Handcrafts in the Curriculum

Years ago it would have been called part of home economics, now it is often called handcrafts. Skills such as sewing, knitting, crochet and cooking are still important to learn in today’s technology driven society.

Why? People still need to wear clothes, sleep under blankets, keep their feet warm in socks, and eat. It is important that children learn to appreciate how much work goes into making those items. At best they will have the skills and confidence to make the items they need.

What and how does one teach these skills to children? What if you, the parent, do not know how?

The answer to the second is simple, learn with your children. As for the first, the Internet is brimming with  advice and resources. You can also visit your library for a wealth of beginner books, or your local fabric or yarn shop where they often have groups or classes where both beginning adults and well-behaved children are welcome.

The first real handcraft often taught to children is knitting. The teacher need no be an expert knitter. If the instructor can knit a simple stockinette stitch scarf then they can teach a child the basics of knitting. Waldorf schools teach kindergartners to knit using rhymes.

Common ones are:

Knit: “In through the front door, Around the back, Out through the window, And off jumps jack.”

Purl: “Under the fence, Catch the sheep, Back we come, Off we leap”

Big needles (not giant) and a basic worsted weight yarn are the best to learn with. Acrylic or wool tend to be easier to handle than cotton. Don’t start out with chunky or soft yarns, as they are more challenging to deal with.

After the child can knit well enough to create a stockinette scarf, consider moving on to hand or machine sewing. Around 8 years some kids this might be a bit too young to be started on a machine, but will be ready to learn simple hand sewing skills. when they are tall enough to reach the sewing machine pedal on he floor, children will likely be ready to learn the basics of machine sewing. A favorite book for making children’s clothes is Kwik Sew’s Sewing For Children . It has all of the patterns ready to trace and detailed, diagrammed instructions. This book can be used as a main teaching spine. Polar fleece type fabric is great for a child’s first few projects since it is easy to cut, there is no need to finish the raw edges, and less than perfect stitching is hidden in the thickness of the fabric.

Other fiber related skills, such as crochet and spinning are also accessible to children. Good beginner books and ample online resources exist to help get started. Adults can turn to the website Ravelry.com, to find assistance, patterns, and instructions at all levels from an active fiber community.

Cooking is a skill best learned by helping. Caregivers can start giving toddler small jobs as soon as the children are able to follow directions. As the child grows, more complicated jobs can be assigned. Eventually, the child will be making his or her own lunches and snacks without any adult help. Teenagers can easily learn to cook whole family meals. The publishers of the popular Moosewood cookbooks, have a short series of cookbooks for teaching children to cook safely and healthily. For older kids, they can learn for the same cookbooks and television shows that adults utilize.

The best reason, beyond appreciation and self-reliance, is the confidence and self-esteem boost that practically glows out the kids when they have a completed a project with one of their new learned skills.

Resources:

General:

http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/profdev/profdev100.shtml

http://www.craftster.org

Knitting:

http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/teach-knit.html

http://www.woolworks.org/kids.html

http://www.knittinghelp.com/knitting/basic_techniques/knit.php

http://www.ravelry.com

Crochet:

http://www.crochet.org/teach/toc.html

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/crochet_more/70578

http://www.nexstitch.com/Tutorials.html

Sewing:

http://sewing.about.com/library/blsumer.htm

http://sewing.about.com/library/lessons/blessonindex.htm

Kool-Aid Dyeing:

http://www.woolworks.org/dyeing.html

Felting:

http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jhtml?type=content&id=channel172345