Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sewing teacher

Last Thursday my normal English class of three kids was minus the boy (he had told me he was going off with his family for the day) and so I decided to teach the two girls how to use a sewing machine. These are my kids that don't talk and don't smile much. I brought down fabric from my sewing drawers and let them choose two fabrics each for a makeshift pillowcase. I didn't have the correct measurements for fabric but since Japanese pillows are smaller anyway I guess it really doesn't matter to them.

As expected, there were no shouts of joy over what fabric they might use. Very polite, quietly claim a fabric and wait.

Ok. Help me get out the iron, the ironing board, the sewing machine, the rotary cutter, the cutting board, the ruler.

Now you iron your fabric while you cut yours to this length.

Quiet work. No chatting. No telling me when they are done, just wait for me to notice.

Ok. Now this is the way you use the sewing machine. The backstitch, the forward stitch, try going a little faster. Watch the foot so your seam doesn't slip.

Ok. Backstitch again. That's the way you "tie" a knot with a sewing machine. Then use the scissor button to cut the thread. Lift the foot from the back there. Now, why don't you go over there and iron this and then I'll show you how to use the zig-zag stitch.

I have no idea if they had fun or if it was just a trial to bear with. I MADE them smile for the pictures.

We finished a bit early and after quietly putting everything away I asked questions about their "sewing"experiences. In Japan, children have a home economics class in 5th and 6th grade. All the kids are expected to buy a sewing box and the schools hand out colorful pamphlets with 20 or so different boxes with different colorful characters on the lids. For the boys, superheros. For the girls, Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh etc. All the boxes hold similar things like scissors, thread, marking chalk etc. I remember Takumi and Leiya were very excited to buy their sewing boxes (expensive things too!) but I don't recall that the boxes got used much. I think boys and girls were required to make a very simple bag and I remember Leiya did a couple other projects but I think Takumi only made the bag.

I asked my girls what they were learning in home economics. The 5th grade girl politely answered that she had learned how to tie a knot at the end of the thread. Hmmm. A whole lesson learning to tie a knot? Another lesson was devoted to learning to sew on a button. Well, that seems practical. Among other lessons during the year I guess the students are given a piece of fabric and they are taught how to do a running stitch, a backstitch and another stitch that I'd never heard of and I've done a lot of sewing! My 6th grade girl said that she had made the required bag.

I can't say that any of that sounds fun. To me sewing is FUN (well, not when I'm ripping out seams). I mean that's why I do it! I have a great time! I like the challenge of seeing if I can do it. As a child I remember doing numerous embroidery projects (maybe my mother gave me a 30 second lesson on how to do a backstitch) and I know I spent a lot more time doing than I did learning.

As my girls were leaving I mentioned that if they wanted to do any other sewing someday I'd be happy to show them how to do other things... but maybe they weren't that interested in sewing (hey, I know some people are more sports minded, music minded, etc.)

One girl quietly said "Tanoshikatta." which means "It was fun."

What do you think? If I'm waiting for anyone to spin with delight I'll be waiting forever, but maybe in their own way my two girls had a good time. I doubt if either one is ever going to remind me of my offer to sew with them so I'll just have to offer again when I'm in the mood and have some extra time. How I would like to instill in these two sweeties a love for needlework!
(Dare I say it... Probably would give them more satisfaction later in life than being able to speak English!)


Bobbie Bentneedle said...

Maybe they will surprise you. The smile on their lips does seemed a bit forced - but they do seem to be smiling with their eyes, which (in my experience) is harder to "fake"! Good job.
Bobbie in Texas

Quilt Pixie said...

Sounds like teaching these two would be very difficult -- part of what makes teaching work for me is the interplay between students and myself... Perhaps a choice between sewing or another activity would at least let you know that they prefered one activity over the other...

Julie said...

They are such precious little girls! I agree wiht giving them a choice of activities to see which they prefer. Great idea!

Amanda said...

Can you imagine a classful like that? In my stressed moments that would have seemed ideal, but it wouldn't have been much fun really. It must be quite difficult to teach children when you don't get any reactions or feedback.

anne bebbington said...

As reserved as they are they do seem a little pleased with the fruits of their labours - maybe you did flick a little switch for the future but I have to say it sounds jolly hard work to me!

artfilstitch said...

One never knows just what influence they have left on children until later in the childs life. They will undoubtly remember you in a positive way...the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. Your seeds are not sewn in vain!

Shelina said...

I'm sure the girls will think of you every time they use their pillow cases, and will be proud of their accomplishments at actually have made something. I do understand your frustration though at not knowing whether they enjoyed themselves. I think you should take the "tanoshikatta" at face value. They obviously had fun and had to tell you, so that you wouldn't take sewing away from them!

meggie said...

It seems sad that the two lovely girls are so solemn. Do they have any siblings, or are they 'only' children? Are their parents 'older' parents?
I like to think you introduced them to something fun to do.