Tag Archives: sewing

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.

Book Review :: Fabric and Fiber Inventions

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle. This post reviews the book, Fabric and Fiber Inventions: Sew, Knit, Print, and Electrify Your Own Designs to Wear, Use and Play With.

A picture of the book Fabric and Fiber Inventions by Katy Ceceri.

A new book by Kathy Ceceri where she uses my favorite mediums: fabric and fiber!

Fabric and Fiber Inventions

Have I mentioned how much I love, love, love the fact that the Maker Movement includes ALL creations & inventions, not just the electronic/computer-based variety? It warms my heart to see ‘traditional’ arts be included in this movement. For many of us, fabric was the first place we created something useful with our hands. I know it was like that for me. I re-learned how to sew after college. There was a strong urge to “learn something useful” outside of work.

That’s why it’s nice to see author, Kathy Ceceri, and her new book, Fabric and Fiber Inventions. As part of her ongoing series (Musical Inventions, Making Simple Robots, and Edible Inventions), this book covers things to make using fabric and fiber. The intended audience seems to be teenage girls, but I managed to find a project that my boys were interested in testing out.

A picture of a 4x4 inch loom made out of cardboard.

We always have some thin cardboard laying around (from old boxes), and of course, I have extra yarn. Always!

Fiber and Fabric Inventions by Kathy Ceceri

Ceceri, Kathy. Make: Fabric and Fiber Inventions: Sew, Kniw, Print, and Electrify Your Own Designs to Wear, Use, and Play With. MakerMedia: San Fransisco, 2017.

Target Audience: Older teen girls and other young twenty-somethings with a yearning to create (but no idea how to get started).

Recently, we had a two-hour car drive to visit family, and while my boys can read in the car without getting sick, we had been cooped up due to illness. They had been reading a lot and I was afraid mere books would not be enough. Thankfully, Ceceri’s book was sitting on my desk, waiting for review. After flipping through it, I spotted a hand-weaving project. I quickly showed the boys and received a resounding, yes! I made the cardboard looms the night before we left and we strung them up the next morning. We even managed to stop at the fabric store for more yarn (the pink, yellow and white were leftovers from various other projects, but the boys wanted some teal and black).

Handmade Looms

All told, the project was pretty easy to get started. My twelve-year-old had an easier time with remembering not to pull on the edges, but it kept my eight-year-old’s attention longer than I anticipated (his is the smaller one, obviously). I think the thing that will stop them from finishing is the final step of weaving in the end pieces. This is a step I always put off until the last minute, so I’m not going to be much of a help! Of course, I am looking forward to having some woven coasters for my drinks, so I may help them along. In fact, they had grand visions of completing these in the car as Christmas presents for their grandparents. It didn’t happen on that drive, but it gives us a good idea for next year.

Review

As with all of Ceceri’s books, each project contained a number of pictures and a lot of written instructions. She also included a number of spotlight features on people who were instrumental in creating or working with fiber. For example, she mentioned Elizabeth Zimmerman (world famous knitter) and Leah Buechley (LilyPad Electronics), but my favorite was her mention of media artist, Harriet Riddell. This woman uses her sewing machine to “draw” people…while those people power her machine with a bicycle. I recommend grabbing the book, and learning more about Harriett while you make your own quilted chess board. No bicycle required.

C’s coaster is on the left while R (age 12) made more progress.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers and Tinkering.

 

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.

Reading – Trying – Testing – Changing

With Space Camp under my belt, I’m really looking forward to summer camps and classes. Camp registration is up and while I’m still trying to find a place for the Mindstorms Clinic, I’m reading, trying, changing and testing all sorts of kid-friendly projects.

Reading – Trying – Testing

First and foremost is a heavy focus on HTML, CSS and Javascript. This summer, I am teaching beginning web design for Santa Fe’s College for Kids (CFK) .There are so many things that I want to show the kids and there will be a strong emphasis on writing HTML code. It may be plain, but it provides a good foundation for understanding the structure of web pages. While I anticipate mostly beginning students, I may have some who are already HTML-savvy and ready to jump into cascading style sheets (CSS) or Javascript. I want to be prepared for those students, so I have been working my way through this book, while also building and testing my own prototype sites. I love the deep learning that is happening in my brain. I had forgotten how much fun true web development could be.

Ten years ago, I managed part of my library’s web site using (mostly) Dreamweaver. I didn’t go much further with it at the time because I was enamored with teaching, but now that I am really jumping into CSS I am fully engaged and truly enjoying myself. I definitely see some front-end web development classes in Artisan Education’s future.

A picture from the fabulously talented Sally Mavor. This is from her book, Pocketful of Posies.

A snapshot from the talented fiber artist, Sally Mavor. This is from her book, Pocketful of Posies.

Of course, to balance all of that screen time, I usually have some sort of knitting or sewing project close at hand. My inner artist loves being creative with handwork and I like that I can bring my projects to gatherings, as well as to park outings with my kids. When I’m drawing, I need complete quiet (which rarely happens at my house), so I tend to stick with fiber arts. Therefore, I am really excited to be offering the ‘Making in Action‘ camp this June. Plus, I will be teaching the beginning sewing class for CFK in July. Thank goodness there will be a lot of fiber art to go along with all that programming.

For the summer, I am focusing on hand-sewing and the boys are currently testing out my projects.  This way I can tell which ones need more instructions or perhaps, more choice. I recently found an interesting embroidery-pin project that we’re going to work on this week and I can’t wait.

Enough chatting – I’m off to create. I hope you have a ‘making week’ too!

A picture of a half-traced hand-drawn tiny rocket to be used for embroidery

R’s embroidered design choice. He’s testing a backpack pin project.

Book Review :: E-Textiles

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 picture of the cover of the book e-textiles

Love the cover!

E-textiles

Ages: Teens and Adults
Toth-Chernin, Jan. E-Textiles. Cherry Lake Publishing. Ann Arbor, MI, 2014.

This book is part of the 21st Century Skills Innovation Library series. I have reviewed a couple of their other books (HTML and Game Design) and find them to be inconsistent with regards to content. Sometimes they are spot on, and sometimes the topic is too complex to be adequately covered in 30 pages.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am thrilled that someone is publishing kid-friendly books on these new technological advances, but I don’t think all of these books are as useful as they market themselves to be. This one, in particular, was very scattered and not quite appropriate for their intended audience – middle school age and younger. It’s a thin book and was found in the Juvenile section of my public library – not the teen section and not the adult section.

A picture of the T.O.C. for the book e-textiles

The book includes five chapters covering the basics of e-textiles, sewing with conductive thread, beginning projects, microcontrollers and electroluminescent wire. While there are a few projects given,  none of these projects include pictures – either of the finished product or any step-by-step pictures of the process.

A picture of pages from the book e-textiles

Sewing stitches are really difficult to understand without pictures…especially for kids.

That being said, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I’ve made some e-textiles and I found the descriptions to be too advanced and choppy at best. The author assumes a working background knowledge of e-textiles that is inappropriate for a beginning book. It was as if the author had to cover a variety of topics, but was not given effective page space to do so.

For a 32-page book, it tries to cover too much information and ends up not covering anything in-depth enough to make any sense to the reader. This topic can be quite complicated – especially when they are talking about the use of Arduino microcontrollers, such as the Flora and Lilypad. Both of those microcontrollers were mentioned in the book and require a working knowledge of the Arduino programming language. If the purpose of the book was to introduce the idea of e-textiles – then yes, they are right on the mark. If that’s the case, why would the book include DIY e-textile projects?

A picture of a page from the book e-textiles

My suggestion would be to save your money and check out the project pages provided by the Exploratorium on sewn circuits. Or, for really advanced users, subscribe to AdaFruit’s web vlog on e-textiles.

A picture of a handmade bracelet made from felt with light up LEDs, embroidered to look like an alien spaceship. e-textiles

My homemade, hand embroidered, hard-wired e-textile.