Tag Archives: focus

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.

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?


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

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?

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