Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fourth Graders Handwork Unit: Sewing Balsam Fir Sachets

A note from the Art Studio : Updated photos from our Balsam Fir Sachet/ Hand Stitching Unit:

Fourth graders and third graders ( see 3rd Grade Art Classes Label) have begun a unit of Hand-work and Craftsmanship. Last year, the current 4th graders learned to straw weave; as I am beginning to start that unit with current 3rd graders many 4th graders have asked if they can do a straw weaving again too, and thus you may well see your 4th grader starting a straw weaving. That is totally cool and makes me know that they have been empowered and inspired to create on their own, something they feel good about. But our real Handwork for fourth grade is learning to sew and stitch by hand. 

Since 4th graders are studying Maine this year I decided to make our hand-work unit a lesson with a "uniquely Maine" product. We are creating balsam fir sachets! I must admit in designing the lesson I had not realized how challenging and yet engrossing this lesson would be. Most children had never threaded a needle before and thus we started with the basics, threading a needle, tying off a knot at the end of the thread ( still a challenge for many), basic stitching in place, running stitch and blanket stitch.

All student started off making a mini- mini pouch and test-filling it with balsam fir; the proof literally is in the pudding on this one as if the pouches leaked they needed to go back and repair the gaps, but if the sachets don't leak they can go onto the larger size one.
We have had some false starts and some fabulous starts but by now, week two every fourth grader should be somewhere along the learning curve on sewing. I have been fortunate to have principal Betsy Lane come in and help with some classes and starting to have a parent volunteer per class; just an extra adult presence to help with all the minor challenges - tying off the thread, helping get a safety pin on, trimming fabrics and helping restore a stitched line that went a stray.
I hope that by the December break every fourth grader has at least one finished stitched piece to take home and be proud of. The balsam fir smell lovely; I have found if you microwave the sachets for 30 seconds the smell really is released and in addition you can put in your pocket as a pocket warmer.

Finally, as with straw weaving there are multiple skills learned and problems solved while sewing by hand. For one thing I think all the students are gaining a greater appreciation for the actual work that goes into a garment they wear; just getting a seam straight is a challenge. In addition there are small problems ( tying knots) and larger ones when seams fall apart cause they are too close to an edge; spatial visualization skills are employed and ultimately when a product is completed, a tangible product that can be used there is a huge degree of satisfaction and pride.
I timed this unit so it could also function as " Art as Gift" and its fun to hear all the people kids are wanting to make balsam fir sachets for. I am posting photos as we get working and hope to update as the project continues.


Positive thinking, Patience, Practice and Perseverance are our passwords for our units on handwork. Seems to help everyone know that it will be awkward at first but once we get the hang of it, it will be pretty darn cool. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Handwork has Begun!!! Straw weaving with 3rd Graders

A note from the Art Studio : Donations of yarns to weave with always welcome....And the weaving has grown... started with two straws... some are making 16 straw weavings.. others choosing to stick with just a few .. but all are engaged.... check out the new photos..

Third and fourth graders have begun a unit on Hand-work and Craftsmanship. Third graders have been introduced to straw weaving, and by this, the 2nd week in December most students have been able to make at least one small bracelet size weaving and are beginning to branch out experiment with more straws and various colors and textures of yarns. All children have their very own Straw Weaving kit which consists of a baggie with straws, tape and yarn, all one needs to make a straw loom.  Years ago I found this great, portable lesson in a book. For our introduction to weaving I keep the lesson simple, 2 straws, with the goal of making a bracelet or a collar for a stuffed animal or a pet. Once students have practiced the basis, and learned the basic technique, the possibilities are endless.  If you use 4 straws as the instructions I sent home show, show one can make belts and scarves.

These 3rd graders have been at it about two weeks and stopped into the Art Studio to get more yarns.
I am teaching this lesson before the holidays in hopes the children are inspired to continue weaving at home, in the car, wherever you go during vacation, and also in hopes that a child will feel empowered to make some hand woven gifts.  I have extra yarns available in the Art Studio that your child can come in and take from. Below are some photos of 3rd graders engaged in straw weaving. Note the straws are basic drinking straws which serve to keep the warp threads straight and thus create a loom.

I believe hand-work and craftsmanship associated with it are an important part of a strong visual arts program. There are so many skill sets addressed in this unit from 3D spatial visualization and problem solving, to manual dexterity, and continual problem solving, in addition to envisioning and craftsmanship. Plus, much evidence has been written about the calming and centering nature of traditional handwork, and giving your child the opportunity to have such an outlet at anytime seems like a positive.  Plus such cool, cool projects.  Last year  kids made collars for their stuffies, bracelets, scarves, belts, it was endless.  Straws and yarn, and a positive attitude are all that is needed. I am sure your child can show you how.  Try your hand at it if you get a chance. In addition there are numerous Youtube clips on various methods of straw weaving.
Our passwords for this unit are: Positive Thoughts, Patience, Practice and Perseverance

More photos of weavers in action below: