The new semester of my sewing classes at the elementary school began this week. As usual, most kids had never used a sewing machine before. Although, it was a nice surprise to learn that several kids had previously done some hand stitching. Back when I began these classes, I had promised my Principal that I would include lessons on hand sewing and stitching on a button. It appears that this new cohort may be ahead of the curve.
Since the Jewish holiday of Purim began Wednesday night, this week was an obvious time for my students to make little gift bags and fill them with candy and snacks. On Purim we wear costumes, give baskets of food plus candy and make noise…all things that kids adore. Goody bags are a perfect beginner task. Who doesn’t love going home with a completed bag filled with a mini bottle of water, some pretzels, a Hershey bar, kisses and lollipops!? (If you want to read about the holiday of Purim, you can learn more online.)
This simple bag project was perfect for teaching the skills of controlling the speed of the machine, learning to work the arm lever of the machine, and properly ending with the needle still threaded. The bag measured 7.5″ x 18″ before folding and sewing. The two ribbon handles were about 16″ long. The final size of the gift bag was just perfect.
I kept busy and focused while watching the progress of each student and, as usual, I forget to take photos. I did, however, manage to snap a few pictures from Wednesday’s class with the older students.
In the above photo, you can see that the fabric design is upside down. This student had no interest in flipping the design right side up, even when offered a solution. However, Rafi made the pink candy bag in the first photo, and he chose to take one simple extra step to flip the pattern right side up to be even on both sides. Making your own decisions is a huge and important part of creating art! It can be tempting to push an issue like this, but choice is something that needs to be respected.
As we move further on with our skills, I will choose to emphasize precision more and more. I will make a “tired” student use a seam ripper to perfect a stitch that is easily redone. Yes, it can be a lesson in frustration, but rarely is the final result a regret. Sometimes a student is just too lazy to do his or her best, but other times it is a matter of style preference. Each child needs to find his or her own way through balancing color, form and design, without feeling pressured to conform. It is always exciting to watch this development. It is thrilling to see the fresh ideas and color combinations that children can pull together. It is my job to navigate this dance of skill versus style, to respect their personal journey’s and to push boundaries when the time is right.