Colonial Embroidery Project
Every other year when I teach American History and my unit on colonial life, I like to have my students put together an embroidery project. I start by giving them a photo copy of a simple pattern I draw out of a circle with leaves and flowers. They tape the copy to their desk and then take a square piece of white fabric and tape it to their desk over the pattern copy. Using a pencil, they trace the pattern onto the fabric.
By now the fabric is ready to be stretched out across an embroidery hoop. I get these inexpensively from a local thrift shop. Students start by learning how to separate the embroidery floss, thread a needle, and tie a knot. I then teach them different stitches as they progress through the pattern. It really is an outstanding fine motor skill lesson.
When they have finished their projects, we wash and iron the material and tape it to a piece of cereal box-like cardboard using masking tape.
I then have them tape an overhead projection transparency sheet to the back of a frame that I have already cut out for them from colored cardboard. When this is done, they tape the two pieces of cardboard – the one with their project and the one that is a frame – together.
As a final touch, I add a few decorations with black and gold marker. The embroidery samples are then hung on display.
Even though many needles are lost and there is a lot of thread-wasting during this project, I consider it well worth the cost because of the connection it provides students to colonial history, as well as the skills they gain and their beautiful final results.
I have found that some students continue to embroider even after this project is done. During parent-teacher conferences a couple weeks ago, one set of parents beamed with delight as they thanked me for helping their daughter develop an interest in this skill. There words were, “You are the right teacher for her at this time in her life! Now we are buying her her own hoops and thread. Even her little sister has taken an interest.”