate this into our learning routine. While this was a self-directed project, he would have given up halfway through without my support and guidance. He wasn’t lacking the skills, just the tenacity to finish such a large project.

As with most of our big projects, we broke it down into smaller steps and added a time requirement. He needed to have the top finished before we left for our big trip last summer. That gave him 2 months to finish. He competed it a week before we left.

Binding the Quilt

We didn’t get around to the quilting and binding until seven months later. (I know…we were busy). We had it professionally quilted at our local quilt shop around Thanksgiving, and he worked on the binding throughout the Christmas break (he was in school at that point). Plus, he chose to sew the binding by hand. He said he wanted it to look the best…since he had put so much hard work into it.

I’m happy to add this to his list of project-based learning successes. He was self-directed, but wasn’t allowed to give up when he felt overwhelmed or bored. I was the facilitator (project manager?), but he learned how it felt to complete a large project. And he has a pretty cool quilt too.

Hand-Sewn Key Chains for Kids

I created these hand-sewn key chains last summer for my sewing camp class. Remember my Mondrian-inspired wall hanging? Do you remember how it didn’t work in a classroom, even though it was the perfect project for home? Since it was a classroom bust, I quickly came up with a new idea: hand-sewn key chains!

Technically, these hand-sewn key chains weren’t made by the kids. I made them, but my students replicated their own.

Hand-Sewn Key Chains — Embroidered Key Chains

Thankfully, I came across a number of key chain projects online. Many of them required expensive connectors, but I stopped by my local Hobby Lobby and picked up a package of plain silver split rings. Then, I made a few examples. Of course, I took the complicated approach first…

After a bit of searching, I decided to make a Celtic cross as my first example. Overkill? Yes, definitely.

I may have chosen a really difficult project. Just a little…

After testing this one, I decided to look for a simpler project, especially since I didn’t think the students would have an easy time with the tissue paper transfer.  But I still wanted them to add a design to the outside of their project. Enter the utilitarian key chain.

Hand-sewn key chain — Chapstick or Money Holder

These turned out to be some of my favorite hand-sewn projects. I used a soft 4B drawing pencil to sketch a simple design on the outer felt. It was easy to see the design and would (mostly)  be covered by the stitching. I had created a few samples, but wanted to see how the patterns would translate to kids’ use. My youngest son, age 8, jumped at the chance to make a sample key chain.Turns out – he’s a natural hand-sewer.

a picture of a child making a hand-sewn keychain

I love a messy table covered with fabric, at least until it’s time for dinner.

This project was a success! My students enjoyed how creative they could be with their designs and it didn’t take them three class periods to complete. Instant satisfaction!

Just a side note: we hot glued the fabric strip (with the split ring) to the back of the hand-sewn key chain. A perfect afternoon project for beginning sewers.

 

 

 

Authentic Learning with 4-H

My boys have been 4-H members for a number of years, but as I tell people: we’re not really animal people. I get strange looks with that statement, especially when I tell them I love the 4-H organization. The county fair, with all those show animals, is the primary event, but we’ve also participated in a marine ecology tournament, a 5K run, and the annual non-livestock fair.

A picture of two hand sewn items with ribbons attached

C, age 8 made a handsewn needlebook and a badge.

4-H Non-Livestock Fair

My boys experience authentic learning with 4-H through the non-livestock fair. They don’t show animals — which is a good thing since we gave away our chickens last year! However, the non-livestock fair provides the perfect opportunity to showcase their homeschool work. According to Lori Pickert, author of Project-Based Homeschooling, students need an audience to show what they’ve learned (in whatever way they choose to present it).

Although Lori advocates for complete self-control, I recommend it only after students have been creating projects for a couple of years. I found that when my kids were younger, they needed guidance. They didn’t have the experiential knowledge of how to create a “final” project.* Initially, I offered some suggestions and had them choose what type of project they wanted to make (after determining what they wanted to learn about). It was less overwhelming for a young child. They had a topic, and they could see what they were working toward. That might be a poster, a written report, an art piece or a computer program. (FYI – we did projects and traditional school work).

A picture of a trifold with the title: My Shell Project

C has really been into shells this year and delved deeper into the topic as a result of this poster.

A Project-Based Learning Venue

The 4-H non-livestock fair provides a great opportunity to share their projects with others. In addition, there are a number of projects to see for inspiration. Kids can submit traditional projects, such as book reports or tri-fold posters. My kids usually do a couple of those projects, but also submit original artwork, sewing pieces and woodworking projects.

C’s Scratch project. The topic was a chapter from Story of the World concerning Louis XIV: The Sun God.

A picture of two wooden slat boxes stained dark brown.

Each boy made one of these wooden boxes with the help from a fellow homeschool parent. He cut the wood, but the boys put it together and stained it (with his guidance).

Reflecting on the Learning Process

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I have been a non-livestock fair judge for the last two years. Although the day usually falls on, or near, my birthday, I love the experience. All day, I get to speak with kids about their projects. They have a receptive audience in me, but they also get my teaching experience. This year, I was the art and craft judge. I spoke with some very, very talented students. I also encountered some very reserved and hesitant students. I dealt with them differently, but asked every single one: what is your favorite part of this project (and/or what did you think you did well)? I also asked them: what do you think you could do better (if anything)?

Not only do my own children benefit from reflecting on their learning, but they get to see a bunch of other kids doing the same. Like I said, it’s a fabulous organization.

A picture of a printout from the Scratch web site. Printout has blue and purple ribbons attached.

R, age 12, made a Harry Potter computer program in Scratch. (Yes – 4H judges computer programs)!

**The way I conduct project-based learning at home is slightly different than Lori Pickert recommends. I think students should have a choice. They should be able to define and redefine how they want to showcase their learning. However, I don’t think just reading about something constitutes a project (at least not past 2nd grade). I need them to have some reflection on their learning — whether that’s by writing, doing a poster or creating a Scratch computer program. The research on learning (and growing a growth mindset) means you have to help them push through the frustrating parts of not knowing.

Mondrian Sewing Project for Kids

First, I should tell you this Mondrian sewing project was a bit of a failure. Yes, you heard that right. I’m going to show you a project that wasn’t very successful.

Wait! Don’t stop reading.

I have a point, I promise.

Although this project didn’t work in a classroom setting, it might work for you and your children. It certainly worked well with my eight-year-old — at home. I always have my children test my sewing projects before I present them to a class. It took him awhile to complete, but his final project turned out rather well.

C, age 8, is almost finished with his Piet Mondrain-inspired wall hanging.

Combing Art History & Sewing

I thought I was being a clever teacher – creating a project that combined sewing (fun) with art (fun). I even did a little presentation on Piet Mondrian since most of the students weren’t familiar with his work.

My middle grades students (rising 5th – 9th graders) were good sports. They all worked on the project for a couple of days. Our class periods lasted for an hour, but it still wasn’t enough time (for most of them) to complete this project. And that’s when I realized it was a little too advanced for most of them. That’s why it took so long…and why most of the completed squares didn’t look that great. It required more precision than was appropriate for a beginning sewing class. That’s okay. I’m glad I realized it during the first session because I didn’t repeat the project with the second session of students.

Creative Sewing

In addition to the advanced nature of the project, there was another reason my students didn’t care for this wall hanging. They said all of their projects looked too much alike. They weren’t different enough. Even though I asked them to choose a blue, red, white and yellow cloth, there were a variety of fabrics to choose from. However, they were correct. Most of the projects looked pretty similar and they didn’t like that. It’s hard to argue with good reasoning.

Initially, I was inspired by this wall hanging tutorial by Kids-Sewing-Projects, but I adapted it for my needs and subject.

Mondrian Sewing Project for Kids

Here’s the good part: I created an instructional PDF of my Mondrian-inspired wall hanging.   Please download it for your personal use. Perhaps, you are looking for a Piet Mondrian-inspired wall hanging to go in your modern, abstract bedroom. Maybe, you are studying the artist and want to learn more. Either way, I hope you give this project a try.

 

 

CFK 2017: Sewing & Scratch Programming

Two weeks ago, I returned as a teacher for Santa Fe College’s CFK summer program. Like last year, I am leading a beginning sewing class and two Scratch-programming classes. I absolutely love sewing with young kids and they’ve kept me on my toes as I have created new projects for them to complete. We tackled a somewhat complex project that reinforced some of Piet Mondrian’s abstract art. More on that project in a follow-up post…

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.

IMG_2293

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.

sewing with kids - learning stitches

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.

pciture of a projected screen with a scratch project

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.

sewing with kids - organization

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.

sewing with kids - learning stitches

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.

sewing with kids - needle book being decorated with flower

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.

sewing with kids - card art

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.

sewing with kids - free sewing

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.