winter projects: embroidery



It's gotten really cold here.  Cold enought that I've postponed Johanna and my special "You've turned 6 years old" trip to NYC that had been planned for later this week.  We can wait a bit.

We have some growing piles of half completed embroidery projects scattered around the house today.  I started one and now am in the brainstorming stage as to how to finish it.  But the girls' hoops tell such a wonderful tale of focused attention to detail, creativity, patience, and defeating a difficult challenge.  Especially for my four year old twins.


Embroidery goes together with cold winter days like hot chocolate goes with every completion of outdoor play in the snow for my kids.  It is the main season we pull out the needles and hoops and work independently but as a whole.

Have you tried embroidery for yourself or with your kids?  It is as easy as tightening fabric into a hoop, threading embroidery floss through a needle, and creating. It is such a wonderful winter activity that is done in concentrated batches around here that I thought it perfect to share today.



Why children love embroidery:


  1. It requires incredible focus.  You can see it in my pictures.  There is the most incredible focus as each child, no matter the age, must remember many steps at any given moment.  "I just came up, now I need to go back down." "Pinch the needle eye when pulling it through so I don't lose the thread again." "Pull, pull, pull tight enough like mommy said." "Try to go back into the last hole"... Embroidering children use all of their mind power to make their hands do tedious, productive motions, over and over, that turn their focused work into something beautiful.
  2. It serves as a blank canvas to creativity.  Children can choose from a traditional solid colored background or patterned fabric.  They can choose one color, many colors, 1-6 strands of their embroidery floss (depending on the thickness they want for the stitch), to embroider cut felted wool onto the base fabric, buttons, etc.
  3. They can get lost in their work.  There is a most relaxing rhythm that comes with embroidery.  Once you get into that rhythm you can zone out and get lost in the up and down, up and down.  It is a wonderful, creative alternative to zoning out in front of the television, especially for highly-scheduled kids.  It is calming while allowing for confidence and problem solving to be developed, ever second of the way.
  4. It is an excellent source for problem solving.  I have read over and over from books to current newspaper articles that, as a society, our public schools are producing graduates that don't know how to problem solve creatively and on their own.  Embroidery is a very simple task that 3 year olds and older can quietly work on and constantly problems solve through and successfully make sense of their world and environment.  The younger ones might need help to take this stitch out or re-thread from time to time, but it is amazing to watch how they analyze what "went wrong" and ways to fix it.  Every embroiderer is constantly problem solving and learning from their mistakes.
  5. It builds genuine confidence.  Children need confidence that they themselves have earned, not that is handed out in a "certificate of participation", one size fits all approach.  Every child knows their limits and want to test them.  They were designed that way.  And beautifully, with a wide range of children all doing their own embroidery, each piece will look different and challenge individual aspects of each respected child.  Each time your child returns to the hoop, they will be ready to try the next challenge, physically and emotionally.
  6. Children can pick it up any time, anywhere, and work on it.  Boys and girls alike can return to it and feel fulfilled and satisfied as, little by little, something beautiful comes out of nothing.  We try to keep our unfinished projects in a basket that is out among our other reachable things for anyone to grab and work on.  A hoop and thread needle can also easily be thrown into a gallon ziplock or tote to be worked on between car rides, activities, and such.  Once again, it is a great way for kids (and adults) to unwind from busyness.




If you're just starting with embroidery what you'll need:

  • Any size wooden or plastic hoops (at any craft store)
  • Cotton fabric cut to overhang about 1-2 inches around your hoop
  • Embroidery needles (at any craft store)
  • Embroidery floss (They come in very color you can imagine.  Let the kids pick their favorites.)
  • Wool felt scraps or buttons (Optional but fun for creating a collage or 3D works.)
  • Use burlap and darning needles that are fairly blunt for the youngest embroiderer.
  • [amazon_link id="1607055252" target="_blank" ]Little Stitches[/amazon_link] has great patterns to follow and outlines basic stitches for all ages.  It is our favorite resource.



More from The Sleepy Time Gal on embroidery:


the sleepy time gal