yet again, only a few blogs in, I’m struggling to find the perfect thing to write about. It’s funny, because the last two weeks have been so insanely busy with school holidays, exhibition/studio launches and open days, birthdays, wine and design evenings, visits from in laws and old friends…blah blah blah the list goes on. I’m exhausted. You’d think I’d be bursting with content for my Threading the Needle blog…. I feel like rambling on about the whole two weeks would get messy. And although I would love to talk more about how the Matched exhibition has gone, I’m going to wait until I’ve edited all the photos in a few weeks. Watch This Space!
In the end I’m taking the advice of my clever cousin Makeba, a very accomplished blogger who writes for Huffpost (cool right!?) She spotted the post I put up about the workshop I did with children here in New Plymouth, making galaxy tote bags. She suggested I post a tutorial online of how to make them, it’s the kind of thing I could totally see her doing with her own children and I’m sure plenty more would love it too. I’m in the experimental stages of the galaxy designing, so I’m going to have to aim for a tutorial in the not-too-distant future. But for now I’d like to write about how it all went last week with the kids I taught, and if my undeniable “winging” of the whole situation worked out!
I was asked by my good friend if I would run a holiday workshop for the Taranaki Explorers, and my initial response was “YES!” and although I never regretted it, I did scold myself for not seeming to realize at first how terrifying the prospect was. My husband is a teacher, as are many of my friends, and the fact they rule 30 kids in a room every single day amazes and impresses me. I’ve done craft lessons in primary schools before and I think I must have left shell shocked and semi erased the experiences from my memory. So I would definitely be lying if I said the thought of sixteen 8 to 13 years olds under my control didn’t scare me. And the fact that they would be wielding paint and sharp needles made the nerves that much worse.
Thinking of what to do for the workshop was a no brainer though. I knew straight away I’d be getting the bleach out again. I’ve recently become quite obsessed with the wonderful household staple. I’ve been spraying it on anything that looked slightly plain and boring in my sewing room and jazzing it up with a few splatters here and there. And more recently still I recreated my Dad’s amazing galazy T-shirt for my miniature clothing exhibition. I thought it would be lots of fun, and manageable in three hours to do some space painting and basic stitching. Obviously putting bottles of bleach in the hands of eight year olds wasn’t an option, so luckily for me (and Rex!) I got to pre-do that bit at home. Once that was done I packed up paints, cotton, sewing machine, hairdryer, pre-bleached canvas, cotton buds, toothpicks and sponges and sat by the fire melting the ends of thirty two lengths of bag straps with a cigarette lighter to stop them fraying. I’m all ready to go.
Thursday morning arrives……I’d saved two pieces of canvas and kept them blank so I could show the kids how I spray the bleach to create the starry scene. When they saw the black fabric starting to change colour their little faces lit up, and my fears melted away. These guys were so keen to get into it and I knew I’d make it to the end of the lesson in one piece. I showed them how I would use a sponge to highlight the bleach marks already there with dabs of blue paint, create gentle shooting stars with cotton buds, and add little white star dots with white, to make a realistic space scene. Of course the kids instantly took things into their own hands and not exactly follow my advice. They were making huge black holes, multi-coloured vortexes, and asteroids the size of Jupiter all over their canvas. One particularly gorgeous little girl was taking her sponge and sweeping pink EVERYWHERE, with giant blobs of blue to fill any gaps. Probs could of skipped the bleach on that one. The cool thing was that I didn’t have to fight my usual urge to be a control freak and make them stop. I could quickly see that what these kids were creating was way cooler and more creative than my example.
After a snack break and a lot of hairdryer action on the paint we were ready to start sewing. Eek! I showed the children two basic stitches to sew up the sides of their bags. But I was well aware that what was basic to me was definitely not basic to somebody who had never used a needle before. They were brilliant, and enthusiastic, and got straight to it. But I quickly realized that going around to each child with their hand held in the air was not going to work. I set myself up at a desk and they were all very good at forming an orderly queue for me to help them knot their threads, untangle their tangles, and even thread their needles. cute! I’d told them that when they’d finished the sides they would all get a turn to use my sewing machine to hem the top of their bags. One pretty smart boy was so keen to do it that the suggested 3-5mm stitches suddenly turned into 3-5cm stitches and he ran up to me with a grin shouting “FINISHED!” when I showed him that 5cm stitches didn’t look so flash when the bag was turned the right way out his poor face was crestfallen. But the trooper was keen to do it properly, and he did.
Everyone had a turn with the machine, and then it was my turn to frantically sew on the handles. By the end every student had an amazing bag to take home, and their own sense of achievement was times sixteen for me. I was so proud of them, and relieved with myself for finishing in one quite flustered, and slightly sweaty piece. One of the kids made an amazing time lapse video of me madly sewing at the end to get them all done as I watched parents arriving and waiting, and waiting (I went over time by 25 minutes, oops) but I can’t put the video on the internet because it’s full of the kids’ faces. Doh! But here are a few photos to share with you…..