Tag Archives: Counted thread embroidery in school

Focus. The One Attribute Essential Our Students. Embroidery can help.

As I have been teaching embroidery to students for many years I have been in a perfect place to notice how learning embroidery affects 7, 8 and 9 year olds.

Firstly, as is probably obvious, putting a needle, thread and fabric in the hands of a child creates in each a variety of different emotions. And as I give out the materials I can see these emotions on their faces. What do I see? Mostly I see curiosity, excitement,( this is a bit out of the ordinary…what’s going on?) Alongside those emotions I see concern, worry, and in a few cases panic.  But the overriding atmosphere in the class room is one of intrigued anticipation. ( What on earth does she want us to do with this stuff?)

In order for the student to make a success of their embroidery they have to be able to listen to instructions carefully, follow directions exactly and focus completely on the assigned task….to make one stitch.

Some students do not find these three requirements a challenge. they can listen, do and create without too much difficulty….to their delight. Some students for whom any one of those three is difficult will struggle to complete even one stitch. It is these students for whom embroidery is a slowly opening door.

If they cannot listen then they cannot follow directions…or complete the task.  If they listen but without the needed focus they cannot follow the directions or make a stitch and if they can listen and follow directions but lack focus to finish the task as directed they cannot do this either.


This task cannot be completed without the focus that this student is showing


This is focus in action.

Education will have to go through a serious revolution if it is to prepare our students for their working lives. Their future promises to be one of constant change, lifelong learning and adaptability to a workplace which not even the smartest among us can forsee.

Ok…I hear you say…what does this have to do with teaching embroidery to a class of third graders.

Dr. Daniel Goleman wrote a book entitled Focus, the Hidden Driver of Excellence. In his excellent book he describes in detail what it takes to develop focus and how important this attribute will become to our future citizens.

Over the years I have watched embryonic embroiderers grow, develop and master the needed focus to complete their assignment.  Embroidery teaches focus. I can see it in action. The students tell me that as soon as they stop focusing they make an error. They are aware of their work, they are thinking about the way they do what they do. Any error is very obvious and very annoying and they are therefore very incentivized not to make errors. How do you not make errors? Answer……….Focus.

Dolphin Club. After School Program….Embroidery.

Although all the eager embroiderers from third grade are very keen carry on with their embroidery and grow their skills with this art into their 4th grade year it is not possible. Their curriculum is very full and there is no discretionary time for this kind of activity.

So …we compromised and offered embroidery at the after school program. This is not perfect as it only can be offered to the students who attend the program.

This year I thought it was time to branch out from the counted thread embroidery with which the students have become so comfortable. So for the fifth grade group I offered an elementary goldwork class featuring a Christmas Tree. I have 17 students all learning the skills needed to embroider with gold thread.   Very exciting and they love it.

For the 4th graders,  building on their counted thread embroidery skills we are using the same fabric as third grade, same threads, same needle but seven new stitches which the fabric is designed to help them master.  They choose their own colors and we discuss choices by looking at the color wheel. They will need to design their own names and center the lettering on their project.

Delighted 5th grade students with their new found skills
Teaching your fingers to hold the thread, manage the needle, follow the line, evenly space your stitches, make them perpendicular and equidistant. The brain gymnastics of embroidery.


4th and 5th grade projects for Dolphin Club after school program
4th and 5th grade projects for the after school program