Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sewing Rules, Supplies & Starter Bags

As I mentioned the other day, this week I started my 6th curriculum rotation of the school year. It's been interesting teaching each subject only for about five weeks (minus half days, Monday holidays, institute days, etc); I've had to really think about what is essential to include and how to most efficiently meet my course objectives in that small amount of time. I've also learned many of the quirks of junior high students in general and of students at my school in particular. I'm going to share how I organize my sewing unit as I go along, in case you're looking for any ideas. I always am, so feel free to share what you do as well! Note: if you are not a FACS teacher, this is not going to be all that interesting. Perhaps even if you are a FACS teacher, it won't be all that interesting : )

We always start out with the rules. Some are worded a little harshly, but I've learned that blunt is usually the best for understanding. Here they are (they receive these in the form of skeleton notes, and we fill in the blanks during a PowerPoint presentation):

One thing that I have learned at every school I have worked at is that classes can be very unreliable and/or unpredictable about providing their own sewing supplies. Aside from the "forgetting" and unlimited lists of excuses, sometimes kids bring in things that either aren't quite right, aren't in good repair, or are just plain weird. I've found it so much easier to simply provide the basics, that way I know for sure that all students will have the right supplies on the correct day that I plan to begin sewing. Also, everybody has the exact same supplies which seems to limit petty bickering and jealousy.

Since my sewing unit is so short this year, the only supplies I require my students to provide on their own is the fabric for their one sewing machine project, a pillowcase - all they have to bring in is 3/4 yard of one fabric and 1/3 yard of a coordinating fabric. Even with this, I give them the option to pay me (one week in advance) for fabric, and I will make sure I have some on hand for them when we begin (limited choices of designs, of course). Here is the supply/info sheet I hand out:



So all that being said, when we begin the sewing unit, I give each student a starter bag. Here is what I include:

 
1: Quart-sized baggie. Can be a little tight at times, but I found that gallon-sized baggies took up way too much room. I write each student's name on their baggie with a Sharpie. During one rotation I tried sticking a label on the outside (I love printed labels!) but the kids tended to write/doodle/scratch out letters on those labels which made them difficult to read over time; also, when baggies fell into "enemy" hands people tended to write unpleasant things on that person's name label, which is easily marked with a standard pen or pencil. During another rotation I tried attaching a label on the inside of the bag, but that made it tricky to see when the bag was full. So a Sharpie it is!

2: Iron-on patch and needle. I cut iron-on patches into roughly 2" x 3" rectangles, then teach students to "Tuck, tuck, needle stuck" every time we clean up. Lost needles are a HUGE pet peeve of mine. When I first started teaching I would replace them, but they of course wound up all over the floor. Then I started to charge for additional needles. That backfired, because when kids dropped them they were too lazy to look for them and would just pay for a new needle. Again, needle-covered floor. No more. I have a very firm ONE NEEDLE policy. If it becomes lost, they must bring in one on their own, no exceptions. There's always one kid who will try to call my "bluff" - ha, doesn't work, Buster! Anyway, they tuck-tuck the needles into their needle patch before putting their needles away in their baggies. This way they are easy to locate in the baggie, won't get lost in the shuffle while looking for other supplies, and won't poke through and fall out. I begin clean-up time each day by saying "Everybody needs to tuck-tuck!" Usually several of the kids will then yell out "Needle stuck!" - it's kinda fun. I started out by using small rectangles of canvas, but the patches are quicker to prepare and the slightly gummy coating helps keep the needle in place. BIG sanity saver!

3: Bobbin of thread. Full spools take up a lot of room in a baggie, so I don't want to give one out to everybody. Also, at my current school they get stolen quite often if I put several out to share, which I learned the hard way. My students also don't share very well, so it's best if they each have their own source of thread. Each student gets a bobbin; if they lose it, they pay a quarter for a replacement. When it runs out of thread I trade them a new one for their empty one.

4: Dot paper! I use this paper to teach basic stitches before we use them on fabric or any kind of project. It makes it very easy for them to clearly see what they are doing as well as what the stitch is supposed to look like. Some of them groan about it when learning the first stitch, but after moving to fabric they understand the point of it and are much more cooperative when we go back to the paper to learn the next stitch.

5. Piece of scrap fabric. I use this fabric for pinning and cutting practice before we get to a real project.

6. Oval printed on paper. Students cut this out, pin to the FOLDED piece of scrap fabric, and cut out two identical pieces. Most students usually complain about how dumb this is before actually doing it. Then most students usually complain about how hard it is to cut around a shape. Some of them will acknowledge that practicing first was a good idea.

Side note: Have any of you noticed a sudden and sharp decline in fine motor skills, particularly cutting skills? Since starting out seven years ago I've noticed that scissors skills have absolutely plummeted. Just the way some of these kids hold scissors makes part of my brain throb. How do they not know that's not right??!!

7. Three buttons: large, medium, small. We start by sewing the large button onto the green ovals they have cut out, then move our way down through the medium and then the small. We aim for pretty on the front and on the back! By the third one most of them actually nail it down pretty well.

8. Monkey pattern! This is our first hand-sewing project, a carryover from the high school classes I taught. For whatever reason most kids get really excited about these monkeys, even the boys. Go figure. I let them choose their own colors from a classroom collection of felt, so I don't include the material in their baggie initially. They do keep the felt in their baggies as they work on the project, and it fits perfectly fine with everything else.

9. Small rectangle of plastic canvas. Our second hand-sewn project is yarn on plastic canvas. We begin by practicing on a small piece to work out the pitfalls of tangles and the details of knots, etc. They obviously use a different needle, but I have learned not to give that one out until they are ready for yarn - otherwise if they lose their regular needle they try to use the bigger one on their monkey project, which of course just destroys the felt.

Desk trashcan - a jazzed up baby formula can to be used as a trash can during class, and as a scissors/pin cushion holder in between classes. For these I do stick printed name labels on the inside. They're easy to remove and replace for the next class, and kids are much more likely to empty their trash cans and keep their supplies neat if they know they'll be stuck with the same can the next day.


There you have it - all of my intro to sewing preparation. If only I had come up with all of this half a dozen years ago rather than piecing it together bit by bit...




51 comments:

  1. Your classroom dynamics sounds very similar to mine. Great sewing organization ideas!!! If the students lose their needle and do not get another one, what do they do while everyone else is working?

    jbrooks@florencek12.org
    North Alabama

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    1. Hiya! Should they lose their needle, I have a wonderful (read: tedious) book assignment for them to do. It usually only takes 1-2 days of that before they realize that I am not bluffing and that worksheets are painful. I also encourage my more entrepreneurial students to bring in a pack of needles to sell piecemeal to their hapless classmates. Thanks for reading!

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    2. Hello! I'm a brand spanking new middle school FACS teacher this year and your website has lessened a lot of my anxiety about the upcoming "big day"! Could you please give an example of the book assignment you have? Also, thank you so much for all the work you put into this website!

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    3. Hi Felisha,
      I took over for a retiree, so I have some ancient sewing textbooks. I created several "worksheets" simply by taking the questions at the end of chapters and formatting them on a page (if they can't keep track of a needle they are certainly not going to be bringing their own notebook paper to class, and it's easier for me to read a nicely formatted document than try to figure out from their handwriting which question they are responding to!). They are TERRIBLE, but a great motivator for getting students back on track!
      Thanks for reading!

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  2. I would LOVE your monkey pattern! We are going to start our sewing section in a few weeks and I love the looks of it! Can I get a copy of it?

    Thanks!
    Susan
    ssumpter@taylorisd.org

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    1. I would also love a copy of your monkey pattern, please!
      Thanks,
      Brittany
      bday227@msn.com

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    2. Sent! I hope it works well for you. Thanks for stopping by!

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    3. Thank you for sharing. I would love the monkey pattern sent to me. mcariker@putnamcityschools.org
      Thank you,
      Marni Cariker

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    4. Enjoy the monkeys! Thanks for reading!

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    5. I would love to have your monkey pattern. My address is phillipsh@sccsd.k12.ar.us
      Holly Phillips
      Morrilton High School
      FACS

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  3. Could I also get a monkey pattern sent to me please. Crissyyoung@hotmail.com. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas!

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  4. Great article! I'm excited to use your ideas. How did you creat your supply list? I love the layout of it. Also, may I have your monkey pattern? Awndrea.newman@madison.kyschools.us

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    1. I created the supply list in MS Word - I sent a copy along with the monkey pattern to your email for you! Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. Could I get a copy of that monkey pattern too please? meghanbaggett@claytonschools.net

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  5. I love how organized this is. I would love your supplie list and monkey pattern. Thanks


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    1. I'd be happy to send them! Send me your email address - facsclassroomideas@gmail.com - and I'll send them your way!

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  6. Could you please email me the pattern and supply list? This would be perfect to introduce sooo many skills in my Textiles and Clothing class.

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    1. Sure! Either reply with your email address in these comments or email me at facsclassroomideas@gmail.com.

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  7. GREAT IDEAS. Could you please email me the supply list and the monkey pattern please? softball17chic@gmail.com

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  8. Could you please email me your directions and pattern. I love following your blog and classroom ideas. This would be perfect for our 6th grade curriculum. Thank you very much,
    AllyssaM0811@gmail.com

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  9. Great tips! I give each group of students a container of needles that they have to show me to count before they can leave, needles drive me nuts!!! Can you please send me your supply list and monkey pattern! christina_miller@sd34.bc.ca
    Thanks!

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  11. Is there any way you could send me your monkey pattern?
    Ashley.mcginnis@russellville.kyschools.us

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  12. Hi
    May I also have your monkey pattern? akalkhoff@spirit-lake.k12.ia.us
    Thanks!

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  13. Love your suggestions for organization and sanity in a sewing classroom. I would also love a copy of your monkey pattern, please. Thanks so much!
    beverly.falk@tdsb.on.ca

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  14. I love your ideas. I am lucky to work with a fabulous FACS teacher. I am a special education teacher and I was searching for some additional ideas to support my students and build on their success. I would love to try your monkey pattern with my group. Is it available anywhere? Thank you! Mr. R

    crenner@cpsk12.org

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  15. Could you email me your monkey pattern as well? catherine.lewis@onslow.k12.nc.us

    Thank you! I've used your trashcan idea in my Apparel class last semester... it worked AWESOME! My kids loved having them, and if I forgot to put them out, my kids were quick to ask for them :)

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  16. This will be my first year teaching middle school FACS! Could I get the monkey pattern as well? Do you have any tips for a first year teacher that will help my year go smoothly? I love your blog and all your great ideas! lauramnly@yahoo.com

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  17. Came across your blog today...great ideas! If you're willing to share your monkey pattern, I would love to have it. Hodovance@gmail.com

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  18. I love you blog and would really love a copy of your monkey pattern if you dont mind sharing! Thanks for sharing all your great tips and information. chaundaadams@live.com

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  19. Enjoyed your blog and thankful for new, well thought out lessons. May I please get a copy of your monkey pattern.
    rray@farmcards.org

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  20. Enjoyed your blog and thankful for new, well thought out lessons. May I please get a copy of your monkey pattern.
    rray@farmcards.org

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  21. I would also love a copy of the monkey! Please email me at mpalmer@tcjackets.net. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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  22. Love all of this. This is my first year teaching FACS. Could you please send me the monkey pattern and supply list as well.
    tammy.goodwin1964@gmail.com.
    Thank you so very much.

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  23. As a Social Studies teacher going into my first year I was given the opportunity to also teach the Home and Careers class at our school. It's safe to say I'm out of my comfort zone and would love a copy of your monkey pattern and supply list! Thank you so much for your awesome insight into FACS! dennyk@phcs.neric.org

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  24. I would LOVE to have your monkey pattern! Your website has been a life savor many times!
    bkendall@bssd.net

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  25. I would love these resources as well! This is awesome! amywibb@gmail.com

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  27. Hi, great site! It is my first time teaching FACS. I am looking for hand sewing ideas. Please send the monkey pattern to-
    ptlubberts@gmail.com

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  28. I love this monkey pattern and the dot paper used with the stitches. Could you possibly send me a copy?

    My e-mail is KaylaWarren1991@gmail.com

    Thanks for sharing!

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  29. Can I use the copy of the dot paper? Your videos are amazing!

    awibbenmeyer@oran.k12.mo.us

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  30. Finally purchased my bundle and can't wait to receive it! Hoping to use even more of your resources in a few weeks, during our sewing unit! :)

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    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I am SO glad you commented here: whether you intended to or not, you marked your donation as "anonymous" so I have no contact information for you! If you email me at facsclassroomideas@gmail.com I can send the bundle out to you.
      Thanks!

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  31. You are a lifesaver!! I was in need of some fresh ideas and boom- there they are!! Would it be possible for you to send me a copy of the monkey pattern? Mbrasuell@lcisd.org

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  32. How long did the monkey project take for the kids to complete? Could I get the pattern, please?
    pbarchard@365.sd58.bc.ca

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  33. FACS teacher goals!! I would love to have a copy of your supply list, and the monkey pattern, if you are willing to share.

    abaliey@sdale.org

    Thank you so much!!

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  34. Loved, loved, loved your ideas. This is my 24th year of teaching, but first year back with 9th grade FACS in 8 years. :) Would love to have your monkey pattern if you don't mind sharing, again. :)

    Thanks,
    Tperkins2276@pcssd.org

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  35. I love your ideas! Others have commented about a bundle and your videos. Where can I find these? I would also enjoy your monkey pattern and dot sheet. My email is krosebergs@gmail.com

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  36. Just want to say I am using your ideas for a sewing bag with a group of 7th graders right now and it is going so well! We used your YouTube videos and the students loved sewing on paper and now on felt! We are using this pattern for a little monster (no e-textiles this time) https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/lilytiny-plush-monster instead of the monkey and they are really having fun and excited about it. This is a group with some strong personalities and tough behaviors, and that still exists but it is so rewarding to see them doing something they are enjoying and learning from. PS I made a donation so had some of the resources in the blog packs you created and shared. Thanks again!

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    1. Ooooh, I love those monsters! Will have to try!
      I'm so glad the resources are of help to you. Thank you so much for your donation! You may have heard in the news lately about the FDA approving a new treatment where they are using the patient's own immune system to target and destroy cancer cells, which they believe may be a turning point for cancer therapy. Your donation went to the organization funding this research, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You are a blood cancer warrior!
      Thank you again!

      https://www.lls.org/lls-us-hq/news/fda-approves-second-lls-supported-car-t-cell-immunotherapy-a-revolutionary-approach-to-cancer-treatment

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