When I found a bunch of burlap in my supply closet, I knew I wanted to do a stitching project with it. I have really enjoyed the challenge of teaching stitching and textiles this year to my art club. The kids were really engaged and excited about the projects and it made me want to teach the skills to my regular classes. At first I looked around on Pinterest to find ideas of what I could have the kids stitch. I saw all kinds of cute things like animals and flowers. While those were all really cool, I wanted to do something ore abstract so that new stitchers could feel more confident with their skills, especially when their work doesn’t “look like” anything. So when I saw a stitched mandala, I knew it would be the perfect inspiration.
We began with a PowerPoint about mandalas and radial symmetry in nature, culture, design, and architecture. It was very inspiring and many students had personal connections.
We talked about how the mandala is symbolic of space and time and even watched a Tibetan Monk mandala ceremony. Their minds were blown when they saw the monks sweep away the sand at the end which prompted a lively discussion about what it means to make art. With that, we began to create. Students started off by tracing circled onto a piece of burlap.
Then, I did a needle-threading-and-knot-tying demo. This was really tricky for some kids who had never done this before but there were enough kids who had some prior experience so they became helpers.
I taught students how to use the “Paper Taco” to more easily thread their needle. Then we talked about how when you stitch, you have to go straight up and straight back down. The most common mistake that anyone made was that they tried to loop their thread around the side of their burlap. This resulted in a big tangled mess more often than (k)not. (Pun intended!)
There really was a tremendous amount of dexterous problem solving with this project. I constantly reminded the kids to be patient with themselves and with me. They also had to be patient with each other when getting yarn because only so many kids could crowd around the yarn boxes at once. These boxes are the coolest ever – you put the yarn cone in the compartment inside and just pull the end through the slit at the top. I always have trouble with spools of yarn getting tangled up and messy so these boxes were the perfect solution!
After a few class days of stitching on the circles, we moved on to creating designs in between the circles. I showed students artwork by Elizabeth Pawle so they could get ideas for other types of stitches and designs to create.
Students were challenged to create more designs other than the regular stitch. They also chose buttons to sew or hot glue into the center. The process of stitching was very motivating for students. I had groups of 4th graders come visit me in the morning to work ore on their projects. It is now the second to last day of school and I still have kids coming in asking to work on these! But as you can see, they are absolutely phenomenal – great job 4th graders!