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. 


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