Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Encouraging Children in Crafts- No Sew Pillows and "Baby" Quilt for the Beginner

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As someone whose life is so totally entrenched in the arts- from photography, drawing, printmaking to yarn art and sewing, I encourage my children on a daily basis to create and think creatively.  When they're bored, I try to set them up with arts and crafts.  Sometimes I have a lot of time and we make something elaborate, and others it's a fleeting learning experience made from popsicle sticks, toilet paper holders and glue.  

One of the most important things to remember when teaching your children (or other people's children) about art is that it is one subject that is totally subjective.  What is aesthetically pleasing to one person is not to another, what meaning I draw from a painting will probably differ from the meaning you draw from it.  This is not to say that either is wrong, with most art it is the reaction, the discussion, the feeling that determines the success of the art.

It is ok to make mistakes, it is ok to draw a purple ladybug (c'mon, many artists have had a weird streak!), and it is ok if it doesn't look like it could sell at a gallery, let alone a shelf at walmart.  It is the creation, the exploration and curiosity that make teaching art so much fun.

Here are two examples of where I had to let go of perfection (the kind I would expect from myself) and let my kids have fun with it.

Zebra Pillows

We were at the craft store one day and I always have to go to the clearance section- sometimes you can get great swatches of fabric for super cheap just because it's small or the last of a roll.  I found this awesome zebra fleece which I estimated from the measurements should be enough to make two small throw pillows.  I set this fabric aside for a rainy day and when it came, it was the easiest craft ever and the girls were both totally entertained.  

How it's made:  
Cut two squares of fleece about 4-5 inches bigger than you want your pillow.  Cut 1" strips about two inches in all the way around the squares (holding them together).  Tie matching strips together around three edges, lightly stuff with poly fil and tie knots around half of the remaining row.  Add more stuffing if needed, finish tying knots around.

How to encourage your children to help:
I have a 3 year old and a 7 year old.  I pretty much let my 7 year old do her entire pillow by herself.  She was able to cut the strips, tie all the ties and stuff the pillow.  (I think she did need some help with a few ties but she did 99% of the pillow by herself)  For my little one, I cut all the strips and it was a good lesson on how to try to tie knots.  She especially enjoyed stuffing the pillow.  They both love their pillows and display them on their bed, and it makes them proud to show someone what they made!

Simple "Baby" Quilt for the Beginner

I had been sewing up a storm and my 7 year old girl had been watching me begging to do a project of her own.  I set her down with some different fabrics, told her to cut some squares of matching sizes and that took her about an hour.  We packed everything up and the next day she began making rows.  It's a simple straight stitch to make a row of four blocks, three times. Then, she sewed the three strips together.  She picked a solid fabric for the backing and I attached the border for her.  Then, she picked a zig zag stitch and "quilted" all over the blanket.  (I think this was her favorite part)

No, it doesn't look perfect, but it's a great first try.  She loves it, and "gave" the blanket to her baby, who sleeps under it on her zebra pillow in bed at night.  

I love encouraging my children to develop themselves through art- Whether they want my yarn scraps from when I'm weaving in ends, or if they're using our old toilet paper rolls, I want them to explore their creativity, discover their likes and dislikes, and find yet another way to express themselves.

Is there a way that you encourage your children through crafting? Leave me a comment!

Guest Post: How To Teach Someone To Knit!

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Knitting has become very trendy recently, and if you are a dedicated knitter than you’ve probably been asked to teach a friend or family member to knit too. If like me you’ve been knitting since childhood, it can be hard to remember how you were taught to knit, purl, cast on and cast off, and therefore it can be even harder to work out how to pass these skills on to someone else. My daughter, who is almost eight, is desperate to learn the basics and we’ve been spending some wet afternoons in the school holidays trying to knit a scarf. There have been tears and tantrums along the way but we have picked up some hints and tips which will help anyone else tasked with teaching a beginner knitter.

Sit Behind Them!

It’s hard to explain what you do when you are knitting. If like me you get muddled between left and right sometimes, sitting facing someone and trying to explain what to do with yarn and needles is almost impossible. If you’re teaching a child, sit them on your lap and then you can put your hands over theirs on the needles and control exactly what is going on. For an adult, stand behind them and look over their shoulder and this will help you explain what they should be doing next.

Avoid the Kits

There are a huge range of kits on the market designed to help kids learn to knit and in my experience these are worse than useless. Most of the kits have needles which are like fence posts, and little fingers find it impossible to manipulate such thick needles. Many of the very cheap kits contain poor quality yarn which is not fun to work with and once the kit is made you are left with something you would never be seen dead wearing.


When teaching someone to knit, opt for slightly thicker needles such as 5.5mm or 6mm needles. I have found that using plastic or wooden needles is better than metal as they don’t seem to be so “slippy” and there are fewer dropped stitches. Standard straight needles are better for learners than circular needles; learners don’t need the added complication of trying to keep circular needles untangled. Don’t use needles which are too short or too long, stick to the average as these are most easily controlled.


If you are using thicker needles then it makes sense to use a slightly thicker yarn, something like a Robin, Wendy or King Cole chunky, an American “sportweight” yarn or even an aran weight yarn. Thin yarn can be used with thicker needles but this makes a very lacy type knitting and it also means the learner struggles to notice when they have dropped a stitch or made a mistake. Cast on around 25 stitches in your King Cole chunky or aran and get the learner knitting plain garter stitch backwards and forwards to make a scarf or something similar. Don’t be tempted to move on to more fancy things like stocking stitch or knitting two stitches together until they have completely mastered the basics.

Morag Peers is a keen knitter and the mother of three young children