All posts by Anna

I am a Brit who has been living in Half Moon Bay California since 1987. Which is also the year I started embroidery and the year our son was born. I am a teacher who has been volunteering in the classroom. I have been teaching embroidery in a local elementary school for many years. I love to design my own embroidery projects with younger stitchers in mind. I have published a book of designs for the cross stitcher. 500 Cross Stitch Blocks. I love to run on the beach and cliff tops close to my home. I am taking a digital art class at the local community college and have been learning to paint with pastels., portraits mostly. I am also taking a Certificate of Technical Hand Embroidery with the Royal School of Needlework and have fallen in love with goldwork which I have introduced to children. Predictably, they love it.

A New Stitching Year

2015 promises to be an interesting year. Both from a family perspective and also ….very importantly from an embroidery perspective.

Things have take off rather…which is good. I am having trouble keeping it all organized not just in my head but in my embroidery room which is full of projects in various stages of completion, both my projects and those of my students.

listed.

I stitched this in variegated thread. But the students are using three colors, their choice and they have to balance their design with appropriately placed color choices.
I stitched this in variegated thread. But the students are using three colors, their choice and they have to balance their design with appropriately placed color choices.

1. I have 4 classes of third graders all stitching a mini sampler.

2. I have 4 home school students who come to my home each week. I have been working with them for a while now and we are tackling some important work. The girls are embarking I a goldwork project…more of this later. And the boys are designing and stitching a MineCraft Sampler with their favorite characters features in cross stitch. We stitch for 90 minutes.

Our Valentine Card. Easy cross stitch from my Etsy Store.
Our Valentine Card. Easy cross stitch from my Etsy Store.

 

 

 

3. I have a Boys’ and Girls’ Club Community Center class here in Half Moon Bay. There are 11 students…aged 6 to 66….. We are stitching a Valentine’s Card. Very elementary cross stitch with a few additions.

4. A home school group in another city has asked me to teach a class weekly from now til May, up to 20 students. Starts on Monday…..planning for this.

5. A student has asked me to work with her on a goldwork piece of a sketch she has made of a grosbeak. This will be lots of fun.

Number students altogether? ……mmmm…by next week I may have upwards of 120 students all learning embroidery.

I will update this blog with our progress and more pictures.

 

All 90 students can embroider

imageWe started late for a holiday project…no one wants to be stitching Christmas trees in January…definitely not me. So there was some pressure from the outset. High pressure embroidery seems like an oxymoron…however we were successful.

The Pineapple Express.. the huge storm that blew in off the Pacific two weeks before the end of school, was a great help. Rainy Day recesses are a bonus to the school embroidery project. In sunny California they are pretty rare…but we had a few days there where playing outside was not possible…so the embroidery benefitted.

It is always a miracle to me no matter how many years image image image imagethat I have done this…that I can go into a class of third graders who have never threaded a needle before and within a month they are threading needles, making stitches, following a pattern, transferring from paper to fabric, focusing long enough to be successful, dealing with errors, dealing with the inevitable knots, following my instructions and reveling in the growing embroidery under their fingertips.

Their pride of achievement is palpable. It is clear that some of the students can hardly believe what they have done. It is a huge feeling for them. It has nothing to do with how good your English is ( many of the students have English as a second language…and some no English at all). It has nothing to do with how smart you are, it has nothing to do with how well you can read, or how good you are at math. Embroidery in the classroom is a great leveler. It allows students to shine who shine at nothing else.

Started with 3rd grade embroidery. 46 students all stitching

Well we made a start yesterday. Two classes, 45 students and one teacher …male…all with needle threaded and some stitches to their credit.  We have quite a short  time before the holidays to complete a small tree in a pot and put a star on the top. Given that no one could thread a needle at the outset that is quite a big ask. But…..I have no doubt that most of the students will complete the assignment.

It really is a total pleasure to me to introduce a class of eager-eyed third graders to the art and craft of embriodery. They are at the perfect stage to take on embroidery. They have the dexterity and the ability to follow instructions and translate a paper pattern to the fabric. No one has ever asked this of them. I tell them at the beginning that their brains will be very busy while they are doing this. And it is true, the effort in the classroom is palpable, as with varying degrees of success each student does their best…and they really are all doing their best I know that…. to follow the instructions I have given. There are a lot of instructions at the beginning..a lot.

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Today another two classes were introduced to embroidery. I think now there are 89 students and one teacher all starting out with a needle and thread. They all did an amazing job, by the end of the sessions every child had made at least one cross stitch and some has a whole row and were pretty pleased with themselves.  One girl looked up from her stitching and said…” I have never done this before” and she was thrilled that she could. Some students can make stitches very well but then panic and take them out……..because they think they are doing it wrong even when they are not.

I have found over the years that the students’ stitches ” tell tales on them”. By which I mean I can tell by looking at the student’s work what they are thinking, whether they are focussing, talking to the person next to them, worried about their work, trying to be better than the student next to them, whether they are in a hurry to finish rather than understand that what they are making is art and no one cares how long it takes……well…. Actually we do not want to be stitching these Christmas trees in January…so it does matter….but I tell them it doesn’t at the beginning.

 

 

Teaching Embroidery to 4 classes of third graders.

I have spent a good part of today preparing materials for 4 classes of third graders.  I am not totally sure how many students exactly, probably about 90. As I may have said before it is a labor of love. Even cutting up almost 100 pieces of fabric is not a chore.

We have been been doing this for so many years now  we have a system that works well.

Small easy stitched tree
This is the first project for my nearly 90 beginning embroidery students.

There is a new principal at the school. Not sure what she thinks about embroidery in her school. Guess we will find out. I taught her sons embroidery reasonably recently…not sure they liked it much which might have some bearing on her opinion. We wait to see. The teachers have allowed 30 minutes for this….the absolute minimum. The beginning is the hardest with so little time. Once everyone has more idea of what they are doing it is easier with a small amount of time. I am doing two classes on Thursday and two on Friday. Four in one day would be a bit much. One hundred students unable to thread a needle…..yikes!!!

Every child has a zip lock bag with their name on it. In this bag they keep their fabric, needle and any threads they are working with, and a paper chart of the piece on which they are working.  The emphasis here is on personal responsibility. I tell them at the outset that my most unfavorite sentence is “Mrs. Davidson, I have lost my needle” . Some students wear their needles to blackness and need for replacement before losing them and some lose them all the time…although it has to be said very few needles go missing given the number of the students and the opportunities for them to be lost.

The threads we use are DMC perle #5. This thread is fantastic. The colors are wonderful and it is a dream to stitch with when you have many students all starting out. I call it ” well behaved thread”. The students know exactly what I mean.

 

Etsy store now open for business.

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I have opened my very first store ever.  It was quite good fun and a lot of work.  I really enjoyed designing the pieces and I had always in mind my keen stitching students. I know that in the summer they really enjoyed the seahorse so I designed him some buddies. I am a little nervous about it all actually. Firstly that it will have been a monumental waste of time and secondly that I will make a muddle of the ordering process if I am lucky enough to get even one sale.  Etsy has a good site and it was pretty simple to do the display part. The website did not really like me using my iPad and would freeze on the tag section. But we persevered.

So I am hoping that there will be a bunch of folks out there all itching to stitch a motley crew of ocean creatures or wanting to give them to their friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews, cousins for Christmas gifts. But not too many as I will have to do all the kit making myself.

 

So we will see. It has been a while since I posted stuff on this blog. I did not win the Royal School Of Needlework Sampler competition. Surprise there? I am woefully behind in my canvas work project for my RSN Certificate…..must get on with it this week if I am not to embarrass myself at class in a couple of weeks.

My friends here in town have instituted a get together with stitching as the theme. Our Stitch and Bitch sessions are a lot of fun and we are in the middle of a small blossom tree. I will take photos of us at work and post them here.

If I get a sale on etsy I will be sure to post about it.

Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st century Sampler Competition

Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st Century Sampler Competition
Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st Century Sampler Competition

On Sunday I got out the basket with all my canvas work in. I need to get stitching on my third piece for my Certificate of Technical Hand Embroidery. It is a canvas work peacock feather. I am making a very slow start on it. …Anyway in the basket I found the paper with the information about the above mentioned competition which I had totally forgotten about. Closing date, Friday June 20, 2014.

I had four days to design it and get it to London. So…I did. It went yesterday from the Fed Ex office in San Mateo. Phew, it was a bit of a rush, but it is amazing what you can do when you have to. Normally something like that would take me weeks of planning and agonizing. No time for any of that…get the idea, get it down on paper, let it evolve and just go with it. So I did….

 

As can be seen from the picture I chose a cell phone image. I felt that as all traditional samplers have an alphabet, motifs, symbols, a helpful saying, a date and the name of the stitcher and an all encompassing border, then mine should too.  Just as a more up to date version of all of those things.

I got an email this morning saying that the entry had been received…..decision about winners after July 7.  But…..I never win anything so I am not expecting that this will be different. It was good fun to design and I think that I will stitch it, win or lose.

We will see.

 

 

Summer Embroidery Camp. #1

Six students, eager to learn. Lots of projects, ready to go. One teacher who has not taught summer camp before. Two kittens in the bedroom….break time cuddles essential.

Three of my students are new to me and new to the art of embroidery. Three of my students have been working with me before this week and so have some expertise and confidence.  Ages run from 6.5 to 10 years old. There is one boy attending.

We started with the Embroidery Camp Rules.

1. Be kind to yourself.

2. Be responsible for your tools and materials.

3 Have clean hands.

4. Listen carefully to instructions

5.Time doesn’t matter

6. Help each other.

7. Keep trying.

8. Focus.

These are not in any order of importance. They are all important.

On the second day I ran through them again at the beginning of the day but after that there was no need. It is safe to say that we had six completely focused stitchers for three hours a day. We took a short break in the middle of the session, but apart from that there was twelve hours of learning new skills, making beautiful things and useful tools for future embroidery.

Each of the six students made a set of tools.
Each of the six students made a set of tools.

What did we make?

The Tools.

Each student made a pincushion, a needle roll, a scissor fob and a tassel for keeping the needle threader  safe.

The Project.

Along with making the tools the students stitched a 5 X 7 piece of 8 HPI aida cloth with a sampler of stitches. We made a rows of running stitch, whipped and laced, chain stitch,  blackwork of geometric shapes linked together, cross stitch and a back stitch name. This finished piece will fit into a key rack purchased from Sudberry House.  It ought to be noted here that two of my students were well able to follow a more complicated pattern and these two had a more challenging project. They loved it and altho did not finish it this week I am certain that it will be finished. As you can see from their progress.image

We ended our embroidering week with everyone happy with their achievements and  some eager sign ups for our next session, at the end of next month. What shall we stitch….mmmm ..what a pleasant prospect. I get to plan another week of sharing the art of embroidery with a group of amazing young people. What luxury is that?

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What are the benefits of teaching embroidery in the third grade classroom?

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The student who stitched this has many challenges to learning…..but not to embroidery. Wonderful work

What skills are learned by learning to embroider in the classroom.

In order to attain a satisfactory result with the assignment the students must….

1. Be able to follow directions exactly
2. Be responsible for and understand how to use the assigned materials
3. Learn the dexterity needed to thread a needle.
4. Learn how to follow a complicated pattern from paper to fabric.
5. Learn the meaning of total accuracy with every part of the project
6. Learn to make a stitch the correct way
7. Learn that only patience and persistence will get the needed result.
8. Learn that perseverance is rewarded with success.
9. Learn the rules of design.
10. Learn to see how color can be used to enhance the design.
11.  Learn the history of the art and its place in students’ lives in previous centuries.
12 Learn  that instant results are not expected or desirable.
13. Learn pride of achieving something the student thought was difficult.
14. Learn the art of total focus and concentration.
15. Learn the spatial awareness needed to follow a pattern.
16. Learn about where their clothing is made and by whom.

17. Learn how to deal with a mistake, how to decide whether to work with the error or unpick the mistake. How some errors can result in artistic improvements. Not all errors are bad.

18. Realize that you do not have to be good at math, reading or very smart to achieve an excellent result.  Amazingly beautiful projects are successfully stitched by students for whom academics is a constant challenge. Embroidery is liberating to such a student.

These are not in any order of importance. They are a cumulative observation of mine over many years of teaching this art and craft to third graders.

Students who start work on embroidery in the classroom setting start out perplexed, worried, tearful, under confident, but curious.

By the end of the session they are knowledgeable artists with confident skills in their craft. They can concentrate, be totally accurate, persevere, be responsible for their project and the materials,  choose colors, know what success means and be confident in their abilities to deliver a good result.  Every teacher wants this for their students.

Just one of fifty beautifully stitched, carefully colored designs. My design their color choices.
Just one of fifty beautifully stitched, carefully colored designs. My design their color choices.

 

Next Post: What is Embroidery Time?

Sent from my iPad

Under the radar:embroidery as a controversial subject!!

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Here are four of 75 trees stitched at the beginning of our stitching year. To achieve this the students had to learn how to thread a needle and make a stitch. Big challenge to understand that the thread has to reenter the fabric from the same side from which it exited. These trees represent a considerable advancement in dexterity and spatial awareness. You can feel the mental energy in the room.

As the academic year draws to a close it is a time to reflect on all we have done in the classroom. In my case this is just a reflection of embroidery as an art, craft and teaching aid. I have been volunteering to teach a once a week class to three third grade classes.

First,  it ought to be noted, that I have been teaching embroidery to third graders at the same elememtary school, on and off, since my children were there in the nineties, both as a classroom teacher and a volunteer.  Our modest program has operated under four principals. I think it would be fair to say that the climate has become progressively frigid. There is no global warming to the concept of teaching elementary students to embroider. At one point last year the principal, incited by the fourth grade teachers,  who considered that stitching was wasting the students’ valuable instructional time, directed that all stitching cease in favor of core curriculum instruction.

The third grade teachers, in a way all teachers will understand, decided that the program was too valuable to their students to allow this. So we wrote a core curriculum additive which meant that embroidery was taught as math. And so we carried on.  But, stitching under the radar has its costs. Now we could no longer send letters home requesting a donation for materials.  Let me tell you…..75 eager embroiderers get through the materials.  Especially when Erik loses 5 needles!!

So what was the solution to this funding gap.  Elegantly we side stepped the need for donations by capitalizing on the students’ love of their newly learned craft and their desire to have stitching materials for the long summer vacation. I designed a cross stitch kit of the school logo and sold these for $10 a pop; that, with another kit of just, thread and a variety of fabric called, “Design Your Own” . By encouraging the students to do chores to earn their money and making sure that the students knew that if they brought their money there would be a kit for them. We raised over $650 which, with some kind donations, I hope will cover the costs for next year.  If we are allowed to continue!!

Next post….the benefits of teaching embroidery to children.

Summer Embroidery Camp

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Rolled felt pincushion and a needle roll made of broad already embroidered ribbon and lined with felt and tied with a ribbon

Next week I will be teaching a 4 day embroidery summer camp. It is the first time I have ever done this. I will have 6 students, aged between 6 and 10 years. Three of the students have worked with me before during a Parks and Rec class. What we stitched did not put them off and they have brought some friends along too.

What to stitch? mmmm

I have thought that to make your own stitching and embroidery tools would be empowering and satisfying. So we will make a pincushion, needle roll, scissor fob and tassel for a needlethreader, very useful all. My idea….unless I change my mind, is to collect all these embroidery tools into an empty tennis ball canister. My daughter is a college tennis player and these containers are very easy to come by, totally free and have the massive benefit of being see thru…also there is room for all the tools and a small stitching project too. Neat, clean, tidy, and easy to keep with your stitching. We will see if the students think so too.