Welcome to my blog! I started it when I was a new Girl Scout leader and needed some kind of organized "to-do" list. I decided the best way to keep things organized was to start a blog. So here it is! My oldest troop has since bridged up to Juniors, and I've taken on a Daisy troop as well, so I will continue updating with new Juniors information and additional Daisy stuff too. My hope is to continue to update with every level as my troops advance. But we'll see.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope it's helpful!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Learning to Sew (Part Two -- All Levels)

Last time, I introduced my third grade Brownies to the concept of hand-sewing by making Sit-Upons (see this post). This time, we backed up a tad and focused on three primary stitches, as well as things like threading needles, making knots, and "tails" when hand-sewing.

You might choose to do this activity before your Sit-Upons. And that's fine! But I wanted to do this craft right before we move on to our "real" sewing craft at the next meeting, so hopefully the different stitches would still be fairly fresh in the girls' minds.

Before we did this project, I emailed my parents (many of whom have commented to me in the past about not knowing how to sew), letting them know that I needed volunteers (who did know at least the basics of how to sew) to attend the meeting, but that ALL parents were welcome, if there were any who wanted to learn alongside their daughters.

If you want to do this for your parents, make sure you know ahead of time who's coming, so you can have extra supplies on hand. 

Things You'll Need:

1. Tapestry Needles (one for each child, plus yourself -- metal tapestry needles work much better for this craft, than plastic ones)
2. Embroidery Floss (pre-cut lengths if possible)
3. Sharpies
4. Thin, Styrofoam-Type Plates
5. Scissors (sharp)
6. Adult helpers if you have a large troop

Amazon has a super deal on a pack of 25 here. Don't get the plastic ones. They bend too easily.

This craft is great for any age, really, even Kindergarten Daisies! But as with most crafts, the younger the girl, the more help they may need.

Before the meeting, you will need to prep several things. The activity itself should take between 45 minutes to an hour.

If possible, match your embroidery floss to the Sharpie colors you're using.

You can never have too much embroidery floss. Seriously.

Make dots with Sharpie along the outer edge. This is for your overcast stitch. Do not make the dots too close to the edge, as pulling the thread through can rip the plate.

Make dashes inside (two circles if possible, so they learn how to continue on to a different section using the same thread). This is for running stitch.

Make X shapes inside, for cross stitches.

You don't have to use different colors, but it makes it easier for the kids, especially when working from the back, I think. Don't use washable markers on styrofoam. Sharpies/permanent markers work best.

Create a sample plate for you. Consider not knotting your embroidery floss initially, as you'll need to measure it out (I just eyeballed it, and wrote down how long my thread was for each section, then added a couple of inches for good measure. It worked fine).

The nice thing about these plates is you can hold them up to the light and see the Sharpie from the back side, which helps when they're getting started with each section, so they know where you put their needles.

See how well the Sharpie shows through the back, when held up to the light?

Before your meeting, prepare a plate with Sharpie marks for each girl, and pre-cut lengths of embroidery floss for each plate. Put these and a tapestry needle into a small Ziploc baggie.

Have a spare plate (pre-colored), floss, and tapestry needle, for you to use to show them how to do it, at each stage during the craft. Then you can put it down and walk around to help as needed.

So you have two plates for you ahead of time: one that's complete, and one that's just like the girl' plates, in progress.

Don't worry about finishing your in-progress plate along with the girls during the meeting. Just pick it up and use it to illustrate various stitches as needed.

Explain the "right" side and the "wrong" side by showing them your finished plate. Ask them how they can tell which is the front and which is the back (knots in the back).

The wrong side of your sample plate.

Show them the tapestry needles, and how they have a large eye (better for thick thread), and a dull point. (I always ask them to tell me what they see, instead of telling them initially. Good way to exercise powers of observation!)

In the next meeting, we will be working with standard needles. So I took a minute to sit next to the girls at the table, and show them how NOT to pull thread up, toward your neighbor's face. Needles (even dull ones) can be hazardous. Best to spread out around the tables for this craft.

There are several ways to knot the thread: my grandmother taught me to lick the tips of my pointer finger and thumb, hold the end of the thread between, then "roll" the thread between them, and pull the rolled part down. This forms a knot.

(But that trick is easier with regular thread than thick embroidery floss.)

You can also use a wrap-around method to knot the floss.

Or just have them tie a small knot at the end.

A list of methods can be found here. Or just Google how to knot thread.

It's likely they will need to just tie a knot in the end, and that's fine. If possible, leave  about 3" of thread beyond the knot, as they will tie this to the end of their floss once they're finished. (This is not a typical way to knot thread upon completion, but for this style of project, it's fine, and it will be more intuitive to them.)

The plates can break if you fold them or squeeze too hard. So be gentle. :)

Thread the needles (put tip of thread between tongue and front top tooth. Pull out to flatten. If the embroidery floss tip begins to fray while trying to thread it, snip it at an angle with sharp scissors).

Leave about 5-6" as a "tail" from your needle. Do not double the thread entirely when tying it off. It will be too thick, and you'll need twice as much embroidery floss. Just thread it through and leave a tail hanging. You may need to adjust the length of the tail as you go. (I have no idea what the correct term is. I always called it a tail. Leave me a comment if there's a more correct term.)

This crafty mama blog has lots of fun activities with sewing!

Start with the overcast stitch along the edge. It's not necessary to tug hard on the thread as you go, because the styrofoam can rip if you pull too hard. Also, it's key to have them keep an eye on the thread, and the tail to make sure it doesn't tangle as they go.

Overcast is running loops around the edge. My grandmother just called it an "overstitch."

Then tie off the end of the pink/overcast thread to the end you left at the original knot. Snip the pink thread, re-thread needle with green, and move on to the running stitch.

Be sure to have them hold their plates up to the light when starting the running stitch; they are literally stitching on top of the green dashes on the plate. So start at one end of each dash on the back, push needle through to the front, cover the green dash, poke needle through the other end of dash, and so on. When they hold it up to the light, there will be a solid line of green from the stitches. But from the front (or back, not held up to light), it looks like dashes.

Don't tie off from the outer ring to the inner. Just continue on with the new ring of running stitches that's closest to the one you finished in the outer ring.

Tie it off when finished, re-thread with purple, and start on cross stitches.

The correct way to do a cross stitch is to do all the same direction per row, then back the opposite direction. This is confusing when learning how to sew, especially when there are only 5 Xs. If you prefer, mark your Xs in rows, close to each other. I have a large troop and was running out of prep time. So I made it work.

In the meeting, I told them just to cover the purple lines in each X, the same as they covered the green dashes before, and to do each X closest. I had them look at it first, and decide for themselves the best way to do it, so as to not waste thread.

It worked out fine. :)

Tie it off, and ta-da! You're finished!

All done! :)

If you have extra time and extra embroidery floss, you can have them do another overcast the opposite direction of the first one, so the edges have V-shaped stitches all the way around.

Next Up? Finishing up learning to sew!