Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spool Knitting, Tie Dyed Halter Tops, Braided Bracelets & Felt on Soap with Children

Teaching in Bermuda has been a fabulous time and experience for me and the class evaluations have been terrific! I have probably learned more than the children and, I feel they've learned alot!
So here is my last official Term Class report... But no worries, I have other plans for future reports for you to enjoy! I will be continuing to work on children's projects for the foreseeable future.
First of all there are some projects that we finished up that I want to tell you about, beginning with the Button Picture Frames that the 5 yr & 6 yr old class children stitched. I held their button work back so that I could prepare a parting gift for them. KAF had some wooden picture frames that I used to hot glue their button stitchery onto. I have taken lots of photos of the children during my classes so found photos of each student and matched it up to their work as a parting gift for them. They  came out great and the children were very proud and anxious to show their mom's their work and their photos! I so loved this project....

The next items to finish up included the 10 yr olds tie dyed halter tops. One student had a simpler embelishment design and finished hers last time but wore it to class for me to see and pohotograph. The others finished theirs this week and anxiously tried them on and gave the KAF office a mini fashion show! What fun! I was so proud of their accomplishments. For new stitchers they did a terrific job! They named this project their favorite because they had liscense to create the embellishing designs on their own and loved that they could wear their very own creations. I remember wearing the first piece of clothing that I ever made for myself and the self esteem and confidence that comes with that is priceless. I hope they enjoy wearing their pieces all summer long and remember them forever!

Our new project of the week for both the 5 yr olds and 6 yr olds was spool knitting. This age old art encourages hand eye coordination and repetition which I feel helps give a sense of achievement and accomplishment. When the tails of their work began to show form the bottom of their spools they squeeled with delight and were motivated by measuring their progress in inches. Even the younger chidren who often get bored or tired kept at it to simply be able to see their progress! They were so proud of themselves :-)

Such concentration and pride show up in the photos at left :-)
The spools were made from toilet paper rolls and lollipop sticks that you can buy in a candy section of your local craft store. I chose a chenile yarn that we had a bunch of becasue of it's soft texture and appearance of bulk. It created a nice fat and soft tube. Of course they asked what they would do with this tube so I put it right back at them and gave a few suggestions after which they were coming up with ideas of their own.
It was interesting to see how even the littlest ones caught on to the idea of turning their work round and round, repeating the same process over and over again. It seemed to give them a great sense of accomplisment since it seemed so complicated to them at first. When they got it, it was a big deal and it didn't take too long. I did purposely spend a few minutes with each child demonstrating and tutoring them as they completed the first stitches and went back to each child as they needed assistance.
I pre- assembled the knitters for the 5 yr olds but the 6 yr olds were able to make them themselves. I like to be able to show them that they don't need anything fancy for their tools; that often we can make them ourselves by recycling.
Each of the children left with their knitters in hand and very proud of the tails they had created :-)

The 10 yr olds melted my heart with their completed Tie Dyed Halter tops. The one student who had finished last time wore it to class and it looked so cute on her I couldn't believe it! Her mom looked just as proud as she did :-) And the backs are just as cute as the fronts!
This class was a modge podge of things allowing time for finishing remaining projects. One student had missed two classes during the Nuno purse classes and finished her bag with the exception of stitching the straps on. Her mom will help her finish it up at home. Halter tops were completed and we then moved on to a simple felt on soap project; one that this group had never done and wanted to before term was up. This basic felting project is a good way to teach basic felting and allowing them to go home with a nice gift or shower soap for themselves.

We had an additional half hour or so of class time after their fashion show and photo shoot so they migrated to the standing loom and decided to braid friendship bracelets for their final project. What a pleasure to see them enjoy practicing skills that I teach and helping them to learn how to tie off their work to create bracelets.
In the end a good time has been had by all and we will miss each other and our time together. I will hope to see them all in my classes during fall camps and Fiber Fest for one more chance for them to enrich MY life!

The content of my reports will change of course but I hope to keep you informed of my creative journey, especially with children.

So, until next time.................

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Children's Button Projects & Tie Dyed Halter Tops

It is a sad time for me at KAF :-(
Only one more week of classes with my precious students.....
I will sorely miss the children and the classroom. I have so many more things I want to share with them!

This week KAF received an order of supplies from Blick and in that order was a fabulous assortment of buttons! One of the things that I have found with all of my students in the two years of teaching fiber arts is the lack of their ability to tie knots. With the invention of velcro and it's convenience, many children do not need to learn to tie their shoes. It is seriously affecting some of their fine motor skill development! I have struggled with any project that requires the tieing of knots which is a basic skill for many applications of fiber and traditional arts.

For all age levels, this weeks classes included the use of stitching and knotting. My students ages range from 5 to 10 years old and the age of the students ability to tie knots used in projects for their age level doesn't seem to matter in their ability or inability to get the concept of and executing knot tieing. Although the older group with a bit of practice gets it, it doesn't always come easy :-) They just don't have the need to tie knots in their young lives so lack practice.

The 5 & 7 yr old groups this week stitched buttons onto burlap to create picture frame decorations. They used pearl cotton and colorful buttons which I asked them to select keeping the color wheel in mind. Young children will often choose an item for a project based solely on the one item and how much it attracts them. They have not yet learned how to consider how each choice affects the whole. In this lesson, we not only learned to stitch on buttons and tie knots to fasten them but we practiced what I call informed choice.
These groups did a terrific job! I actually had the youngest ones stitch and knot each button on individually. I felt that this way they would have less to think about; no worries of stringing along several buttons in a row and getting tension right , not to mention the possibility of tangling the thread up in the work. And there would always be a good stopping point at the end of class. This seemed to work very well. It also meant that they got to experience using scissors for something other than cutting paper. I asked them to stitch on a button and knot it on the back side but one inovative student chose to knot on the front, being very careful to cut the threads all the same length so that the threads were part of her design concept. I'm not sure she realised this, but she knew instinctively that this is what looked best. That child has a good eye! I am always happy when a student shows such insight. Good Job Amy!
The only disappointment for these children is that I didn't let them take their projects home this week. I held them to complete a special farewell gift for them that you can see in next week's posting :-)

So, the 5 yr olds did remarkably well with this project! I never can predict what things they will have trouble with. They all have varying degrees of ability and concentration. Some stitched more buttons on than others and some made knots that looked like they were tied by an adult! They basically all got it.... In fact the littlest one was one of the best performers! Well done Sam! And one other child in this group finished early enough to move on and finish a bookmark. So Sam, Amy and Aishling got the gold stars this week! Having said that, they are all stars and I try to tell each of them what a good job they do each time we meet. I'm sure I don't do it often enough! We all know that praise is always welcome and just the fact that they come to class and make any effort at all to accomplish their task is a big deal for young children. Life is too busy to early these days!

The 7 yr old children enjoyed this project as well. I pushed this group to think about the overall design when selecting their buttons and threads. Each one is different and they all did a great job. They too were disappointed to not be able to take it home but are looking forward to their surprise next week. This group has a longer class so they were able to also go on and make button braclets using elastic thread as a fastener.

I love the way these projects turned out! To see the various designs that came from each student using the same materials is inspiring! This group has gotten better at their knot making over time and I found I had to direct them very little in this task. Mission accomplished!

The older girls this week are nearly all finished their tie dyed halter tops. These are adorable! Last week they dyed the cloth and began stitching the straps on. What a challenge stitching is or can be! Not only are they practicing fine motor skills and precision in their stitching but they have to think about spacial relationships between stitches and practice consistency in stitch length all while making sure their needles don't come unthreaded. And of course they have to try to conceal their stitches in some places or keeping their work neat while anchoring and embellishment and then there is the task of knotting the threads so their work doesn't come apart. Let's not forget to be careful not to get unwanted fabric caught in the stitches too! Phew!!! So this was all about practice and I am always telling my students, practice makes better because no one is perfect; not even the teacher :-)
Only one student finished her piece since she chose a simple design embellishment that didn't require alot of stitching, but the others are very close and will complete theirs in our last class of the term. There's that sad ending again :-(

So until next time.......

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tie Dye Projects with Children ages 5-10

What a fun week we've had! This was tie Dye week at KAF. All ages participated, found success and had a great time!

The children in my classes are always so excited about their work that they want to take it home right away! As a result I researched using the Dylon dyes on line and found a reference that they can be heat set in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Though the colors are not as intense as if they are left on overnight or simmered in a pot which would allow only one color way, the children were more happy to take their proud posessions home, than have to leave them until next week to get a brighter color.

I had spent some time as always doing prototypes before the class to better assess the need for any adjustments to the procedure to
accomodate the childrens ages and limitations if any. I want them to find success and it always surprises me to learn that something that I take for granted is difficult for them to accomplish.

With this project, the 7 yr olds went first. Some of them had difficulty figuring out how to twist the rubber bands to bind them to the cloth. Though they were successful with a little guidance, I immediately knew that the 5 yr olds would never be able to get through it without great frustration to them and chaos for me:-) As a result, I ammended their procedure and used the time tested Shibori binding method with thread which they simply had to wind around the fabric. I took that even further and prepared a BBQ skewer with a large bead attached which the students used to drape their 18" square of cotton over. I told them they were making an umbrella which they all understood. Once they had their umbrella, the stick gave the fabric some stability and something for the children to hold onto as they    wrapped the thread around. The only possible glitch I found with this method is that once they get half way down they sometimes get the thread caught on the end of the stick and tangle it up. To further address this issue, the children can work in teams; one holding the stick horizontally and turning while the other keeps tension on the thread. This made a quick job of it and was an easy task for them to accomplish.
The older children chose to mix it up. Some used rubber bands while others used the thread depending on how complicated they wanted to make their designs. The beauty of doing the same project with all ages is to allow the older children to take their projects further either with design concepts or simply because they have better motor skills and can be more creative especially with the binding of the cloth.

In the end, the 5 yr olds were the most impressed with themselves and the transformation on the fabric from bright white to multicolored dyed designs. Those boys were so proud of their bandanas it was a joy to see!
The 7 yr olds were proud as well and were glad to take home two projects this week since they were able to complete their paintings on silk as well as their tie dye projects.
The older class is all girls and I always like to push them further when I can. I decided that their tie dyed bandanas would be turned into fun summer halter tops that they will embelish with beads, some of which they are dyeing themselves! They completed their tie dyes, worked out their designs and began stitching the straps on during this class. Next week they will complete them so be sure to check next week's post for pictures of their wonderful creations!
Until next time........