In this half term of the Saturday Sewing club I am teaching the girls how to cross stitch. It’s something I really like and have produced a few large pieces of cross stitch for friends but this one I have kept for myself and it’s hanging in the utility room.
It’s not an overly complicated cross stitch as there’s no shading and most of the pictures are block colours so it only took a month of a few hours each week in the evenings. I showed this to the girls and they were very excited and this was a good example as a design as it uses letters, numbers, pictures and also borders so it really show the versatility of the cross stitch.
Because the club is looking at cross stitch I need to prepare a couple of simple ones for the girls to learn how to do so I’ve been combining this with end of year presents for teacher’s and this is what I’ve come up with.
This is the end project but I need to break down the skills so the girls learn them in little steps so I designed a very simple cross stitch rectangular design that has a border, numbers and a whipped backstitch (the finished design uses a back stitch for the letters)
It’s simple, quick and still gives them a little creative freedom as they can choose the colours they would like for their threads. I also think that having a project with a date on is something they might not necessarily appreciate now but when they are older possibly with families of their own they can show their children they made this ‘many years ago!’
The border was easy for them to do without a pattern as was the whipped back stitch but I wanted them to be able to follow a simple counted cross stitch pattern by the end of the term so I wrote out ‘2013’ using squared paper and crossing the each square where a cross stitch needed to be. I drew arrows to show the middle of the pattern and then showed them how to fold the Aida fabric to find the middle of their fabric. This would centre their design and they would also know they wouldn’t run out of room to fit in all the numbers!
Once they had sewn a stitch I showed them how to cross their stitches out. Now I know that adults don’t usually do this on their own counted cross stitch patterns but children are slightly different in that they will spend less time stitching and can easily have 10 minutes away for a loo break, a play, lunch or because they’ve lost concentration. I wanted them to be able to easily find where they where on their pattern should they have a break. Being able to work things out for themselves gives them confidence that they understand what they are doing and also this gives them a freedom from total adult dependence which really is the name of the game with anything they learn.
Here’s one of the girls sewing their design. Notice that the numbers aren’t all on the same horizontal line? This was a mistake as the ‘1’ was started a stitch down below the ‘0’ but instead of unpicking it M decided she quite liked it and wanted all the numbers to be a bit jumbled. I really encourage this lateral thinking. If they want to un-pick then that’s absolutely fine as for some they want it just like the original, just like it ‘should’ be’. This gives children confidence that they’ve got it right (in their eyes) and, once again they don’t have the need for adult affirmation as they can see it’s right. Some children though are creative and a mistake can lead to further creativity so if they want to change the design during a session then that’s what they do. I see my job is not to make them copy what I do (too much of that already goes on in schools) but to lead them down their own creative path with the core skills they are learning. This works in my experience and they were soon asking for squared paper to make their own designs…
You can see here that E has designed a house and a person next to it along with a heart!
E wasn’t happy with the person so she’s going to work on it in the week.
This session was about introducing the girls to counted cross stitch (the idea that not all stitches are next to each other and they have to count across, up and down the fabric to find where their next stitch should be) and also to follow a simple pattern. This they all did easily and went away with a near finished ‘2013’ ready to tackle the slightly harder project of the teacher present design.
Breaking down skills so children can work them out by themselves is a really fascinating job to have. I used to do it in the classroom using the curriculum and now I do it for my own business teaching sewing. I love it as it really ‘tickles’ my brain as I have to work out how each child ticks in order to be able to approach them in the right way. I also think showing the girls how to create their own designs really illustrates to them that although cross stitch can be about following strictly someone else’s design (as my large cross stitch was) it’s very easy to create your own projects using your own creativity which is another step in the right direction to being creatively independent.
Why not get some squared paper and draw out a little design and have a go with your child and once they’ve learned how to do a simple design let them have a go and see what they can do themselves.