Teaching Second Graders to Sew

Yesterday was quite an adventure. My quilting guild has an Outreach committee that presents quilting in various ways to non-quilters, often children, and I went to a second grade class along with two other members. But first the back story.

At our quilt show, the teaching tool was Build-A-Block.  Hanging on the display are blocks that are created as 9-patch with some patches subdivided into HST or rectangles (in the simpler arrangements) and several finished quilts made from blocks last year.  On the two long tables are piles and piles of precut squares, triangles and rectangles along with diagrams of other possible arrangements. Show visitors create blocks with the precuts on large pieces of tissue paper and bring their finished creation to be sewn.  The paper keeps the various creations separated from each other and in place.  Last year 700 blocks were so created.  I haven’t heard how many for this year.

Sewists and sewing machines and irons are in the background, and so long as there are volunteers available, blocks are sewn up on the spot.  The unsewn are put into pizza boxes and handed out at guild meetings for members to assemble and return, than sorted into blocks in color families and handed out again for top construction and again for quilting and again for binding.  The finished products mostly become quilts for Habitat for Humanity, though some have other destinations.

Children are encouraged to participate, and their blocks are sewn immediately, pressed, and hung on the wall with their first name and age. This year I saw one 7-year-old girl excitedly showing her parents her block on the wall, and I helped a 4-year-old boy construct a block and watched him return to see it and make another.

That is the background.  I really enjoyed the morning working at the booth, so when I learned that this activity is sometimes taken on the road by the outreach committee, I volunteered for the committee.

The first call I got for participating, however, was not Build-A-Block, but helping second graders with a sewing project.  A couple of the students had sewn before, but to most the process was mysterious. The leader had detailed and illustrated instructions on the white board and explained the overall process, and then we started helping the students. If I ever do a project like this again, I will arrive with 20 needles prethreaded.  The few who could thread their own would get a chance when they needed new thread. I will also try to have a way to keep track of the order in which each asks for help since they all want it NOW.

Now, as a former writing instructor, I know that it is easy to skip steps when teaching a familiar process; however, I was amazed at how much I had taken for granted. Things one needs to teach: when pinning, pin goes in and out; small stitches; stop when thread about so long  (enough to knot); pull thread all the way so no loops; stitch in and out not over; knot it at the end.

I don’t think any of the parents read my blog, but just in case, I am not mentioning the specific project or its goal, since it is to be a surprise.

I can’t wait to see what other activities this committee has planned!


Filed under quilting

8 responses to “Teaching Second Graders to Sew

  1. Antonella

    Hand sewing or machine sewing?

  2. I always had to teach something at least once to get the bugs out! 🙂 Sounds like a great project!

  3. I once taught a group of Cub Scouts to sew – what a learning event for me!
    You are so right about remembering each tiny step and pre-threading needles! It is so much easier to do the one on one teaching! Your Outreach program is enriching some young lives – way to go!

  4. dezertsuz

    I’ve helped 2nd through 6th graders make quilts. The biggest problem was always the thread coming out of the needle, but they got the hang of it pretty quickly! One time a parent helper, who told me she knew how to quilt, was so proud because none of her stitches, or the children’s she was helping, went through to the back. LOL

  5. dezertsuz

    BTW, kudos to you for helping and doing such a wonderful project!

  6. Cher

    sounds like a very rewarding and fun day..yep..basics to keep in mind for next time…

  7. Wow! Both of those activities sound like so much fun!

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