Sew Many Adventures Ahead

There is nothing like it really.  The pride on a kid’s face when he or she has created something.  It doesn’t matter WHAT it is.  It could be a cardboard sculpture. It could be a light up bracelet. It could be a new invention that simply didn’t exist yesterday.  But the second the chance arrives to SHARE their designs with others, and even better, allow their design to HELP another person?  School just became the motivating and engaging learning environment that kids deserve.

I thought it was just the magic of cardboard, but this past week, I learned it was more.  It’s personal.  It’s learning and creating.   The little turquoise sewing machines in our learning space were brought to life.   Our students that use our space are PreK to 4th graders, so we chose the small machines because they are little, portable, very safe, and do the basics needed.

Why sewing?

  • Authentic use of math including measurement, counting, fractions, decimals, perimeter, and area.
  • Critical thinking about settings and stitches.
  • Problem solving to troubleshoot. .
  • Fine motor skills to load the thread or complete with hand-stitching.
  • Room to grow… persevere. Be resilient.
  • The machine becomes a place to collaborate.  Kids love to help each other learn.
  • Our future is in fibers and wearable devices and sewing to create our own wearables is going to become essential.
  • Machine stitching has many curricular uses, such as to create and publish books.
  • Use conductive thread in a machine to create light up designs and practice circuitry.
  • Take design thinking prototyping to the next level when using a wider variety of textiles for more flexibility.
  • Practice using patterns to develop skills in multi-step projects.
  • Decisions like: Should I use duct-tape for this? Should I stitch it by hand? Would the machine stitch be better?”

We have to take our students beyond saving a file in MSWord and farther than typing in a Google Doc.  It’s not that technology skills don’t matter… it’s that technology is SO much bigger than software on computers or iPads.  Technology is about using devices to create our own version of our story, interpreted from our minds, through our hearts, right down through our fingers.  Laser cutting, 3d design, and even sewing.

Our sewing adventures are just in the beginning stages, but I already see the value in our little blue machines. It took one moment to hook me in… a kid was threading the machine and it was challenging the first time… the student looked at me and said, “I’m NOT giving up on this.”

I’m working on some graphics to make our machine more accessible to our kiddos and I’m sharing, because making is all about collaboration.  Download a PDF  of the two files below. 



The Grain of the Wood

Power tools. Wood. Creating.  There was almost something therapeutic about it. Taking the raw wood, with it’s knots and imperfections and cutting it into strips.  Perfecting the strips and gluing them together and finally, cutting it all into a rectangular shape. Sanding away the rough spots, embracing the tiny places where the router had dug too deep, or where I had failed to guide it.

I love digital work as much as a bird loves a french fry. Photoshop. Illustrator. Movie making. Photo filtering. Typing out thoughts in a blog post. Poster creating.  I love a good visual.

But this project?  The tactile aspect of sanding wood. The lack of the “undo” button.  The woodchips that stick to your skin.  The way a knot can reshape your project or a change in the grain can add surprise beauty. All I made was a small rectangular cutting board. But it was more than that. It was a tactile reminder of creating with raw materials.  The importance of making sure our students get their work off of servers, beyond the iPad Camera Roll, out of the cloud, and into their hands.  Publishing books, displaying movies in a public setting, building prototypes with cardboard, 3d printing designs and testing them, lasercutting and wiring a light, dreaming up a new invention and creating it.

These things all take precious time. Like a two night woodworking class.  Time I definitely didn’t have to give up in my busy week.  But, time I made that turned out to be worth far more than I thought it would.  The balance of disconnecting digitally to reconnect with your own thoughts somehow. Making changes you and opens up new parts of yourself that you’ve forgotten about, or that you didn’t even know existed.

It’s why I’ll never be able to make a list of stuff to put in a makerspace.  That internal connection with creating can’t be simplified into a list. If you try to, you’ll miss out on everything that’s so wonderful about making in the first place. And I saw that in the grain of the wood tonight.  I’m just glad I made time to see it.