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The basic NINE.

The basic NINE

STITCHERY IS A FORM OF NEEDLEwork where something new is always being added: the combining of different threads and yarns, different textures and the introduction of vibrant colors and contemporary designs. so much pleasure has been derived from decorative stitching that it has been r eferred to as "needleplay," as well as needlework. whether it is referred to as stitchery, needlework, needleplay or embroidery, it is a living art and is entitled to the recognition it deserves.

History of embroidery

It is known that embroidery was done as early as the fifth century, and that the use of wool in embroidery goes back at least 1000 years. Family, friends and perhaps professional embroiderers were known to assist the lady of the house with her work on embroideries during the early stages of this art.

There are probably more than three hundred related stitches in embroidery which have been developed through the years. Every civilized country in the world has some form of embroidery or a particular stitch unique to its culture which has been brought to the peak of its perfection under the oldest apprenticeship in the world, mother to daughter.

Throughout history this art form has adorned our daily life, expressing our inborn need for beauty and ornament. Today, it is taking on a new scope with traditional stitches used in fresh ways. In most European countries embroidery is taught in the schools, as is knitting and crocheting. More of this is now being done in art classes in American schools. With this in mind and with an eye toward perpetuating this skill among my younger students, I decided to teach creative stitchery to my third grade students.

Stitchery in the classroom

To inspire the students and whet their appetites, I first showed them some samplers done by children their age in Guatemala. I showed pictures of the beautiful clothing worn by the nobility in the Middle Ages and we studied the needlework on clothing worn by peasants around the world over the centuries. I pointed out that, today, handwork on clothing is very popular and colorful. The children showed a keen interest in the project as well as appreciation for the effort, planning and time needed to complete this type of undertaking.

My own heritage made it a bit easier for me to bridge the gap between inspiring my students and having them create a work of art; my maternal grand-mother was descended from generations of lace weavers in France and I was taught as a child to weave and create art with fiber. I was delighted to share my experience and love of the medium with my students.

Before students began stitching on burlap, we practiced using 9" x 12" (23 cm x 30 cm) pieces of oaktag. I instructed students to draw eight lines across the paper horizontally, 1" (2 cm) apart. Then I asked them to punch holes along each line approximately 1/2" (1 cm) apart with a #18 large-eye needle (cautioning them not to hurt themselves). This makes it easier to sew on the oaktag and gives the students a guide to follow.

Tangles and knots must always be anticipated when working with yarn. To help prevent this possibility I cut yarn pieces (approximately one arm's length) for the students to use. I used oaktag to teach the stitches because it keeps its shape and after the stitches are learned and labeled, it becomes a reference card or guide for students to use when they are working on their burlap pieces.

I demonstrated each of the following stitches: straight or running stitch, backward, chain, cross, blanket (a good border or edge stitch), satin or filler stitch, french knot, applique and overlap stitch (also a good border stitch). I found that these "basic" nine stitches gave students an ample variety to create interesting samplers. The children practiced their stitches on their oaktag cards. Some students practiced by drawing simple paper sketches at home.

After the stitches were taught and the children had practiced them, I gave each child a 9" x 12" (23 cm x 30 cm) piece of manila paper and asked them to draw and color a picture for their sampler. Their instructions were to start their projects with a simple motif and use at least three different stitches. The sketch now becomes their pattern and color guide.

After deciding on their color schemes and designs, they decided what color burlap to use and the procedure for mounting began. I cut the different colored burlap into 9" x 12" (23 cm x 30 cm) pieces. I also cut a few pieces into different sizes in case a student had a particular design which required a special size.

I then gave each child another piece of manila paper along with the burlap (do not cut manila paper even if it is larger than the burlap--simply fold the manila paper over the burlap and staple a border edge of about 3/4" all around. This will prevent the burlap from fraying and help it keep its shape.) Students were now ready to begin their samplers with the stich selected for the border.

After the border was completed the design was drawn onto the burlap with either a white crayon or black permanent magic marker. The students referred to their oaktag reference cards and sketches to complete their creative stitchery sampler.

As the sampler started to take shape the students were free to use as many stitches in as many different ways as they chose to create a design truly their own. The finished samplers were wonderful--we had such a variety, using so many different stitches and combinations of stitches, that it was difficult to believe that the work was done by third grade students.

Helpful hints

* If your yarn is in skeins, wrap them into balls to avoid knotting and snarling. Balls of yarn may be kept in a plastic deli or ice cream container with a hole in its lid to permit yarn feed-through. Students should be encouraged to measure and use one full arm's length of yarn at a time, except when doing the border. (Longer lengths make it easier to complete the border without too many knots.) I always advise students to frequently check the back of their work to avoid knots.

* Gather students around you as you demonstrate stitching techniques or demonstrate at each individual table. I always have those students who learn the stitches quickly act as "assistant instructors." They enjoy being helpers and become truly excellent at this art. (This year two of my "helpers" completed their own beautiful samplers and then asked if they could make a sampler for our principal. Samplers are now proudly displayed in the Principal and Assistant Principal offices and add a certain charm and warmth to our building.)

* At our Fine Arts and Science Fair I set up a table for my students to work on their samplers so that visitors and parents could see firsthand how the students were enjoying the project. All were impressed.
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Title Annotation:stitchery
Author:Harap, Linda
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Previous Article:Ceramic studio safety.
Next Article:Transformed folk art.

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