Awhile back, as you may recall, we received a Twisted Strands™ contribution from Hopmeadow Nursery School. In return, when we sent along a Certificate of Participation we also sent them a braid of yarn. The yarn contained 10 strands, one for each child, and we challenged the children to create something. A bit of time passed and one day we saw on their Facebook page an entry about our challenge and their response. They sewed their strands onto fabric to create a unique art piece to frame and display in their classroom. They then announced they were sending us a material and challenged us to create something. A package arrived at Salt Meadow Academy a short time later containing a letter and some muslin squares.
We called a class meeting to open the package together. The children at Hopmeadow guessed that we would make a quilt, draw pictures on the fabric and other very creative suggestions. However, our oldest student “N” had a great idea! “We should make something totally different than any of the things that they guessed”, he said. One child suggested we make shirts from the fabric squares, but after holding them up came to the realization that none of them would be small enough to fit in a shirt made from a 12×12 muslin square. It was then suggested that they could make one shirt from all of the squares but they each wanted to be able to wear it and the older children decided it would be to big for the two year olds. After a lot of back and forth and a couple days of consideration the class decided that it definitely wanted to create something that each of them could take home. So what could we create with these identical pieces of muslin that would be unique to each individual child at Salt Meadow Academy? Pillows?!
“But we don’t know how to sew!”
“The needle is sharp.”
“I have a sewing machine at home.”
“How do you make a pillow?”
The suggestion was met with mixed reaction and questions. The idea was explored a bit more with one child saying she didn’t want a plain white pillow and she asked if she could draw with crayons on her fabric square. The others took to this idea immediately and we were off and running with the decision to make pillows confirmed….though “we still don’t know how to sew.”
Over the course of the next few days the children designed their fabric to fit their individual style. Robots, video game characters, rainbows and butterflies emerged in full color on the fabric. When they tired of drawing on their own fabric, children wandered to look at what others were drawing. The drawing process took nearly a week as we don’t see all of our children on a daily basis. When a child that hadn’t already started designing their pillow began, the other children excitedly explained what they had drawn and got out the needed supplies for the child just starting out.
With the designs finalized on the fabric, the next step in the process for the children to discover was “How do you make a pillow?” The first stop was into the room where the youngest children nap to take a closer look at pillows.
“They are fluffy inside.”
“This pillow is much bigger than my fabric.”
“There are two pieces of fabric.”
“I think there are four pieces because this pillow is a rectangle.”
“How does the stuffing get inside?”
It was ultimately decided that the pillow needed a front piece of fabric and a back piece of fabric along with some stuffing. We had quite a bit of fabric scraps leftover in our classroom that we could have used for the pillow backings but the children felt they were not good or new enough to create these special pillows with. They desired bright fancy fabric with designs on it.
This picture shows some of the fabric that was found in the clearance bin at our local Joann fabrics. Next to the fabric lay some of the children’s drawings.
One the first sewing day, we had only a very small group of children. Fabric squares were chosen and marked with stitching lines to make the sewing process a little easier. Luckily, I’ve done a lot of sewing by hand and by machine so teaching the children how to sew came quite easy. We did use real needles much to the excitement of the children. The dull plastic needles wouldn’t have pushed through the fabric. The children were aware that the needles for were sharp and that they needed to work slowly and carefully to avoid pricked fingers. Of course, a couple finger pricks occurred over the course but nothing major and soon the room was silent with children bent over diligently assembling their pillows.
Sewing so slowly and carefully is tiring for little hands. So when they tired of stitching we put their fabric away to work on another day. We did not outline a timeline for completion of this project because I felt the joy would be sucked right out of it if the children were pushed. The fine motor skills and concentration needed to stitch all the way around their fabric was incredible. It took about two weeks of on and off attempts to finish to the point where the pillows could be stuffed.
At last, the long awaited pillow stuffing day came! I never would have guessed how many giggles would occur during pillow stuffing but it sure was a lot! We went through a couple bags of stuffing to get the pillows to the appropriate “fluffiness”. After the stuffing, a couple stitches secured the hole and they were ready to snuggle!
Thank you to Hopmeadow Nursery School for the challenge! We had so much fun creating our pillows and they’ve all been taken home to snuggle with! Our children are brainstorming what material we could send your class this time! Which leads to the next project idea by the children.
Twisted Strands™ allowed us to meet classes and learn about children all over the world through their letters and ribbons! Since we haven’t received any ribbons for quite some time, the children are again looking for some mail. The new learning branch is now dubbed the SMA Challenge™. Does anyone else want to send a project material to challenge our children? Please send a material along with a letter from your program and the children at Salt Meadow Academy will create something amazing!
Please mail your challenge to:
Salt Meadow Academy Challenge™
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413